A journey up Railroad Avenue

JERRY PERSON

This week, the weather has been so hot here in Huntington Beach that

I thought I would take a little motor trip up Railroad Avenue to see

what is, what was and what might have been.

First, let me explain that, at one time, Lake Street was called

Railroad Avenue because railroad tracks ran its entire length from

Pacific Coast Highway (Ocean Ave.) to the Yorktown (Mansion Ave.)

viaduct.

We'll get into our old Ford Model-T, give it a crank to get it

going and begin our look back.

Our first stop on our journey along Lake Street takes us to 420

Lake St. and to our "what had been" site. Today, there is no trace of

the building that had been the old Pacific Electric depot that had

graced this site, since it was moved there in 1938.

In July 1938, the old depot was a familiar sight at Main Street

and Pacific Coast Highway by our Huntington Pier. But it was blocking

the approach to our new pavilion and so, that year Mayor Marcus

McCallen and City Engineer Harry Overmyer met with Charles Bowen,

assistant to the president of the Pacific Electric Co., to find

another suitable location for the depot building.

Also on that tour were Pacific Electric's passenger traffic

manager, H.O. Marler; freight traffic manager William Knoche;

assistant engineer F.W. Spencer; and Manley Burley, the general

bridge foreman for the P.E.

The group looked at relocating the depot to Pacific Coast Highway

and 5th or 6th Street on the beach side, but in the end, it was

decided to move it to this Lake Street location. Bowen had been

familiar with this Lake Street location, since he was part of the

original crew that laid out the line between Huntington Beach and

Santa Ana.

I have seen pictures of the old depot as it crawled along PCH

toward its new home.

Our second stop on our journey still remains, and what better

place to beat the heat than at Brewster's Ice House at the corner of

6th and Lake streets.

This piece of Huntington Beach history has stood at this location

since 1945, when Virgil Brewster purchased the war surplus icehouse

from the military just after World War II ended.

Brewster had been a familiar sight for many local residents over

the years and for many, he was their town's iceman.

Born in 1912, Virgil first saw our town when his family arrived

here when he was 10 years old. His father Henry went to work in our

oil fields while he would attend our Central Elementary School. After

school, Virgil would sell newspapers to many of our oil workers.

In 1931, Brewster graduated from Huntington High and would go on

to finish his education at Santa Ana College.

He would later join his parents to help run a milk business on the

family's dairy farm on Speer Avenue near Slater Street. Business was

good and the dairy expanded to 160 cows before it was sold in the

early 1940s.

During World War II, Brewster went to work at an aircraft factory.

When the war ended, he had a half interest in the Home Ice Co. and

would later buy out his partner's other half interest.

Married by then to his lovely wife Lucile, the Brewster family

would increase in size with the births of their two children Ellen

and Bruce.

In the mid-1980s, Virgil and Lucile turned over the business to

their daughter Ellen and her husband Michael Costello. But for many

years afterward, Virgil was a familiar sight sitting outside his old

icehouse.

It was on March 7, 1997 that we lost our "Ice Man," but the

business he began still remains on Lake Street.

Our last stop on our journey up Lake Street turns out to be a

"what might have been" site.

In October 1949, Joe Campbell took out a six-month lease on a

piece of property on the east side of the railroad tracks between

Adams Avenue and Nashville Street. On this site, Campbell had

proposed to establish a junkyard and he began bringing in junk to

this site.

Several local homeowners became very upset with having a junkyard

at their door and got up a petition. Elmer Goetsch, Marshall Tinsley,

McCallen, Sonia Brundage, Kenneth Hoffman and Arthur Bermudez signed

the petition.

This group presented the petition to the city council on Oct. 17,

1949, and in the end, we didn't get a junkyard in Surf City, just

more houses.

There, of course, were more businesses that we could have stopped

at, including the San Pedro Lumberyard, the Masonic Lodge, Yoder's

Sign Shop and Sam Bowen's Oil Tool business.

But we have looked back at these sites in previous columns and

now, as for me, I'd like to move into the Brewster icehouse until the

weather cools down. When I asked Mike Costello how about it, however,

he said that he has a long list of people ahead of me with that very

wish.

* JERRY PERSON is a local historian and longtime Huntington Beach

resident. If you have ideas for future columns, write him at P.O. Box

7182, Huntington Beach, CA 92615.

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