Huntington Beach, one of the fastest growing cites in the
nation during the 1960s, has slowed down quite a bit since
it was transformed from a rough and tumble oil town into the
third largest city in Orange County.
Historical Information about the city offers a wealth of stories,
including some that tell of a not-so-idealized past.
The community was founded in 1901 as Pacific City on the
site of a former Spanish land-grant ranch. In 1904, the
townspeople changed the name to honor Pasadena developer
Henry Huntington, who made the small city a stop on his
Pacific Electric "Red Car" Railway line.
The city's first boom occurred after Standard Oil Co. began
drilling for oil in 1920, and a forest of derricks lining
the beaches led to the nickname "Oil City."
It gained the unflattering nickname of "Tin Can Beach" early
on from the debris found in the sand. Following is a first
person account from Ed Sweeny, who used to visit the area at
"During the years that we used to go to 'Tin Can Beach'
1946-1956, it was not uncommon for people to go and stay for
a week or two at a time. Families with 20-30 members would go
during the summer, when it was so hot in the inland valley,
and pitch army tents and stay for a couple of weeks at a
time. The men went off to work every day and came back
to the beach afterwards. The adults slept in
tents on cots and the kids slept out under the
stars. Families camp fires every night. It was family fun,
especially during Grunion run. On the down side, the kids
had cuts all over their feet
from all the tin can lids buried in the sand...and of course,
it was free."
In 1961, the state cleaned up the tin cans and created
Chica State Beach.
Oil drilling and farming were the major sources of
employment in the Huntington Beach area until the 1960s. The
economy since has diversified greatly, with some 900
companies employing more than 40,000 people.
Huntington Beach probably is best known for its 8.5 miles
of sandy beaches stretching along the Pacific Coast Highway.
An annual surfing contest, the US Open of Surfing, attracts some of the
top surfers from around the world.
Huntington Beach's famous pier, built in 1914, was shut down
in July 1988 after officials found it to be structurally
unsafe. Reconstruction started in 1990, taking almost 4
years to complete. Today, it is a blend of old and new in
design. It resembles the 1914 pier in architectural style,
but its new construction of reinforced steel is expected to
make it last through the next millennium.