Thursday, November 12, 2015

Vintage Postcards - Santa Cruz Boardwalk

Today is part 12 in the series of vintage postcards from the collection of Ken Martinez! Here's Ken:

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, California

The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is a special place to me. I've lived within walking distance to the boardwalk for nearly forty years and was employed there as a ride operator during the late 1970's/early 80's and again in grounds maintenance during the summer of 2011. I see it practically every day whether passing by it or in the distance when driving in another part of town. It's been a constant in my life for forty five years.

This is where the main entrance and access to the beach is. What's great about the boardwalk is that it's admission-free. The Sky Glider has been carrying visitors above the Boardwalk for 48 years since its opening in 1967. The building in view housed the 1911 Looff carousel and a couple of concession stands and still does today.

This attraction is called the "Merry-go-round" even though it's referenced as the "1911 Looff Carousel" online. It's 104 years old and one of the few that have a ring dispenser for tossing rings into the clown's mouth which is actually a lot of fun.

This is the way I remember the Giant Dipper roller coaster with its bullet-nosed trains, one red and the other blue, racing along the green track and white wooden structure. This was before they installed the two-person bucket seats. I remember sliding around on those seats from side to side slamming into my sister or friend who rode with me. The 1924 wooden classic is now over ninety years old.

The Anton-Schwarzkopf "Jet Star" coaster was pretty popular when it opened. I worked on this attraction as a loader many times during the summer. I remember it being a loud and noisy ride to work on.

The Cave Train is another Boardwalk classic that disappeared and then was brought back several years later. I worked this ride only a few times. It had a really compact layout that traveled underneath the Autorama and Boardwalk.

This was one of my favorite areas of the old boardwalk featuring the Autorama/Cave Train complex. The Autorama is now gone as is the wooden Wild Mouse coaster in the background. Behind that is the Giant Dipper's first curve turnaround. The Wild Mouse was actually considered he scariest ride in the park as it was rickety and felt like you were going to fly off the track at the sharp u-turns into the Cave Train/Autorama area below. It was replaced by the Logger's Revenge.

Hope you enjoyed these. I will have more cards to share with you in the future.

Information source material: Official site of the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.

Major Pepperidge again... I visited the Boardwalk once (back in the 1990's), I remember thinking that it had a neat, old-fashioned atmosphere. I was bummed that the Sky Glider was down that day, but did ride the Giant Dipper. I was with my mom and my grandmother, so I had to ride by myself!

THANKS as always to Ken Martinez... I look forward to seeing more cards from Santa Cruz.


Nanook said...

Oh, Ken-

Yes, I enjoyed these views very much. They bring back a ton of great memories.

I was never adept-enough to accurately grab and then toss the rings at the same rotation. (The really-skilled young'ins could grab two rings - one after the other - and then fire both of them into the clown's mouth immediately following.

By the time I rode the Giant Dipper, the bucket seat-style cars had replaced the ones pictured here. Still a great coaster worthy of its longevity.

Now... Let's talk about the Sky Glider. Just what in tarnation is a tuba (I trust it's not a Sousaphone) being carried up above everyone's head-??!!! Maybe the Boardwalk was offering a special offer on the day this image was taken: All brass instruments ride for free on the the Sky Glider.

Thanks, Ken.

TokyoMagic! said...

Ha! Nanook beat me to it. I was also wondering about that Tuba! I need to see this place in person! The Jet Star looks like fun with it's "Matterhorn style" seating. Is it still standing? And was/is there any connection between Santa Cruz's Giant Dipper and San Diego's Giant Dipper?

As a kid, we would often pass by the Long Beach Pike (another California seaside amusement area) on our way to my great-grandmother's. I wish it had been maintained/restored and still existed today like Santa Cruz's Boardwalk. Was there ever a time when the Boardwalk was not well maintained, or was it ever in danger of being torn down? Sorry, I'm full of more questions than usual today! I really enjoyed these.....thanks for sharing more of your collection with us, Ken!

Chuck said...

Ken, I have no questions nor answers today, only a wish I'd been able to convince my parents to stop the day we drove past in 1975 or 76.

As always, thanks for sharing!

Monkey Cage Kurt said...

These are great Ken! As a kid I would’ve gravitated right to that train. The “Cave Train” how cool is that?

It sure looks like you have some really great memories of growing up in Santa Cruz. How awesome that must have been. I’m sure there are tails-O-plenty of your time spent on the Boardwalk, the fresh sea air, goofing off with coworkers, having to clean up vomit, and all kinds of fun whatnots.

Thank you so much for your contributions, and for letting us have just a glimpse of the employment of your youth. You always have so much to add to this cercal, so thanks again for all you bring here.

