Historical Cemetery Tour

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Ticket info: $25 general admission, $15 HSLB members,
$8 students ages 8 – 18, free for age 7 and under
$3 off general admission with postcard

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A Little Background on the
Historical Cemetery Tour

 


Beginning in 1995, the HSLB has conducted an annual living history tour at the city’s two oldest cemeteries. Located on Willow Street between Orange and California and adjacent to one another, Long Beach Municipal Cemetery and Sunnyside Cemetery are “home” to more than 20,000 past residents of the city.

The tour takes place on the Saturday before Halloween and features graveside presentations by professional and volunteer actors who relate the life and death of the person lying in rest. Each year’s program features a number of stories – some are individuals who helped shape the city’s political past, others are ordinary people whose tales remind us that rich or poor, famed or barely remembered, everyone has a story to tell. Period costumes worn by all the performers further heighten the experience with an aura of authenticity. Many guests get so involved in the presentation that they forget that it’s an actor telling the story and ask “what was it like to live here in 1920?”

The tour is appropriate for families and all ages. There is nothing scary about the presentations or the location. The ground is uneven, so we recommend comfortable shoes. And typically the morning is chilly but by afternoon it’s quite warm, so removable sweater or coat is recommended. There is some parking inside the cemetery and easy parking in the surrounding neighborhood.

Tickets are sold the day of the tour only, from 8:30 a.m. until noon at the entrance (just inside the Sunnyside Cemetery main gateway on Willow Street). The tour takes approximately two hours to complete, and the last presentations are at 2:00 p.m.

A big thank you to the Long Beach Playhouse and Artistic Director Denis McCourt for his assistance providing costume coordination for the Historical Cemetery Tour. Mayor Bob Foster, above left, has been a volunteer actor for several tours. Among the stories he has told, a favorite was Kid Mexico, a.k.a. the Bingo Baron of Signal Hill.


Video from the 2013 Historical Cemetery Tour


We’re Moving In!
Performed by Zadie M. Cannon
Ethel and Charles Haynes came to Long Beach in 1945. Charles was the first African American member of the Long Beach Board of Realtors. Ethel was an elementary school teacher. Together they helped integrate the city.



Early Education
Performed by David Narloch, Rae Andrada, & Dennis Kortheuer
Thomas and Kathleen were the children of Ernest and Julia Harnett, who came here from England in the late 1800s. Thomas owned a milling company, Kathleen and many of her sisters were teachers. They saw many changes to the area and its landscape.



Double Shame!
Performed by Jennifer Jung with a special appearance by Councilperson Gerrie Schipse as Cora Morgan (retelling the story of Kimi Sugiyama)
Yaye Kurayama Takeshita was a “picture bride.” Two sons were WWII heroes and son Mas Takeshita became a respected Japanese American leader in Long Beach.



Saving Poly
Performed by Vanessa Rose Parker & Will Proctor with a special appearance by Assemblymember Bonnie Lowenthal as Mary Pearce Dolley (retelling the story of Mary Dell Butler)
Liz and Don Wallace had Poly in their DNA. Generations of Wallaces were Poly grads. When the civil rights movement brought awareness and desire for change – change which threatened Poly – Liz and Don brought Black and White parents together to find solutions to the problems.



A Legacy of Learning
Performed by Mitchell and Jane Nunn
Bill and Betty Seal were born in Long Beach, both teachers, following in the footsteps of their families. Bill helped returning Vietnam vets get into college; Betty worked with Cambodian refugees to help them succeed in their new home town. They left an educational legacy that still lives on.



It’s Murder, I Say, Murder!
Performed by Linda Midgett
Dora Czerny was an early entrepreneur in Long Beach. She worked her way up from housekeeper to bathhouse owner and real estate developer. And then in 1907, there was that murder scandal…



The American Dream
Performed by Jonathan Varillas & Anna Kate Mohler with a special appearance by Councilmember Suja Lowenthal as Lillie Decker (retelling the story of Olivia Herrera)
Valentine and Maybell Leal got married in Long Beach in 1905. Together they raised three sons, watched friends fight for fair treatment, and Valentine joined Alianza, an early Latino fraternal organization. One son attended UCLA and was a noted language scholar.



Spirituous Alcohol Comes to Town
Performed by Mary Hinds, Scott Ringwelski, & Kevin Spaeth
Clarence Coseboom, in 1896, was embroiled in the question, “Should Long Beach stay dry?” A rumpus and row ensued. And, what mischief was son Walter up to that night in the city storeroom?



We’re Moving In!
Performed by Zadie M. Cannon with a special appearance by Councilmember Al Austin as Charles Haynes
Ethel and Charles Haynes came to Long Beach in 1945. Charles was the first African American member of the Long Beach Board of Realtors. Ethel was an elementary school teacher. Together they helped integrate the city.


Video from the 2012 Historical Cemetery Tour
Video from the 2011 Historical Cemetery Tour