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In the Pipeline: Don't take her Kodachrome away

May 14, 2012|By Chris Epting
(Courtesy Chris…)

It's one of the prettiest pictures I've ever seen of Huntington Beach. A classic sunset looking through the pier, a rich spectrum of purples framing the yellow sun in violet, indigo, fuchsia, mauve, magenta, plum — it is stunning.

And how perfect that it is literally the very first image taken by one of the city's most important citizens. When Alicia Wentworth arrived in Huntington Beach back in 1947, she could not have had a clue the role she was destined to play in city history. A fresh-faced 20-year-old from Rochester, New York, she moved here along with several other family members, one of who had a career at Kodak (which was based in Rochester).

For a full year after she arrived, Alicia worked at Kodak, too, in Los Angeles. She'd hop the old Pacific Electric red cars on Pacific Coast Highway each day to make the commute north, and because of her connection to the company (and passion for photography), she owned a decent 35mm camera and made the most of it.

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She took hundreds of pictures over the years, but this very first capture tells a story unto itself. You see, for her first year here, Alicia lived with her family on the beach, out of a camper, the way you were allowed to back in the 1940s. So this image was truly taken from her new backyard, just as she arrived. This was the beginning of her history here.

The image is just one of many slides that Alicia's sons, Duane and David, have been scanning recently, bringing her documentation to life one richly colored Kodachrome image at a time. The guys have been kind enough to share some of them with me, and they are a rose-colored view through the seaside looking glass, a peek back at an era in Huntington Beach when it was still a small, quaint beach town.

It was at her beachside encampment that Alicia met her husband-to-be, Vernon Wentworth, a maintenance worker who also happened to be the grandson of our city's first mayor, Ed Manning, elected in 1909.

They got married in 1948 and had their first of four children — twins named David and Donna. She stayed home to raise them, had two other children over the years and eventually wound up with seven grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren. Alicia also served as city clerk for 15 years and official city historian for more than 17 years.

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