The afternoon light bounces off the walls of the Red Room dining room inside the Long Beach Petroleum Club while 79-year-old waiter Leroy Frederick prepares the iconic dining room as he’s done since the day he started: April 6, 1980. The social club was established in 1954 for patrons in the oil business. Management announced last February it will close March 31, just under a week shy of Leroy’s 39th anniversary working at the club.

Leroy Frederick, 79, loads clean glasses in the kitchen at the Long Beach Petroleum Club. Photo by Stephen Carr.

After high school in 1958, Leroy and a friend left their hometown of Coushatta, Louisiana, a community about 45 miles south of Shreveport, Louisiana. The two headed west, boarding a Continental Trailways bus that took four days to reach Long Beach.

“We always wanted to see the bright lights of California because the lights in Coushatta were dark,” Leroy said.

A few days later, Leroy got his first job with W.F. McPheeter’s Auto Dealership on Long Beach Boulevard, where he stayed for almost 37 years. Working his way up from polishing the hubcaps and sweeping floors, he eventually became parts manager until it closed in 1995. Leroy, while still employed with McPheeter’s, worked as a busboy and then a waiter at the Rossmoor Inn in Seal Beach for 18 years. After the inn closed in 1979, he took the job at the Long Beach Petroleum Club in 1980, 15 minutes from the westside home he still shares with Betty, his wife of 54 years.

The entrance of the Long Beach Petroleum Club, a social club established in 1954, for people in the oil business and later opened to the public. Photo by Stephen Carr.

Despite the late nights and two knee surgeries, Leroy has served the club’s signature prime rib or a favorite cocktail to thousands of members and guests in the Red Room or during big banquets, sometimes until 2 a.m.

“I like everything to be on time, that way people don’t need to wait,” he said.

He has rubbed elbows with regulars and local politicians throughout the years but not without help:

“All the workers here are good. On anything you do, you need to have a good crew.”

Leroy Frederick, 79, sets clean water glasses on tables in the Red Room. Photo by Stephen Carr.

Longtime member and former Petroleum Club president Mick Connor said, “He’s been the backbone of this establishment. He is an icon; he’s someone you don’t see anymore. I wish there were more of him. I wish he could go on forever. I wish this place could go on forever. “

A large painting of the Signal Hill Oilfield, 1925, on the wall in the Grand Ballroom of Long Beach Petroleum Club. Photo by Stephen Carr.

When the last special and the last cocktail are delivered from the circular bar by Leroy on March 31 and the door with drill bit handles closes for the last time, Leroy will still have his hands full.

“I’ve got two daughters, six grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren and one in the chute,” he said. “I’m going to relax and get some fresh air, as they say.”

If you feel like one last bite of the prime rib, the kitchen officially closes after Friday, March 29. Saturday, the club is booked out for a private event, but on Sunday the public and members are invited in for a last drink at the bar, from 3 to 6 p.m.

Leroy said he’ll be there but won’t be serving; he’ll be getting some fresh air.

Leroy Frederick chats with diners in the Red Room, at the Long Beach Petroleum Club, where Leroy has been a waiter for close to 39 years. Photo by Stephen Carr.
Leroy Frederick,79, settles up a bill for diners inside the Red Room. Photo by Stephen Carr.
Leroy Frederick,79, chats with staff members in the kitchen. Photo by Stephen Carr.
The round bar at Long Beach Petroleum Club. Photo by Stephen Carr.
Longtime member Elena Vance walks towards the Red Room for dinner. Photo by Stephen Carr.
Leroy Frederick,79, talks with longtime Long Beach Petroleum Club member Elena Vance. Photo by Stephen Carr.