Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Ken Martinez Santa Cruz Postcards

It's time for another excellent post from GDB pal Ken Martinez, who has been sharing so many scans of his vintage amusement park postcards with us. He numbered this as his 54th submission, but that doesn't count things like the "Summer '67" guidebook posts. 

Today's subject is near and dear to Ken's heart, as you'll learn from his detailed, interesting, and personal writeup! His "I was there" viewpoint makes this post unique. Here's Ken:

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk Part 2 - Ride Operator Days

This is the second post I’ve done on my home park, Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.  Not sure if I mentioned it in earlier posts, but I was a ride operator at the Boardwalk from 1978 to 1983.  It was probably the easiest job I ever had and the most fun I ever had on a job.  What could be better than working in the fresh ocean air and working for something I enjoy anyway.  I also returned to the Boardwalk for a short stint in the Summer of 2011 in the grounds maintenance department.  In other words kept the trash bins empty.

Here’s the Ferris Wheel and where it was located when I operated it.  It was probably the hardest ride to operate because I had to be aware of what body types I was distributing on the wheel.  For others who operated the wheel occasionally there would be a maintenance call to repair the motor because it would smoke due to too many heavy people on one side of the wheel which caused an imbalance.  I used to pride myself on equally distributing the weight along the wheel, but eventually the day came when I too burned the motor and the wheel went in reverse.  

The Sky Glider was and still is a very popular ride at the Boardwalk . It was also one of my favorite rides to operate.  The 2-person gondolas are permanently attached to the cable and travel slow enough to allow continuous movement.  Also seen in the lower left is the Carousel building.  The Carousel was another favorite of mine to work on.  I never got sick of the calliope music and still enjoy it to this day when walking by.  

1960.  Walt Disney himself came by to inspect the Autorama attraction because it had the center guide rail and Walt was considering it for his Autopia back at Disneyland.  Anyway, I never operated the Autorama, but several times did operate the Cave Train.  It was pretty simple to run, but one had to be alert on the curves so as not to derail the train if going too fast.  And this was all in the dark (black light).

The Trabant was a ride I was assigned to quite a bit.  It was also an unpopular ride since there was never a line and the ride rarely filled up.  I think it was because it was isolated on one side of the boardwalk.  I mostly remember kids jumping off the ride before it came to a complete stop.

The Giant Dipper I worked on occasion, but only as a loader, ticket taker and safety bar checker.  I liked the group that worked on the coaster, but found it kind of boring to work on the coaster itself.  I think it was because of the way it cycled out.

The “Jet Star” was a coaster I worked on a lot.  It was fast and intense and one really had to pay attention when working on it.  I loved it.  My favorite position was mover/loader as it was continuous and required quick thinking and movement.  I love a challenge.  Once in a rare while the emergency brake system would kick in and all the coaster cars would stop at various points along the track.  If that happened we would have to climb the structure with our safety belt and hook ourselves to the structure when we arrived at the coaster cars stuck on the upper tracks.  From there we’d release the individual safety brake and then manually push our weight into the coaster car filled with riders to make sure they continued down the drop and completed their circuit.  This process would be repeated until all coaster cars were back in the loading area.  I also worked on this coaster during an earthquake.  I remember seeing the structure and track wobble and shake. 

Hope you enjoyed today’s post and hearing of my days as a rider operator.

Information Source material: 



Nanook said...


Next to Kennywood, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is my favorite traditional park. And based on the years you were a ride operator, it is highly-likely our paths crossed more than once - but we never knew it.

Thanks, again, for the great memories.

Melissa said...

Thanks again, Ken! The Trabant looks like fun to me; I love how the wind and the ride's motion is whipping out the hair of the two young women on the left hand descending side.

TokyoMagic! said...

I really enjoyed this post, Ken! Is the Jet Star still there today? And is that a brontosaurus in the water in that third pic or is that Nessie? Oh, wait, is the Cave Train that dark ride that has the cavemen figures in it?

Stefano said...

Thank you, Ken ---I last visited 25 years ago, but these pictures brought back happy memories. The two great dark rides, Cave Train and Haunted Castle (which had that odor the Disneyland dark rides had before the '83 revamp): the cavemen characters sitting on a few of the ski lift gondolas; and if you rode the log ride in late afternoon, the setting sun projected the shadow of you in your log on the bluffs in the background.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Ken and Major. I've been lucky enough to visit the SC Boardwalk a few times, but never in your timeframes. I've never been a thrill ride enthusiast, the themed parks were always more interesting to me, but there is a sense of nostalgia for these older, simpler parks, when expectations were lower and a good time was enough.

