Bruce's Beach, Part III

by Lisa McDivitt
Published July 13, 2006

Hidden History?
Pullen’s comments highlighted another topic that was discussed both at Wednesday night’s city council meeting, and at the Parks and Recreation Commission meeting two months ago, when the commission recommended the name of the park be changed.
One commissioner said that his son took a school course on Manhattan Beach history, but was never told about Bruce’s Beach.
“Personally, the name of the park isn’t as important as a message we need to get out to our kids,” said councilwoman Joyce Fahey of her decision to vote for the name change.
Carolyn Seaton, the school district’s director of educational services and technology, said this week that she and Superintendent Gwen Gross recently spoke about the history of Bruce’s Beach.
“She and I both wholeheartedly endorse the inclusion of the study of Bruce’s Beach and the circumstances that took place in the 1920s,” Seaton said.
Currently, all third graders learn about the community, both past and present in their curriculum. The district will now include the history of Bruce’s Beach, Seaton said. She added that some teachers already incorporate it in their classes. In October, when teachers from all five elementary schools gather for the annual grade-level meeting, third grade teachers will discuss how to incorporate the history of Bruce’s Beach into their curriculum.
The controversy surrounding recognition of facts that a community wishes never happened is not uncommon.
An opinion piece by Stanley Meisler in last Sunday’s Los Angeles Times notes that in 1985 a statue of Alfred Dreyfus was commissioned by the president Francois Mitterrand, but “the minister of defense refused to allow the statue to be displayed because the French army wanted no public reminders of the embarrassing affair.” Dreyfus was a Jewish military officer falsely accused of treason.

The controversy Remains
After Mayor Ward’s remarks enlisted council members Tell’s and Fahey’s support for renaming the park (Aldinger and Montgomery opposed the idea), Larry Grik was still unswayed.
“The park should have had an innocuous name, like all the other parks in Manhattan Beach,” said Grik. “And the Mayor put his personal soul in it to see that it gets changed.”
“To me, it’s really about the park,” said Ward several days after the meeting. “And I just happened to be the person who was there trying to lead the charge.”
He said that several months ago two of the council members supported the name change, and that he was surprised that initially he was the only council member in favor changing the park’s name to Bruce’s Beach.
“I do feel that what I said, what I shared as far as my personal experience, how I felt when I moved to Manhattan Beach, I think that did have some affect,” he said. He added, “I know the value of land ownership, what it means, what it affords you in American society.”
Ward described the name change resolution as, “One I’m proud of, but not one I’d like to hang my hat on.”
He said his main focus now is to settle the utility undergrounding controversy.

Bernard Bruce
Willa and Charles Bruce’s grandson Bernard Bruce said this week during a visit to the park that he does not remember his time at his family’s resort because they were evicted when he was very young.
“But my older brother, he really missed this place,” Bruce said.
After the five-year-long lawsuit, the city compensated the Bruce family with $14,000 and a small parcel of land in Los Angeles, where Bruce was raised. Bruce said his grandmother testified during the lawsuit that her property was worth $300,000.
The seizing of the property also came with an emotional cost. “It was quite devastating to my mother, she never did recuperate,” he said. His mother died in a mental institution.
Using the $2,000 he received as his inheritance, Bernard Bruce made several successful investments in Los Angeles real estate.
He said he rarely visits Manhattan Beach, but he feels renaming the park in honor of his grandparents is important.
“It just shows that African Americans owned a substantial part of America. Like a beautiful beach,” he said. ER