Saturday, November 07, 2020

Santa Cruz Boardwalk

Today I am sharing two photos from the venerable Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. California used to have a number of seaside amusement parks; the Venice Amusement Pier; the Fraser's Million Dollar Pier; Ocean Park Pier; Rainbow Pier; Silver Spray Pier; San Francisco's Playland, and more. But they are all gone - except for the Santa Cruz Boardwalk (SBC)! It goes all the way back to 1907. 

GDB friend Ken Martinez is something of an expert on the SBC, because he lives in Santa Cruz and worked at the Boardwalk personally, so I asked him for his help - and he came through, above and beyond the call of duty.

This first fun overview is from 1972. Ken says: I worked in this area in the late 1970's.  What a fun job it was.  I operated the Eli-16 Ferris Wheel and Chance Trabant in the background as well as work at the Casino Arcade and the Arcade No. 2 inside the yellowish façade.  Not the best paying  job, but working at an amusement park on the beach on a sunny day was pretty great.

This area has completely changed over the years.  The Casino building in the background was rebuilt in the 1980's and the entire building to the right was razed recently and updated with a modern replacement, a new more colorful entrance to the Boardwalk and high-tech thrill rides replacing the classic flat rides.  Even the concrete structure the people are walking on was rebuilt.

Beyond the yellow arcade façade but before the Casino building was the Skee Roll/Skee Ball and Pokerino section of the building.  Lots of great memories there too.  All gone now in the name or progress.

Note:  The Boardwalk is basically like a giant building the entire length and the walkway is built on top of that "building/structure".  Below is a network of tunnels, storage rooms, ride maintenance rooms and the Cave Train ride "show area" all underneath the Boardwalk.

Hey, it's a little car ride! Just like the Autopia! More from Ken: Here's the Autorama which was part of the Cave Train/Autorama complex at the end of the Boardwalk near the mouth of the San Lorenzo River which empties out into the Pacific Ocean.   You'll notice that the Autorama track goes downward here.  That was necessary so the Cave Train could pass under the Autorama  to go to the show area underneath the Boardwalk.   Walt Disney once visited the Boardwalk to check out the center guide rail on the new Autorama when he was considering adding it to his Autopia attractions.

Note:  this area as well is no longer and replaced with a lot of flat rides, a revised Cave Train and a children's coaster.  This image was also  taken before the Logger's Revenge flume ride was built above the Autorama tracks.  I really do miss this attraction.  As a child this area felt like a little bit of Disneyland at my home park.

Thanks SO MUCH to Ken Martinez for his kind and generous help with today's post, his knowledge and expertise turned this post from "Here's two pictures" to an actual fun learning experience.


TokyoMagic! said...

Ken, when they rebuilt the Casino in the eighties, did they keep the same vintage look?

In that first pic, there is someone in line for tickets, who is wearing a heavy-looking hooded cape.

I like the landscaping on the Autorama attraction. Such a shame that they got rid of it. They ruin everything, I tell ya!


Odd that the AUTORAMA image is actually on a pier!!! Amazing and also scary to think .

JC Shannon said...

Ken, when I was checking out these great shots, I was thinking of the Doobie Brothers. "In the hills above Santa Cruz, in the place where I spent my youth." What a great place to grow up. My friends and I would go often in the summer. I spy a Mickey shirt in the foreground. Thanks for sharing these. Thanks Major, as well.

Chuck said...

Nice to see an Arrow Development Sportscar installation in its natural habitat, something that is getting harder and harder to do with each passing year. Like Mike, if I didn't have the context, I'd have no idea that Autorama photo was taken on a pier...and on top of another ride!

As always, thanks, Ken, for sharing your memories. That must have been a a great experience working there.

Andrew said...

Yay, these are awesome pictures of SCBB, and Ken's commentary is wonderful. I love how it sounds like you operated pretty much every ride. I'm guessing the Eli wheel was especially challenging. On one that I've been on, the operator wore a hard hat to avoid getting hit in the head by eager riders pulling down the bar.

