Thru April 30: Clogged Sinks Cleared For Just $29.95 (no main line work); Main Line & Other Work 40% Off Regular Price Thru April 30. Click For Video
Attn: LB Area Businesses: If Your Ad Were Here, People Like You Would See It Now. Email Us (Click Here) To Grab's April Ad Special


Ken Larkey, Sic Transit

(April 4, 2011. updated April 5 with funeral/memorial plans) -- 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 Long Beach Aquarium has received far more public money than Ken Larkey ever requested.]

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.

In February of 1971 Long Beach's first Historical Museum was open at the northwest corner of First Street and Linden Avenue, then called the "Queen of the Beaches Museum." After a few years the Museum was moved to Third and Elm, just east of the main post office downtown. It was then renamed the Long Beach Heritage Museum, to avoid confusion with Queen Mary exhibits. It was open to the public free of charge as the only Long Beach historical museum. Among the many activities at the Museum was the presentation of historical movie and slide shows in the forty-five seat theater with a complete stereo sound system and footlights on stage, with a grand curtain in front of the silver screen. Over the next 20 years many historical artifacts and other memorabilia were added to the collection.

In 1994, the Museum's 1917 building on Third Street was declared as substandard by the city building and safety department and was demolished. The Museum had to move its collections into storage. The city building used for storage was sold, and the Museum had to move again. It was moved to a storage warehouse provided free of charge by the generosity of the Bechler Corporation (Mountain View Dairy) of Long Beach in 1996. This was a temporary arrangement until a suitable building could be found. By the kindness of Ed Bechler and his son Richard, we were allowed to use this storage space beyond the intended time. The artifacts are now safely in a new storage home. Unfortunately, this is not a display space, and so we have had to turn away those who requested to view the fine collection. The Museum is now raising funds to build a permanent home, and to have the collection on display once again for the enjoyment and enrichment of the public.

The Museum has the only roller coaster car left from the famous Pike Cyclone Racer, the last drug store soda fountain in the city from the Harriman Jones drug store, artifacts from the Pacific Coast Club, a wooden clothes washer built in 1916 in Long Beach, and an eleven-foot long, solid redwood surfboard used by Long Beach lifeguards in the 1930's. There are also old telephones used throughout Long Beach, old wooden telephone booths, and grocery/drug store windows full of brand name products of years gone by.

There are more than a thousand black and white photos, which show samples of life in Long Beach over the years. There are also historic documents, rare photographs, old clocks, radios, a steam radiator, a wooden ice box, an old cook stove, kitchen utensils, and much more.

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.

Follow w/




Return To Front Page

Contact us:

Mike Kowal
Mike Kowal, Realtor
Excellence @ (562) 595-1255

Carter Wood Floors
Hardwood Floor Specialists
Call (562) 422-2800 or (714) 836-7050

Ninos New Ad

blog comments powered by Disqus

Return To Front Page

Contact us:

Copyright © 2011, LLC. All rights reserved. Terms of Use/Legal policy, click here. Privacy Policy, click here