Thanks for posting these pictures and stories, I've learned a lot about amusement parks and rides from them. Helps put Disneyland in perspective too.

Best regards.


K. Martinez said...

Nanook, Thanks! That's quite a compliment being right up next to Kennywood. The Boardwalk is a source of local pride for me and while it's changed a lot like any other amusement park, I still love it. From time to time I even take my afternoon walks there just to soak up the atmosphere. And you don't have to pay to get in.

I am almost certain of it that we crossed paths back then. We also belonged to the same club (ACE) around that time too.

Melissa, It was a fun ride and visually one of my favorites.

TokyoMagic!, the Jet Star is long gone and has since been replaced by two coasters. The current coaster in that spot is a spinning coaster named "Undertow". I loved Jet Star and considered it a classic, but sometimes you've got to modernize and put something in new to keep drawing people. At least that's what they say.

Yes, that's a Brontosaurus or at least some version of it. The dinosaur's head and neck would raise up out of the pond with water dripping out of it's mouth every so often. And yes, the Cave Train is the ride with the cavemen in it. The ride sort of reminded me of the B.C. comic strip by Johnny Hart. Unfortunately the scene in that postcard has been dramatically altered since the Autorama is no longer and the pond and dinosaur filled in for rides and concession stands. They ruin everything, don't they?

Stefano, I worked the Haunted Castle quite a bit at the dispatch and inside the dark ride itself walking around checking on rider's behavior. It was an interesting attraction to work to say the least. The original Haunted Castle has since been replaced by a more high tech sophisticated version which I used to walk through to inspect and clean whenever a shut down occurred due to "accidents" the riders would sometimes have while riding. That was back in 2011 when I worked in grounds maintenance. I used to love hazmat clean up on the dark rides because I could walk around and climb through it just to see the mechanics of the ride.

That's cool that you remember those details of the Boardwalk like the cavemen characters sitting in a few of the ski lift gondolas. It was actually two gondolas at opposite ends of the cable. They served an important purpose in closing the attraction at night. Since each caveman was on an opposite gondola it helped us cycle out the ride to make sure everyone was off the ride so no one was left on it overnight. When you saw the cavemen twice during a cycle and no people that meant the ride was clear of riders and ready to close.

JG, I'm glad you're getting something out of these posts. What I love about the smaller and older traditional parks is that they have a charm and patina that is genuine. I was lucky to have recently visited Castle Amusement Park in Riverside, California and absolutely loved it. It's a beautiful little park with lush landscaping and old style architecture and little touches by Bud Hurlbut who designed and built the place.

Chuck said...

Holy cow, Ken - you ran a roller coaster wile an earthquake was going! Now that's a story. Of course, they used to run the Earthquake ride at Cedar Point while the roller coasters were going, so maybe that isn't so remarkable after all...

Thanks so much for sharing your personal stories and postcards. You've made passing references to your time at the SC Boardwalk many times over the years, and they always leave me wanting to hear more. Thanks for obliging.

K. Martinez said...

Chuck, did I say I ran a roller coaster while an earthquake was going? I'm sorry! What I meant to say is I ran an earthquake while a coaster was going. Earthquakes are pretty easy to run once you get the hang of them.

I will definitely share more Boardwalk stories in the future. I can truly say it was the only job I ever had where I truly enjoyed what I was doing and never got sick of it. Of course it wasn't a job that was meant to be forever so I moved onto more lucrative employment. Still some of the best memories of my working life were at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.

Mark H. Besotted said...

Thanks for sharing your stories (and your amazing postcard collection) with us! I just saw a YouTube video of the Cave Train, and it makes me want to plan a trip.

Melissa said...

I also watched video and looked at pictures tonight of the Cave Train and the Haunted Castle. They're both absolutely charming; beautiful examples of the classic dark rides that Disney would elevate to high art in Snow White's Adventures and Mr. Toad's Wild Ride.

What I really loved is that the “scary” parts are scary enough that you can let go and let yourself get a little excited and unsettled if you want to, but not so much that they'll traumatize the preschoolers. It's a great introduction to the idea that art and imagination are a safe and even enjoyable way to deal with those darker feelings.

walterworld said...

Great memories Ken! Thank you!

My grandmother lived in Aptos so I remember a few wonderful days on the old Boardwalk in the 70's-80's. In the later 00's we went a number of times to see 'Papa Doo Run-Run' to close the summer concert series and it was great. And The Big Dipper is still a thrill...

walterworld said...

Ouch! I mean 'Giant Dipper' of course :D