We have an identical Trabant at Conneaut Lake Park, just with all of the whirligigs removed.

You can see the building Ken mentions being demolished here in Google Maps "Globe View," which will magically disappear if you change it to regular satellite view. By the way, you can do street view on the midways, too!

This park is on my bucket list for the Cave Train, Giant Dipper, and two other darkrides. It also might be the first CA amusement park to reopen... until it has to close again.

I agree with Chuck that Arrow turnpike cars are becoming much harder to find than the antique ones.

Thanks, Major and Ken!

Melissa said...

Awesome colorful pictures with great expert color commentary! Too much great peoplewatching and vintage fashion in #1 to ever do justice to in a single comment, so I’ll just point out the girl in the classic Mickey tee in front of the person in the full-length cape and hood. The Seventies! There’s also a simple white babushka on a background lady.

Love the toadstool lights on the Autorama course!

Ken’s comment about the skee-ball area reminds me of that one day at Darien Lake where are my friends and I played skee-ball all evening and the best prizes we could trade up for were matching painter’s hats. They didn’t even fit properly.

Melissa said...

Andrew, I thought of you the other day when I read they’re retiring the Kangaroo at Kennywood. Sad days.

zach said...

Thanks, Ken. I grew up in Cupertino and spent a few days at the Boardwalk in my time. I see the Dream Inn in the background, I think. I remember a huge train layout in one of the big buildings and is it a false memory of an indoor swimming pool and miniature golf? And a Fun House that today would have lawyers lined up at the exit.

The girl in the lower right in the skimpy top makes me think of the AI people in Rollercoaster Tycoon.

Thanks Major and Ken


stu29573 said...

Ok, these pictures are fun, but I'm mainly interested in this "Cave Train" of which you speak! It sounds great! However, I have no idea of what it is or what it does. I'll just have to make up my own versio....wait a minute...YouTube to the rescue!
Ok, I just watched it. Not bad, but I didn't much like how you could see the roof all the way through. Still, not a bad effort. A solid "B" in my book!

Major Pepperidge said...

TokyoMagic!, looking at Google’s street view, it appears that they have kept the vintage look, happily! I noticed that long cape, is it fur?? And I’m starting to think you are right about them ruining everything!

Mike Cozart, I agree, though remember, so much of POP was on that enormous pier too.

Jonathan, which Doobie Brothers song is that? I can’t bring it to mind. Maybe it wasn’t one of their biggies. I agree, it would have been neat to live nearby and go to the boardwalk often.

Chuck, I think I love the Autorama because it really does look like some sort of “alternate universe” Autopia. Good old Arrow Development, those guys really were everywhere!

Andrew, I’ll bet Ken has lots more stories of his days working at the Boardwalk! So, an operator could get hit on the head by the safety bar of the Eli Wheel?? I just did street view on the midway, I was hoping it was possible. Very cool. What can’t they do these days! I hope that you get to come to California someday and so ALL of your fun bucket list goals.

Melissa, I had one of those Mickey t-shirts, they must have sold millions of those. I’m thinking about what Ken said about working there in the summer, there must have been a lot of pretty girls to look at when things got otherwise boring. Matching painter hats?! They must have gotten those for nothing, what a terrible prize!

Melissa, even kangaroos have to retire sometime.

zach, I’ve only been to the Boardwalk once, and that was back in the ‘80s when I happened to be in Santa Cruz with my mom and grandmother. We walked past all the rides, but mom and grandma didn’t want to go on any rides. It was kin of a bummer! I’d love to hear if your memories of the giant train layout and indoor pool/mini golf are accurate! I want the girl in the skimpy top to be my retro girlfriend.

stu29573, from everything I’ve read and heard, the original Cave Train was a truly wonderful ride. I have the feeling that a video of the revamped version doesn’t do it justice. Maybe when you were actually on the ride, your brain sort of edited the ceiling out, if you know what I mean.

zach said...

Ken, did you know Alan Taniguchi? He's a friend who worked there but, more than likely, in the early 70's. Thanks


JC Shannon said...

