The legend of La Linda Drive: Big houses for little families

Newly listed (and already in escrow—it’s summertime in the LBC real-estate market) is this rare offering on La Linda Drive in a gated community of nearly three dozen million-dollar houses in Bixby Knolls.

Like most La Linda properties, this one’s a beauty. The $1.2 million, five-bed, six-bath home features a pair of fireplaces and two staircases offering you lots of room to bounce around in its generous 4,651 square-foot interior.

I contacted listing agent Rhonda Cudeback at Keller Williams to determine if there’s anything interesting in terms of the history of the house, which, to be disturbingly candid, doesn’t appear to have any. The original 1951 home underwent a thorough rebuild in 1989 and now looks rather glamorous, but not particularly historical.

At any rate, Cudeback said she didn’t know of anything interesting about the house.

The interior of the 4,651 square-foot home at 28 La Linda. Courtesy photo.

Here’s something: The home is smack in the middle of Midget Town, Long Beach’s most enduring urban legend.

Over the years, I’ve had to grapple with the undying legend, which claims that the La Linda homes were the dwellings of a legion of little people, with the frequent claim that they were the people who played the roles of munchkins in “The Wizard of Oz,” which would explain why they were able to afford the mini-mansions of La Linda Drive. But that theory sort of falls apart as author Stephen Cox wrote in his book, “The Munchkins of Oz,” those actors were paid $50 a week (which wasn’t hay in 1938, but it was way shy of the $125 per week that Toto the dog was earning).

Part of my campaign to debunk the legend involved a vocal performance of KROQ’s “Kevin & Bean” show back in the 1990s, as well as a spate of columns and a chapter in a book, but still it lives on, and, should this home at 28 La Linda Drive fall out of escrow, you could live in the neighborhood and find out for yourself.

Once, I made the mistake of asking readers to submit their proof that La Linda was truly Midget Town, or Little People Town as it would be called today to avoid the pejorative term “midget.”

Letters came pouring in, but never with enough proof that would be acceptable in any court in our land.

My favorite bit of correspondence came from a guy who, with three friends, were out “drinking brewskis.” Case dismissed? No, let’s hear him out.

“I had just picked up a bag of mushrooms,” my man wrote (and please, let him talk!). And, anyhow, he winds up waking up in Midget Town, and by now it’s morning, somehow. “I was staring up at the morning light. I heard sounds like stones skipping on water….”

He winds up getting attacked by a couple of little people jabbering in an untranslatable little-people language and pelting Mr. Mushroom with apples. Before he could scramble to his feet, our witness noticed the houses. “I saw all the windows and doors were low, like ‘Alice in Wonderland.’ I ran and eventually found my way home.”

What more proof do you need?

Another writer, who described himself as “not a crackpot,” talked about a sort of little-people movie club, in which the inhabitants of Midget Town would march down to the Towne Theater on Atlantic every Friday night and sit together in the front row. They preferred the Towne to the nearby Crest because the latter theater’s manager wouldn’t let the little people into his joint.

The Towne Theater on Atlantic Ave. It closed in the 1970s. Photo courtesy of Cinema Treasures.

The truer history of La Linda—and the one residents cleave to because they’re really sick and tired of Midget Town rumors, to say nothing of shroomed-out frat boys sprawled on their front lawns—is that it began its life as a bridle path that circled the property and the mansion of George Bixby, the son of Jotham Bixby who ran Rancho Los Cerritos and was key to the development of Long Beach.

George’s ranch house is still standing at 11 La Linda. It was listed for a couple hundred days last year at $3.2 million but went unsnapped-up and is no longer on the market.

When George died in 1920, his widow sold the land to an Oklahoma oilman who subdivided the property and gave it its name.

The rumor was fueled by the neighborhood’s secrecy and security, its narrower-than-normal streets and its relatively tiny lots holding miniature mansions. What other conclusion could you draw other than it is or was a haven for little people?

The La Linda site isn’t the only location that’s been declared to be Midget Town. Others claim there’s one at the end of nearby Virginia Road, and Downeyites swear by their Little People Town at the end of a cul-de-sac on Rivergrove Drive. And a cursory Google search will direct you to similar urban legendary (or sometimes semi-real) places in several cities worldwide, including cities in Canada and China.

So if you want to live like a  big fish in a little pond, do your due diligence and shop wisely.

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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.
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