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News and Special Announcements


Every Plot Has a Story

The 13th Annual Historical Cemetery Tour  
Presented by the Historical Society of Long Beach
October 25, 2008
1095 E. Willow Ave, Long Beach 90806
The corner of Willow and Orange in Long Beach
First tour starts at 9 a.m. -- Last tour starts at 12 noon
Allow a minimum of 2 hours

Thirteen years ago former HSLB President, Barbara Barnes, began the Long Beach Cemetery Tour to highlight the importance of cemeteries and the stories of the people buried there.  It started with a few tour guides walking visitors to various cemetery plots, and telling stories of the people buried there.

 Today, this unique and highly entertaining daytime event transforms Long Beach’s two oldest cemeteries into a “Living History” tour. It has grown into a local cultural phenomenon that brings the cemetery to near capacity with living people strolling about listening to tales of the dead. Strolling amidst the old tombstones, tour participants gather at selected grave stops to hear first hand tales that every cemetery plot has a story. In morbid celebration of the tour’s 13th year, the 10 graveside stories retold this year will feature bad luck as the underlying theme.  Ten characters from the past recount their life, accomplishments, contributions and influences.  Glimpses of living, customs, attitudes and culture provide fascinating insights into bygone eras.  Ultimately, each story ends with a final stroke of misfortune leading to demise and a permanent residence in this cemetery.   

Every script is meticulously researched using the Historical Society of Long Beach’s (HSLB) archives and primary sources. Every graveside story is told by an authentically costumed actor who brings their character back to life, if only for a day. This year’s stories include:

  • Thomas Borden, one of Long Beach’s first law officers. His life ended at home with a bullet from his own service revolver. What were the circumstances of the crime?
  • Rip roaring barnstormer Ethel Broadwick was a daredevil aviation pioneer and a wing walker stunt person. Her husband designed the first parachutes which she regularly tested for him. What happened to her a thousand feet in the sky?
  • Bustling bride to be Bessie Baxter rode the Pacific Electric “Red Car” all the way up to Los Angeles to buy her wedding dress.  Tragically, on her wedding day, she wore her beautiful gown…to be buried.  What happened to her and why?
  • Dr. Albert Rhea, a popular local physician, resides eternally under one of the most famous tombstones in the world after losing a tussle between his bicycle and a train. Why is his one and a half ton monument so renowned?
  • And then there’s Verne Pickell, a daredevil dandy who enjoyed riding the Pike’s roller coaster. He loved the gals and eventually lost his head over one’s lovely bonnet. Where did he and his head end up? Yes, two locations.
  • Possibly most popular will be a poker game that ends in a draw…meaning a pistol.

The tour’s volunteer actors come from all walks of life.  They include teachers, retirees, business professionals and even a politician.  This year Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster plays farm worker Alejandro Banderas, a participant in that aforementioned poker game in 1915.

So compelling are the presentations that tour guests frequently forget that the presenter is contemporary.  The Cemetery Tour is the signature fundraising event of the HSLB, which is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.

In addition to the graveside presentations local artist, Daniel Martinez, will teach tour goers about ofrenda making (an offering for an alter) a craft associated with the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebration.  Visitors will be able to make ofrendas and relate them to stories of those buried at the cemeteries.   A special exhibit will explain the common superstitions and history associated with the Number 13 and triskaidekaphobia. And a “reporter” will finally explain why Long Beach was long known as “Iowa by the Sea.”

Visitors often spend the entire morning walking the tours and exploring the cemetery on their own. There are guided tours which last approximately two hours.  Admission is $18.

For Press information contact:
Charles Basham: 714.895.0327 Charlie.Basham@sce.com
Scott Ringwelski: 310.749.9020 Scott@ScottSki.net
For Tour Information Call 562.424.2220

Cemetery Tour Needs Volunteers...
We need to begin securing volunteers for the tour. Please email us if you are interested in participating. All assignments are very important for a successful event and we hope that you will be happy with our plans.
Volunteer Positions
Ticket Sales-- helping with selling tickets. It is a fun, fast paced way to greet people who come to the tour. The job would involve either handling money or tickets and can be done while seated.
Tour Guide-- Being a tour guide. This job would require you to lead groups of people around the tour and quote interesting facts that would be scripted for you. It is a fun and interactive way to be a part of this year's cemetery tour. It requires at least two hours of walking.
Parking—Helping to direct traffic and parking.
Halloween Around the World--Helping run the children's activity booth. This job would require you to help children with the maps that explain cultural activities of Halloween around the World. There will also be an interactive table where children can decorate their own sugar skulls in the tradition of Mexico's Dia de los Muertos.
Runner-- To assist us in being a runner. This job entails delivering items from one cemetery to the other and filling in whenever needed.
Book Sales-- This job would involve selling the HSLB publications, handling cash and can be done while seated.
Set Up--Help with set up on Friday, October 24
Clean Up--Help with clean up on Saturday, October 25 from 2:00 to 3:00
Props--Identifiying props that will enhance the stories, borrowing items, picking items up and returning them after the tour.
Conducting research—July, August, September as needed
Refreshment team
—picking up coffee, cold drinks, breakfast and delivering to cemetery--October 25
Creating displays—July, August, September as needed
Making sugar skulls, at your home—September
Contributions—securing contributions for water, refreshments, signage, etc.




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Site Updated December, 2007