As the first Pine Avenue Pier neared its end, it was clear that Long Beach, a now popular seaside resort and quickly growing town, would need a new pier. A committee was formed to look at the latest methods of construction. It proposed a structure with two decks at a cost of $100,000 and in November 1903 voters approved a bond issue for a new pier. Ironically, the 40-year bonds would not be paid off until 1943, almost a decade after the pier had seen its end.
One year later, in 1904, a new steel and concrete, 1,800-foot-long, double-decked pier was built. Piles made of expanded metal were driven into place in groups of three and encased in concrete. On shore, a beautiful pavilion was built and from the street to the pavilion the pier’s width was forty feet. The next 1,000 feet saw a width of thirty-two feet, and the final 300 feet of the pier saw a 100-foot width. At the end, the pier sat in water thirty-two feet deep (with the lower deck about 12 feet 8 inches above the high tide level).
However, on September 5, 1904, before the initial construction was even completed, a huge storm arrived. Waves 20 feet high attacked the new pier and caused an estimated $6,000 in damages. The storm may have been a harbinger of things to come but the pier had withstood the assault
The pier, called at various times the Long Beach Municipal Pier, the New Pine Avenue Pier, and the Long Beach Pleasure Pier, promised to be fun. A promenade for pleasure seekers as well as landing places for ships and pleasure craft were planned, the famous Sun Parlor was constructed out at the end of the pier, and early pictures show anglers jamming the lower level rails with their long bamboo poles. The city directory proudly proclaimed, “The main interest for the tourist and visitor is the opportunity it affords for an unrivaled marine promenade above the roaring breakers and out over the ocean billows for 1,800 feet.”
The pier was officially opened on November 12, 1904 with a “Pier Day” celebration with the usual festivities. California Governor George Pardee gave the main speech but was joined by Senator George Perkins, Congressman James McLachian, Mayor Eugene Lahee, the ex-Mayor Stephen Townsend, and dignitaries from Great Britain, Belgium, Mexico and Ecuador. Governor Pardee was presented the key to the gates of the pier by Miss Ella Wilson, Queen of the Sea, while the Navy gunboats Manning and McCulloch saluted the festivities. Yacht races and a huge barbeque followed. A table 1200-foot-long (of sorts) was constructed on the lower deck of the pavilion where 10,000 pounds of meat was barbequed to feed the expected “multitude.” Fireworks closed out the celebration.
Fishing quickly proved to be a favorite activity and day after day anglers with their “poles” would be lining the pier. Although the fish most common to the area were the normal catch, every so often something strange would show up.
Unknown Fish — A queer and unknown variety of fish was caught from the wharf by an Eastern tourist this morning. It was four feet long and weighed sixteen pounds. It had the body of a tuna and head of an albacore but along the back fin and tail is a thin yellow streak, while the lower fins are tipped with yellow. None of the local fishermen are able to identify it. —Los Angeles Times, December 31, 1904
A big run of five and six-pound albacore at Long Beach wharf kept the hand-liners busy at that point, and turned the outer end of the wharf into shambles, literally slippery with fish gore. These small albacore frequently come close inshore, but are of little use except upon the hook, like all the mackerel tribe they put up a tremendous fight, and give the man behind the rod a good time. —Los Angeles Times, February 28, 1905
Today it is illegal to save a lobster caught on a hook but it was much different back in the early days.
This Crawfish A Grand-Dad — Mammoth Redjacket Taken At Long Beach — Huge Specimen is Taken by Veteran Fisherman With Line Thrown From The Pier — Long Beach, July 7.—Frank Deffley, a veteran fisherman who has a stall under the wharf, while hauling in a line last night, thought for a few moments that he was pulling up the bed of the ocean, but when the hook reached near the surface of the water concluded that it was an octopus and began figuring how he could let go without cutting the line, for he had no desire for an encounter with a devil fish.
Fortunately it was not, but the monster is undoubtedly the patriarch and great-granddaddy of all the lobsters. It was safely landed and filled a tub made from a half barrel. From the tail to the head measures thirty inches, with a body twenty-four inches in circumference. The main feelers are each over eighteen inches in length and the feet, from which the claws are missing, over a foot long. Its weight is eighteen pounds and its age problematical, but the fishermen who observe lobsters at all, stages think it at least fifteen years old. The monster was presented to the aquarium where it is on exhibition. —Los Angeles Times, July 8, 1905
Over the years the municipal pier was to suffer the damage that is common to all piers. Almost as common is damage to building built on or attached to piers. In 1905, the almost new Pavilion at the shore end of the pier was destroyed by fire, which after the normal damage from waves and wind, was often the main cause of damage to the early piers. Later that year a new Municipal Auditorium was built on the same site, an auditorium that less than a decade later would be the scene of one of Long Beach’s greatest disasters.
