HSLB Annual Historical Cemetery Tour Returns Saturday, October 29th

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Annual Historical Cemetery TourOn Saturday, October 29, 2011 The HSLB proudly presents its 16th annual historical tour of the two oldest cemeteries in the city, Long Beach Municipal & Sunnyside Cemeteries. This year graveside stories commemorate several important centennial anniversaries – the Port, the first transcontinental flight, women’s voting rights in California, the Long Beach Day Nursery and the formation of the city’s Water Department.

The Cemetery Tour is a unique, engaging, educational and entertaining daytime family event.  Visitors will be taken back in time to learn about those whose names are etched in stone – and in some cases, in the streets, parks and neighborhoods that bear their names.

Amidst the 20,000 tombstones and markers, tour participants stop in at ten selected graves to hear first hand narratives of those at rest. Many tell tales of crime, tragedy and scandal which followed them all the way to the grave. In addition to learning about the person’s life, glimpses of early customs, attitudes and culture provide insights into bygone eras. The stories are the mosaic that is the city’s history. This year’s tour includes 11 graveside presentations, one more than in recent years.

Every script is researched by a historian using the HSLB archives, newspaper accounts and primary resources. Graveside stories are told by actors in costumes that are authentic to the era, down to the shoes and underwear. The wonderfully unique and intricate costumes are created by award-winning costumer and designer Donna Fritsche of the Long Beach Playhouse.

The grave side actors bring the characters to life – at least for the day – as they weave the magic of story well-told. Actors are directed by Denis McCourt, whose work has been seen at the Expo as part of the Long Beach Shakespeare Company and will soon be seen at Long Beach Playhouse. He is founder of the Public Theater of Long Beach.

With Donna’s costumes and Denis’ direction, the stories transcend narratives and become compelling “living history.” So convincing are the presentations that tour guests often forget that the presenter is contemporary, seeking information about their bygone period. Most who attend are hooked, returning year after year.

The 16th Annual Historical Cemetery Tour is Saturday, October 29, 2011.
Presentations run continuously from 9 a.m. until 2:30 pm at Long Beach Municipal & Sunnyside Cemeteries, 1095 Willow (between Orange and California), Long Beach.

Tickets can only be purchased on the day of the event at Sunnyside Cemetery (1095 Willow Ave.) from 8:30 until 12 noon. Cash and check only, no credit cards.

Visitors are free to map their own itinerary of grave presentations with a self-guided tour– performance times are given in the tour program and at each grave stop. Or if they wish, visitors can take a guided tour – the first departs at 9 a.m., with additional tours leaving on the hour until noon. To see all the presentations and exhibits takes between two and three hours. The last presentation is given at 2:30 p.m. Snacks and drinks are available for purchase throughout the day.

A free hot dog and hamburger lunch is available from 11:30 until 1:30.

This event is family-friendly. It is a walking tour in a park-like setting, with some uneven ground.  The day often starts cool and then turns warmer. For visitors’ comfort, we recommend comfortable walking shoes and sweaters and jackets that can be removed as the day warms up. There is some parking inside Sunnyside and plenty of parking in the surrounding neighborhood.

Prices are:

General admission – $18
HSLB members – $12
Students 12-18 – $5
Children 11 and under are free

New member special: Join the HSLB at the Cemetery and receive two free tickets to the tour.

Look for discount coupons during the month of October in local papers and websites.

The Cemetery Tour is the signature fundraising event of the Historical Society of Long Beach, a non-profit organization.  Those who would like to volunteer for or learn more about this event should visit www.hslb.org or call the HSLB at 562.424.2220.

This Year’s Stories from the Grave

In Municipal:
Amelia Bixby married into one of the city’s best known families. Life brought her great loss and sorrow, but also joy and accomplishment. Hear her reminiscences of life in the Bixby lane.

In an era of narrowly defined gender roles and fewer rights for women, Cora Morgan was an early advocate for equal rights for women, starting with the right to vote. Hear about her “boisterous” ways as she raised children and consciousness in early Long Beach.

Edward and Nina Jackson were early leaders in the city. Owners of a local drugstore, Nina made sauces for their soda fountain while Edward concocted a remedy for fleas. Hear about her family band and the political hot topic that was before the Water Commission during his term on its board.

Frank Dean O’Neal was a soldier in the First World War He came to Long Beach and found success operating a small business. His biggest surprise in life might’ve been discovering that 43 years after he died his story was memorialized by columnist Tim Grobaty in the Press Telegram newspaper.

In Sunnyside:
Minnie Gwyn came to Long Beach in the early 1900s. She lived through the boom years of the 1920s and when the Great Depression hit, she was one of the women who made clothes and household linens for FDR’s New Deal. She raised four children, one whose legacy lives on in the work she did with youth.

Ethel and Walter Case made great contributions to the city -Walter as a reporter and editor for some of the city’s earliest newspapers, and Ethel for her work with the Long Beach Playhouse.  While he wrote the history of the city, she brought theater to its people.

Tobacconist Glen Clark served as a city port commissioner. During his tenure, oil was discovered in the port. Decisions before the commission could mean millions for the city – or not. Money and competing interests made for interesting times in the mid-1930s.

Ethel K. Broadwick craved excitement. She found it in the air as one of the wing walkers who performed stunts in the air above the pike. She and her husband worked with early aviation pioneers until one day when Ethel’s luck ran out.

Tome and Nobu Hamade’s combined lives spanned 1877 to 1996 – nearly 120 years of changes in California and the U.S.  When they got married, there were nearly 6000 miles between them with Tome in Montana and Nobu in Japan.

Do you believe in Karma? You might after you hear the story of Jennie and John Rodgers.  Find out what “Mean Jennie” did to John, her long-suffering husband. Could fate have finally caught up with her on the day of his funeral?

Francisca Sanchez fled Mexico during its Revolution. In Long Beach, she found the quieter life she craved. Hear her story about what life was like for her and other Latinos here in Long Beach during the early part of the 20th century.

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