Mimi said...

Wow, this is really bringing back memories! This used to a be a once-a-summer field trip for me in the late 80's-early 90's... The rides were a good level of thrill for an adventurous kid. I loved the place, but I haven't been since... 1992? Maybe I will check it out when I am home visiting my folks in San Fran over the holidays this year.

Thanks, Ken and the Major!

Nanook said...

@ TokyoMagic!-

Yes, both Santa Cruz's Giant Dipper and San Diego's (Belmont Park's) Giant Dipper roller coasters were designed by Frank Prior & Fredrick (Fred) Church. The Santa Cruz location opened in 1924, with the San Diego location opening in 1925.

Anonymous said...

Sad to hear the Wild Mouse is gone, that was a memorable ride.

Goofy's Go Coaster (?) in DCA has a similar abrupt feel, but without the shaking.

Thanks Ken and Major. Good to see these shots of another familiar place.


K. Martinez said...

Nanook, Only because I was local did I become an expert at pulling those rings and hitting the center of the clown’s mouth. I haven’t done it several decades though. As for the tuba, I operated the Sky Glider probably more than any other attraction at the Boardwalk and I remember putting people’s oversize belongings on the back of the seat or asking them to hold the majority of their large item behind the bars. Policy has probably changed since then for safety reasons. The place was admission free and people would often have their belongings with them. From when I started working the park until this day, there is a caveman and cavewoman (from the Cave Train) on opposite ends of the cable loop to help determine the ride is completely empty of people before closing for the night. If you saw the caveman and cavewoman pass by on a complete cycle with no people then the ride was empty. I remember hearing a story from my boss about a couple being left on the Skyway after closing.

TokyoMagic!, It looks like Nanook answered your question on the two Giant Dippers. The Jet Star is long gone. It was replaced by the “Hurricane” which was replaced by “Undertow” which is brand new and the current coaster in that spot. As for the Boardwalk’s history, it has always been well maintained and has always been popular and successful. The Seaside Company knows how to keep that place going through promotion and beautification. The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk attracts more people than the theme park over the hill due to its beautiful location on the Monterey Bay and being admission free. Strangely the Boardwalk is not the most popular attraction in Santa Cruz. That title belongs to the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf with it restaurants, shops and nautical attractions which are extremely popular year round.

Chuck, It’s too bad they passed it up. That was peak classic boardwalk to me. The Wild Mouse and many other classic midway rides were still standing then.

Monkey Cage Kurt, I was thrilled when my boss assigned me to operate the Cave Train on a busy weekend when the Cave Train operator called in sick. It was not located in my area, but I got a break from the usual rides I operated. It was definitely a lot of fun to run the train. I assume that you’re a fan of Ray Harryhausen. I am too! My two favorites are “The 7th Voyage of Sinbad” and “The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms”. I love the Cyclops vs, Taro the dragon fight sequence. When I was a child sitting in the theater that scene on the big screen blew me away. I’m also a fan of Ray Bradbury and loved to hear stories of the two Rays adventures together in their youth. Thanks for the kind comments.

Mimi, Wow! I worked there from the late 70’s thru early 80’s. Who knows? Maybe you rode a certain ride I happened to be operating the days you visited. I worked there full time back then.

Nanook, I appreciate you chiming in with the answer. Like the automobiles, you’re the man when it comes to the roller coasters and it certainly helps keep my posts relevant and accurate. Thanks!

JG, What made the Boardwalk’s Wild Mouse great was that it was A wooden coaster and that had a great rickety feel to it. It was truly scary and I loved every minute of it.

TokyoMagic! said...

Nanook and Ken, thanks for answering my questions! One final question for today....are the two Giant Dippers identical or do they different track layouts?

Clyde Hughes said...

Thanks for the wonderful photos!
That tuba had me going, too! It reminded me of an episode of "The Avengers" in which Mrs Peel was practicing "the ride of the valkyries," while John Steed was practicing his putting...eventually landing one in the tuba!

The Piper? Viper? coaster has that classic Jet Star look.
I remember Six Flags Over Texas (which you posted recently) and their "Big Bend" which was also a Jet Star coaster. The cool thing about the Jet Stars is that the cars had motors and the lifts were spiral. Anton made some custom Jet Stars for the larger theme parks, which used the landscape quite well. A prominent characteristic of the Jet Stars' track is the 'ground hugging' turns, along with the absence of restraint overkill (you straddled a bench in the car and leaned back into the person behind you - there were 2 people to a seat - very up close and personal!).

There are still 2 Jet Star coasters in existence: the Whizzer at Six Flags Great America (Gurnee, IL) and the coaster formerly known as the "Zambizi Zinger" which was formerly at Worlds of Fun in Kansas City. The latter is now in Columbia.