The common name for giant sea bass in those days was jewfish, a name derogatory in nature. By the 1930’s, the name black sea bass was more commonly used but it too would be changed since black sea bass is a common East Coast fish. Today it is almost always simply called the giant sea bass.
Biggest Fish Of Season Caught At Long Beach — Long Beach, Dec. 25.—The biggest jewfish of the season, weighing 255 pounds, was hooked off the pier here today and, according to the lucky angler, Rochester Sandusky, who recently came to this city from Rilola, Ill., it was the first fish he ever caught. A great crowd was on the outer wharf at the time the big fish was caught and enjoyed immensely the spectacle it afforded in its mad efforts to get away. Ed Forest went out in a skiff and brought the creature to the landing. The fish was strung up in Will Graves’ fish market. It was six feet long. —Los Angeles Herald, December 26, 1906
Although the pier was still fairly new, only two years old, serious defects were soon noted, defects that would plague the pier and need attention and costly repair over the years.
Cement Soft In The Pier — Long Beach, Feb. 7.—When the city’s $100,000 pier was constructed three years ago, ugly rumors floated about the municipality had been badly “jobbed” but no absolute proof was ever presented… As time passed, however, conditions developed which are hard to explain. A year ago soundings were taken, resulting in the discovery that the sand around the caissons had been washed away to a depth of six or eight feet, and soon after a storm swept away several of the fender pilings and three caissons. Investigation showed that some of the fender pilings had been driven, but a few feet.
The Trustees took prompt action, and the people voted $36,000 bonds for rep[airs, which included filling in of the bottom around the caissons with four feet of rock. As a temporary expedient the caissons were all braced and bound together with timbers and bands of steel, making the underpinnings of the wharf one solid piece of framework…
A new and more serious defect has arisen. Wharfinger Beattge keeps constant watch not only above the wharf, but under it. Yesterday he made the startling discovery that the woodwork around one of the casissons had rotted away, and that the cement within was dry, and at the tough disintegrated like so much chalk. He promptly notified the Board of Public Works and steps will be taken promptly to repair the damages.
The fault is attributed to imperfect work, and that the cement was not properly mixed. When the caissons were sunk complaint was made that the constructing company allowed too much water to remain in the bottom of the caissons, resulting in weakening the cement so it would not solidify, but dried out without any life in it. —Los Angeles Times, February 8, 1907
Stingaree or sting ray were the common names given to bat rays during this time. Bat rays, also given the nickname mud marlin, can reach nearly 200 pounds in size and put up a terrific fight.
Long Beach Fisherman Gets Record Stingaree — Long Beach, June 1.—William Crowder, a West Long Beach fisherman, today caught a record-breaking stingaree, weighing 110 pounds and measuring four and one-half feet across the back. The sting was five inches long. This monster goes ahead of the stingaree which was caught off the local pier Wednesday and which was hailed as the biggest of the season. That one weighed sixty pounds. —Los Angeles Herald, June 2, 1907
A great big Iowan and a shovelnose shark, the former fishing in the ocean for the first time and later making a desperate struggle to escape, entertained loungers on the pier today. The Iowan was joshed unmercifully until he was fighting mad, but landed his prize after it had hopelessly entangled twenty-five fish lines in its struggles. —Los Angeles Times, August 4, 1907
Sea trout? This was the common name for small white seabass in those days, although the name was also frequently applied to larger fish.
Long Beach, Sept. 21.— Nearly 100 sea trout were caught off the outer wharf today, causing unusual excitement among the Waltons lining the edge of the pier.—Los Angeles Herald, September 22, 1907
Accidents can also happen! In November 1907, a boat landing collapsed at the end of the pier that knocked six men into the water. In December they sued the city for the tidy sum of $5,516.50. Today a similar suit would probably be ten times that amount—at least.
