News Stories 100 Years Ago

Claudine Burnett

Soda Pop Scandal

More than 100 male and female students, many from prominent families, were involved in a scandal that rocked the foundation of Polytechnic High School. Police had names and addresses and issued a felony blanket warrant for their arrests; however the three ringleaders were still at large.

Soda pop, cider, near-beer and other soft drinks left over from an exhibition held at the high school was stored away in a shed behind the grandstand. The afternoon of April 6, 1920, thirsty students forced entrance into the shed and news of the “pop bust” spread. In a few minutes more than a hundred students were eagerly downing free soft drinks. Unable to consume all the drinks scores of bottles of soda and cider were buried in various parts of the campus for later consumption.

The drinks, worth about $300 ($3,760 today), were the property of Robert Davis, a Silver Spray Pier concessionaire, who was to have picked up the extra drinks later that week. Davis was pressured by the fathers of many of the students involved in the scandal to prevent their arrest. He agreed to settle the matter out of court.

However, the three boys who broke down the side of the building in which the extra soda was stored, were charged with burglary. The terrified trio, sure that prison awaited, were instead sentenced to perform community service.

City Censor

Long Beach had been founded and settled by Bible Belt Midwesterners, conservative in their political and social views. The city was famous for having the largest Bible study group in the nation – the Taubman Bible Class, led by Reverend Taubman of the First Christian Church.

Since its inception, Long Beach had fought the temptation of liquor. The city fathers also believed visitors to the town should exhibit the same high moral standards as its citizenry. At the forefront of the movement to keep Long Beach moral was Police Commissioner William Peek who assigned the role as “city censor” to Long Beach city market inspector Squire Du Ree.

In January 1920, Squire Du Ree resigned as city censor. Du Ree had been responsible for the moral tone of the theaters, motion picture houses, beach crowds and, in addition, had to decide whether actresses on the Pike wore sufficient clothing. Du Ree had held the position for eight years. In his resignation letter he said it was a strenuous undertaking, especially when conducted as a side assignment to his regular job as city market inspector for Long Beach,

‘‘Believe me, this job of being a censor is no joke,” he told the Los Angeles Herald. “I’m getting tired of being routed out at any old time up to midnight, after doing a day’s work at market inspection, to go down to some theater on the Pike to determine whether some scantily clad actress is wearing enough clothes to get by without colliding with the city ordinances.”

The municipal censor received no pay, but the position was considered one of great honor, according to the Herald. Du Ree figured he had accumulated honor enough in eight years of service to last him awhile. Peek couldn’t find a replacement for this no pay job, considered one of “great honor,” so took on the role himself.

Claudine Burnett is a retired Long Beach Public Library librarian who compiled the library’s Long Beach History Index. In her research, she found many forgotten, interesting stories about Long Beach and Southern California which she has published in 11 books as well as in monthly blogs. You can access information about her books and read her blogs at:


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