Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Beach culture in Santa Monica

Santa Monica has always been about the beach, water and fun. People want to swim, bath, eat ice cream, play, and make movies on the beach in Santa Monica.

Composite photograph of ships and the Long Wharf freight pier built by the Southern Pacific Railroad Company in 1893

A founder of the Santa Monica area, John P. Jones whose wealth came from gold and silver mining, wanted to become wealthier by establishing Santa Monica bay and City as a commercial center with the Long Wharf and railway service. At another point the state and Santa Monica City Council explored turning the beach and bay into a causeway of connected islands in the 1960s. The City Manager Perry Scott went to the City Council in the mid-to-late 60s two times hoping to develop the area commercially with an "Santa Monica Island" in the bay. Fortunately, none of these bids to commercialize the bay or town passed and our beach is dedicated to fun in the sun.

First graduating class from Santa Monica High School 1886

The first group of student to graduate from Santa Monica High School had their class portrait on the beach in 1886.
Famed gymnast Paula Boelsems flying toward Lyle Lytell on Muscle Beach 1941
The beach became a mecca for health and fun seekers. Following the financial crash in 1929 that began the Depression, the City of Santa Monica elected to use Work Projects Administration (WPA) funds to employ locals to build a park at the beach south of the Santa Monica Pier. The climate attracted gymnasts and wrestlers initially. In the 1940s, weightlifters started bringing equipment to work out. This is when the area became known as "Muscle Beach." The spectacle attracted people from far and wide.

Santa Monica Beach 1940
There is debate over the origin of two-person beach volleyball. Some say Hawaii is the home. But, many believe the game originated on Santa Monica Beach in the 1930s.
Hoola hoops at the Beach Library

Jeff Kaplan and Kane Tsai, both librarians at Santa Monica Public Library, designed and rolled out the first-ever pop-up Beach Library June through August 2015. The program;  "At the Beach," hosts events for visitors including hoola-hooping, crafts, storytime, a chance to get out of the sun with a book and more.
Visit the Library at the Beach Saturday, August 15 at Dorothy Green Park, where Ocean Park Blvd. ends or Friday, August 28 at Annenberg Community Beach House, 415 Pacific Coast Hwy! See you on the beach-



Monday, August 10, 2015

The Honorable Marcus O. Tucker

It is with great sadness that we report the passing of the Honorable Marcus O. Tucker this past weekend.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Marcus O. Tucker, Jr. was born in Santa Monica, California on November 12, 1934. His father was a physician who came to Santa Monica from Kansas. His mother was a teacher and realtor from Georgia.

Judge Tucker graduated from University High School in Los Angeles in 1952 and from USC in 1956 as an honor student. His uncle, James McClendon, an attorney in Chicago, was a tremendous inspiration. Tucker went to Howard University Law School. He was a member of the editorial staff for the Howard Law School Journal.

Judge Tucker returned to Santa Monica where he served as the first African American deputy city attorney in the criminal division from 1963 to 1965. He was an assistant U.S. attorney in the Los Angeles Criminal Division from 1965-1967.  Judge Tucker was the first African American to serve as presiding judge of the Long Beach Superior Court in 1977. From 1987 to 1994 he was the presiding judge of the Los Angeles Juvenile Courts. Judge Tucker notably made low-cost drug testing for parents available through the court and referrals to community resources. He also created Teen Courts with peer juries and close monitoring of truancy.

Judge Tucker established the History of Black Lawyers in Los Angeles project. He was named a  member of the National Bar Association Hall of Fame. He is survived by his daughter Angelique Stephens.

The Santa Monica Public Library has the honor of hosting the  Marcus O. Tucker Collection which highlights the achievements of "Black Men of Courage" with a collection of biographical works.

Friday, April 17, 2015

The Aero Theatre's 75th Anniversary

For $45,000, Donald Douglas purchased a parcel of land on Montana Avenue in 1939 and began development of The Aero Theatre and five stores. The theater was designed in the Streamline Moderne-style by R. M. Woolpert and originally seated 600. The theater featured extended-run and second-run films. The Aero also hosted Saturday morning shows for children. The theater closed in 2003, but reopened under the non-profit, American Cinematheque in 2005. The actual anniversary of the opening of the Aero, which is now officially known as the Max Palevsky Aero Theatre, was celebrated on January 30, 2015.

Aero in 2002
Santa Monica Image Archives
Santa Monica Public Library

The Santa Monica History Museum at 1350 7th Street is hosting a tribute exhibit about the Aero April 15 to May 27, 2015. On display are movie posters, photographs, and news stories. In addition to exhibition materials owned by the Santa Monica History Museum, American Cinematheque shared artifacts from their archives. Museum staff are well-versed in the history of this iconic landmark and happy to answer questions.