Monster Jewfish Caught Near Long Beach Pier — Giant weighs 350 Pounds and Is Thought To Be the One Which Recently Towed Men to Sea — Long Beach, Jan. 13.—In the stomach of a 350-pound jewfish caught by Clarence Owen near the pier, there were found three lobsters, weighing respectively one pound, two and two and a half pounds. The lobsters had evidently been swallowed but a short time before. Their shells were not even cracked. In the mouth of the monster were found several hooks and it is thought possible it was this jewfish, and not a whale, which towed James Harvey and Frank Paschall three miles out to sea in their skiff a week ago, when they went to examine their setline. About twenty-five hooks were broken off their line. —Los Angeles Herald, January 14, 1908
The problem with the pier’s concrete caissons was highlighted by a new report in February 1908. It said after consultation and inspection by experts, that (1) the original specifications for the concrete were imperfect AND (2) that the contractors had not even followed those specifications. Many caissons were now cut away more than a half and three were entirely gone. It was estimated it would take $50,000 to keep the pier seaworthy. Several different plans would be proposed.
In 1908, when TV’s hadn’t been invented and movies were in their infancy, the arrival of a fleet of Navy boats, the Atlantic Fleet or Pacific Fleet, was a big occasion as seen in the following:
Gala Display To Be Made At Long Beach — Long Beach, April 8.—At the time of the visit of the Atlantic fleet in these waters the upper deck of the pleasure pier will present a beautiful scene. Across the upper deck will be stretched row after row of pennants and flags., while the arches of the lower deck will be sheathed in palm branches so effectually that none of the timbers will be visible. The incandescent lights on the lower deck will be encased in red Japanese lanterns. The bases of the telephone poles along Pine Avenue will also be sheathed in palm leaves and over the street hundreds of strings of pennants will flutter. A ton of red fire will be burned along the beach and bluff and an electric sign of welcome, with letters six feet high, will be erected on the sun parlor. —Los Angeles Herald, April 9, 1908
The electric shark mentioned below was undoubtedly actually a Pacific electric ray, a fish that can indeed pack quite a wallop to unsuspecting anglers.
Electric Shark Shocks Two Persons On Pier — Long Beach, April 8.—An electric shark weighing eighty-four pounds was caught yesterday west of the pier by Harry Pedlar and was landed upon the outer wharf after shocking two of the men who assisted in hoisting it up out of the water. Pedlar claims that he found the same shark on a setline west of the pier yesterday and that when he gaffed the monster he was so severely shocked that he had to let it go. The shark is on exhibition at the Volk fish marker. —Los Angeles Herald, April 9, 1908
Fishermen Enjoy Plenty Of Sport — Schools of Yellowtail Are Seen Near Beach — White Sea Bass Seen In Large Numbers at Long Beach—Many Halibut Caught — Long Beach, May 29.—During the last four days there have been many schools of yellowtail about the outer wharf and anglers have had excitement a-plenty. With numerous strikes, however, only a few of the fish have been landed on the pier. Those caught have weighed from ten to fourteen pounds…White sea bass have also been plentiful about the wharf. Pompano were caught during the week by the hundreds. A few halibut were taken this week. —Los Angeles Herald, May 30, 1908
In the early days, one of the names for soupfin sharks was oil shark and that’s probably what Mr. Lisk landed.
An oil shark 6 feet 4 inches long, caught on a small line by Charles Lisk, put up a long and game fight off the pier and was not landed for half an hour. —Los Angeles Herald, June 3, 1908
Conditions for the past week… Long Beach—Good. Corbina, yellowfin, mackerel, trout, smelt, croaker, pompano… Mrs. George Williams caught a needlefish four and one-half feet long off the outer wharf this morning. —Los Angeles Herald, June 14, 1908
Storms with damaging winds and punishing tides most commonly hit California’s piers during the winter or spring months but any month can see such storms. In June of 1908, giant waves threatened the pier but it appeared to survive in tack after being closed for a short time.
Heavy Sea Playing Havoc With Wharf — Long Beach Visitors Not allowed On Pier — Long Beach, June 22.—For the first time since the long pleasure here was opened formally both decks of the structure were closed today, policemen standing guard to prevent people from going out on them. The heavy sea which has prevailed since yesterday has loosened a dozen of the caissons under the pier and outer wharf…While the pier is not expected to collapse anywhere, the officials believed it wise to keep everyone off. — Los Angeles Herald, June 23, 1908
Anglers Swarm On Pier, Fishing Being Excellent — Long Beach, July 15.—Every day the pier is lined with anglers and most of them are having good luck. Bobbing for herring has paid big dividends on the capital and labor expended, and croakers are biting well. “If you want a place to sit and fish off this pier you pretty nearly need to have a reserve seat,” said one man today as he forced his way to a place on the guard rail and sent out his line with a whirr. Surf fishing and fishing off the outer wharf are more popular just now than have been for several months. Many well-filled baskets are carried home daily by young and old. —Los Angeles Herald, July 16, 1908
In August 1908, just three years after opening, the city announced it would be seeking a vote on additional $16,000 in bonds to repair the pier.
