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LONG BEACH : Offering a Picture-Perfect View of City's Rich Past


The 1920s photo of Long Beach with a crush of visitors between the Pine Avenue Pier in the foreground and a roller coaster in the background brought back memories to Zona Forbes.

"On a holiday, it was so crowded you could hardly move," said Forbes, 75. "My dad used to hike me up on his shoulders."

Forbes is the archivist for the Historical Society of Long Beach, which last week had a ribbon-cutting ceremony and reception to celebrate the opening of its new gallery and research center in a Pine Avenue storefront downtown.

The beach photo is among dozens on display in the gallery. There are photos of the Pike Amusement area at the turn of the century, oil derricks that studded Signal Hill during the 1930s and warships built at the Naval Shipyard during World War II.

One photo may strike an ominous note with some visitors. It shows two dented cars half buried by falling bricks during the 1933 Long Beach earthquake that registered 6.3 on the Richter scale.

"I think its an incredible photograph," said Patrick Miller, 22, a Long Beach City College student who was visiting. "I feel this (gallery) is a great step toward gaining pride in Long Beach. For a lot of people, this is not a huge city and it's not a small town. It's just sort of where they end up."

The gallery at 418 Pine Ave. also has an assortment of relics. Suspended overhead is a two-foot-long wood and aluminum model of a World War II biplane built by Douglas Aircraft Co. In a corner sits a sandstone shield with an ornate coat of arms topped with a full-winged eagle. It is all that is left of the Pacific Coast Club, a structure of Norman architecture on Ocean Boulevard that hosted dances, dinners and cotillions until it was torn down in 1989.

"It was the place to be," said Barbara Barnes, president of the historical society. "I was sad about (the demolition)."

The historical society's archives have at least 25,000 photos of people, points of interest and aerial shots of the city, plus extensive books, maps and city brochures. Dusty phone directories go back to 1902. The city was founded in 1884.

"If you don't have a record of your family, you don't know where you are," Barnes said. "It's the same with a city. You have to have some feeling for your city."

The society received a $30,000 city redevelopment grant and $30,000 in private donations to remodel the storefront, which earlier housed a check-cashing business. Long Beach Plaza officials donated the space for the organization, which previously operated out of cramped quarters in the Long Beach Senior Center on East Fourth Street.

The gallery is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.

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