Monthly Archives: May 2014

PHOTOS: Long Beach’s Aquarium of the Pacific hosting daily march of the penguins in June

Three Magellanic penguins waddled through an exhibit at Long Beach’s Aquarium of the Pacific on Friday, in preparation for a new morning ritual.

During the preview, bird handlers chased the penguins as they ran past giggling children and sea otters. The South American birds then doubled back and stared at the giant tank full of fish and otters.

Starting Sunday, the penguins will make a daily public trek across the Northern Pacific Gallery every morning at 10. The birds begin their walk by the sea otter exhibit and end it by the giant Pacific octopus.

The daily penguin walk is part of the aquarium’s “Summer of Wonder” program and is included with regular admission.

The summer program includes an opportunity to make and drive a mini underwater submarine and features new exhibits about the Southern California steelhead and the Guam kingfisher, as well as touch tanks with horseshoe crabs, corals and sponges.

MR. LONG BEACH: What’s in a Name? Ask Dolly Varden.

Earlier this week the owners of downtown Long Beach’s The Varden re-installed their historic “Bath in every room” sign atop the early 20th century boutique hotel.

Co-owners Larry Black and Charles Knowlton ended eight months of restoration with a media event that included food, the vice mayor and a big crane lifting the landmark sign into place on the building long known as the Dolly Varden.

I’ve seen the sign for years and always wondered – who was Dolly Varden?

According to, Long Beach’s Dolly Varden was “an eccentric circus performer” who had a wealthy admirer.

“Supposedly, he built the building for her,” Black said, and she lived on the top floor of the hotel in a number of the rooms.

Long Beach doesn’t have the only Dolly Varden around, however.

All the iterations of Dolly Varden seem to stem from Charles Dickens’ historical novel, “Barnaby Rudge.” It features the Varden family – Gabriel, a locksmith with a manipulative wife named Martha and their daughter Dolly.

In 1867, the first baseball team to get paid to play was the Dolly Vardens – a female African-American team who started playing professional baseball two years before the first men’s team. The ladies played in long skirts and corsets.

Why name a team the Dolly Vardens? At the time a fashion craze was sweeping Britain and the United States – the Dolly Varden costume. The clothing featured brightly patterned dresses with flowers and a skirt. The outfit was finished off with a Dolly Varden hat, usually flat and trimmed with flowers or ribbons. It was an 1870s version of the fashions in Dickens’ novel.

If all this seems a bit fishy, it gets even fishier. There is a trout common to cold-water tributaries of the Pacific Ocean named after Dolly Varden. The first recorded uses of the name was in Northern California.

In an account by David Starr Jordan, yes, the same Jordan who’s name is on a Long Beach high school, a landlady in Soda Springs saw the brightly colored, spotted trout in the 1870s and said, “Why, that is a regular Dolly Varden.” The name stuck.

A Midwest-based folk/rock band shares the name, too. The Chicago quintet Dolly Varden took its name from what they call “a rare and beautiful species of trout.” The songwriters in the band both had fathers who were avid fisherman and “dreamt of one day catching the elusive Dolly Varden in an icy Alaskan lake.”

Ten hours north of Long Beach is the city of Dolly Varden, Nev., a desolate place sitting in the Dolly Varden Mountains near Utah. The area consists of 16 mineral claims and not much else. The Dolly Varden mine was opened in 1872 and was one of the richest copper mines in Elko County.

Going even farther north, a Canadian silver company of the same name focuses its energy on the development of the historic Dolly Varden Silver Mines in British Columbia.

Whether you like the Dickens, trout, minerals, baseball, folk rock or Long Beach boutique hotel version, there seems to be a Dolly Varden for everyone.

PHOTOS: Demolishing Freeway Connectors

Workers dismantle the southbound connector from the Long Beach (710) Freeway to westbound Ocean Boulevard in the port of Long Beach on Saturday. The ramp, along with the northbound connector, are being demolished and rebuilt as part of the Gerald Desmond Bridge Replacement Project.

PHOTOS: Long Beach City College Freedom Fair

Long Beach City College Veterans hold their first Freedom Fair at Veterans Memorial Stadium.

PHOTOS: Capturing Moments of Graduates Capturing Moments of Themselves – The Selfie

Graduate Selfies at Cal State Long Beach.

PHOTOS: Cal State Long Beach Graduation

Graduates at the first of nine ceremonies at Cal State Long Beach on Tuesday, May 20, 2014.

PHOTOS: Hello (again), Dolly Varden!

After eight months of restoration the Dolly Varden sign is back where it had been since the 1930s — atop The Varden Hotel in downtown Long Beach.

The sign, which advertises “A bath in every room,” was restored by co-owners Larry Black and Charles Knowlton with a grant from the Long Beach Navy Memorial Heritage Foundation.

When asked about the cost of the restoration, Black wasn’t comfortable revealing the numbers, only saying, “It cost a lot — more then I expected … in the tens of thousands.”

Black explained the challenges of restoring the sign.