Anglers Enjoy Immense Sport With Sea Trout— Every One Has Good Luck — Long Beach, Sept. 9—There was never a greater day for sea trout fishing than this. All day long anglers have lined the pier and the outer wharf, and for a while this morning trout were pulled out with astonishing frequency, every fisherman or fisher-woman getting from four to twenty fishes. Capt. E. B. Counts of the Pacific fish market sold nearly 500 sardines for bait. From the platform in the rear of the market eighty trout were caught before noon. —Los Angeles Herald, September 10, 1908
Sea spider? The common name for spider crabs aka sheep crabs.
Two Denizens Of Deep Captured In One Haul — Five-Pound Sea Spider Clings to Nine-Pound Lobster — Long Beach, Sept. 25.—One of the strangest catches ever made off the outer wharf was that of a nine-pound lobster to which clung a five-pound sea spider, with long, strong tentacles. The fight which the two denizens of the deep started before the lobster got the hook was continued on the platform of the Pacific market after fisherman Clarence Owen landed them. The spider made a number of passes at the lobster, and the latter made futile effort to thrash the enemy with its many-pronged tail, the lobster’s best weapon. The lobster was the largest caught here this year. —Los Angeles Herald, September 26, 1908
Long Beach improved wonderfully last week and yellowfin, corbina, pompano, mackerel, herring and perch rewarded all who cared to wet a line at this delightful resort. —Los Angeles Herald, June 26, 1909
Rat-Tailed Stingray Caught — Long Beach, July 31.—A monster stingray, weighing about thirty-six pounds, but minus its stinger, was landed on the outer wharf this morning after a fierce struggle. The stingray, which was of the variety known as the rat-tail stingray, was hooked on a small tackle by George Munger, and in its range on finding itself securely fastened, struck at one of the pilings of the pier, and its stinger was imbedded and broken off in it. The queer fish, with a tail about a yard long, attracted much attention on the pier, where it was exhibited as an “ox-rae,” or “sea devil.”—Los Angeles Herald, August 1, 1909
Girl Is Seized By Devilfish — Fishermen Rescue Bather From Octopus — Man Armed with Cleaver is Lowered from Pier and Severs Tentacles of Huge Denizen of Deep — Long Beach, Oct. 1.—Fishermen at the end of the pier related a thrilling story today of the rescue of a fair bather who had been seized by an octopus. While swimming near the end of the pier, they said, the young woman was heard to scream. Rushing to the edge of the wharf, the men ascertained that a giant devilfish had wrapped a tentacle around on of her limbs. The devilfish also had a firm grasp upon a piling of the pier with another tentacle.
E. B. Counts, the typical fisherman who presides over the destinies of a pier market, tied a rope about the waist of Clarence Owen, one of the market owners, and lowered him to the surface of the water. Owen was armed with a cleaver, and he chopped the tentacle in two, which was wrapped around the piling. He then picked the young woman up out of the water, severing another tentacle of the octopus as he did so. The devilfish, which had emitted a flood of inky liquid, then sank to the bottom, and Owen carried the rescued bather to the deck of the pier. The devilfish is believed to have measured six feet from tip to tip.
Counts said the girl’s name was Ethel Seymour. He could not give her address, but said she had on a bath house bathing suit. He described her as a “purty gal who has lots of nerve.” At the bath house it was stated that no report of the trouble had been made by the young woman, if she had been a patron there. “It’s a wonder the octopus didn’t drag her down,” said Counts. “She treaded water and then grabbed hold of a piling, or she would have been a goner.” Miss Seymour could not be located this evening, and is supposed to have been a visitor here for the day. —Los Angeles Herald, October 2, 1909
Many Fish Caught By Busy Anglers — Long Beach Pier Scene Of Activity — Long Beach, Dec. 23—It would be difficult to exaggerate the excitement occasioned here today by the sudden and unexpected visit to these waters of immense schools of herring, croaker and pompano. Early visitors to the pier were surprised to find that their hooks remained idle for only a second after being thrown into the water. The good news spread and by 10 o’clock the west side of the lower deck of the pier and also the guard-rail around the outer wharf were crowded with anglers. From then on until tonight the fish continued to bite, and around the feet of each fisherman or fisherwoman a great pile grew at a remarkable rate. Visitors to the outer wharf had to step high and carefully if they went along the west promenade of the lower deck to avoid stepping upon the catches. Croaker and herring were the fish caught with rod and line. Big catches of pompano were made with nets. —Los Angeles Herald, December 24, 1909
1910 seemed to see a flurry of action in regard to the pier. A high tide washed out 80 feet of the pier causing $45,000 in damage. In January the mayor recommended the repair of the pier by building a breakwater at the outer end. In February repairs to the tune of $100,00 (the cost of the original pier) were recommended by the city council, repairs that would include replacing all of the old, substandard concrete piling with new (hopefully better) concrete piling. In April, voters for pier repair approved $75,000 in bonds. In July, damage from ”high breakers” caused additional damage to the tune of $16,700. In September it was announced that the driving of the new piles was complete. In November the city council prepared for new bonds, $50,000 for a new pier at Devil’s Gate (Belmont Shores) and $75,000 for repairs to the Pine Avenue Pier.