You can get an idea of the seating in the first video here:

The second one shows the ZZ in its new persona and home in Columbia. Wonderful scenery:

Thanks Ken!

Nanook said...

@ TokyoMagic!-

You'd have figured I'd know the answer to this question, but I don't. Oddly-enough during my days of intense coaster riding, I never rode the Giant Dipper at Belmont Park. Both coasters do appear very similar, though.

However, the loading station at Santa Cruz is on quite a downhill incline, allowing the train to start out at a reasonably fast clip, as it immediately enters a tunnel. To my knowledge, this is unique to any wooden roller coaster and [arguably] makes for the best beginning for any such coaster. Although as mentioned in an earlier post, the Jack Rabbit and Thunderbolt roller coasters at Kennywood amusement Park in West Mifflin, PA take advantage of the naturally-occurring hilly terrain to launch their coaster trains directly into first drops of substantial size - without the need for added height, provided traditionally by the first hill.

Nanook said...

@ Ken-

I DO remember seeing figures from the Cave Train travelling in the Sky Glider vehicles-! Now I finally know why.

I never gave much thought to the fact the Boardwalk is admission-free, and its relation to the surrounding area. It's a natural for locals to 'hop aboard' simply to enjoy the view, the weather and people-watching while getting from one end of the Boardwalk to the other. And if one of them happens to be carrying "oversized belongings" - including saxophones or Sousaphones, well, what the heck-? It just looks so odd (and potentially dangerous) if an item should fall to the ground.

TokyoMagic! said...

Thanks again, Nanook! Upon further studying of that first pic, it appears the riders with the tuba may be wearing special outfits, like fezzes and "harem" pants. Perhaps they were entertainers at the boardwalk that day? I'm also noticing how short the beach is, so Ken....I have yet ANOTHER question for you! Has the boardwalk ever had a problem with flooding during storms? That carousel building in the first pic looks mighty close to the water!

K. Martinez said...

TokyoMagic, they are different in layout, but I think Nanook mentioned the top feature of the Giant Dipper in Santa Cruz. Also the first drop on the Santa Cruz Giant Dipper is a straight down drop unlike the San Diego Dipper which has a curved first drop.

Clyde Hughes, I'm glad you enjoyed these. It's the Piper. The coasters you are referring to; the two Willard's Whizzers, Big Bend and Zambezi Zinger were known as "Intamin Speedracers" which are basically custom designed coasters of the Jet Star variety. The coaster cars were very similar because they were from the same designer Anton Schwarzkopf. The difference with the Speedracer vehicles were that they were connected making a train of vehicles with 3 seats per car holding six riders each. I've ridden the now defunct Willard's Whizzer from Great America in Santa Clara many times. I'm definitely familiar with the design features The slow spiral-climb was awesome. There were only four Intamin Speedracers in existence at one time. Unfortunately there is now only one in the United States. I loved that style of coaster too. Thanks again.

Nanook, I'm glad I shared the story behind the cave people on the Sky Glider with you. And now you know! I also love hearing from employees at other parks about background details like that.

You are correct. As a local, the Sky Glider is probably what I go on most because of the great views of the city and the bay. Especally on a clear day. I also ride the 16-seat Ferris Wheel for the views.

The beauty of the Boardwalk is you can still enjoy the food, shops and atmosphere and maybe a ride or two without paying to get in. If I do go to the Boardwalk it's usually on 1907 Nights when all rides, hotdogs and soda are a dollar or for the free Friday Nights concerts.

TokyoMagic!, Yes the boardwalk is prone to flooding, but not like you'd think. The Carousel along with the other rides are pretty safe from flooding with the exception of the Cave Train. The Boardwalk sits on top of a concrete structure built into the beach with the storage, shops, maintenance and Cave Train layout just below beach level. When the rains come and the mouth of the San Lorenzo River emptying into the ocean shifts direction then there is flooding usually in the Cave Train area and underground utility/maintenance corridors. In fact from a recent storm there was concern about it. Think of the Boardwalk like Main Street in Disney World with the "Utilidors" below. That's how the boardwalk is constructed. As a grounds maintenance worker in 2011 I travelled all though out the underground utility corridors beneath the Boardwalk and had witnessed flooding as I was driving my maintenance vehicle underground. Talk about "Under the Boardwalk". Hope that answers your question.

TokyoMagic! said...

Thanks again, Ken! I appreciate you answering my question(s)!

K. Martinez said...

@TokyoMagic!, You're welcome! And feel free to ask as many questions as you want. I enjoy answering them if I can.