“It was more deteriorated then we had thought,” he said. “At certain points you could push your finger into 80 years of deterioration.”

The landmark sign is now its original black with off-white lettering and will glow blue and red when lit.

The Dolly Varden at Fourth Street and Pacific Avenue was constructed in 1929. The now-famous sign was added in the early 1930s, and it was recognized as a vintage historical object and granted landmark status by the City of Long Beach in 1995.

Dolly Varden was “an eccentric circus performer” who had a wealthy admirer, according to

“Supposedly, he built the building for her,” Black said, and she lived in the top floor of the hotel in a number of the rooms.

Black and Knowlton have owned the hotel since 2006 and have been refurbishing it since. The sign was the last piece of the puzzle.

“Once this is up, the building is totally done … the building is fully restored,” Black said.

PHOTOS: Women Converge in Long Beach

The 29th. California Women’s Conference in Long Beach.

MR. LONG BEACH: Bloom, Love, Hate: Life Under the Purple Canopy

“Don’t even talk to me about these trees … I hate them!”

That was the greeting I received a few years ago while photographing jacaranda trees on Petaluma Avenue.

The woman, who refused to be identified, continued: “If you live on this street you hate ’em because all they do is track in mud and dirt and everything else.”

That’s when I realized the jacaranda trees aren’t just pretty. They create real angst for Long Beachers that have to live under the purple canopy.

There are certain annual rituals when you’re a photojournalist in Long Beach. Every April, it’s fast cars; in June, it’s graduations; and in May, it’s the jacaranda trees.

This year, I wanted a different view of the blooming trees, so I sent my drone high above the 3600 block of Petaluma Avenue in East Long Beach.

The jacaranda is a native to tropical and subtropical regions of Central America, South America, Cuba, Hispaniola and the Bahamas. The ones in Long Beach were planted when developers built homes in the middle of the last century.

The residents of Petaluma Avenue have a love-hate relationship with the trees.

Jarred Gienapp has lived under the trees his whole life. He says they’re messy, but they’re pretty when they’re blooming. About the purple blooms he said, “Fifty-fifty – they’re nice and they give you a headache at the same time.”

Steve and Pamela Colucci have lived under the purple trees for 12 years.

As the words, “What do you think about these trees” were coming out of my mouth, Steve emphatically said, “We hate ’em.” He said he had to buy a blower to keep the blooms under control.

His wife, Pamela, added: “They’re pretty to the visitors that drive down the street, but they’re really stinky.” And, “You can’t have carpet if you live on this street,” she said.

Steve Colucci laughed as he recalled what the street looked like when they bought their home: “It was beautiful. It was green. It was October.”

During their first spring in the home when the rain of purple blossoms started, Steve recalls thinking, “Are you kidding me?”

PHOTOS: Long Beach State Softball loses to Notre Dame, 8-0

Long Beach State softball takes on Norte Dame during the NCAA Regionals at UCLA on Friday. The 49ers lost to the Fighting Irish, 8 to 0.

PHOTOS: Long Beach Fire leaves Scar on Wetlands

Charred grass and palm trees are what remains on Thursday after a fire in the Los Cerritos in Long Beach on Wednesday.

PHOTOS: Kentucky Derby winner Victor Espinoza Visits City of Hope

Kentucky Derby winner Victor Espinoza, center, jockey for California Chrome, shares a laugh with pediatric patients Carolina Ayala, 10, left, and Abner Ruano, 13, at City of Hope in Duarte Tuesday. He has been donating 10 percent of his earnings to City of Hope, which meant giving them around $14,000 for the Kentucky Derby victory.

PHOTOS: Body Found in Burning Long Beach Home.

The body of a woman was found in a burning home in North Long Beach on Tuesday. The fire ignited in a single-story home at 340 Del Amo Blvd. at about 10:15 a.m. and was extinguished within minutes. Long Beach Fire Department spokesman Matt Dobberpuhl said firefighters found a body inside the home. The woman’s identity was not released. Read the story>>

PHOTO: Nothing Happened on the way to the Gerald Desmond Bridge

A bottleneck of traffic was expected, but never appeared, Monday morning when the southbound Long Beach (710) Freeway to westbound Ocean Boulevard connector ramp was shut down for two year.  A piece of construction of equipment sits atop the ramp in the port of Long Beach. The ramp will be demolished. The northbound ramp, left, will be closed later this year.

MR. LONG BEACH: Willow Springs Park is Open… Parts of it.

The hilltop plaza at Willow Springs Park is an area map made from decomposed granite and tumbled glass. The map was made by local artist Steve Elicker.  This view is looking north, Orange Avenue is on the right.

The hilltop plaza at Willow Springs Park is an area map made from decomposed granite and tumbled glass. The map was made by local artist Steve Elicker. This view is looking north, Orange Avenue is on the right.

Q. I see a bunch of tattered signs on Spring Street advertising “Willow Springs Park.” What’s going on with that? – Jody Collins

A. Willow Springs Park is a 47-acre site bounded by Orange and California avenues on its sides, Spring Street to the north and Willow Street to the south – excluding the cemeteries and a small private lot.