Woman Captures Octopus On Hook — Visitor at Long Beach Embraced by Her Catch and Then Promptly Faints — Long Beach, Dec. 9.—When a devil fish, or octopus, which measured three and one-half feet from tip to tip suddenly wrapped one of its tentacles about her ankles, Mrs. Jessie McDonald, a visitor here from Tucson, Ariz., fell over in a prompt and justified swoon on the pier. The woman had hooked the devil fish while angling for surf fish. She had difficulty in getting it loose from a piling under the pier, but as she raised it through the air it hung limply and she did not realize what she had caught.
As soon, however, as the octopus was dropped on the pier it became lively. It threw out one of its eight arms and caught Mrs. McDonald about the left ankle. The fair angler felt the pressure tightening, and covering her eyes she screamed and fainted. A man fishing a few yards away ran toward her with his bait knife in his hand and with difficulty severed the tentacle of the octopus. Then unwrapping the section that was about the woman’s ankle, he used Mrs. McDonald’s rod in pushing both pieces of devil fish overboard. As the body of the octopus fell into the water the octopus squirted out the inky fluid which was secreted in its sac, blackening the water all about it. When Mrs. McDonald was revived she was in such a state of nervous prostration that she had to be assisted to the home of the friends whom she is visiting, on Elliot street. —Los Angeles Herald, December 10, 1910
Angeleno Hooks Jewfish That Weighs 270 Pounds — Long Beach, Dec. 28.—A jewfish estimated to weigh 270 pounds was hooked this morning by John Miller, a Los Angeles man, while fishing off the end of the outer wharf. The monster made a threshing fight of it but was gaffed finally by Clarence Owen. Owen’s right hand was torn badly between the thumb and forefinger by the snap of the leader, when the fish made a sudden lunge, and medical attendance was necessary. —Los Angeles Herald, December 29, 1910
Horn sharks only reach about four feet in length so the question becomes what species was this shark? In all likelihood it was a basking shark, one of our biggest sharks, and one that reaches about 32 feet in length. Proof that they come close into shallow water by piers is the number that were harpooned from the Ventura Pier.
A horn shark, eighteen feet long, made himself at home around the outer end of the wharf this morning and created consternation among the owners of light tackle, who hastily reeled in their lines. After some time spent in the vicinity, most of the time moving on the surface of the water, the ugly fellow gave a flirt of his tail and headed for the southeast. —Los Angeles Times, January 19, 1911
Did it make sense to build a new Pine Avenue Pier? In January 1912 newspapers indicated voters would have the chance to vote on two piers, the Pine Avenue Pier and a new pier at Devil’s Gate.
On March 11, 1912, the newspaper reported that the “mad fury of a sixty mile gale tears out the south end of the pier,” the next day it recorded that a “gale is raging offshore, yet the pier still stands.”
On May 24, 1913 occurred one of the worst disasters in the history of Long Beach when a 40-foot section of auditorium at the foot of the pier collapsed. The pier, jammed with a holiday crowd, saw 36 die and an additional 174 be injured in the wreckage. A parade of people was heading out onto the pier to hear the speakers for the day when the collapse took place. Later, in order to pay for the many suits brought against the city, a special 20-cent assessment was levied against each $100 of property valuation on homeowners.
