Iowa by the Sea


As a very young girl I remember going to Recreation Park in Long Beach for the annual Iowa State Picnic. There were signs hung on 99 trees, for each of the 99 counties in Iowa. People could gather to talk about the cornfields, the weather, Iowa Hawkeye football and maybe run into someone they knew.

We would gather at the Woodbury County sign, as my mother was from Sioux City. You would write your name on a tablet attached to the tree to see if anyone you knew was there. The picnics had stopped by the time my husband and his family located to Southern California, otherwise we might have met as little kids, instead of as college kids. His dad was from Riceville, in Howard County.

With the oil industry, the navy shipyards and the port, many came here from the Midwest in the 1940’s and ’50’s to settle and make their living. The California weather didn’t hurt either. Many of the Long Beach neighborhoods we know today were built during this boom: Los Altos, Plaza, Carson Park, South of Conant, the Whaley homes of La Marina Estates.

Long Beach has a rich history of welcoming migrants and immigrants. It has morphed from “Iowa by the Sea” to “International City” over the last 60 years. Long Beach is now the 7th largest city in California and home to the second busiest container port in the United States.

Even as a large city you can still get that small town, Iowa by the Sea, feel within the neighborhoods. There are neighborhood associations, people have banded together to preserve their areas by getting a designation as an Historic District, there are neighborhood block parties. It’s one of the things I love most about living here, the feeling of belonging, regardless of where we came from before we found our way here.