Come for the Queen Mary. Stay for the cemetery.
OK, the Long Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau might hesitate to adopt this slogan, but it does shine a light on the diversity of things to do in this city, including visiting a historic cemetery and attending a party on its grounds.
I’m talking about Sunnyside Cemetery, important because it is the resting place of some notables in Long Beach’s history. Part of the cemetery’s story is, well, sad. The tale includes a caretaker who absconded with funds that supported the cemetery. This lack of money has caused the grounds to fall into a degree of ruin. One groundskeeper and a manager are doing their best to maintain, but caring for the 131 acres is overwhelming.
“This cemetery, being the second-oldest in the city, is the home to 16,300 souls, many of whom played a significant part in the creation of Long Beach as a city,” says resident Martin Svab. “It’s also home to many veterans dating as far back as the Civil War. Maintaining the cemetery is maintaining the memory and spirit of those who came before us and preserving the rich history of its inhabitants.”
The importance of Sunnyside prompted Svab and his girlfriend/business partner to try to help.
“(We) moved to Long Beach three-and-a-half years ago from Los Angeles and instantly fell in love with the historic cemetery,” he explains. “With our background with craft brewing and event production, we thought it would be a perfect fit to host a classy beer/wine/cider festival and fundraiser for the cemetery.”
Called Festival Obscura, the event will be held noon to 5 p.m. June 30 and will include lots of local artists, authors, collectibles vendors, musicians and food. Svab hopes to make the event the first of an annual celebration and fundraiser.
Lynette Aldapa plans to be there. A longtime Long Beach resident, the elementary school teacher spends some of her off time telling fortunes with tarot cards in Songbird, a gift and artworks boutique in the Retro Row neighborhood.
“I feel more like a counselor and a healer, even for the short time I’m with people,” she told us on the Sunday we visited.
Aldapa loves the neighborhood because of its diversity — both of the residents and visitors.
“They are different in age, race, belief systems, sexualities and cultures,” she said.
The school teacher also understands the importance of Sunnyside Cemetery because “Long Beach’s significant people are buried there.”
When planning the upcoming festival, “we knew this type of festival had never been done on the grounds of a California cemetery, and we want to make it more than just another beer festival. And for the record, the vendors and booths will be on the roadways that run through the cemetery, not on actual burial plots.”
Long Beach is a 90-minute drive from North County. Historic Sunnyside Cemetery is at 1095 Willow Street. Take Interstate 405, exit Atlantic Avenue and go south three blocks. For more photos of Sunnyside Cemetery, visit www.facebook.com/elouise.ondash.
Train and railroad buffs
In 2019, the country will celebrate the 150th anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad. In commemoration of this event, the Union Pacific Railroad is rebuilding one of its massive steam engine, known as the Big Boy, one of the world’s largest locomotives. These coal-fired engines were produced between 1941and 1944, were almost 133 feet long, and weighed more than a million pounds. Each cost what would be $4.4 million today.
Big Boys were replaced by diesel-electric locomotives in 1959.
In was 2014 that Big Boy No. 4014, which had been sheltered in a Pomona, California, museum, was moved to Cheyenne, Wyoming. This is where the Union Pacific keeps other special-event engines, according to a story by online Atlas Obscura. This Big Boy is undergoing a “massive” rebuild and restoration, with a goal of completion by the 150th anniversary date of May 10. The Big Boy’s first trip is expected to be to Promontory, Utah, where the ceremonial Golden Spike was driven in 1869.
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E’Louise Ondash is a veteran, award-winning journalist who was an investigative reporter, feature writer and columnist for the Times Advocate and the North County Times. She has written travel features for The Coast News since 2003.