Week 269: El Segundo

July 03, 2022

 10,000 Steps a Day in L.A. #53, "A Little Nostalgia Trip," 3.2 miles. 

Paul Haddad's El Segundo hike has been prodding Barbara and me for attention for about a year now with little success. Seriously, what could be attractive about a city that features an airplane, smoke stacks, and a palm tree on its flag? But today curiosity won out and we headed down the 405 to visit the small beach town hidden in plain sight between LAX to the N, the Chevron refinery to the W and S, a major commercial zone to the E, and Manhattan Beach to the S. Unique as a beachside town, El Segundo isn't exactly beachside—the Chevron refinery and Hyperion Reclamation plant stand between the town and Dockweiler Beach—but the isolation just adds to the novelty of El Segundo. When Standard Oil leased the farm land for a refinery in 1911, the company needed housing for its labor force. Within 6 years, pitched tents on sand dunes unfolded into homes, hotels, and restaurants in the 5.46 square mile company town of "El Segundo," Spanish for "the second" (as in the second Standard Oil refinery on the West Coast). The city incorporated in 1917. In 1928, Canadian William Mines leased the land to the N for a flying field that became L.A. Municipal then L.A. International Airport (LAX), and the story (but not the town) grew from there. Chevron literally has a pipeline into the airport. Aerospace, technology, sports, airlines, Mattel, Northrup, Raytheon and more all moved their headquarters to encircle El Segundo. Meanwhile, the small little city all maintained its almost Midwest charm, and that's what Barbara and I explored today. We began our hike at Library Park on Main Street and headed N. Across the street, El Segundo High—a school not only noted for its solid academic reputation, but its stately and timeless brick facade, circa 1927, boasts 39 listings in IMDB including 1955's Blackboard Jungle, War Games, and Beverly Hills 90210. We followed Main to its end at Imperial Highway and walked toward the ocean on the Imperial Strip and Memory Row of trees dedicated to in someone's memory. Imperial Hwy is next to the LAX cargo terminal so, wow, NOISE, but also a stunning overhead view of planes taking off and landing. As we neared the end of the greenway, we decided to pass on the beach and instead wander through the neighborhood. Charming. Walkable. A world of early and mid-20th c. bungalows in various shapes and sizes with a few Craftsman homes for fancy. Most featured at least a flag in the front yard, many were decorated in red-white-blue banners or tchotchkes. Articles and websites on El Segundo refer to its "Mayberry" feel, and our walk-through didn't disappoint. We hiked through the neighborhood to Grand Avenue at the center of downtown El Segundo, alive with sidewalk restaurants, small businesses, and a surfboard shop. We stopped at the Old Town Music Hall on Richmond, an El Segundo cultural landmark that features silent movies accompanied by a 2600-pipe, 4-keyboard, 1925 Wurlitzer organ. Around the corner and back to Main Street, we stopped to read the menu and the ceiling at the original Rock & Brew co-founded by Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons from Kiss. Another quick hop (everything in this town is nearby) led to El Segundo Recreation Park, a multi-purpose recreation area created specifically for the growing population of aerospace workers in the 1950s, and now home of the George Brett Little League Baseball field named for the 1971 El Segundo High grad who made it into the Baseball Hall of Fame. A surprising, entertaining hike that felt like we not only learned about a new beach town—it took us back in time and proved to us, once again, that you can't really know a place until you investigate it on foot!





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