Remember Our Beach Hangout – 26th Street?

Like me, I bet you all have fond memories of hanging out at 26th Street in Manhattan Beach when we were in high school. That was pretty much Leuzinger’s beach.

But, I bet few of you know its history. I didn’t until classmate, Janet McClelland, emailed this article.

26th St map.jpg



Why it took nearly a century for Bruce’s Beach to get its name back

Posted on May 28, 2016 by Sam Gnerre

Bruce’s Beach. (May 2016 Daily Breeze photo)

Bruce’s Beach, the terraced 270-by-200-foot hillside park at 26th Street and Highland Avenue in Manhattan Beach, has a stunning view of the ocean.

It also has a tragic history.

The story of Bruce’s Beach begins with South Bay pioneer landowner George Peck, who owned large swaths of property in San Pedro as well as the northern half of Manhattan Beach.

When Manhattan incorporated in 1912, the progressive Peck set aside two blocks of beachfront area between 26th and 27th streets to be available to minorities, who otherwise were denied access to local beaches.

Charles and Willa Bruce, undated wedding photo.

Charles and Willa (sometimes known as Willie) Bruce were the first African-Americans to buy land at the beach, moving from New Mexico to purchase two adjacent seaside lots in 1912.

“Colored people’s resort met with opposition,” read the headline of a June 27, 1912, Los Angeles Times article, describing the resistance faced by the Bruces before they even started building their planned resort.

“Wherever we have tried to buy land for a beach resort we have been refused, but I own this land and I am going to keep it,” Willa Bruce was quoted as saying in the story.

Despite community opposition, the Bruces set about establishing a resort at the site for all to use, beginning construction of a beach lodge in December 1915.

Willa Bruce at Bruce’s Beach. Undated 1920s file photo.

Work proceeded slowly. Building materials would disappear and various “accidents” would occur at the site. Eventually, even with the setbacks, Bruce’s Lodge was completed.

Peck also helped the couple build a fishing pier on the property.

In 1920, the Bruces bought another adjacent lot with a two-story building on it that they refurbished for dining and dancing purposes, and their resort was complete.

The area began to attract other African-American families; several others had moved in to the neighborhood by 1920.

Their fellow Manhattan Beach residents viewed the situation with growing alarm. The Bruce’s Beach area was cordoned off, and its users were harassed if they ventured outside of the beach’s boundaries.
The Ku Klux Klan, at its powerful peak in the 1920s, was rumored to be behind some of the harassment.

Mrs. Willa Bruce, right, and son Harvey Bruce with his wife Meda, at Bruce’s Beach. Undated 1920s file photo.

An attempt was made to plant liquor was planted on the premises so that the owners could be charged as being in violation of prohibition. Mysterious fires occurred, and the fire department always seemed slow to respond.

When these various underhanded attempts to dislodge the Bruce’s Beach residents failed, the city turned to a plan offered by a North Manhattan real estate agent. He told officials that the property could be condemned by the city through the eminent domain process, on the pretext that the city wanted the land for a public park.

On January 7, 1924, the Manhattan Beach City Council passed just such an ordinance, even though Live Oak Park, a much larger and less hilly park had been built nearby just recently.

Four African-American families, including the Bruces, sued the city, alleging that the ordinance was aimed at forcing them out.

The legal battle came to a head in the summer of 1927. Even though the resort officially was closed because of the condemnation, African-American families continued to flock to the beach.

Police began making arrests, taking 25 beachgoers into custody on Memorial Day. On July 4, 1927, 19-year-old  UCLA student Elizabeth Cately was arrested. She later sued, saying she had been held for five hours in jail in just her wet bathing suit with no charges being filed.

Four more men were arrested on July 17 for using the beach.They challenged the arrest in court and were convicted of trespassing.The city later dropped the case after the men appealed.

Finally, the whole resort was torn down in 1927, and the only beach in the county at the time allowing blacks was no more.

The lawsuit finally was settled in 1929 for far less than what the plaintiffs in the case had asked for. Some of the families bought other non-beachfront property in the city, a condition set down by the judge as part of the settlement, but the embittered Bruces left town.

The land remained undeveloped for the next three decades. In the 1950s, fearing that the Bruces’ heirs might sue to get their land back if it wasn’t being used for a park, city planners decided to go ahead with building one.