Major It's called Neal's Fandango on the Stampede album. You are right, not a biggie, but I am a hardcore Doobie fan. I got em all, I tell ya. Now I'm gonna build me a raft and get it ready for flotin'.

Nanook said...


Always love seeing images from the SCBB. So many great memories from there. I still have several 'cheesy' B&W "celebrity images" from a vending machine inside the Casino Arcade. I can't remember just of who they are at the moment, but 'B' stars is more-likely who they are.

@ Melissa-
I've always referred to those walkway light fixtures as 'mushroom lights'. We still see them everywhere, and were quite a staple at Disneyland.

@ Ken-
Thanks for your always insightful commentary.

Thanks, Major.

K. Martinez said...

Tokyo Magic!, When the casino building was rebuilt, they kept it pretty much the same, but with different building materials. It would be hard to tell the difference before and after. It's still a great building with one of the coolest arcades I've ever been to.

Mike Cozart, The Boardwalk and Autorama/Cave Train complex were actually built on solid ground. The Boardwalk runs the length of Santa Cruz Beach. It is multi-level concrete with boards on the beach side.

JC Shannon, Oh yeah! The Doobie Brothers. I remember them in the 70's. I used to also work for the Boardwalk's Cocoanut Grove and band concerts on the beach. I've seen many bands perform and got paid for it. I remember, Huey Lewis and the News, The B-52's Santana, Edgar Winter Band and many more bands that I worked at their concerts.

Chuck, see my comment to Mike Cozart. Glad you enjoyed these all thanks to Major.

Andrew, The Eli Wheel was more challenging to operate. Even more than the roller coasters. Not only did we have to wear a hardhat, but we had to balance the wheel so not too many heavy people were on one side or too many lightweights like children on the other side. Once in a while you'd see smoke coming from the Ferris Wheel motor as it strained with an unbalanced load. Sometimes I'd load people out of order just to balance the wheel. And, yes, sometimes eager riders would pull down the bar instead of letting the ride operator do their job.

Melissa, Skeeball was such fun. I used to play Pokerino and Fascination too!

Melissa, They're retiring the Kangaroo at Kennywood Park? That sucks! I mean shucks!

Zach, Good eye catching the Dream Inn in the background. The hotel is still there ,but with a different name. Those are not false memories. There was indeed a huge indoor train layout at the Boardwalk. It was there along with the funhouse and plunge you mentioned. You can even catch a glimpse of of the train layout in the film "Harold and Maude" which was party filmed at the Boardwalk in the 1970's. You definitely know Santa Cruz.

stu29573, The original Cave Train was superior to the redo. I remember the original being much better and you couldn't see the ceiling. Still it's great to have an old 1960's dark ride at the Boardwalk.

Major, Thanks for calling me to help you out. I enjoyed it it a lot. And these pics bring up so many great memories and people I knew.

Zach, The name sounds real familiar, but I can't remember him. What did he do there?

K. Martinez said...

Nanook, I remember those 'cheesy' B&W "celebrity images". They also had sports car images in those vending machines back in the day. Glad you enjoyed today's post.

"Lou and Sue" said...

Ken and Major, thank you for this fun trip to Santa Cruz! I love seeing these great places that I've never been to...and, Ken, what a great personal tour guide you are!

Ken, what was your favorite job at the SCBB, and why?

JC Shannon, what wonderful memories some of those Doobie Brothers songs bring back. 'Taking it to the Streets' is probably my favorite, because it reminds me of California. Shortly after that song came out, I was on a California vacation and heard it multiple times - even on the plane, coming and going. (Oh, to be 16, again!)

Thanks for this fun day trip!


Melissa said...

Kennywood is retiring four vintage rides because it’s become too difficult to source parts for maintenance. Sic transit gloria mundi.

I was first introduced to the Doobie Brothers via that episode of What’s Happening where the kids were tempted to bootleg one of their concerts.

Kathy! said...

