Saturday, July 04, 2015

Santa Cruz Beach & Boardwalk, CA

Happy 4th of July! 

I hope all of you will be enjoying your picnics, barbecues, fireworks, and days at the shore.

Speaking of days at the shore, today we're going to head up to Santa Cruz, California (about 75 miles south of San Francisco). It  now has the oldest surviving amusement park (the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk), which dates back to 1907. I'm sure GDB pal Ken Martinez will have some info to add to this post!

I absolutely love this first beautiful photo - those Kodachrome colors just pop! I also love the many variations of beach umbrella designs; it made it easy to locate your spot on the sand from far away. Monterey Bay looks like it is full of blue dye (just like my hair, har har). Don't you wish you could step into this image? To our left is the Boardwalk, with the famous "Giant Dipper" roller coaster.

Here's an unusual view taken from out in the bay (from the back of a whale). The Giant Dipper was built in  1924, and can reach speeds up to 55 mph. It is one of the most popular coasters in the world, having thrilled over 60 million riders. Wow! 

And finally, one of the concessions along the boardwalk was this "Skee Roll" establishment. Skee Ball machines have been around since 1909, and are still found in many carnivals, arcades, and even popular restaurant chains (we used to play Skee Ball at a Shakey's Pizza Parlor when I was a kid). This place is doing bang-up business. I wonder what prizes you could get when you redeemed your precious strip of paper tickets? 

I hope you have enjoyed your visit to Santa Cruz!


Nanook said...


Ahh-hemmm-! I don't in any way wish to disparage anything about the Santa Cruz Boardwalk - it is, and has been, one of my favorite amusement parks. Period. (And I can't wait to hear Ken chime-in-!) But... Kennywood, in West Mifflin, PA has been around since (at least) 1899. They had Paddle Boats (1898), a Carousel (1899), an Old Mill (1901), a roller coaster (1902), a Whip (1918) and in 1936, a Noah's Ark - still operating - and the last of its kind. Actually, with the exception of the original roller coaster, they're all still there.

And now.. on with Santa Cruz.

Thanks, Major and a Happy 4th of July to all.

Nanook said...

Without driving the stake in any farther, I should also mention the following:

Lakeside Amusement Park - Denver, CO - 1908
Lakemont Park - Altoona, PA - 1894; became an amusement park in 1899.
Cedar Point - Sandusky, OH - 1870
Lake Compounce - Bristol, CT - 1846

K. Martinez said...

Nanook, without driving the stake in any farther? I think you've just killed the lost boys of Santa Cruz... I mean Santa Carla. ;)

I think what Major meant to say was the oldest surviving seaside amusement park on the west coast, which it is.

K. Martinez said...

Ah, my hometown. I used to work at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk as a ride operator back in the late 1970’s. It was an awesome job. I mean how hard could it be when I loved amusement parks to begin with and was outdoors enjoying the fresh sea air at the beach while working the rides? During my time there, I encountered a few celebrities on the job including Clint Eastwood and Vincent Price. One time, Ralph Waite rode the Ferris Wheel the evening I worked it.

First image – what a gorgeous shot! I do step into this image regularly, albeit these days in the 21st century. This photo illustrates why after nearly half a century I still live here. It’s too beautiful to leave.

See those houses and apartments up on the cliff overlooking the beach and boardwalk? I used to live there in the 1980’s. From my apartment I could hear the sounds of the boardwalk and later at night listen to the waves crashing on the beach and the seals barking from their home on the pilings below the municipal wharf. I also remember looking out from my apartment windows watching helicopters film flyover shots of the Boardwalk for the films “Sudden Impact” and “The Lost Boys”. Nowadays I live a few blocks inland, but can still hear the waves crashing and seals barking in the wee hours of the morning while the town is still asleep.

Middle image – I remember my first ride on the Giant Dipper. It was also my first ride on an intense coaster. My father purchased two 7-ticket strips (it cost 70 cents per ride back then) and that covered two rides on the Giant Dipper. My sister and I went on it together. I was mortified when our coaster train went over the first drop and I thought it was the end of my world. By the end of the ride I was hooked on coasters.