In 1962, a contest held for the public to rename the park, which had been known informally first as City Park, then Beach Front Park, since the 1929 takeover by the city.

Residents chose the name Bayview Terrace Park, which remained its name until 1974, when the City Council decided to rename the park for its then-sister city, Culiacan, Sinaloa, Mexico.

Parque Culiacan, before the name change. (March 2003 Daily Breeze file photo)

On March 16, 1974, dedication ceremonies were held to introduce the park’s new name, Parque Culiacan. Mayor Mariano Carlon of Culiacan was on hand, along with the usual passelful of local dignitaries.

Over time, disenchantment with name began to grow.

During the 1980s, Culiacan became known as the headquarters city for the Sinaloa Cartel, one of the most powerful drug trafficking organizations in the world. It was an association Manhattan Beach didn’t anticipate when it formed the sister city bond in March 1963.

Manhattan Beach selected another sister city in 1989, Santa Rosalia in Baja California.

Another factor for the renaming was the growing realization of what had happened to the original Bruce’s Beach in the 1920s.

In 1956, Manhattan Beach resident Robert Brigham wrote his Master’s thesis, “Land Ownership and Occupancy by Negroes in Manhattan Beach, California, which told the  story of Bruce’s Beach in depth, and local historians began to reference it. Jan Dennis retold the saga eloquently in her 1987 book, “A Walk Beside the Sea: A History of Manhattan Beach.”

The civic group Leadership Manhattan held another public contest to try and pick a new name for the park in 2003.

From the submissions, the group came up with Freedom Park, Harmony Park and Friendship Park as possibilities,  but the city council turned all of them down in April 2003. It decided to keep the Parque Culiacan name, but to install a plaque acknowledging its history as Bruce’s Beach.

The renamed Bruce’s Beach was dedicated in 2007. (May 2016 Daily Breeze photo)

As knowledge of the park’s past began to spread, an even stronger movement to change the park’s name gathered steam in 2006. After a period of public debate, the City Council voted 3-2 on July 5, 2006, to change the name to Bruce’s Beach.

On Saturday, March 31, 2007, the dedication ceremony renaming the park was held with Bernard Bruce, Charles and Willa Bruce’s grandson, in attendance.

“Growing up, Bruce’s Beach was part of my dreams. When I told folks that my family once owned the beach here, they would laugh at me. They didn’t believe African-Americans owned beaches. Now everyone knows about Bruce’s Beach,” Bruce told the audience at the dedication.

A movement to get George Peck’s original Manhattan Beach summer cottage on Alma Avenue and 27th Street preserved and moved to Bruce’s Beach failed in April 2015, and the house was torn down to make way for condominiums


Base Jumping Started in Hawthorne

Did you know that the sport of Base Jumping started in Hawthorne by Carl Boenish? I didn’t. I came across this in a post on Facebook, so I thought I would share it here for those of you who are not on Facebook.…/television-premiere-fo…/

On January 17th, CNN is going to televise the movie, “Sunshine Superman”, that tells the story of Carl and Jean Boenish.

Growing Up in the Fifties

I saw this originally posted on the Leuzinger 1964 group page on Facebook. But in case you are not on Facebook, or missed it there, here is the link to the YouTube video.  The video is just words and is of poor quality, but I really enjoy watching these types of videos, just the same.

I remember almost everything in this video. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Happy New Year!


A Little History about Leuzinger

For those of you who are not Facebook members, you may not have seen this short summary of our high school or the link to the YouTube video.

I don’t think any of the water polo and swimmers are from 1963, but the photos should bring back some fond memories. Fellow Olympian is the Facebook poster for this summary and YouTube link.

Leuzinger’s Olympic Swimming Pool

The 1932 Olympics, hosted in Los Angeles, coincided with the first graduating class at Leuzinger High. In exchange for volunteering the campus for staging in the Olympic Games, the school was allowed to use the Olympics logo and call itself the Olympians. When The Summer Games returned in 1984, The O.C. tried to take back the name and rings, but the school gave them a copy of the agreement written in 1932 giving the school permanent use.

The Swimming Pool was originally built and used for The 1932 Los Angeles Olympics. Retired Teacher and Counselor Mike Milling says, “Good to see Don and the water polo team. One thing; Leuzinger High School’s pool was 25yds long. Olympic-sized pools are 50 meters long.”

Time has taken the swimming pool away along with other venues. All that’s left are the memories we share, the mascot name and our school logo.

