There are not many places like Santa Monica. It’s both an international destination and a sleepy beach town. It’s a haven for innovation and invention while also proudly keeping true to its small-town roots.

I have been involved in this community since I arrived in 1990 and have become fascinated by this city and its rich, colorful and eclectic past. Through my long-time association with the Santa Monica Red Cross and local community groups I have learned so much about Santa Monica’s unique history. And as I began to explore and research Santa Monica’s past I was fascinated by so many of the little-known stories I uncovered. Stories, I felt, that must be told.

So much has happened in this town that could not have occurred anywhere else. Santa Monica’s unique history is filled with visionaries, entrepreneurs and just plain unforgettable characters who have all helped transform Santa Monica into what it is today. With this in mind I have decided to write a bi-weekly column, “Santa Monica Stories,” where I will reveal these stories to you in a concise, picture-based format.

There is so much about Santa Monica’s history that many readers probably never knew actually happened. For instance, did you know that in the 1890s, Southern Pacific Railroad trains would barrel down through a tunnel below where Ocean Avenue and Colorado Boulevard is now located toward a mile-long wharf just south of Temescal Canyon Road? Or that the first plane to travel around the world left from Clover Field (now Santa Monica Airport) in 1924? Did you have any idea that the Santa Monica Civic Center once hosted the Grammys and Oscars and held concerts for bands like Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones? Or that Frank Sinatra had a private back room in Chez Jay’s where he would eat dinner and make phone calls while holding court?

Stay tuned — you will know soon enough.

Photo provided by the Santa Monica History Museum.

Tom is a longtime Santa Monica resident who enjoyed a fulfilling 10-year career with the Santa Monica Red Cross. Tom currently is a writer and disaster management and recovery expert. Tell him your Santa Monica stories. He can be reached at tomviscount@yahoo.com.

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