Brett Ashley Hawkins
Photo (above) from 1911, showing the SS Iaqua, the first ship to call at the Port of Long Beach
Once a one-pier facility, the Port of Long Beach has experienced exponential growth into becoming a seaport giant and Long Beach’s most well known achievement.
What a difference a century makes. Once a one-pier facility, the Port of Long Beach has experienced exponential growth into becoming a seaport giant and Long Beach’s most well known achievement. Now in its 100th year of operation, the Port of Long Beach is celebrating its success with a free birthday party event Saturday, June 25. Several exhibits will be open to attendees who wish to take in the history of Long Beach’s global claim to fame.
In addition to the exhibits, the event will include two screenings of the port’s documentary, a history panel discussion, centennial presentations, a live concert, carnival rides, games, a cupcake competition, and free hot dogs served by the Long Beach Firefighters Local 372.
The Port of Long Beach has been steadily preparing for not only their celebration, but also for the next 100 years to come. To start, the Port launched a new website to feature their progress in becoming an open window to the rest of the planet. A photographic timeline marks such a journey and allows the community to upload Port photos of their own as well as videos and anecdotes. Also, the tours given at the Port and the Green Port Fest will be re-themed to reflect the centennial.
The first delivery observed at the Port contained a shipment of lumber from the Pacific Northwest; the shipment arrived June 2, 1911 at Municipal Pier 1, then the only accessible pier. Today the wharfs boast $100 billion in trade per year and more than 300,000 workers.
“The growth and prosperity of the Port’s first century has clearly realized a community’s dreams by bringing business, trade and economic opportunity to Long Beach and the surrounding area,” said Nick Sramek, president of the Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners. “This centennial year, we invite the community to celebrate with us and to share their own memories and recollections.”
In keeping with the nostalgia factor presented by the new website, historical exhibits entitled “Memory Lane” will be features of the event. The display, which is sponsored by the architecture firm Gensler, is an interactive experience in which guests can observe a photo exhibit and share their own individual history involving the Port of Long Beach via memorabilia, news clippings, letters, photos, and testimonials recorded by videographers at the celebration.
The flourishing of the Port can be seen at these exhibits through the early beginnings in which visionaries foresaw economic opportunity and job creation, to today when the Port is a world leader in service, environmental programs, and proactive outreach.
The master of ceremonies for the event will be Robert Wagner, who recorded voice narration in the Port’s centennial documentary, Faces of the Port – Celebrating 100 Years. Wagner is known for his role in the Austin Powers film series, as well as for TV’s Hart to Hart and Two and a Half Men. The film’s premiere screening is scheduled for 3pm that day at the event with a second showing at 4:15pm. Limited seating is available at both screenings; reservations are available at the Port’s website.
After the first screening of the documentary, a history panel discussion titled “Let’s Talk Centennial” will take place with the film’s personalities serving as panel members, including former mayor of Long Beach Beverly O’Neill, former Police Chief and Port Security Director Bill Ellis, President of Jacobsen Pilot Service Tom Jacobsen, and International Longshore and Warehouse Union veteran Tony Salcido. The forum will be moderated by veteran maritime reporter George Cunningham.
Guests are encouraged to bring picnic baskets and lawn chairs to enjoy the Municipal Band, who will play their first set of the summer season, as part of its 102nd year. The Long Beach Municipal Band performed during the dedication ceremony at Municipal Pier 1 (now known as Pier D, Berth 49) when the pier opened 100 years ago.
Saturday’s birthday celebration will be from 2:30pm to 8pm on the docks of Pier E, south of the Gerald Desmond Bridge at Ocean Boulevard and Pico Avenue. Free parking and bicycle valet will be available.