Many Lancaster locals frequent the Crazy Otto’s restaurant on 20th Street West. If you look up on the roof of the restaurant, you’ll see the familiar face of a smiling seal statue. Despite its familiarity, many are unaware of where the friendly seal came from.
As described in the book Lancaster, California Through Time by Norma Gurba, Karl Peterson, Dayle Debry and Bill Rawlings, the fiberglass seal was an advertising mascot “Harbie the Harbor Seal” for the Southern California Harbor Gas chain. The chain ran in the Los Angeles and Orange County area up until the early 1970s (Roadside Peek). Since the chain ended, many people have inherited or purchased their own Harbie and many can be seen scattered about the LA area. Figure 1 shows a Harbie at Camperland located on Harbor Blvd, in Garden Grove in 1974 (Photo courtesy Orange County Archives). Visitors to Disneyland in the 1970’s may recall seeing him nearby.
Figure 1: Harbie the Harbor Seal at Camperland, Harbor Blvd, Garden Grove, 1974, Photo courtesy Orange County Archives.
Lancaster had its own Harbor Gas station in the early 1950s on the northwest corner of Ave. J and Sierra Highway (See Figure 2). Harbie protected the gas station, holding a lantern in one outstretched hand and a sponge in his other. Today, the station has been replaced with a Union 76 Gas station as shown in Figure 3.
Figure 2: Southern California Harbor Gas Chain in the early 1950s, Photo from Lancaster, California Through Time.
Figure 3: Union 76 Gas Station on the northwest corner of Ave. J and Sierra Highway where the Harbor Gas Station was once located. Photo from Lancaster, California Through Time.
The first Crazy Otto’s was created in the early 1970s by Otto Lindsel. Lindsel moved from the northwest coast to the Antelope Valley to be closer to his family. According to Crazy Otto’s, Lindsel had experience cooking for lumberjacks and so he opened his own diner in his retirement (Crazy Otto’s History). The original Crazy Ottos was located on Sierra Highway, same as the Harbor Gas station.It is likely that once the gas station closed, Harbie was picked up and set atop the original Crazy Otto’s, which can be seen in Figure 4.
Figure 4: The original Crazy Otto’s restaurant on Sierra Highway, photo from Crazy Otto’s History website (Restaurants in Lancaster CA (crazyottosdiners.com).
Crazy Otto’s was located on Sierra Highway until 1994,when the Metrolink extended its services from Los Angeles to the Antelope Valley. The original building was determined to be too close to the railroad tracks and the diner had to move (Crazy Otto’s). The restaurant then expanded to several locations. Lancaster’s Harbie now sits atop the Lancaster Avenue K Crazy Otto’s, a friendly face admired by all (Figures 5 and 6). Stop by and pay Harbie a visit!
Figures 5and 6: Crazy Otto’s Harbie
Crazy Otto’s Diner, History Canyon Country Restaurants (crazyottosdinerlancaster.com).
Lancaster, California Through Time by Norma Gurba, Karl Peterson, Dayle Debry and Bill Rawlings, 2017.
Orange County Archives, Harbie the Harbor Seal at Camperland, Harbor Blvd, Garden Grove, 1974. Werner Weiss, from the Werner Weiss Collection, Acc#2013.6. Harbie the Harbor Seal at Camperland, Harbor Blvd, Garden … | Flickr.