The following is Part 2 in a new series by historian Claudine Burnett titled ‘Signal Hill’s Checkered Past’.
In June 1962 an excited, pretty incoherent woman, called Long Beach Independent reporter Bob Wells about a red-eyed dinosaur that had been keeping Signal Hill residents awake in the wee morning hours by diving for olives in a black swimming pool filled with Martinis.
Intrigued by her story he decided to visit the indicated area – 21st Street and St. Louis Avenue. There he found Miles Shook, and his new 28-unit apartment house, the Flintstone.
Some elements in the woman’s story were explained when Wells gazed upon a two-story high mosaic dinosaur with red mazda eyes that adorned the front of the apartments. In the patio he found a black-bottomed swimming pool that Shook fondly referred to as “The tarpit.”
The Flintstones animated sitcom was one of the most popular programs on television in the 1960s. It entered the ABC broadcast schedule on September 30, 1960 and continued until April 1, 1966. Though set in the Stone Age it added features and technologies found in mid-20th-centruy America. Shook decided to take up the theme.
The one-and two-bedroom apartments were part of Signal Hill’s plan to turn oil land into productive real estate. But they hadn’t planned on Shook’s sense of style and way of doing business. The apartments had the bedrooms on the first floor, from there a cantilevered iron stairway led to the combination kitchen, bar and hi-fi lounge upstairs. Every apartment had a built-in electrically cooled beer keg. The apartments were furnished like a Playboy penthouse, despite Shook’s decorator’s advice – silk screened drapes (black flint stones on white), Chinese birdcage chairs that swung on chains from the ceilings, Scandinavian sofas, Danish glass bottles and early American rugs.
Shook also had 200 apartment units scattered around the southern part of the county. He had recently opened another apartment house called the Pink Pussy Cat in Paramount, with a pink pussy cat on the front wall. Local officials sent a sheriff’s car around to protest the mosaic, but there wasn’t a law on the books to stop him.
Reporter Wells asked him about a rumor that Shook had lured six tenants away to the Flintstone from an apartment house on Redondo Avenue after the landlord at the latter location had imposed a curfew on night swimming in the pool. “Six?” Shook said. “I got 14 of them.” As Wells turned through the plastic bird-of paradise plants back to reality, Shook shoved a flat stone into his hand. It was an invitation to the grand opening of the Flintstone, featuring a five-piece band.
The Flintstone loomed high beside George Papadakis’ apartments, and Papadakis claimed the noise and partying from the Flintstone pool was unbearable. At every meeting of the Signal Hill City Council he would come armed with his “diary” he and his wife kept since the Flintstone opened in August 1961. The noise was bad enough but it became unbearable after the grand opening celebration in June 1962. Attempts to get Shook to regulate pool hours were ignored.
Shook’s manager said no one else in the apartment complex had complained, in fact they liked the idea of being able to take a swim whatever the time of day.
In his diary, Papadakis documented the throbbing of bongo drums and exuberant shouts of “Hey, bring down another beer.” All this centered around the heated Flintstone swimming pool– dubbed the “Tar Pit” by its owner Miles Shook in keeping with the Flintstone motif. The heated pool, near Papadakis’ bedroom, was open 24 hours, which made sleep impossible. Frustrated, he decided he needed to get into politics.
In 1962 Papadakis became a member of the city planning commission and after a large party at the Flintstone on November 10, 1962, he decided to cash in on his new found power. He convinced police to arrest Gerald Kling, Wallace Blaylock Jr., and Gerald Nicholas, guests at the party.
Kling was arrested as he sat in a chair in the patio and was charged with using profane language. Nicholson was arrested on a drunk charge in front of the apartment house. Blaylock, arrested as he stepped from his car in front of the address, was charged with having a loud muffler on his car and not having his driver’s license in his possession.
They claimed they were victims of city harassment against the tenants of the Flintstone and its owner, Miles Shook.
During the trial, officers admitted to a city policy of “selective enforcement” in the neighborhood. In January 1963, the three were acquitted of misdemeanor charges after a two-day jury trial.
Later the three young men sued Paul S. Kemner, the town’s former mayor, Police Chief W.S. Stovall, George Papadakis and three police officers for false imprisonment, assault and battery, malicious prosecution and conspiracy. The suit was for $906,000, however the matter was settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.
Out of all of this Papadakis was able to finally get a good night’s sleep. In December 1962 he convinced the City Council to pass a strict anti-noise ordinance. In 1968, he decided to run for city council…but that’s another story I will be writing about later.
What of the Flintstone Apartments? Today you will find it under a different name – Hillside Manor – at 2165 E. 21st Street. There is no dinosaur out front, and the pool is no longer painted black. In any case, I doubt residents know the history of the apartment building which Long Beach reporter George Robeson once described as “the closest thing to a Playboy Club that Signal Hill ever had.”
If any readers have any photos or recall memories of the famed Flintstone apartments, let us know in the comments below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.