Elbert Kelly Remembers


  Sugars Elbert Kelly's Restaurant Dinning at Sugars

I received the following recollections in an email from Elbert Kelly. It brought back a lot of my own memories. He said it would be fine to share with it with the rest of our class.

In the late 90s, several of us had delicious BBQ dinner at Elbert’s award-winning restaurant, Sugars, in San Pedro. He had the restaurant for ten years, and then opened a larger one on Pine Ave in Long Beach, which he sold after three years.

Elbert’s email.

Marry Christmas Don and thank you for the great and sometimes sad information on folks I went to Kindergarten First and Second grade with at FDR Elementary on Lawndale’s Compton Blvd today it’s Marine Ave.** Third fourth and fifth grade at Kit Carson Elementary on 147th and Yukon. ** Sixth grade way over at Mark Twain Elementary ** Seventh and eighth grade at Will Rodgers. ** Entering High School at LuLu Tech in 1959  my freshman year  and 1960 my sophomore year. My family up graded in 1962 ( I know that was not a 1962 word) from Hawthorne to Compton. My junior and Senior year was at Compton High School graduated in 1963. A tremendous highlight for me was grad night at Disneyland seeing many of my good friends I grew up with in Lawndale and Hawthorne. 

 Don allow me to comment there were a hand full of Colored students in Lawndale in the 1950’s early 60’s Personally at that time I preferred Colored over Negro I was told I was a African American when I returned from Vietnam in November 1967. My youth years at FDR, Kit Carson, Mark Twain, Will Rodgers and Lulu tech I only recall one incident of racism. When we were told to start our own Cub Scout Pack.  Someone changed that and Alfred Patterson and I joined I think it was Pack 853. I was never called the N word well not to my face.  We got along very well growing up in Hawthorne considering I was in the Third grade when Brown vs the Board of Education was ruled on. Fourth grade when Emmett Till was lynched in Mississippi   Fifth grade when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat. Seventh grade when the Little Rock Nine were denied entry to Central HS in Little Rock. Alfred, Ola May, Marcia and I did talk about the 1960 and 61 Sit -Ins and freedom rides when we were at Leuzinger.  

 I always had a crush on Ola May Brown to me she was fine but she said I was to short. Marcia Cochran had way to many big brothers. And when I thought Lorraine De Ville was showing an interest in me my family was moving from Hawthorne to Compton My great grand kids don’t believe we walked every day from Leuzinger east on Rosecrans to Chadron one block west of Crenshaw. And they laugh at the only place we went for food was Fosters Freeze on Crenshaw South of 147th Street. And for 50 cents almost every Saturday in the 1950’s we could see two movies at the Park Theatre phone number was DA 4- 4040. 25 cents admission 10 cents popcorn 10 cents beverage and a nickel candy bar.

 I will be 70 next year and I would not change anything about my experience growing up in Hawthorne Ca. I had so many good childhood friends I cant name them all. At FDR and Kit Carson Jimmy Waters, Gary Chrone, Guy Genty Carol Yoshida, Dianne Talmand was at Twain, Arlen Swanson a good friend at Will Rodgers. Last year my great grandson’s travel 9U baseball team played a game at Tri Park Little League. It was no longer located where we played now it is located at Bodger Park. I walked around both schools remembering the wonderful times I had growing up in Hawthorne.

Respectfully Elbert Kelley

Thank you Elbert.


50/60s Theme for Our 50th Reunion?

I received an email suggesting that we adopt a 50/60s theme for our upcoming 50th Reunion, including dressing in the style of clothes we wore during high school. We could come dressed as surfers, hodads etc. Ths person had recently attended a  50/60s party and everyone really liked the idea and had a lot of fun with it.

We are already planning for the music of the evening to be Oldies But Goodies, so a having a 50/60s Theme would fit right in. However, if we were to adopt the theme, dressing the part would be totally optional. The reunion committee thought that this should be decided by the class as a whole.

I have included the poll below. Please take a moment to voice your opinion, even if you are unsure right now whether or not you will be able to attend the reunion.  The poll will be active through Sunday, January 20th. The poll also allows you to add any comments you may have.

Let us know what you think!

Memories of Southern California

These photos were forwarded to me by our classmate Janet McClelland Sapp. I don’t know how many PeeChee folders I bought from our Student Store, but it was a lot.

