Jotham Place neighborhood celebrates 80 years of freedom flapjacks

Jotham Place in Long Beach’s Bixby Terrace is a cozy, 12-house cul-de-sac that people don’t like to leave. It’s packed with loyal residents who have lived there for much of their lives, and the reason for their loyalty might have something to do with the simple loveliness of the quiet street and the camaraderie among the neighbors.

But don’t underestimate the power of pancakes.

Michael Lynn and his wife Kim bought a house on the street in 1992 from the legendary youth basketball coach Bob Seymour, one of the most devoted residents on the street.

As a lad, Seymour helped his father build the family home in 1940, later left the neighborhood to attend college, and returned as a young adult to buy a house on the block two doors down from his parents. When his parents died within a year of each other, Seymour listed their house, and the Lynns bought it.

The sale came not so much with a legal disclosure, but a request of sorts. The real estate agent told Lynn and his wife, “Look, you’re under no obligation to comply, but there’s been a pancake breakfast in this home’s backyard for more than 50 years and they’d like the tradition to continue.”

“We love traditions,” said Lynn, and so it went. Seymour, who lived two doors down, continued to do the flapjack flipping, borrowing the Lynn’s yard, until he died in 2010.

On Thursday, Mike, the heir to the tradition, will be flipping flapjacks on the same backyard griddle that’s been used for the better part of a century, while a few dozen Jotham Placers and nearby neighbors supplement the fare with egg dishes, bacon, fresh fruit and whatever else is part of a nutritious breakfast and celebrate the morning of the Fourth in the Lynn’s backyard.

Among the breakfast crowd will be another faithful Jothamite, Long Beach Fire Capt. Matt Dobberpuhl, who has lived on the street since he was 3 years old. Again with a bit of a break as a young adult, he returned to the block to purchase Bob Seymour’s house after the coach’s death. Dobberpuhl’s parents Bill and Connie still live on the block. Seriously: No one leaves Jotham Place alive.

Independence Day pancakes aren’t the only glue that keeps Jotham Place intact. Another long-standing tradition on the block is the annual Christmas decorating, which has made the cul-de-sac somewhat famous over the years, and, again, it was a Bob Seymour production from the beginning.

“We used to call Bob the don of the block,” said Lynn. “He was almost military-like in assigning everyone tasks and chores at Christmas. He asked me to continue the Christmas tradition, too.”

Some day, the traditions of Christmas and the Fourth of July will have to be passed along to some new couple who stumbles onto the neighborhood. And the couple won’t have the heart to end it. It’s safe to say there will always be pancakes on Jotham Place.

Flapjack chef Bob Seymour presiding over the grill in 1994 at the Fourth of July pancake breakfast at Jotham Place. Courtesy photo.

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Tim Grobaty is a columnist and opinions editor for the Long Beach Post. He began his newspaper career at the Press-Telegram in 1976 as a copy boy and moved on to feature writer, music critic, TV critic, copy editor and daily columnist. He’s the author of several books, including I’m Dyin’ Here, and he lives in Long Beach.