News stories from the local press
On July 23, 1922, City Auditor, Myrtelle Gunsul rose at 5 a.m. to be the first to move into the new City Hall. Other departments scheduled to move were the offices of the City Manager, Purchasing Department, Recreation, Civil Service, City Clerk, Water Department, Tax and License Collector. One of the special features of the new City Hall was the women’s rest room and lunch room, equipped with gas connections making it possible for the city’s women employees to cook their own lunches. This room had been fought for by Miss Gunsul and various women’s clubs in the city who supported her.
Being the first to move in, Miss Gunsul took possession of the coveted room on the second floor which was supposed to house the Water Department. In the original plans, the space was to have been hers. This was changed by the building committee, without Miss Gunsul’s consent. The Water Department, with 24 employees, needed the added space. Miss Gunsul had a staff of 3. Refusing the City Manager’s phone calls, Miss Gunsul declared she would not vacate the room until she had completed making up the assessment role, which required the help of several extra employees. On July 27th, Police Chief McLendon and a squad of police officers “stormed the fort,” breaking the glass to the office to take possession.
This was not the first time Miss Gunsul had had a run in with City Manager Hewes. On July 13th she insisted her department have a private telephone installed in her offices in the new City Hall. Hewes had decided that the new building be equipped with a private switchboard through which all telephone calls in and out of the building be handled. Miss Gunsul emphatically declared she did not want anyone listening in on her conversations, be they about business affairs or private matters. Though Hewes told her in no uncertain terms that she would not be allowed her own private phone line, Miss Gunsul refused to be frightened. She quietly ordered the telephone company to transfer her existing telephone equipment to the new building. After all, she was an independently elected official, in no manner beholding to Hewes and his wishes.
But the battle between City Manager Hewes and Miss Gunsul was not over. When the police first attempted to take the room in the new City Hall and move out the Auditor’s belongings, they found all the doors securely locked. One of the officers noticed an open window on the outside of the building, but when he got a ladder and crawled up the ledge, one of the Auditor’s deputies locked the window. Under orders from the City Manager and the City Council to oust the Auditor from the room, Chief McLendon authorized his officers to break the glass on the door and get in. Ester Skonkey, chief deputy under Miss Gunsul, offered no resistance when the officers and members of the Water Department started moving out the Auditor’s belongings. Miss Gunsul was not present, having to attend a court hearing in Los Angeles at the time. Chief McLendon vowed if Miss Gunsul attempted to break into the room now occupied by the Water Department she would be arrested for burglary.
This dispute between Miss Gunsul and the City Manager had been festering for some time. It was not really over space in the new City Hall, but over a number of issues, mainly equal treatment of city employees and Prohibition.
In July 1922, before the scheduled move into the new City Hall, Miss Gunsul was purposefully late in writing Assistant City Manager Walter Barber’s paycheck. Barber had been out ill, but was still paid because he was guaranteed sick leave under the new City Charter. In effect Miss Gunsul was making a point and giving Barber a lesson on life. Earlier, he had refused to pass a sick leave ordinance for day laborers employed by the city. If they were out of work for a few days because of illness, they were out of both luck and money. They made much less money than the Assistant City Manager and in Gunsul’s opinion had a much harder job. She revealed her reasoning to the Long Beach Press:
“I am a servant of the people, and my desire is to serve each and every one fairly and justly. Because a man is a day laborer and not in a position to help himself, is all the more reason that he should be treated in a fair and just manner, and his interest protected by the ones in authority. I feel confident that every taxpayer in Long Beach believes that I am doing right in carefully protecting the interests of these men, who have all the disagreeable outside work to do in all kinds of weather, and subject to every infection from the filth and trash they are obliged to handle. Since every hour and fraction of days had been deducted from the pay of these men by the heads of their departments, I see no reason why Mr. Barber should be shown any consideration in this matter. Because Mr. Barber and Mr. Hewes personally interfered and held up the payrolls for these men was the reason for such a rigid investigation on my part of Mr. Barber’s illness.” (Long Beach Press 7/13/22 )
Then there was the question of booze. In March 1922, a grand jury investigated the alleged secret employment of Charles C. Nevens by Manager Hewes, who had hired Nevens to clean-up the bootleggers of Long Beach. Nevens told the City Manager he was a government agent and would rid the city of alcohol for $100 ($1650 in 2021) a day. Chief of Police McLendon and some members of the City Council were consulted and Nevens secretly hired.
