Marina Walk – Cabrillo Beach Bathhouse History

Note:  All the pictures below were taken on today’s walk – December 2014

Some of the best walks or runs that I’ve experienced occurred while it was raining cats and dogs outside. Not just some rain, but pouring rain. Walking or running in the rain is great because only the hardcore tend to get out. Most of the time it seems like you have the entire trail, path or marina all to yourself; unless of course you live in Portland or Seattle. Those people are all hardcore and incredibly tolerant of a little or allot of rain.  Here it tends to shut most if not all outdoor activities.  Lucy and I take a short cut behind the Cabrillo Aquarium property where she is always in search of feral cats.


Since I used the words cats and dogs and Lucy dog accompanied me today I wondered where that saying came from, then I looked it up.  Seems that “raining cats and dogs” was first used in a poem in 1651.  One year later an English playwright wrote, it shall rain dogs and polecats.

I also found “it’s raining pitchforks” or it’s raining stairrods, but perhaps as a result of a flood around 1710 that left numerous dead and floating dogs and cats, the locals continued to describe the weather as “raining cats and dogs.”  This one (Lucy) tried to jump in the surf to swim but I wouldn’t let her.


Our walk is now over and besides taking a few pictures along the route nothing stood out today except possibly the pint size racing sailboat at Kelly’s Marine and boat yard storage.  He is a great location for the smaller racing Catalina boats.



No, this is not the Western Flyer but a sistership.  I believe that this one is a 1985 model and the Western Flyer is a 1989.  Patti and I spotted this 41 Defever trawler in Long Beach.  On our next time to Long Beach we looked up the owner, he invited us aboard and we fell in love with the custom made flybridge.  The owner is able to locate the original paperwork for the boats custom hardtop and the rest is history.

I fly the same guy up from Alabama that made this hardtop over 15 years ago – he measures my boat for a custom hardtop.  Unfortunately for us the experience is not one we ever want to repeat again.  While we anxiously await the building of our hardtop the guy goes through a double knee replacement either before or after a heart attack.  Then a hurricane hits Alabama and with it almost went our hardtop.


One thing you can never do in our area is walk or drive very far before finding flowers in bloom – year round.  Below someone went to the trouble of labling the different native California plants. Unfortunately the flash whited out most of the plant names.





Some or all of these plants also grow on Catalina Island.

DSCF0395  The beach did not look too inviting to me or anyone else today, except if you were into swimming or volleyball playing in the rain.    DSCF0415

The grandkids would find this swim inviting – rain or shine!



More rain still on the way.


Now this is a bathhouse.  Here is the story of this bathhouse as told by John Olguin

At one time Southern California had a regional transportation service commonly known as the Red Car, run by the Pacific Electric Railway Company.  The Pacific Electric Railway Company built a plunge at the end of each of their lines to Venice, Redondo Beach and Long Beach, where bathhouses were added for the convenience of those who came to swim.

In 1932 the last of the bathhouses was located at Cabrillo Beach, at the end of the San Pedro line.  (Our little beach house was built the same year – the bathhouse was restored a year after we moved in)  The Cabrillo Beach Bathhouse was opened as a community recreation center built and operated by the Department of Recreation and Parks of the City of Los Angeles.

Before most residents had automobiles, they could take the Red Car, rent a swim suit and towel at the Bathhouse for ten cents, take a swim in the ocean, shower and then ride back home again.  The San Pedro Bathhouse was 26,000 square feet and included a snack bar and a community meeting room upstairs.

The Bathhouse gradually became the site of a museum on marine life.  In 1935 lifeguard Bob Foster placed a card table on the beach in Venice loaded with sea shells and other sea life.  Dr. William L. Lloyd, a retired dentist, was hired by Recreation & Parks to collect and develop a marine exhibit in the Venice Bathhouse.

The collections were moved to the empty Cabrillo Beach Bathhouse and installed in the center room on the lower floor.  Dr. Lloyd learned how to taxidermy birds and prepare lobsters and crabs for exhibit.  The depression was in full swing in the early 1930s so there was little money to develop the museum.  Dr. Lloyd made exhibit displays with shirt boxes and one gallon mayonnaise jars from the restaurant next door.  He would mount fish and invertebrates on glass and fill the jars with formaldehyde.  The museum soon filled the middle room.

In 1938 a giant leatherneck turtle was caught and brought into the bath house.  A cast was made of plaster of Paris and was on display for years.  Today that cast has been recast in fiberglass and is still in the courtyard on display.

In 1937 as a lifeguard at Cabrillo Beach J. Olguin started to help Dr. Lloyd by cleaning the glass cases, moving showcases or doing anything else required.  In 1938 a fish hall developed by enclosing a passageway.  When Dr. Lloyd turned 70 in 1949 and had to retire, John became acting director plus lifeguard captain.

A women’s exercise class met on the second floor of the bath house once a week.  They played the piano and jumped rope in unison on the hardwood floor.

In 1949 we hung a sign that read “Any and all objects pertaining to Maritime Exhibit will be accepted.”  Thus we started the Los Angeles Maritime Museum.  The second floor had an open balcony which we enclosed and made an exhibit hall for ship models and a deep sea diving display.

In the about 1970 plans were developed to move Cabrillo Museum into a new location across the parking lot which would be larger and more appropriate.  This is now the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium.  It was designed by Frank Geary, who later designed Disney Hall.

When the move was completed in 1981, the Department of Recreation and Parks wanted to tear down the bathhouse.  The Cabrillo Polar Bears were using the old boat room and storeroom as a locker and changing room.  They organized a committee to save the bathhouse.

As a first step the Cabrillo Polar Bears, San Pedro Bay Historical Society and other friends got the building declared an historic landmark.  Nonetheless, the building was in disrepair until more than $3.5 million dollars was raised for renovation.  The Port ofLos Angeles and the City donated $2.1 million and Proposition G funds added $1.5 million.

The bathhouse has been beautifully restored and was dedicated on October 12, 2002.  It is used for classes, receptions and meetings.  John Olguin was employed by the Department of Recreation and Parks for fifty years.  He began as a lifeguard and eventually became the Director of Cabrillo Marine Museum.  He is currently Director Emeritus.

He developed San Pedro programs for Whale Watching, Grunion and tide pools.  He has devoted himself to community improvement, including an annual city fireworks display, Thanksgiving baskets for the needy, the Salvation Army and many other causes.  He was chosen as San Pedro’s Citizen of the Century by the San Pedro Rotary Club in 2000.

So what started out as a little walk took about two hours.  Hope you learned a little area history.  Till next time.



About trawlercat

Retired and now moving on from the cruising life jeeps, adventure bike, gardening, and travel. Always in search of the next great adventure!
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