Guest opinion: A call for change ignored— a sad ending

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Interior of the Red Car Museum before the move. Photo by Elizabeth Kane

I have a sad ending to the story of the Seal Beach Historical Society/Red Car Museum (SBHS) non-profit that I wrote about in early October. At that time I alerted the community that unless something changed soon with the leadership in the SBHS that our community stood the possibility of losing our historical archives, and now it is actually happened.

If you have followed the sequence of articles by the Sun since that time and followed the City’s involvement, you will know that a good-will effort was made to get the current leadership of SBHS to abide by a new lease agreement that called for them to install new board members amongst other items. The Antos’ refused to abide by the wishes of this community and our City, let alone completely ignoring the membership of SBHS. They turned down an offer of a $10,000 donation to SBHS and refused to sign the new lease. Instead they have decided, without any input of any SBHS members or lifetime members that they no longer wish to preserve our history at the Red Car.

So what have they done instead? They have apparently sold the Red Car to a local entity and on Saturday Feb. 20 cleared out the Red Car of all the items donated and historical. If they intend, as they have told the City, to return items to the original owners, the issue is that many of the donors have passed on or no longer live here. Those who donated items that are still here were not contacted to come pick up their items before the cleanout occurred on Saturday. It is another example of the complete lack of leadership and direction for SBHS that nothing has been made public to alert people of this situation. In a very petty act, they also cut out and removed the park bench that sat in front for years.

The SBHS still remains a registered non-profit without “Red Car Museum” on its name, they simply no longer own the Red Car. You cannot “sell” a non-profit, however their future as the keeper of our town’s history is now dubious at best. Without the Red Car and without artifacts, what is there for it to preside over? I am very sad that Charles and Marie Antos felt that it was better for our community that they destroy the SBHS by taking these steps. But realistically, with or without the SBHS, our town’s history is intact. We know who we are and there are still many people in this community who can help to rebuild and restock a historical record and view of our 105 years here.

I want to advise all community members who have donated items to the SBHS through the years to contact them and ask to retrieve your items for safe keeping until a next generation historical group can evolve. Again, as no public statement or outreach has come from SBHS, I do not know for sure whether that will even be possible at this point.

Their website lists the following phone: 562-430-1450 and their Facebook page shows this number and email: (562) 453-9762 sbhsredcarmuseum@gmail.com.

In the end, personal hubris of the Antos’ dragged this community and our City through months of nonsense to end at this point of no return. It is sad, but not unrecoverable and I look forward to a brighter future for the new history keepers of our town.