While you can get views like this from the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf, this photo was taken from a boat or probably from the back of a whale. I can tell these images are pre-1958 because there is no wooden Wild Mouse coaster to the right of the Giant Dipper and the old style façade is still on the Giant Dipper entrance. The beach looks pretty quiet here, but it’s usually packed full in the summer and today is probably covered with bodies.

Last image – Lots of memories here. My parents and I used to come here on “1907” nights (all rides, hot dogs and sodas cost 25 cents) and play Pokerino, Fascination and Skee Ball for hours. We’d accumulate lots of tickets, but the prizes were usually junk. It was all just in fun and it was fun. There are so many warm memories in today’s post. Thanks for featuring part of my hometown on this glorious 4th of July, Major.

Happy 4th of July to everyone! Have a safe weekend.

Chuck said...

Thanks for the Cedar Point shout-out, Nanook!

Great images and great memories here, Major and J. Nar-, er, I mean K. Martinez. We don't have beaches like this along the Mississippi.

For all of you folks in the GDBverse, I wish you a happy, safe, and memorable Independence Day! Take lots of pictures, and maybe someday your grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and the descendants of people you've never met will crowd around an Interweb holoscreen and marvel in nostalgic bliss at the two-dimensional imagery captured in those more innocent, carefree days before the Overlords arrived from Proxima Centauri and outlawed water.

K. Martinez said...


Is Cedar Point your home park? While Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk has won the Golden Ticket Award for "Best Seaside Amusement Park" eight consecutive years, Cedar Point has won the award for "Best Amusement Park" sixteen consecutive years, losing for the first time last year to Europa-Park, Germany. That's a great run.

Btw, It's J.Nar, Overlord from Proxima Centauri. K. Martinez is my earth name. Hope you and your family have a safe and happy Independence Day.

Nanook said...

@ J. Nar - OfPC -

While Cedar Point IS a great park, I think it's stretching the term "amusement park" a bit; although I suppose technically it's not a 'theme park'. For several reasons Kennywood ranks higher in my book as "Best Amusement Park", but these are just opinions - which is why I never have an absolute favorite film, 'fer instance, but rather a list of favorites.

Patrick Devlin said...

Mmm, Skee-ball! That little tiny middle hole was a challenge to hit, but oh the joy when you did!

K. Martinez said...


Cedar Point does officially bill itself as an amusement park and I would categorize it as such. While it‘s on the scale of a modern “theme” park, it’s still basically a traditional amusement park, although a large scale one with “world-class” roller coasters and state-of-the-art thrill rides. Btw, did you know that Cedar Point used to refer to itself as the “Amazement” Park?

Nowadays the term 'amusement park' seems to be used for what was once referred to as a traditional park and the term ‘theme park’ used for any modern park. To me, the only ones doing real theme parks are Disney and Universal. The rest of the modern “theme” parks including Six Flags and Cedar Fair are really nothing more than a collection of iron rides painted to color coordinate with a specified theme area and not much more. I still love those types of parks. I just don’t consider them truly themed. Of course that’s just my opinion.

On the subject of Cedar Point vs. Kennywood Park, Cedar Point may be a mega park with a high coaster count, but Kennywood Park has so many vintage traditional amusement rides and probably the best collection of old woodies (Thunderbolt, Jack Rabbit and Racer) that it is my opinion to be the most awesome traditional park in the U.S. And yes, I agree that lists are subject to personals tastes and preferences.

Chuck said...

Most Worshipful Master Jay-Nar, Cedar Point falls just below DL on my nostalgia scale, although it may fall behind Knott's, depending on the day. My family is from NW Ohio, and I have fond recollections of visits during trips to visit grandparents in the 70's and 80's, and again when I transferred to college in the area in 1990.

It has lost a lot of the old-park charm over the years, and the areas that had fairly detailed theming (Frontier Town and Frontier Trail) have suffered as well, but there's still something magical for me about the place. Plus they have the only racing carousel I've ever seen and the best salt-water taffy north of Sandusky.

