WINDOW INTO THE PAST #4:
“SITTING ON THE DOCK OF THE BAY”
…watching Pan Am’s China Clippers
Location: Art Upholstery International, 450 W. 6th Street, San Pedro, CA
“Sitting on the Dock of the Bay,” you might see movie star Charlie Chaplin and his brother,
Sydney, who owned Chaplin Air Lines, the first aviation franchise venture in the harbor area.
The airline provided transport from San Pedro to Catalina Island for $85 round trip, using
a Curtiss “Seagull” flying boat. It had a single Curtiss K-6 150 H.P. engine and was capable of flying at 76 mph while carrying two passengers. The venture failed after only three months.
“Sitting on the Dock of the Bay,” you would watch the Summer Olympic Sailing Events in Los Angeles Harbor.
There were 4 sailing classes: Snowbird held near the coast sheltered by the breakwater and Star, 6- meter and 8-meter, all held on the broad Pacific.
The United States won two gold medals and one silver. “Angelita” was the U.S. Gold Medal Winner
of the International 8-Meter Race while “Jupiter” was the U.S. Gold Medal Winner of the International Star Race.
If you were “SITTING ON THE DOCK OF THE BAY…” in San Pedro, you’d be watching the China Clipper fly in.
MARCH 30, 1935: FIRST PAN AM FLIGHT TO SAN PEDRO
Capt. Edwin C. Musick and crew arrived in the Pan American Clipper. He circled the U.S.Pacific Fleet anchorage and maneuvered carefully around small boats, and moored naval targets, slowly approaching a barge anchored off Cabrillo Beach. They were greeted by Los Angeles Mayor Frank Shaw and several other officials.
OCTOBER 9, 1935:
The first M-130 accepted by Pan Am was christened the China Clipper. Although it was the only plane so christened, the public called all other transpacific flying boats by the same name.
NOVEMBER 11, 1935: SECOND PAN AM FLIGHT TO SAN PEDRO
Capt. Musick flew China Clipper to San Pedro carrying additional observers and guests from San Diego. Here, 35 local dignitaries and a group of visiting Japanese Army officers were taken for brief flights around the Los Angeles area.
NOVEMBER 22, 1935:
The China Clipperinaugurated the first transpacific airmail service with 111,000 letters on board. It returned to California on December 6, 1935.
By 1937, Cabrillo Beach was a 26-acre aquatics and recreation center serving 8,000 to 20,000 people per day in summer and 1,000 to 5,000 people daily in winter. People could enjoy the surf on the Outer Beach or swim in smooth waters on the Inner Beach.
* a bathhouse,
* a recreational hall
* a marine museum
* a boathouse
* private boating
* food & fishing concessions
* picnic pergolas
* a 1,500-car parking lot
JULY 6, 1939:
The last Boeing 314 was christened American Clipper in front of Los Angeles Mayor Fletcher Bowron and 3,000 guests. Later that year, the U.S. and New Zealand approved a new route and San Pedro officially became a Pan Am “port-of-call.
The first facilities at San Pedro consisted of offices in the boathouse at the Cabrillo Beach pier and a mooring barge a few hundred yards off the pier. In 1940, Pan Am leased Berth 56
(in East Channel off 22nd Street) and soon built a modest one-story office and dock. A shore boat transferred passengers, crew and cargo to and from the mooring and both docks.
December 7, 1941:
All commercial clipper flying boat service ended when the U.S. entered into World War II.