Oh wow, the first picture especially is a nice surprise today. I went to UC Santa Cruz for a year and lived close enough to walk to the Boardwalk. I liked the dark rides, both had many scenes and effects borrowed from the Haunted Mansion, I think even doombuggy style ride vehicles. It’s probably changed since I’ve been last, but it’s nice to read Ken’s comments and see the photos for some nostalgia. Thank you, Major.

Andrew said...

Melissa, I'm not going to rant, but let's just say that those four rides ran remarkbly well compared to the new rides Kennywood has put in. Three of them have sat inoperable for years waiting for parts from their manufacturers overseas. I really wish that I had visited Kennnywood when it was still family owned and not controlled by people in Spain!

By the way, SCBB does reopen today! You just have to live in the same county and reserve a time slot online. All indoor rides and attractions are also closed. Sounds fun. ;-)

K. Martinez said...

"Lou and Sue", Glad you enjoyed today's post. Major sure comes u with some fun photos on other amusement parks. I really liked being a ride operator and especially working on the Anton Schwarzkopf "Jet Star" coaster and Giant Dipper roller coaster. Always busy and I loved seeing visitors having a good time. That and I'm a coaster enthusiast even to this day.

Melissa, I can see that about the old rides. Source parts are hard to come by after an attraction is discontinued. Sometimes a machinist has to make parts for some of the old rides. It just comes to the point where it's too expensive to maintain for a park budget.

Kathy, that is so cool you lived in Santa Cruz. I still live a short walk away from the Boardwalk in the Seabright neighborhood.

Andrew, Do you know which three other rides retired from operation in Kennywood besides the Log Jammer? As much as I'd love to run to the Boardwalk I'm staying put for now.

It's great seeing love for the Doobie Brothers. I liked them as well. Hard to believe it was that long ago.

Omnispace said...

Major, thanks for the photos - Ken for the excellent commentary! There's way too much I could say about the SC Boardwalk so I'll try to keep it to the photos. The Casino building had the most fantastic arcade inside it, and it was nice to stroll past the shops along the colonnade. It's a shame that not all the buildings are being conserved. Part of the charm is the mishmash of styles from different eras.

I loved the Autorama area! We would pass by it walking from the large parking lots along the river. Later on when my dad lived nearby we would walk the train trestle that crosses the San Lorenzo river (seen Lost Boys anyone?). At least they eventually built an actually walkway. The photo looks just like I remember seeing it for the first time, though a bit sparse without the log ride towering over it. I think there was a Rock-O-Plane ride in that area as well.

The last time I was at the Boardwalk, Eddie Money was giving a free concert on the beach. :)

I never realized the true structure of the Boardwalk until I finally took the Cave Train. It's massive down there! I guess the original Jetstar area could be considered to be an extra level up.

JC Shannon said...

I love em all, Sue, but Takin it to the Streets is one of my favs as well. My all time favorite is Black Water. They are great live as well.

DBenson said...

I went to UCSC (class of 77) and would hit the Boardwalk a few times each quarter.
Architecturally the Boardwalk has always been eclectic, as if Disneyland randomly shuffled facades from different lands onto Main Street. There's Art Deco and 50s Moderne, some recreated and some genuinely vintage. The Giant Dipper acquired a Disneyesque turn-of-the-century entrance, and the Casino / Coconut Grove building's exterior was restored to a period look (there's an upstairs ballroom I've never seen). The carousel was very handsomely restored, and is surrounded by three antique band organs that play in turn. And yes, you can grab a ring and throw it into a giant clown mouth.

The Neptune's Kingdom building was originally an indoor pool. Long before I got there it had been filled and turned into a retro-looking miniature golf course. Some years after I graduated the whole building was heavily rethemed to a Jules Verne / pirates look, with a much flashier mini golf.

There used to be a show by the Jax Marionettes tucked away in the Casino building. I went in once and sat in the small, half-full bleacher. The show was a quarter hour and kind of cute. A talking Pink Panther was the emcee, outfitted as a 70s disco deejay. Various oddball numbers, including a dancing R2D2 and a spooky number with skeletons and ghosts.