Seaside City’s Day Of Joy Is Turned To One Of Horror In Twinkling Of An Eye — Upper Deck of Great Municipal Auditorium Collapses Under Victorian Anniversary Throng of Merrymakers Hurling One Hundred and Seventy five Persons Into Splintered Abyss of Writhing Death While Shocked Thousands Watch
At the high noon of her holiday, with every street ablaze with flags of sister nations, lined with cheering thousands, and athrum with the tramp of marching feet and the blare of many bands, the city of Long Beach was, in the twinkling of an eye, turned yesterday into a scene of grief and horror by a disaster with few parallels in the history of great seaside resorts. Through the collapse of a section of the flooring on the upper deck of the pier leading to the municipal auditorium a score and a half a score again of happy celebrants of Empire Day were plunged into eternity, nearly 150 more were injured, two-thirds of that number seriously, and the remainder of the gala host of merrymakers in the name of Britain’s King turned to a wild-eyed, horror-stricken mob, lining the pit of death a hundred deep on every side yet powerless to help as their comrades and dear ones struggled and writhed their lives out in the ghastly death-funnel below them.
The accident occurred at the pier entrance to the Auditorium, where a programme commemorative of Empire Day was to have followed the pageant through the streets. Somewhere along the gala line of march a band in kilties played “God Save the King.” For a thousand feet the eager multitudes marked time and timbers creaked from the vibrant stir of restless feet. It was 11:30 o’clock a.m. and the sun blared down a wine of welcome. At a signal the doors were opened and the tide of visitors swept toward the waiting portals.
For twenty minutes they had waited their opportunity and now they surged in a restless crush toward the open threshold. There was a rendering crash as overloaded timbers gave way and 175 people plunged twenty-five feet down.
Stilled In Death—Like a cloud that blots the sun and will not let it shine again, the hand of Death had overshadowed the largest celebration Long Beach had ever known. It was as if a world had been dependent on one star for light and that dim orb had suddenly swum from out of sight into the bleak abysmal chasm of interstellar space.
Outside the gold of sunlight still splashed upon the blue of a quiet sea, the little waves lapped softly on the warm sands and ran back to the ocean mother’s breast like children in their play, but no eye saw the sun was bright or that the waves were glad. The pall, the gloom, the silence, and the numb despair of dire calamity was on the multitude. They swayed with the awe of it, stood rapt and dazed in the stark presence, and smothered with the sobs that choked back without voice.
Later the people would find the blessing of tears. Later there would come to them the comfort which in time softens through the grief-crushed heart and storm-blinded brain, but at the first horror of realization, for the few nearest to the appalling pit, there was only action and for the staggered, hurt multitudes without the ropes nothing was possible but to question and wait. All of them shared that shock which holds the very breath in thrall and not any man knew if his own beloved lay in death below, nor any one dared pit in words the terror that lay upon his heart.
Perhaps the agony of waiting was no less poignant through Los Angeles and all the cities of Southern California. News of the disaster quivered over the singing wires in a thousand directions the moment after it occurred. There are 40,000 subjects and former subjects of Great Britain in Los Angeles county. Fifty thousand people had gone to Long Beach yesterday to celebrate the ninety-sixth anniversary of the birth of Victoria, their best loved Queen. Wherever the news of this swift tragedy spread there were those to learn it who knew that members of their own family had gone by the sea to witness the big parade and enjoy the bright programme. There was a wild rush for Long Beach to secure the pitiful list of the partially-identified dead and of the injured…
At The Pit’s Edge—Exactly how the moment of peril was precipitated and just what occurred before and after the crash of death is perhaps not clear to anyone… It was 11:33 o’clock a.m. and at that moment the treacherous timbers snapped and a section of the floor of the upper pier, about 25×36 feet, snapped and precipitated the crowd to the floor below. This floor likewise gave way, although for a somewhat smaller space, and the fall to death was extended another ten feet…
In The Funnel—Around the edges of the ghastly precipice the people stood, stunned. When the first cry of distress and pain arose from those who were sinking helplessly to injury and death, there was an instinctive shrinking back on the part of the multitudes. This unaccountable psychology, which become a pregnant fact of every accident, was undoubtedly the salvation of many lives because in the reaction which followed, many persons pressed too near the danger mark and were hurled by the surging throng behind them into the seething maelstrom of death at their feet.
In spite of the black tragedy of the day, some good angel must have mercifully blinded the people to the grief that had come that had come upon their troubled hearts, for their was no panic, no hysteria, no ungentleness at a time when a little lack of caution might have doubled and trebled the heavy death roll already visited upon them. The people did not know this, but there was a sort of patience of tragedy, which held them in a firm leash of wisdom and so made the rescue work swifter and of better effect…
Flags Half-Masted—That is one picture out of a hundred which wrung the heart of Long Beach yesterday and which hung quivering at half-mast above the City Hall… Many of those killed and injured were very old people or children who could not secure positions for good views of the parade, and they went early to the door of the Auditorium that they might be the first to enter… Long Beach officials were prostrate in spirit over the tragedy… —Los Angeles Sunday Times, May 25, 1913
History Of The Trap Of Death — The Auditorium building was erected by the city of Long Beach eight years ago following a bond issue of $30,000, which amount was expended in its construction. It is located just beyond high water mark on the east side of the municipal pier.
