Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Unsung Heroes: Long Beach Airport (KLGB) volunteer brings history to the public

LONG BEACH >> Corralling a group of Cub Scouts on a tour through the Long Beach Airport may have been a challenge for some, but Elliott Schwartz handled the curious bunch with aplomb.

On a rainy, cold Wednesday afternoon, the 62-year-old Long Beach resident kept the children’s interest with tidbits of the airport’s history, including how the 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor delayed the opening of the airport terminal, or how aviation pioneer Calbraith Rodgers made his way from New York to Long Beach in 1911.

“(Rodgers) had no lights, no GPS; he followed the railroad tracks,” Schwartz told the scouts.

For more than a dozen hours a week for the last three years, Schwartz brings to life the history of the Long Beach Airport as one of the lead tour guides.

He is one of 28 locals who are part of the Volunteer Tour and Ambassador Program. Guided tours of the historic Long Beach Airport Terminal are offered for free as part of the airport’s Public Affairs programs. Volunteer tour guides, who include private pilots, teachers, executives and airport employees, donate their time to familiarize the public with Daugherty Field’s rich aviation history.

“It is wonderful to have the opportunity to work with such generous and charming volunteers at Long Beach Airport,” said airport spokeswoman Stephanie Montuya-Morisky. “Elliott, in particular, is an engaging storyteller, which makes him the perfect tour guide.”

It’s quite a compliment bestowed on Schwartz, who didn’t know much about the city’s aviation history when he first arrived in Long Beach in 1980.

“But the more I read about it, the more I found it interesting,” said Schwartz, a retired pharmacist. “There’s lots of history here, more than you think. I like how old it is, how many aviation pioneers came here, how busy it became in World War II. It’s just a great place to be.”

Schwartz, who is married with a grown son, has also volunteered with the Scouts and Rancho Los Alamitos, where his wife Cheryl also volunteers.

“Ever since we moved here, we just felt like Long Beach is a terrific city,” he said. “It’s just nice to be able to give back. I found something that interests me and keeps me involved here that I enjoy.”

Interested in becoming a volunteer at Long Beach Airport? Visit lgb.org for more.

Story and Photos:  http://www.presstelegram.com

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