The Long Beach Heritage Museum, Long Beach, California, started in 1961 when Ken Larkey put on a photo display of the 1933 earthquake at the Long Beach Recreation Department hobby show. The display featured some of the photos and picture postcards that he had been collecting since he was nine years old. The exhibit was so popular that his booth was crowded every day. This convinced him to find a permanent home where people could see his collection of Long Beach memorabilia.
In February of 1971 Long Beach's first Historical Museum was open at the northwest corner of First Street and Linden Avenue, then called the "Queen of the Beaches Museum." After a few years the Museum was moved to Third and Elm, just east of the main post office downtown. It was then renamed the Long Beach Heritage Museum, to avoid confusion with Queen Mary exhibits. It was open to the public free of charge as the only Long Beach historical museum. Among the many activities at the Museum was the presentation of historical movie and slide shows in the forty-five seat theater with a complete stereo sound system and footlights on stage, with a grand curtain in front of the silver screen. Over the next 20 years many historical artifacts and other memorabilia were added to the collection.
In 1994, the Museum's 1917 building on Third Street was declared as substandard by the city building and safety department and was demolished. The Museum had to move its collections into storage. The city building used for storage was sold, and the Museum had to move again. It was moved to a storage warehouse provided free of charge by the generosity of the Bechler Corporation (Mountain View Dairy) of Long Beach in 1996. This was a temporary arrangement until a suitable building could be found. By the kindness of Ed Bechler and his son Richard, we were allowed to use this storage space beyond the intended time. The artifacts are now safely in a new storage home. Unfortunately, this is not a display space, and so we have had to turn away those who requested to view the fine collection. The Museum is now raising funds to build a permanent home, and to have the collection on display once again for the enjoyment and enrichment of the public.
The Museum has the only roller coaster car left from the famous Pike Cyclone Racer (now restored and on display at Looff's Lite-A-Line), the last drug store soda fountain in the city from the Harriman Jones drug store, artifacts from the Pacific Coast Club, a wooden clothes washer built in 1916 in Long Beach, and an eleven-foot long, solid redwood surfboard used by Long Beach lifeguards in the 1930's. There are also old telephones used throughout Long Beach, old wooden telephone booths, and grocery/drug store windows full of brand name products of years gone by.
There are more than a thousand black and white photos, which show samples of life in Long Beach over the years. There are also historic documents, rare photographs, old clocks, radios, a steam radiator, a wooden ice box, an old cook stove, kitchen utensils, and much more.
Residents truly interested in preserving our heritage from the past frequently donate historical documents, scrapbooks, framed pictures, medals and other souvenirs. A recent donation from Mrs. McDonald of Long Beach is a small demitasse cup from the famous Hotel Virginia dining room.
The Photos page shows you just a few of the interesting items, photos, and postcards in the Museum collection.
In Memory of Kenneth Nelson Larkey
April 27, 1928 - April 1, 2011
A message from Museum President and Curator Marshall Pumphrey
I am honored that Ken Larkey appointed me to manage the Long Beach Heritage Museum collection after his death. With your help, I will continue to carry on Ken’s historical work on behalf of the people and history of Long Beach.
I am proud to be considered one of his close friends and I am inspired by my memories of him. Ken was born and raised in Long Beach, a city he truly loved. A graduate of Poly High School, Ken began collecting historical memorabilia at the age of 9 when he rescued a 1906 panorama of Long Beach from a garbage can.
During the next 30 years he collected an amazing assortment of Long Beach artifacts. In 1971, the world-class collector and archivist opened the Long Beach Historical Museum at First Street and Linden Avenue. In the late 1990’s, Ken’s beloved museum closed when the building was slated for demolishment and he was forced to placed his treasured museum collection in storage. Ken dreamt of finding a new location to house his history of our city, but that dream went unfulfilled.
My memories of Ken’s dedication to LB history are numerous. I remember Ken reading about some old building (a hotel, apartments, theatre, church, historic home, etc.) slated to be torn down and he was on his way. He would dig through the rubble to find the interesting things left behind. I used to tease him by introducing him as Long Beach’s original “Dumpster Diver”, a title that always brought a smile to his face.
When a building could not be saved, he would save the contents or interior: chandeliers from the Pacific Coast Club, the Cyclone Roller Coaster Car, City Hall files, church pews, theatre seats, telephone switchboards, signs, lampposts, the Iowa Barber Shop, a classic rebuilt 12’ surf board, etc. He would retrieve and save any item which recorded a visual history of Long Beach.
As we continue our search for a museum building to fulfill his dream, we are making progress with setting up small exhibits are in the works for a Seaside Printing Gallery, the Great Balboa Film Studio, the Douglas Park Long Beach Airport & Long Beach Aircraft Exhibit and additional exhibits are planned for Looff’s Lite-A-Line.
We do have a new obstacle however. The lease of the current warehouse is expiring in mid-2012 and we need to locate a new warehouse to continue our preservation and archival work. Please let me know if you have any ideas or contacts. We will miss Ken for he served as a reminder that not all things are lost and that things worth remembering will be found.
(Additional memories of Ken are in the Summer 2011 newsletter, which may be downloaded from the home page.)
Kenlar Publishers, an affiliate of the Museum, publishes Souvenir Books available at book stores in Long Beach. All proceeds from these books support the Museum. They are available at Borders Bookstore in the Los Altos Shopping Center, at Stearns and Bellflower, or contact us.
I Remember...The Nu-Pike 2003 Souvenir Calendar
This calendar features black-and-white photos from the heyday of the Nu-Pike amusement park on the beach downtown. Pictures include the overview of the Nu-Pike, Looffs Carousel Horses, young thrill seekers ready for their ride on the Doubles Ferris Wheel, adults on the Scrambler ride, the Kiddie Boat ride, the Kiddie Rocket ride in the Kiddieland Park, Ride in the Dark thrill seekers watching the Monkey Band play, the Double Ferris Wheel on the Nu-Pike Midway, the Skooter bumper car ride, and the busy Nu-Pike Midway.
Souvenir Picture Postcard Album of the Long Beach Pike
This 44 page Souvenir Picture Postcard Album is a wonderful journey through Long Beach's Amusement Park, the Pike. It features photo postcard views of The Pike beach, buildings, midway, bathhouse, amusement thrill-rides and the popular Cyclone Racer.
Long Beach Souvenir Picture Postcard Album #1
This album features postcard views of many areas of the city, from the turn of the century to the 1960s.
1932 Long Beach Souvenir Book
This Souvenir book of Long Beach was first printed in 1932. Its purpose was to promote the attractions and assets Long Beach had to offer. This book is loaded with pictures of old Long Beach and has been reprinted into a great souvenir for gift-giving, or to cherish as your own.
Long Beach "The Way It Was" Souvenir Book
This book features 84 pages of photos of the beach areas of the city, dating from 1900 to the 1970's. Covered are the West Beach and harbor, the Pike, the Central Beach, Rainbow Lagoon, East Beach, Belmont Shore and much more.
1902 Long Beach Fire Department Souvenir Book
This book was first printed in 1902 for the Long Beach Fire Department relief fund. It's a great souvenir book for history buffs and for those doing research on Long Beach history. It contains 74 pages of historic photos.