Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Seal Beach Airport

from flickr

1920's Seal Beach Airport, "Crawford Field"

According to the book "From Jennies to Jets: The Aviation History of Orange County," Ray Crawford acquired an airstrip on a hilltop near Seal Beach in the late 1920s and started building gliders there. The market for gliders was slow, so Crawford turned the place into an airport. It got lots of use... pilots flew there to spend a day at the beach or to give beach-goers short airplane rides for a penny per passenger-pound

It was popular for another reason, too. In 1930 a diner opened across the highway and derived its name from the airport. The original sign stated: GLIDE'ER INN and E A T Fish, Steaks, Sandwiches Tamales, Clam Chowder, Chili PRIVATE BOOTHS.
The brotherhood of fliers began using the inn as a sort of lodge hall *. After the Navy bought the airport and the bay as part of the Seal Beach Naval Weapons Station, the Glide'er Inn was moved up the street about a block... Inside, aviation memorabilia covered the walls* and model airplanes hung from the ceilings and the "world's largest hand-carved propeller" decorated the bar. A sign was mounted beside the sit-down counter: "All aviators are requested to sign our pilots register". [Excerpted from Steve Emmons' LA Times article 7.21.85].

* Which reminds me of "The Happy Bottom Riding Club"... seen in the movie "The Right Stuff".

This View Is Looking to the East. The Pacific Ocean is just out of view to the right.
"Highway 1 PCH" -- Pacific Coast Highway -- curves along the coast at right.
Seal Beach Blvd runs just as straight today.
From WWII times up to today, everything above them is the sprawling Seal Beach
Naval Weapons Station. Inland lie many, many, many ammo bunkers...
But 911 acres of remnant saltwater marsh in the Anaheim Bay estuary and serves as a significant stopover and wintering area along the Pacific Flyway for shorebirds (Seal Beach National Wildlife refuge).

Photo source: Aerial survey of the Southern California coast from Long Beach to Seal Beach done by the Navy’s Bureau of Aeronautics; Seal Beach Founder's Day blog.

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