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It's the Land of Changing City Slogans

L.A. THEN AND NOW

Southland towns' mottoes -- mundane, mischievous, quirky -- have evolved along with the times.

November 09, 2008|Steve Harvey | Steve Harvey is a frequent contributor to Then and Now.

There were no street celebrations recently when Long Beach was named "the Aquatics Capital of America," possibly because the designation came from, well, its own City Council.

And what criteria were considered?

The many swimming and boating facilities in Long Beach, community activist Tom Shadden told the Long Beach Business Journal, as well as the fact that "no other city has claimed this" title.

Which is somewhat surprising, because in this era of frenzied competition for tourist dollars, one might have thought that every city slogan had already been taken.

Long Beach, like a man trying on new coats, has gone through at least five other designations in the last half-century: "the International City," "the Queen City," "the Gateway to the Pacific," "Opposites Attract" and "the Most on the Coast."

"International City" signs can still be found on the streets, even though they refer to the Miss International competition that Long Beach hosted in the 1960s, and that wasn't all that prestigious to begin with.

Other cities have also gone through several phases -- and phrases -- in sloganeering.

Bellflower once used the down-to-earth motto "21 Churches -- No Jails," then rechristened itself "the Friendly City" and more recently switched to "Growing Together."

"We're still the friendly city -- it's just not our motto," said Lynn Comadina, Bellflower's public affairs manager.

And the original statistic?

"We have 40 churches and no jails," she said, explaining that the bad guys are hauled off to the Sheriff's Department substation in Lakewood.

Bellflower's "Growing Together" campaign follows a trend in which smaller cities have adopted generic, Madison Avenue-like slogans.

Only one town could have chosen "Tan Your Hide in Oceanside" but that designation was replaced in more politically correct times by "Take Pride in Oceanside," which was later shunted aside for the somewhat stuffy "Classic California."

Other slogans from the rural past just became outdated.

The area that is now Paramount once called itself "the Hay Capital of the World." Paramount's current motto is "Positively Paramount."

Pride is an important factor in sloganizing these days, especially among smaller cities that want to toot their own horn rather than play a secondary role in the Southland.

Anaheim neighbor Stanton went from "Crossroads to Vacationland" to "Community Pride and Forward Vision." As one official told The Times several years ago, "we wanted to be someplace where people would stay."

Torrance, which once styled itself "Halfway to Everywhere," is "the Balanced City," while Fillmore calls itself "the Last, Best Small Town in Southern California."

And Gardena abandoned the not-so-romantic "Freeway City" in favor of "City of Opportunity," pleasing purists who point out that no freeways actually go through the city.

A few burgs still poke fun at themselves, like Calipatria, about 60 miles southeast of Palm Springs and 184 feet below sea level, which calls itself "the Lowest-Down City in the Western Hemisphere."

For a while El Segundo even poked fun at a feuding neighbor with the billboard motto "One Mile From the Beach, One Mile From LAX, a Million Miles From L.A."

Speaking of feuds, Santa Cruz and Huntington Beach have each laid claim to "Surf City."

The latter city tried to differentiate itself by marketing its goods with "Surf City USA," which the visitors bureau registered as a trademark in 2006.

Often times, slogan-hunting cities hold contests and receive numerous suggestions, not all serious.

The city of Orange selected "A Slice of Old Town Charm" over such entries as "Orange: Nicer Than Stanton" and "Orange: Our Navel Is Better Than Christina Aguilera's."

A similar effort in Santa Clarita more than a decade ago produced such ideas as "City of the Golden Dream" to "Land of the Golden Dweeb" and "Santa Clarita: a Great Place to Attend Meetings."

No suggestion was chosen, though Santa Clarita recently started using "Where the Good Life Takes You" in its marketing.

Meanwhile, Long Beach is sticking with "Aquatics Capital" despite pollution problems and the fact that surfers shun the beaches because the breakwater has turned the local waters into a lake.

For one thing, Seal Beach is next door.

Which could be Long Beach's next slogan.

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steveharvey9@gmail.com

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