Three Men that Left Their Mark on Long Beach

Mike Cincola July 18, 1943 – July 22, 2015

Mike CincolaFor Michele (Mike) Cincola every day was a stroll down the brightest boulevard in town, the fabled Long Beach Pike!

Mike, a local lad and graduate of Millikan High School, started his journey down the “walk of a thousand lights” when he married his wife Pamela 51 years ago and found himself a member of one of our city’s most historic families – the Looffs.

Pamela’s grandfather was none other than Charles I.D. Looff, the famous carver of carousel horses who came to Long Beach in 1910 with his family and built a carousel on the Pike. Upon his death in 1918, Charles’ son Arthur took over the business and, in 1941, invented a fascination game called Lite-A-Line, also located near the Pike. After Arthur Looff Lite a Linepassed away in 1970, Mike assumed the operation of Lite-A-Line which he eventually moved to 2500 Long Beach Blvd.

To visit Mike amid the bells and clatter of Lite-A-Line was to step back into history. The game itself still features and uses all of the original equipment, plus Mike curated a wonderful collection of Pike memorabilia. Visitors can see an original Looff hand-carved carousel horse and a number of historic signs and, most impressively, the last extant Red Car from the Cyclone Racer. The car, which is on loan from the Long Beach Heritage Museum, is from the massive roller coaster from the Pike that was judged by many who rode it as the “World’s Greatest Ride.”

The dapper, handsome, and friendly Mike Cincola will be missed. We thank him for his love of our city and for leaving us with a nostalgic collection of our city’s history.

Henry Meyer September 30, 1925 – July 22, 2015

Henry MeyerHenry Meyer, the founder and longtime owner of iconic Hamburger Henry’s, came as close as anyone to elevating the favorite American meal of “hamburger, fries and a Coke” to haute cuisine. An era was lost when he closed the doors of his famous eatery in Belmont Shore in 1996.

Opened in 1966, Hamburger Henry’s, the diner on Second Street in Belmont Shore, was a haven for both the privileged and the plebian. California Governor George Deukmejian, Congressman and CSULB Past President Steve Horn, and basketball’s Jerry “Tark the Shark” Tarkanian all ate at Henry’s, as did thousands of ordinary people, many after a blurry nighttime carouse in the Shore.

Henry also gave back to the community by dedicating his time and resources to many civic and charitable causes including Operation Jump Start, the Long Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, Rotary, Committee of 300, Long Beach Symphony, International City Bank, the Water Commission and many others.

Henry, a refugee from the terrors of Nazi Germany, lost 16 family members in the holocaust and spent WWII in a Japanese internment camp in Shanghai, China. After the war, he started a new life in America with 10 dollars in his pocket and finished that life as the creator of an iconic eatery, a community of family and friends, and a city full of fond memories that will never die.

George Johnson, 1929 – 2015 

George JohnsonFor George Johnson, who passed away last June at 86 years of age, Long Beach is a depository of more than fifty years of his achievements.

Born in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1929, George quickly grew up when his father died and, at 11 years old, he became the man of the house. He earned a degree in engineering from the University of New Mexico. Then in 1954, he moved to Long Beach to work in the Department of Public Works.

Along the way he married a pretty girl named Polly Harnett. Polly’s grandfather, Ernest Harnett, an 1890 emigrant from England, was a prosperous farmer. Polly grew up in a sprawling Tudor Craftsman home on Sunrise Boulevard that the family built in 1917. George and Polly raised their kids across the street from the home and eventually purchased it from the family estate. Polly now resides in the vintage home that is virtually unchanged and is, indeed, to step into a unique window to the past.

During his long career as a civil engineer, George Johnson left his mark on scores of projects including: Rainbow Pier, Long Beach Memorial Medical Center and Millers Children’s Hospital, Shoreline Village, and countless public works projects.

“Wherever George and I lived or worked we felt that our role was to try and make things a little better,” said Polly. “George sincerely wanted to serve our town and our neighborhood. He and I were involved with our kids schools and we served on the Poly High School Community Inter-racial Committee. He once told me that civil engineering made it possible for people to live in community. And he was right.”

Long Beach will miss George Johnson. His love for his community is showcased throughout our town. And so is his wonderful marriage to the lady he loved.

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