The Aero is described as one of the last one screen theaters in Los Angeles. Included in the exhibit are photographs and information about some of the 36 Oscar winning actors and 12 award winning directors who have appeared at the Aero in person to attend screenings and discuss their body of work. Notable directors include Clint Eastwood and James Cameron.

The Santa Monica History Museum exhibit was designed by Sue Slutzky.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Melvin Lewis - First African-American President of ASB at Samohi

A junior classman at Santa Monica High School in 1948, Melvin (Bobo) Lewis was the distinguished President of the Summer Associated Student Body Executive Board at Santa Monica High School. According to the 1948 Nautilus the cabinet was faced with serious decisions about student funds. The question: should student funds be centralized through ASB or managed separately by each school club and organization?

Melvin a highly talented member of the Samohi Vikings football team, known as "Bruisin' Bobo, a touchdown phenon, led the ASB to manage the highest football budget in the history of the school - $4,000

1948 Nautilus

Notably, during the same year in high school, Melvin was a member of the exclusive Key Club. Members were carefully selected by students and faculty to speak for the school as press agents and public relations representatives. This service organization was sponsored by the Kiwanis Club of Santa Monica and the football coach, Jim Sutherland who was the faculty advisor.

Melvin Lewis went on to teach at Hamilton High School.

Let us know if you have any information to provide about Mr. Lewis and his accomplishments at Reference

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Santa Monica in Rose Parades!

During the 1947 Rose Parade, the first ever televised on KTLA, Santa Monica came in second place. The float was named "Fiesta." The parade theme for 1947 was "Holidays in Flowers."

Floats entered by the City of Santa Monica won First Prize, Class A-6 in 1974, 1975, 1977 and Third Place in 1979.

1974 - First Place float

1975 - First Place float
1977 - First Place float
1979 - Third Place float
Learn more about the history of the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade at


Monday, November 10, 2014

Oldest book in the local history collection at the Library

It is not surprising that the oldest book in the Santa Monica Public Library's collection is about California.Three Years in California [1846-1849] by Walter Colton, 1797-1851 was published in 1850 by A.S. Barnes in New York.

The book chronicles Walter Colton's time in California as Alcalde of Monterey where he acted as magistrate and judge for Northern California. His first journal entry records the raising of the United States flag at Monterey and San Francisco on July 10, 1846. He held the first jury trial in California and fined gamblers $20 to cover the expense of building the first schoolhouse too. A Navy chaplain, he was sent to California by President Andrew Jackson before the the U.S. entered the Mexican-American War (1846-1848). Walter Colton, along with Robert Semple, launched the first newspaper, The Californian, on August 15,1846.

Three Years in California offers a unique look at the region before gold was discovered at Sutter's Mill on January 24, 1848 and shortly after. Reverend Colton recorded in his journal on May 29 that gold was discovered on the American Fork [American River]. It took several days due to doubts to substantiate the claim.

The charm of the book and Colton's entries stem not from his observations of big historical events for the time in California, but humorous anecdotes about people and places.

A complete, scanned version of the book is viewable through the Internet Archive at
Three Years in California by Reverend Walter Colton, U.S.N.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Thelma Terry Plaque Dedication

The Unveiling of the Thelma Terry Plaque ceremony was held at Virginia Avenue Park on Saturday, September 27, 2014 in front of the Thelma Terry Building at 2200 Virginia Avenue in Santa Monica.
Plaque attached to the front of the Thelma Terry Building on September 27, 2014

Thelma Terry was a remarkable woman and athlete in our community, born in 1907. She played basketball at Santa Monica High School and also in 1932 and 1933 at Santa Monica College. She used her love of sports to create recreation programs for the youth of Santa Monica. She advised 9 clubs, including ceramics, for teenagers at Memorial Park as the Recreation Director. She inspired other park facilities in the City to adopt similar programs. In the 1950s she helped 20 girls organize a drill team. They referred to themselves as "The Terryettes." Mrs. Terry passed in 1979 leaving a tremendous legacy to Santa Monica youth.
Carolyne Edwards and Mayor Pam O'Connor

The plaque was funded by the Quinn Research Center, founded by Carolyne and Bill Edwards. Carolyne is the niece of Dr. Alfred T. Quinn, a noted Black educator and leader in the Santa Monica Bay region. The Quinn Research Center funds educational resources that promote study, research, and preservation of Black Family History and Culture in the Santa Monica Bay Area.

The ceremony began at 1:15pm with the Santa Monica Police Explorers Color Guard. Vienna Hayes with the Calvary Baptist Church sang two spirituals.

Speakers for the event:
  • Elizabeth Cruz, Chair, Virginia Avenue Park Advisory Board
  • Sabrina Fields, Vice Chair, VAPAB
  • Carolyne Edwards, Founder, Quinn Research Center
  • Commendation presented by Mayor Pam O'Connor, City of Santa Monica
The unveiling was followed by the Dancing Divas performing Step Dance Performance and final statements by Elizabeth Cruz.