Nowadays, I have to settle for Six Flags Over Mid-er, I mean St Louis. Some fun coasters, and the lines aren't terribly long except on weekends and holidays. My youngest and I managed to hit all 9 coasters - some of them more than once and one 12 times - in one day and still fit in the Ferris wheel, flume rides, the train, etc. But it's definitely a Tier-2 theme park.

Nanook & Jay-Nar the Merciful, Kennywood and the Santa Cruz Boardwalk are both on my list of must-see parks. Someday...although probably not the same day.

Nanook said...

@ Chuck-

I almost forgot about the Cedar Downs Racing Derby. However, there's also one at Rye Playland-! - The Derby Racer. The one time I rode that one, (this would be back in the early 1980's), the ride operators were so skilled, not only were they able to maneuver around the moving horses, they would also jump on & off while the "carousel" was rotating-! I don't know how long it took to attain that skill, but I can only imagine today's insurance companies immediately pulling their coverage if such behavior were to exist today. I assume that was all part of the job from its first iteration, and I presume isn't allowed today. (Although I hope I'm wrong-!) It was a great part of the experience.

For those of you who have never experienced a 'Derby Racer', unlike a 'traditional' carousel, their rotational speed is around 25mph-! That may not sound like much, but just try merely standing up on the rotating platform at that speed - that easily eclipses the speed of any real carousel. And then start walking around - with minimal aid - or, as many of them did - simply stand, leaning their bodies toward the center of the circle, to overcome the centrifugal force attempting to push their bodies right off the rotating 'derby' and onto the tarmac. Eat your hearts out, 'theme parks'-!!

Nanook said...

Well, well, well, well, well-

I just found a YouTube video, from 2006, showing the Playland Derby Racer in action. And I see the ride operators are STILL "running around" the moving platform. Good news-! I guess it kinda makes sense, as if one of the "non-thinking" 'guests', (yes, I know there are none of those... as if-!) happens to get 'cocky', they may start to fly off.

I forgot to mention there was quite an ordeal required so each rider was properly strapped-in - AND - had their feet placed in the proper stirrups: The left foot is rooted in the lower stirrup; and the right foot is in the highest stirrup - forcing each rider's body to lean in to the center - as the Racer rotates CCW.

K. Martinez said...


Were you ever a member of ACE? I used to be a member of that organization in its early years, but dropped out eventually because I wasn't traveling as much to the different parks across the country after the mid-1980's and I was never able to time it so I could make it to a Coaster Con. It just seems that you know a lot about the industry so I figured maybe you were a member of the same organization that I was at one time. I loved those days, but life got in the way and now I can't ride the coasters like I used to.

K. Martinez said...


I always thought it strange they changed the name of that park from Six Flags Over Mid-America to Six Flags St. Louis. Do you ever make it over to Worlds of Fun in Kansas City or is it too far? And which coaster did you ride more than 12 times?

Nanook said...

@ Ken-

Yes, indeed I was a member of ACE. I didn't make it to their first official convention, but did make it to that 'unofficial' Coaster 'something', at Cedar Point - in 1978-? I believe. Tim Onosko and Robert Cartmell, among others, spoke. Between about 1977 and the early 1990's I spent many a hot/muggy summer day driving/flying around (mostly) the NE in search of roller coasters - and as a wonderful side benefit, got to experience America's amusement parks - most if which are now sadly long-gone.

I was there at the Kings Island ACE convention for the opening of (the original) Beast; at Dorney Park; Kennywood; Six Flags Over Texas/Astroworld; Marriott's Great America (in Guernee, of course); and the one at Magic Mountain - almost forgot about that one. I think that's all of the conventions I attended. It's hard to remember as attending a convention was usually just one part of a summer roller coaster/park trip, and it kinda blurs together, for as you probably know, one would often run into convention attendees either before or after the convention doing the exact same thing as you. Good times, for sure.

Chuck said...

Ken, we're on the wrong side of the Mississippi to make an effort to get to KC. I have been hankering to get back to Silver Dollar City in Branson. My coaster-enthusiast son is now old enough to ride the big ones, and Fire In the Hole is just such a quirky...coaster? Dark ride? Ghost train?

