MR. LONG BEACH: Roadside curiosities in Long Beach

Last week reader Greg Czopek asked me about a curious wire he found high above the streets north of Long Beach Airport. Turns out it was an eruv – a symbolic “walled city” used by Orthodox Jews on the Sabbath.

Greg’s question got me thinking, “Are there other things do we drive by everyday that we know nothing about?”

I took a cruise around the city – searching for things I knew nothing about. Turns out there are plenty of sidewalk curiosities dotting city streets all over Long Beach.

With the help of city traffic engineer David Roseman, I’ve identified some of the unknowns scattered around the city.

1. World War II era air raid siren. It was part of the civil defense system. Roseman said, “When I was a kid in school (in the) mid 1970s they still tested them once a month.” He said it is doubtful they still work.

2. Traffic signal control box; It’s owned by the city of Long Beach – although the painting is courtesy of the now defunct RDA. The box houses computers and communications equipment to control a traffic signal and communicate to other traffic signals along a corridor.

3. Police call box. Back in the day, before cops had radios to communicate, the police maintained phones in these boxes to call into the station. The officers would also report incidents, get assignments, and ask for help.

4. Southern California Edison vents. These metal cylinders are probably the most common item on this list. The vents help to expel gas so that the vaults don’t explode.

5. Microwave communication system. Even though most are no longer in use, they are still attached to many signals across the city. The antennas allowed traffic signal computers, the ones in the boxes listed above, to talk to one another and keep traffic signals synchronized.