To fit into this format some of the photos have been cropped on their right side. To see the non-cropped photos CLICK HERE. 

For those of you who may have grown up around here (or not; weird and cool at the same time)…




Behold! We’re At the Drive-In 1958

Thrifty Drug Store – Southern California 1940’s

Orange County, California – 1969

Los Angeles, 1940’s – Christmas on Broadway

Hollywood and Vine early 1950s

Figueroa Tunnels, Los Angeles 1940s – Later became the Pasadena Freeway, the 1st Freeway in the U.S.

Helms Bakery Truck

Snow in downtown Los Angeles, 1949

Clifton’s Cafeteria – Interior, West Covina, California, 1968

Market Basket – Studio City, California 1960’s

Shoppers at Eastland Shopping Center, West Covina, Ca -March 1958

Pacific Sands Development, Huntington Beach, California – 1950’s

cCucamonga, California – 1950’s


Rainy Day in L.A. – 1950s

L.A. 1950’s

c1960. Case Study House 22. Stahl residence at 1635 Wood Drive, Los Angeles. Architect Pierre Koenig. Color transparency by Julius Shulman

When Life was Pee Chee in School

L.A. City Hall Under Construction, 1928

L.A. COUNTY FAIR – Fun Zone 1962


Manhattan Beach, California 1957

Hollywood Freeway, 1940s-50s

Venice Beach, 1930


L.A. Hollywood 1962 Capitol Records Building

L.A. – Looking north on Main



L.A. – 2nd and Hill St. 1950s


Los Angeles 1898 – Third and Hill


Metro and the Mart, 1962

L.A. 1956

Going to Disneyland!

L.A. – Sunset Cafe 1930’s

L.A. – Bunker Hill / Angels Flight area 1940s

Virginia Dare Winery, Cucamonga, California 1910


Los Angeles 1960s Ralphs

1935 L.A. Area Map (Texaco Gas)

Googies Restaurant and San Carlos Hotel – downtown L.A.


Wilshire Blvd – Miracle Mile 1950s, Los Angeles, California


MODERN SHOPPING CENTER, 1961 – Ventura, California

L.A. – S. Broadway, 1957


El Monte Hospital, 1930’s

Early mid century TV moment

L.A. – Wilshire 1954

Los Angeles 1950s 101

Los Angeles 1950s Hollywood Bowl Traffic

RCA Indian Head test pattern

cLakewood Center 1950s

Tumbleweed Theater, El Monte, California – 1939

Thrifty Drug Store – Southern California, 1960’s

Los Angeles Streetcar 1949

Food Giant Grand Opening, 1951

Cucamonga, California 1955

L.A. River drag racing 1950s




Do You Know Barb and Bob?

John Baker is the creator of the, one of the best places for a nostalgic glimpse of what it was like growing up in the 60s in the South Bay, especially Hawthorne. True, it is the Hawthorne High School website, but after 50 years, I don’t let deter me from reliving that time by visiting the site occasionally. If you have not explored it, I would strongly suggest doing so.

At any rate, today I got the following email from John.

Hi Don,
Long time since we last talked.
I received an email from a guy who lives in England. He had found a photo album in Venice CA in 1990 and is trying to find out who the people are in the photos. All his detective work points to the Hawthorne area. Thought I would check with you and your group to see if you would know either of these two people. These were taken in 1968 and the people have what looks to be a 4 year old. I’m thinking they would have graduated around our era. I have posted this info on Cougartown and maybe you could add it to the 63 Leuzinger site.
The Blog where all the info is, can be found here:
Any help would be appreciated and please let me know if you, or any of your group know these people.
Thanks for the help Don,
John Baker


Does either Barb or Bob look familiar? As John states, they may not even be from the South Bay.

If you click on the link in his email, there some additional deduced details about them and a few photos of the local area taken during the 60s.

If you think that you have some information that may help to locate either Barb or Bob, please email John Baker at It would be interesting to us to also post a comment here.

It is an interesting mystery.

Revisit Our 40th Reunion in Pictures


Go back in time and take a look at some photos from our 40th Reunion. If you weren’t there, don’t you wish you had been?

If you were there, wouldn’t it be great to see them again after ten years?

How about seeing old friends and fellow classmates that you haven’t seen since June of 1963?

That’s all possible by attending our 50th Reunion on September 7, 2013.

Click Here for more information on how to buy your ticket today.