A demand for $1,589.20 ($26,335) was presented to Miss Gunsul, as salary and expenses for Nevens. Upon the arrest of 22 accused bootleggers, Nevens told City Manager Hewes he needed his money quickly to flee Long Beach because his life was threatened by the alcohol element of the town. Miss Gunsul, herself an elected official, refused to pay because she felt the demand was illegal and a waste of the taxpayers’ money. Later mysterious marks, “K.K.K. 27722”, evidently intended to intimidate the City Auditor, appeared on Gunsul’s front door. The following day a man she did not know approached Miss Gunsul. He declared the Ku Klux Klan was not behind the threat but that 2900 Klansmen in the city were standing behind her and would protect her in every way. He stated the marks were not made by the Klan.
Councilman Alexander Beck, Hewes and Mr. Peck from the City Purchasing office, visited Miss Gunsul and tried to have her return the written request to pay Nevens. Miss Gunsul refused, stating the demand was a legal document in her possession and she would hold on to it. Miss Gunsul started her own investigations and later had Nevens, aka Fred Seay and several other aliases, arrested for impersonating a government official. All 22 of the asserted booze law violators were released.
Myrtelle L. Gunsul would serve as Long Beach City Auditor for 32 years. She retired March 1, 1951, and died in April 1958 at the age of 89.
Recall of City Manager Charles Hewes
In August, declaring “widespread discontent” among the people of Long Beach with the City Manager, the Managerial Club, led by Attorney Louis N. Whealton, felt a change was needed. Citing numerous examples of Hewes’ incompetence, including zoning plans municipal financial conditions, and dealings with Auditor Gunsul, Whealton demanded that a new City Manager, preferably a Long Beach man, be appointed to succeed Hewes. Whealton said the managerial form of government in Long Beach was not living up to citizens’ expectations and unless a change was made the Charter would again have to be revised putting back the old form of government. Part of the problem, Whealton stated, was that Hewes was an “outsider,” he didn’t understand the problems of Long Beach or its citizens; a local man would be able to make the managerial form of government a success.
Hewes had had many problems since taking over the reins of the new city government. His problems with the Police Department, the K.K.K., and bootleggers had made him many enemies. The Rev. George M. Rourke, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, even denounced him from the pulpit claiming that Hewes, McLendon and Mayor Buffum were responsible for the “deviltry” going on in the City of Long Beach. That “deviltry” included questionable land dealings in which the State Real Estate Commission representative had his life threatened if he began investigations. It included a hit put out on Detective Barney Kane because he was tough on crime.
The City Council, in order to avoid a political hot potato, decided to put the matter of Hewes’ recall on the November 29th ballot. Out of a total unofficial vote of 10,666 Hewes was recalled by 754 votes. He took the result of the balloting philosophically, expressed his good wishes for Long Beach, and for the loyalty of his friends.
Though there was a public movement supporting City Auditor Myrtelle Gunsul as City Manager, Miss Gunsul declined the nomination. Postmaster and former mayor Charles H. Windham was unanimously selected by the City Council as the new City Manager.
In March 1922, parents of children in the South Cerritos School went before the Board of Education asking to separate American children from Mexican pupils. A petition, with 18 signatures, asked the Board to hire a third teacher to instruct the American children while the two teachers already on the staff devote their entire time to the Mexican students.
The major reason sited for the request was that American children were in constant danger of contracting pests and “loathsome” diseases from the unsanitary Mexican children. A current outbreak of head lice and smallpox was given as an example. The parents said their request was not based on race. They had no objections to their children associating with Japanese and Chinese pupils (there were few African Americans in the city as explained in my book “African Americans in Long Beach and Southern California: a History”), because these ethnic groups were generally clean and free of pests.
