Response to opinion piece titled “A Call for Change Unheeded” in the Sun Newspaper

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Signs clearly tell the public not to climb on the Red Car Museum.

Response to Elizabeth Kane’s opinion piece titled “A Call for Change Unheeded” in the Sun Newspapers on Thursday, October 1, 2020:

We are no longer under the name Seal Beach Historical and Cultural Society Corporation (SBH&CS). As of 2010, the name was changed to Seal Beach Historical Society/Red Car Museum (SBHS/RCM) thus our old Charter is invalid and you, Elizabeth, should have known that since your husband was the secretary on our board under our new name, SBHS/RCM.

SBH&CS had been suspended from 2002 to 2009 because no taxes were paid. SBH&CS received a notice by U.S. Mail stating that the corporation would be dissolved if tax information for those years were not provided to the IRS and to the Justice Department. The issue was resolved prior to the name change. As a result, it was suggested by the State of California that we change the organization’s name because the Red Car Museum was not included under the old corporation (SBH&C) for tax purposes. The “mess” was cleaned up. Per the state, the museum is a building and a business. All membership dues and donations go toward the preservation of the Red Car and the archives.

SBHS/RCM is well known. The museum is in the AAA travel book and on the OC historical map. The museum is a Pacific electric railway red car. It is the only one left in Orange County. For this reason, it is important that the museum stay original. SBHS/RCM has done a lot for the Red Car so far. Recurring maintenance includes: fixing the stairs and the metal, so that no one gets hurt (which was paid by a caring Seal Beach resident who donated $1,000). We are almost finished with the black metal on the Red Car. It cost us more than we expected because the public climbs on the museum even though there are signs posted on all sides of the museum but they do not read them. You said, “I look out my home windows every single day (…)” If you do so, then why didn’t you call the police or call us to report damages caused by the public, such as the metal being ripped off, the black railing pulled out because parents let their children hang from it, or seeing someone with heels climb on top of the roof.

We have had special group tours and fundraisers each year. We have photos in our archives. The museum has NOT been non-operational for the past 2 years like you said. All members are volunteers! None of us get paid for our duties within the organization; however, seasonal closures do occur throughout the year.

SBHS/RCM stays in contact with the Pacific Electric Railroad Foundation. They love the RCM because we keep it original.  For your information, Joan Stegman bought the Red Car in 1971 in order to transform the museum to what it is today and throughout the years her family (Linda and Gene Stegman) has donated to keep the museum original. They donated $5,000 immediately after your opinion piece came out, so that we could continue working on maintaining the outer appearance of the Red Car and keep it original. In addition, you are wrong! The inside of the museum is perfectly in good condition, including the floor, since volunteers regularly watch over the museum because we have to answer historical questions.

To address your acquisitions: You stated that “the city has requested that it (RC) be fixed.” However, no request was ever given to SBHS/RCM. We repair all damages that appear on the Red Car as soon as possible. The City has not cooperated with the organization regarding property damages to the museum in the last several years. For example, city trees on the greenbelt fell. One tree fell and hit the museum, putting 3 holes in the side of the car. It turned out that the trees were filled with termites. We regularly tent the museum for termites. We requested that the City of Seal Beach pay for the damages; however, they waited for years. We had to resubmit our claim which the city denied because the time expired. We ended up suing the City of Seal Beach and the judge granted SBHS/RCM half of the money that we initially requested. Is the SB police department doing their job? The Red Car is on city property. The police department said that they can’t patrol the Red Car Museum because they don’t have enough personnel.

You also said, “Our household has been a member for years until this year” but you have not been a continuous member every year. Based on our membership records, the last time you renewed your membership was in 2018 and before that, you became a member when you wanted your cards sold in the Red Car. You asked to be paid for the cards (about $600). You seem to join SBHS/RCM when it is convenient for you.

Five years ago when the city celebrated its 100th Anniversary, SBHS/RCM put on an event where ALL of our archives were displayed for the public to view, but the Sun Newspaper did not print our press release which we submitted far in advance. Ask your husband? He was there. Where were you, if you were so concerned about our archives?

Finally, nothing was stolen out of our storage container except the popcorn machine that you wanted us to give to the Seal Beach Theater and a few glass old slide pictures which we told the donor about. My husband and I did not allow the SBHS/RCM container to be broken into. The container was broken into and tampered with along with other containers within the secure gated premise, which is supposedly supervised by the Police Department, but somehow the gate lock was cut and all locks of the containers were cut. Ask your husband about this because he was a board member when one of the break-ins occurred. The PD called him. Don’t you guys talk to each other? For your information, all donated items we receive are property of the SBHS/RCM. We do not sell or give them to anyone. This rule was put into place after members from our old organization (SBH&CS) sold donated items. Donated items go through a process which involves all donors to sign a donation slip and receive a copy. Donors are pleased to go through this process because they know we (SBHS/RCM) will keep our word and not sell their items.

I don’t live in Rocklin but it is none of your business where I live. You should NOT have included my phone number in your article. If you are a so-called member of the society you would have known that SBHS/RCM has its own business phone line and some of the “Lifetime” members that signed the petition have no vote.

So that everyone knows, you don’t know what you are talking about in your blog either. None of it is true. We have given members the opportunity to vote for new leadership in every couple years and/or address their concerns.

Hey! How about this … We sell the Red Car Museum since it is “an unsafe eyesore,” and no one has to help fundraise or maintain the structure.

Any questions or concerns that the public has, please contact the SBHS/RCM at 562-453-9762 or by email at sbhsredcarmuseum@gmail.com.