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Racing towards OHA2016 in Long Beach, the “International City”

As has become OHR tradition, we have enlisted the help of a local to serve as a guide to the upcoming OHA Annual meeting in beautiful Long Beach, California. Below, Mark Garcia shares some of the city’s fascinating history, as well as his personal recommendations for oral historians who want to venture out and see some of what the city has to offer. Mark will be milling around the conference to keep you up to date on social media about what’s happening on the ground. Make sure to follow the OHR on TwitterFacebookTumblr, and Google+ for the latest from the annual meeting, and follow Mark at @HistoryBuffMark.

The official motto of the City of Long Beach is the “International City,” welcoming visitors from around the world to the port city. From humble beginnings, the city has grown to become the second busiest port in the United States, after Los Angeles. In 1880 William Ervin Willmore, an Englishman, laid out Willmore City along the Pacific Coast. He was unable to attract settlers and the city failed after a few years. The city was renamed Long Beach after its long wide coastal beach and the city was incorporated in 1888. In 1911 the Port of Long Beach was established and by 1919 portions of the United States Pacific Fleet were stationed off the coast. A major economic boom came to Long Beach with the discovery of oil in the Signal Hill area and it brought prosperity to the region.

Long Beach, California by Brian Roberts, CC BY 2.0 via Flickr.
“Long Beach, California” by Brian Roberts, CC BY 2.0 via Flickr.

To learn more about the local history, I recommend visiting the Historical Society of Long Beach’s current exhibition, Black Gold: Oil in the Neighborhood detailing the oil boom in the 1920s. The oil industry brought many new jobs and residents to Long Beach, as well as a million dollar a month building boom resulting in downtown skyscrapers. After years of growth, a 1933 earthquake rattled Southern California and killed 120 people. Many of the downtown buildings were lost or damaged, but the New Deal helped save the city and funded the rebuilding of the damaged buildings. You have the opportunity to view some of the buildings on the Downtown Long Beach Art Deco Walking Tour offered at the Annual Meeting.

Those interested in arts and culture will find a rich history and a city full of dynamic events. Long Beach is host to the longest running major “street” race, the third largest LGBTQ Pride parade, and the only art museum dedicated to modern and contemporary Latin American Art in the United States. The Annual Meeting offers a tour of the Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA), which is currently celebrating its twentieth anniversary. Long Beach’s largest event, bringing up to 200,000 visitors, is the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Just two blocks south of the Renaissance Long Beach Hotel, host of the Annual Meeting, is the Long Beach Motorsports Walk of Fame. Take a short stroll and view the 22-inch medallions that honor key contributors and race winners in Long Beach Motorsports. Of course the main attraction this October is the OHA Annual Meeting, which includes panels on an incredible diversity of subjects.

Long Beach’s vibrant past and warm California weather make it a great location for the Annual Meeting, celebrating the theme of OHA@50: Traditions, Transitions and Technologies from the Field. We hope to see you at the annual meeting in two weeks, from October 12-16 – and don’t forget to bring your sunglasses!

Chime into the discussion in the comments below or on TwitterFacebookTumblr, or Google+.

Featured image by Mark T. Garcia, used with permission.

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