Herbert F. Ahiswede, president of the Board, said the question of proper sanitation among the Mexican residents was a matter for the city health officer, not the Board of Education. The problem was deplorable living conditions among the Mexican population which needed to be remedied. Rigid sanitary inspections by city health officials among the Mexican community would be carried out. In the meantime, the school at Willow and Perris (now Santa Fe Ave.) would be renovated, children provided free transportation to another school until the remodeling was finished. He added that there were no funds to hire an additional teacher, should the Mexicans be segregated, since extra money had been set aside in the spring of 1921 to teach Spanish speaking children English before they were admitted to a regular classroom.
The Chamber of Commerce Committee on Americanization took on the problem of the 5000 Mexicans living in Long Beach. They established a class to teach English to youngsters before they entered regular school, something the City of Los Angeles didn’t do until 1944. They also set up a special summer school for Mexican women at South Los Cerritos to teach them “American ways” and warn them against unscrupulous salesmen who would sell new sewing machines and phonographs on monthly installments with exorbitant interest rates. Playgrounds were built and people assigned to care for the children while the women were attending school. Clothing was also donated to the school and given to Mexican mothers to be made over and repaired. Sewing classes were provided and the mothers paid 20 cents an hour ($3.30 in 2021 money), redeemable at the Women’s Auxiliary League store for merchandise. This way the women had the opportunity to select clothing that suited their families rather than just rely on general donations.
Besides teaching classes in “Americanization,” Principle Bertha Irene Abbott did her share to ensure proper nutrition for students. Out of her salary, she paid for the upkeep of a cow to provide fresh milk for her classroom attendees. Though she never asked for help, the school board decided in November 1921 to add $10/month ($150) to her salary to support her efforts.
By the spring of 1922 one cow had produced five offspring, who broke through a neighbor’s fence and ate 2500 cabbages belonging to A. B. Carlson. An enraged Carlson sued Mrs. Abbott for $150 ($2500 in 2021 money) for damages. At the hearing, Mrs. Abbott broke down in tears as she related how Carlson had severely beaten one of the calves. Calming down, she went on to say she one day hoped to open a sanitarium for sick children. Despite the fact she had made enemies among some parents for refusing to support segregating Mexican and American children, the overwhelming majority who packed the courtroom, supported her. Carlson was awarded $15 ($250) in damages. Unhappy with the settlement he vowed to take his case to Superior Court. Upon hearing this Julia Evans Rogers, a member of the school board, walked up to Carlson and told him if he did she would make sure his property was “ousted” from the school district. Fearing his children would have no school to attend, he ended up settling for the $15.
On May 29, 1922, renovations on the school were complete along with a new name – James A. Garfield School.
What of Mrs. Abbott? She continued to devote herself to helping others, also establishing “Kojo Kwai,” a study club for Japanese over 16, who met at the Abbott home once a month. Their goal was to discuss American ways as well as preserve Japanese culture.
Aquarium for the Pike
In 1922, a zoo housed in Recreation Park was being discussed and so was an aquarium — to be the first on the California coast. On July 10, 1922, plans for a 150 tank aquarium on the south side of the Pike were unveiled. B.F. Simonds, head of the project, wanted to exhibit specimens of all fish and small sharks inhabiting Long Beach waters. Their new homes would range in size from three feet long, eighteen inches high and eighteen inches wide, to all-plate glass tanks six feet long, four feet high and three feet wide. Fresh water fish from inland streams would also be displayed and there would be a large cement enclosure for seals and sea lions.
The plan was accepted. In January 1923, David Starr Jordan of Stanford University paid a visit to the Long Beach Aquarium to classify several hundred fish specimens already in tanks. Dr. Jordan was recognized as the world’s foremost authority on fish — ichthyology. The aquarium was to be educational: records as to the habitat and size of the fish posted on the tanks and in the case of local specimens, information given on methods and bait used in catching them. Dr. Jordan’s help, and noted name attached to the project, was greatly appreciated.