According to District 7 Councilman James Johnson, when Willow Springs Park is completed, it will be the largest park to open in Long Beach since El Dorado Park. And, it will be the largest park on the west side of the city.

The park shares its name with the streets that bound it, named for the numerous willow trees and natural springs in the area.

Parts of the park – Longview Point and Farm Stand 59 – are already open, but the majority is yet to come.

Longview Point is, as Johnson put it, “The highest point accessible in the entire city of Long Beach, with gorgeous vistas of Catalina Island, the Pacific Ocean, downtown Long Beach and the Hollywood sign – on a very clear day.” Of course, there’s a giant hill to the east that’s pretty big, but who looks that way? The high point is covered by an area map made by local artist Steve Elicker. It’s an aerial view of Southern California made from decomposed granite and tumbled glass. A parking lot on Orange Avenue gives you access to a trail that leads to Longview Point.

Farm Lot 59 is a 1-acre farm at 2714 California Ave. run by Long Beach Local. According to, they “grow food and flowers the old-fashioned way using our hands, without pesticides and chemicals.” Produce grown at the farm is available after June. They also sell to local restaurants, caterers and bartenders.

What’s next?

Johnson told me two things are on the horizon – a visitor center and a community garden education center.

The city set aside $1 million for the park, along with several grants, to fulfill the master plan. One of the things the plan calls for is a visitor center.

An old train station in the 1400 block of San Francisco Avenue will be moved to the park, most likely off California Avenue, and used as a visitor center. The station was built downtown in 1907 and moved to its current location in 1936.

The community garden education center will be one-acre area to teach young people about agriculture next to Farm Lot 59.

Johnson added, “It’s not a pie-in-the-sky project. When you have the money, you have the land, you have environmental approvals and you have a plan, all you need is the time to get it done … and that’s where we’re at.”

El Dorado Park filming update

A month ago I wrote about a single-family home being built in Area II of El Dorado Park for a movie.

The building is gone now, but at the time rumors were swirling that it was for a remake of “The Amityville Horror.” The production company refused to give me any information but, when the house was finished it was a clear, dead ringer for the house in the 1979 classic.

This version, simply titled “Amityville,” will star Jennifer Jason Leigh as a single mother who moves in to the spooky house with her three kids.

It’s set to be released in January.

MR. LONG BEACH: There’s an App for That

Where is this old sign with the old-timey phone number? Send your answer to First person to answer correctly wins a prize.

Where is this old sign with the old-timey phone number? Send your answer to and win a prize.

I’m a geek. So this week I thought I’d put my geekdom and love of Long Beach together.

Here’s a look at some useful Long Beach area iPhone apps:

The City of Long Beach has been getting “techie” in the last few years releasing a bevy of GO apps. The only one I’ve used is GO Long Beach. I reported a damaged street sign and a damaged parking sign near my house a few years ago. Both items were fixed in a few days. I even got an email updating me on the status of the work.

GO Long Beach: This app basically allows you to rant to the city. Click “new issue” and complain away. It also has a handy list of city phone numbers and a link to code enforcement. What I’d like to see in this app is construction updates. When will Redondo Avenue be finished? How long until I can walk along the bluffs again?

GO LB Pets: This app includes Pictures and info about pets available for adoption from Long Beach Animal Care Services. Also there’s info about city dogs parks and emergency vets.

GO LBPL: The cool feature in this app is the search. You can look for books by name, author or publisher. The results will tell you what library has the book, if it’s checked out and when it’s due to be returned.

GO LGB: This app inclides basic airport information with airline phone numbers and parking rates. It also has flight tracking. What this app is missing is maps to parking lots and a link to WebTrak, the cool feature on their desktop site that allows you to see a real-time map of the aircraft over Long Beach.

Vote LB 2014: The app shows voter information for the City Clerk’s Office. This app has a moving countdown akin to a bomb in an action thriller. You can also find your voting place and track results on election night.

Lakewood and Signal Hill won’t be left out; they have city apps, too.

Lakewood’s app is simply called “Lakewood,” and Signal Hill’s is “mySignalHill.” Both apps’ main purpose is to report problems, from abandoned shopping carts to graffiti to high tall weeds and dead vegetation.

As far as local attractions go, The Aquarium of the Pacific’s app is a nice guide to have with you when visiting the fish. The only problem: Cell service is horrible inside most of the exhibits.

The Port of Long Beach has the LB Bridge app, which keeps tabs on the Gerald Desmond Bridge Replacement Project. You can check road closures and view live construction cameras.

Cal State Long Beach’s radio station K-Beach has a live streaming app – no frills – that just lets you listen to the school’s station.

And lastly, the hospitals. If you need to get to the ER, but somehow have the time to shop around for the best wait times, Lakewood and Los Alamitos Medical Centers have apps for you. Both hospital apps are exactly the same and both let you check the ER wait times and even start the check-in process.

What’s missing? What apps would make life better in Long Beach? Let me know what you’d like to have on your phone and I’ll share it with our readers.