So for all of my sweet short existence, the Long Beach Towne Center has always just been the place to go see the latest blockbuster. It never really hit me until Tuesday that is used to be anything else before a movie theater and shopping center. It’s only been that since 1999. I was talking with a fellow (much older) student, Dave, when he mentioned how he used to work at the Naval Hospital, which was eventually replaced with the Edwards 26 Theater.
Long Beach really wouldn’t be the place it is today without the Navy. Since the 30s, it had dubbed itself the “Naval Capital of the United States,” where much of the Pacific Fleet had anchored in its harbor. Much of the fleet destroyed on the 1941 attacks on Pearl Harbor had actually been diverted earlier that year to Hawaii from their Long Beach/San Pedro home base.
Over the 20th century, the Navy had steadily become the single biggest business in Long Beach; its presence waxing and waning over the years depending on what sort of warfare the U.S. was involved in at the time. The Naval Hospital itself was commissioned in 1942 with 2,281 beds, later being revamped in the 60s. The Navy started seriously pulling out of Long Beach for good by the 90s, with the Naval Station, Naval Hospital and Savannah Cabrillo Navy Housing being decommissioned for good in 1994. After years of bitter rivalry between Long Beach and Lakewood, a shopping center replaced the Naval Center.
So before it was the place that brought me my first memory of the big screen (that troll in the bathroom from Harry Potter was pretty epic), it was the place where my grandma could get cheap gas and find a decent car mechanic. It was the place where my grandfather worked when the navy was still in its prime. It was the place where my friend Dave worked when the Long Beach navy was in its twilight. I wonder what it’ll be next.