January 1 – February 7 taken from the Long Beach Press; all others from the Daily Telegram
1 – Many hurt in penny throw; distribution of coppers on the Pike resulted in damage and injury to many.
3 – Daugherty air field to be big airline terminus.
15 – Ground broken for new Immanuel Baptist Church.
23 – Desolation in wake of gushing oil well on Signal Hill; vast area is transformed into veritable petroleum sea.
7 – Balboa Film Studio sold to local capitalists.
12 – New Long Beach suburb ready to open near Wardlow and Spring, is called “Silverado.”
17 – YMCA dedicates new home (at 6th and American, aka Long Beach Blvd.).
21 – Salvation Army’s new home (329 Locust) dedicated by Evangeline Booth.
1 – Teachers and students want name of Carroll Park school changed to Luther Burbank.
6 – Grand roundup of alleged bootleggers today: 25 are caught in comprehensive dragnet.
10 City Auditor Miss Gunsul threatened by unknow person; City Hall is rocked in storm of sensational disclosures following recent booze raid.
30 – Ceremony makes hundreds in city K.K.K. members.
22 – Zoning Commission approves twelve story limit.
25 – Cerritos School will be given Garfield name.
27 – No more parking for entire night in city streets.
4 – New harbor district fire station opens.
12 – Plans unveiled to start pension system July 1, 1922; thirty years’ service essential to receive benefit under plan.
2 – Oil revenues to fill city cash basis fund: black gold receipts to July 1 will total $19,675.40 ($326,095 today’s value)
10 – Recreation Park opens today.
18 – Silverado housing tract is sold out in record time.
20 – Harbor packing plant in ruins: spectacular blaze in early morning destroys J.V. Giaconi cannery.
21 – Stream of black gold for YWCA coffers: has seven acres in heart of best oil area at Signal Hill field.
1 – New Blackstone Hotel formally opens doors to public.
6 – Cooper Arms $1,350,000 ($22,375,000 today) project launched at meeting of board.
10 – Aquarium with 150 tanks to be installed here.
15 – Belmont Shore Place opening draws a crowd.
22 – City Auditor Miss Gunsul up at 5 am; is first to move into new City Hall.
27 – Hewes requests Humane Society to govern city pound.
2- New Chamber of Commerce facility opens (350 E. Ocean).
4 – Organized baseball for Long Beach indicated in purchase by Wrigley; large tract of property in North Long Beach is bought by owner of Coast League team and Chicago Nationals.
6 – New Congregational Church on Atlantic opens.
10 – Proposed ordinance barring chickens from huge district causes flurry in meeting.
24 – First step for tax less Long Beach: all oil moneys to go into General Fund.
3 – Bixby estate to be divided into homesites: Country Club Heights is name under which property goes on sale.
16 – Thousands welcome Pacific fleet.
3 – Subway project for tunnel under Ocean Boulevard approved today.
9 – Richfield Oil refining plant destroyed by fire.
27 – Ku Klux fiery cross calls 20,000 of Klan to ceremony in hills.
5 – Another former Chief of Police arrested in Klan case: C.C. Cole and G.M. Gibler are latest to be accused.
14 – Woolwine refuses to press Klan charges: court to dismiss case against the four Police Chief McLendon arrested.
15 – McLendon out as chief; gets year’s vacation; City Manager Hewes reinstates Chief, who then resigns.
24 – James Yancy will be new head of Police Department.
30 – City Manager Hewes recalled.
3 – Belmont Heights Methodist Church lays cornerstone of new edifice (Termino and Eliot).
4 – Franklin Junior High School opens today with 710 pupils.
9 – C.H. Windham new City Manager.
22 – Begin movement to establish County of Long Beach.
26 – Oil refineries barred from Long Beach: Council rejects ordinance permitting establishment of plants west of the flood control channel.
31 – Long Beach oil revenues for year 1922 exceed $200,000 ($3,315,000 today).