The coaster we rode 12 times was a Vekoma Boomerang, formerly at Six Flags Over Texas. My back and neck was so sore afterwards - it really jerks you as it preps for the reverse drop. I don't recall that feature from SFOT, but I was 26 the last time I was there and a bit more capable of handling it back then.

Nanook, I think the Gemini and the Gemini Midway were brand new at Cedar Point in '78. That was the first visit where I started noticing things were changing. And I am envious of you being there for the opening of the Beast. My dad was stationed in Dayton in the early '80's, and I spent many a fun hour at King's Island with my church youth group buddies, who also happened to be my Sunday School buddies, who also happened to be my Boy Scout buddies, who also happened to be my school chums (read that as multiple excuses to go to King's Island with the same group of guys).

Nanook said...

@ Chuck-

To get really 'roller coaster geeky' here - I rode the Beast with the brakes off. And that certainly made a huge difference prior to hitting the second lift chain. That was a hell-of-a-coaster back then.

Melissa said...

Oh, how I'd love to step through the screen into the sun and sand! We're having a cold, wet snap here, stuck inside for days seriously making costumes for an outdoor production of A Midsummer Night's Dream but sure to be rained out at least half the time. I'm covered in feathers in the glitter like some kind of disco chicken. I'd much rather be riding the Giant Dipper!

Nanook said...

@ Melissa-

I, too, would like to see you riding the Giant Dipper - dressed as a feather & glitter ensconced disco chicken-!

Chuck said...

Whoa! That must have been awesome, Nanook.

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook… first of all, this is weird, because I replied to a bunch of comments earlier today, and yet… my reply isn’t there. Anyway, the dumbest thing is that I actually mentioned Lake Compounce in a post a few months ago. I think I really did mean to write what J. Nartubez suggested, only I was high on crack.

K. Martinez, was The Lost Boys actually filmed in Santa Cruz? I haven’t seen that movie for 20 years at least.

K. Martinez again, I thought you would enjoy these! Very cool that you used to live in one of the houses up on top of the cliff. Except for maybe the seals barking… I hear that when I go to Morro Bay, and I think it would get old really fast. I think that these photos are from around 1957, because there were some Disneyland images with the Viewliner mixed in… so that matches your guesstimate. Your memories of the Giant Dipper are cool… my first roller coaster was at a small carnival in Virginia; it was probably tiny, but as a kid I found it thrilling. Happy 4th of July to you!

Chuck, I don’t think of rivers with beaches, but I guess they must have them. As a kid I played along the Susquehanna, but it was not beach-like at all. Thanks for the nice holiday wishes!

K. Martinez, I am proud to have stumbled upon your true alien name.

Nanook, really? You don’t consider Cedar Point an amusement park? I find that very surprising. Isn’t it considered a classic amusement park??

Patrick, I’m not sure I have ever achieved that accomplishment.

K. Martinez, based on what little I know, Cedar Point really does seem like a genuine, old-fashioned amusement park. Its age might make it seem more “themed”, but it doesn’t seem like a theme park to me.

Chuck, I don’t believe I have ever heard of a racing carousel until now!

Melissa, I wish we could see photos with your disco chicken costume!!

AND… Nanook, Chuck, and K. Martinez, I don’t have much to add re: your conversation about various amusement parks and attractions, except that it was fun to read!

Nanook said...


I think the reason I (incorrectly) think of Cedar Point as a theme park is its sheer size. But it clearly has all the makings of an amusement park - a large one.

Derek Whaley said...

Major, I am wondering where you found that old Skee-Roll Arcade photograph and if you know the date of it. I am trying to research the history of that building since it is going to be demolished sometime early next week (after Labor Day festivities are over). It is my strong belief that it is the oldest building at the Boardwalk and I wanted to give it a tribute, but there are very few photographs of it, so anything I can find is helpful. Please let me know ASAP, assuming you are still checking these comments. Thanks!
– Derek Whaley