The superstructure was built by George Beard, a contractor, who moved away from Long Beach about four years ago. Charles Carbolay put in the pilings under the building under contract for the Atlantic, Gulf and Pacific Company of San Francisco.
The supporting pillars are imbedded in caissons of cement, which are under water. The building has a capacity of 6000 persons and was filled to its full capacity many times, the last occasion being the May Day celebration of the Associated Charities. Like many summer resort buildings, it is of flimsy frame construction. Much of the slender timberwork shows the decay of age and exposure to the salt air.
When first built the galleries were of the suspension kind, but later, about four years ago, supporting pillars were placed under them. Any misgivings which may have been felt concerning the strength and durability of the structure have been partly allayed because so many big gatherings have been held in it. Conventions of all kinds have used it and many times it has held fully 6000 persons or more. — Los Angeles Times, May 25, 1913
Cordon Closes Pit Of Death — Sightseers will not be permitted to enter any part of the auditorium or that portion of the pier adjoining it today…The area about the auditorium will be roped off clear to the bluff at the top of the hill and a cordon of policemen will be on duty to enforce the order…
In Secret Session — As soon as the first work of removing the dead and caring for the injured had been accomplished Mayor Hatch, appalled by the magnitude of the disaster, issued a call to the dazed City Councilmen for a special meeting. This meeting was held in the City Hall behind closed doors… Decision to make a thorough investigation was the first action taken at the meeting, all the city officials concurring. Building Inspector Twombly will have charge of the investigation and will be assisted by Kennedy and Munson. Both the architects were on the spot soon after the accident occurred and made as thorough an examination as was possible during the turmoil of caring for the dead and injured.
The investigation, it is understood, will cover every phase of the situation both with reference to the condition of the structure and the conditions, which prevailed immediately prior to the accident…
Mayor Worn Out — The Council, he said, passed a resolution authorizing the expenditure of whatever money is necessary to take care of the injured and those dependent upon them. The burden of this task will fall upon the Health Department, which has carte blanche in the matter of using the city’s funds…
Almost immediately after the dead and injured were removed from the pit, the two broken timbers were placed in an ante-room on the lower floor of the Auditorium and put under lock and key by the city officials. The mayor said this was done because of the magnitude of the disaster was recognized and it was considered necessary to have the girders where they could not be tampered with and where they will be available for examination… One of the broken girders, he said, was rotten inside but the defect was of such a nature that it could not have been detected by a superficial examination. The other girder was sound but unable to bear the strain when its companion gave way.
The building has received no repairs for strength, he said, at the portion where the break occurred since it was erected eight years ago. All the work that has been done was on the superstructure. The pier below the auditorium was repaired and strengthened following the damage done by the big tidal wave but these would have no effect one way or the other on the auditorium structure… — Los Angeles Times, May 28, 1913
365-Pound Jewfish Is Landed at Long Beach — Long Beach, June 12.—John Leach, an employee of the Pine Avenue Fish Market, broke a Southern California record yesterday at the end of the Pine Avenue Pier by landing a jewfish weighing 365 pounds. —Santa Ana Register, June 12, 1914
In time, Sportfishing boats were also available from the pier. Ed Ries, in Pacific Coast Sportfishing, reported that several boats operated from the Pine Street Pier after about 1914 although handlines and jackpoles were more commonly used than rod and reel. Apparently large inshore runs of albacore occurred during the World War I years and handline trolling was popular, Boats that operated from the pier included the Tillikum, Moonlight, Paul G., Waterwitch, G.W., and Music. By the ‘20s, when live bait began to be carried by the boats, the albacore had decided to move offshore and few were even caught during most of the decade.
Mackerel, herring, pompano, bass, croakers and sea trout are being caught from the end of the municipal pier. —Los Angeles Times, July 21, 1916
As usual there was a constant need for upkeep and repair to the pier. In April 1918, it was announced that more than 50,000 feet of lumber would be used to repair the upper deck approach to the pier, which would be closed for ten days. The lower deck was to receive 40,000 feet of flooring with new joists and girders installed for safety reasons. In September, high tides and heavy ground swells, believed to have been caused by an underwater earthquake, ripped the flooring from the girders of the lower deck, tore loose pilings, and carried away both boat landings. Damage was estimated at $10,000.
