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Ken Larkey, Sic Transit
(April 4, 2011. updated April 5 with funeral/memorial plans) -- LBReport.com has learned of the death of Ken Larkey, Long Beach's faithful historian and dedicated collector of priceless local artifacts, who founded and created the Long Beach Heritage Museum.
Mr. Larkey, who suffered a debilitating stroke some time ago, struggled in recent years to find a permanent location for his museum to display and share his collection with the public. His efforts won him grassroots admiration and polite lipservice from local officialdom. [Comment: The
In the mid-1990s, City Hall declared substandard a 1917 downtown building in which Mr. Larkey had located his Museum, (ordering the building demolished although it survived the 1933 earthquake). After briefly finding a temporary site, Mr. Larkey opted to put his Museum collection into storage until a permanent site could be found.
Since then, the LB Heritage Museum has existed mainly in cyberspace. Its website includes multiple pleas for a permanent location and funding, along with the following text:
The Long Beach Heritage Museum, Long Beach, California, started in 1961 when Ken Larkey put on a photo display of the 1933 earthquake at the Long Beach Recreation Department hobby show. The display featured some of the photos and picture postcards that he had been collecting since he was nine years old. The exhibit was so popular that his booth was crowded every day. This convinced him to find a permanent home where people could see his collection of Long Beach memorabilia.
Some said Mr. Larkey's historical collection quietly irked local officialdom because it so eloquently documented what Long Beach once had. Actions by various City Halls did away with LB's downtown beach (once hailed as the "Queen of the Beaches"), real parks lining Ocean Blvd., building heights limited to retain ocean views and a renowned amusement zone that drew large crowds. San Diego and Santa Cruz cleaned and restored their beachfront amusement areas, an authentic CA experience that now brings them tourists. During the same period, LB officials applauded as the Port of LB sprawled eastward with Pier J, which helped quash waves, worsen downtown water quality and put cargo cranes on the horizon instead of ocean vistas.
In an irony that would not be lost on Mr. Larkey, LB City Hall is at this moment working to finalize a transaction that would declare parts of its now landfilled beachfront -- which Long Beach was supposed to safeguard as Tidelands trustee -- as "basically useless" for Tidelands purposes, apparently to facilitate its use for non-Tidelands commercial purposes.
Mr. Larkey quietly bristled at such actions and preferred to focus on finding a permanent home for his Museum collection that would let the public see firsthand what LB once had.
We last saw Mr. Larkey a few years ago at Ryan Smolar's brilliant University by the Sea event which temporarily unsealed the elegantly tiled Jergins tunnel that once brought downtown crowds to the former Pike. Outside, Mr. Larkey sat quietly alongside volunteers who sold T-shirts, hoping to raise a few dollars for a permanent Museum site. We asked Mr. Larkey if he favored rebuilding the Cyclone Racer roller-coaster, whose wild design no corporate theme park has yet attempted to replicate.
"Well, if they want people down here, of course they should" he half-snarled. What about competition from other area attractions, we asked. Mr. Larkey smiled and said softly, "The only people who'd say that don't know what we once had."
UPDATE: A memorial service for Mr. Larkey is scheduled Saturday, April 9, 2011, 2:30 p.m., at Westminster Memorial Park, Main Chapel, 14801 Beach Blvd, Westminster, CA 92683
In lieu of flowers donations may be made in memory of Ken Larkey to Long Beach Heritage Museum, P.O. Box 14641, Long Beach, CA 90803 or the Ken Larkey Endowed Scholarship Fund, Azusa Pacific University, P.O. Box 7000, Azusa, CA 91702.
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