Huge Stingrays Caught — Visitors on the end of the Pine Avenue pleasure pier were treated to the sight of two of the most unusual deep-sea monstrosities ever drawn out of the Pacific at this port today. Albert Jewell, night man in charge of the municipal fish market, set out his lines as usual last night for black sea bass and sharks. When he pulled them in this morning he brought to gaff what are believed to be two of the largest stingrays ever captured in the Southland. The ordinary weight of a stingray is five pounds, but these tipped the scales at fifty-nine and seventy-five pounds respectively. Large crowds gathered during the day to view the big sea denizens. The sawtooth bones that makes the ray a most dangerous creature were more than five inches long on the big fish, while the average “business end” of these hostile salt water inhabitants is less than an inch. The two stingrays put up a game fight and it was only after an hour’s struggle and manipulation that they could be hauled to the surface. Even after being gaffed they lashed out viciously with their barbed tails. —Los Angeles Times, May 24, 1918
June of 1920 saw additional damage to the pier as high tides and heavy ground swells brought damage to the pier. The boat landing on the pier’s west side was carried away. A month later, on July 11, the same oceanic conditions tore out 30 pilings from the pier. An alarming report on September 14, 1921, said that “the Pine Avenue Pier is condemned.” However, it actually lasted for another decade.
A final ingredient to the Sportfishing scene at the pier was the introduction of fishing barges in the ‘20s. Barges included the James McKenna (1925 to postwar), Blue Sea (1928) and the Pastime (1929). The ‘30s, perhaps the heyday of barge fishing, saw several additional barges. The Shamrock and Bounty were available most of the decade while the Melrose operated for a few mid-‘30 years in Long Beach waters before moving down to San Clemente. The Samar operated 1937-38; it would be converted to a floating machine shop in WWII.
Nevertheless, fishing from the pier itself continued to be the main activity for most since it was free.
Fisherman Hooks Body — Long Beach, Aug. 17.—Fishing off the Pine Avenue pier here last night, William Richie hooked what he thought would be a record catch. Just before his line broke he caught sight of a human body. Today police recovered the body of Tony Toodoroff, Bulgarian. Toodoroff was drowned August 8 while bathing in the surf. —Santa Ana Register, August 17, 1921
Anglers Enjoy Run of Bonito at Long Beach — Long Beach, Oct.19.—Pine Avenue pier and particularly its outermost end, is a busy place these days and a late coming nimrod with his long bamboo pole or handline finds it difficult to find a place to sit along the string pieces. For bonito, that succulent denizen of the blue Pacific, has suddenly found the waters adjacent to the pier a most desirable place to stick around with the result that catches of bonito around the end of the pier the last few days have broken all previous records.
A large school of the fish have taken up their quarters around the pier and the inroads of fishermen in their ranks have been noticeable to date, neither have the fish been forced to other grounds. Several of the more lucky nimrods have filled bushel baskets and boxes with the blue and black and silver beauties. —Los Angeles Times, October 20, 1926
In 1929 a new report stated that ground breaking for the W. L. Poterfield building marks the beginning of the end for the pier and then, in April 1930, damage from huge breakers caused an estimated $100,000 damage to the pier and breakwater.
A new chapter in the story of the downtown shoreline and piers occurred on July 25, 1931 when the Rainbow Pier was officially opened just to the south and adjacent to the Pine Avenue Pier. The Rainbow Pier would now become the main pier while the Pine Avenue Pier would survive for a few more years with diminished duties.
In 1933, what remained of the Pine Avenue Pier saw extensive renovation. The shore end of the pier was removed and a link connected it with the Rainbow Pier. The pier was resurfaced, new pilings were installed, the service men’s clubhouse at the end of the pier was remodeled, and two boat landings, one for Navy officers and the other for fishing boats were improved. The now shortened pier became a spur that connected out from the seaward end of the Rainbow Pier.
By 1934, the short, 150-foot long pier was being used for a lifeguard station—and the end was near. On September 5, “freak” 35 to 40-foot high combers pounded the pier and caused it to collapse. Newspapers reported that “life guards worked frantically to remove equipment and escaped just as the wooden structure collapsed.” The San Mateo Times said the giant breakers reduced the pier to “kindling wood” while the Santa Cruz Sentinel reported that wood “was tossed like splintered toothpicks upon the beach.” The adjacent Rainbow Pier saw a 25-foot gap torn out by the huge waves but mostly withstood the storm. The life of the Pine Avenue Pier #2 was at an end and all that remained were memories. It was gone but not forgotten.