Pre-covid I'd get over to Santa Cruz a few times a year and include a walk on the Boardwalk. I drifted away from skeeball and other ticket-producing games because the prizes are now totally generic. Back in the day I scored a tin cup with photos of the Boardwalk printed on it. Now I eat something unhealthy and hunt for reasonably unique souvenirs.

"Lou and Sue" said...

JC Shannon, how could I forget “China Grove” - that’s up at the top of my list too. “Black Water” is an excellent song, too.

DBenson, something unhealthy like funnel cakes with lots of powdered sugar??

Melissa said...

DBenson, your story reminds me of Frank Oz, who ran a local amusement park’s puppet theater as a teen.

zach said...

Ken, Alan was a ride operator, I don't know exactly but I remember him talking about the Cave train once. We are still in touch but it was 50 years ago! I'll ask him next time I see him. He must have great memories like you do.

Thanks for sharing, everyone, and augmenting the photos.

DBenson, thanks for the reminder of the brass ring on the Carousel.

Last time I was there my unhealthy food choice was a corndog.


Andrew said...

K. Martinez, the Log Jammer was removed in 2017. Kennywood is also getting rid of their Paratrooper and Enterprise (not much of a loss), but I'll really miss the Bayern Kurve (Schwarzkopf). I would be more understanding if they were planning something for the future, but none of these rides will be replaced for probably about five years. Removing four rides, two of them extremely historic, just seems ridiculous as a reaction to one bad season. It will be bad optics to open next year with the same or higher admission and four fewer rides.

No indoor attractions at Santa Cruz includes the carousel!

Major Pepperidge said...

zach, I hope Ken knows Alan!

Jonathan, I guess I don’t know that one. I had an album or two years ago, but it’s been forever since I listened to them!

Nanook, funny, I have started looking at “arcade photos” on eBay for anything that might be fun. No luck so far, but there is no shortage of photos of celebrities from days gone by. Pretty girls and cowboys seem to dominate.

K. Martinez, thank you again for all of your great help with today’s post, I couldn’t have done it without you - or I could have, but it would have stunk!

Lou and Sue, I love vintage amusement parks of any kind, but a beachside boardwalk is always something special, whether they are “new” and shiny, or getting rundown. I like “China Grove” myself, though the Doobies have lots of good songs.

Melissa, wow, nowadays they can make parts for antique autos and other machines using 3D printing (yes, even in strong steel). Could’t they do that for those rides? Maybe it’s too expensive to 3D print the pieces necessary, but Jay Leno has used it to make parts for his steam fire engines.

Kathy, you are lucky that you got to go to the Boardwalk a bunch of times! Doombuggy style ride vehicles, wow, I’ll have to look that up! Sounds neat.

Andrew, I think you might be ranting! But it’s OK, rant away. I want the Boardwalk to do well, but I don’t want anybody to get sick either. Stay safe, folks.

K. Martinez, I only wish I had more photos of the Santa Cruz Boardwalk, but they are not common. I don’t even remember where I got that first one, it might have just been a lucky find in a random box. Some of my best Disneyland slides were found that way.

Omnispace, thank you for your personal memories (the short version)! I envy your experiences. I have seen the Lost Boys! But it’s been a while, not sure if it holds up. It has the two Coreys though, so how bad can it be? Eddie Money, a friend of mine saw him singing at the Mid-state Fair! I like how your comment is followed by literal omnispace.

Jonathan, oh yeah, I like Black Water too, but China Grove is still my fave!

DBenson, I think I would find the mix of styles at the Boardwalk to be charming, since the thing grew organically over years. In other words, it wasn’t designed in one go from a master plan, like Disneyland. I love a good antique carousel, especially the kind where you have to reach for the brass ring for a free ride. Seaside amusement parks often had indoor pools (or “baths”), sometimes with salt water AND fresh water pools, and cool long slides. Gosh, I wish I knew more about the Boardwalk, between your description and Ken’s, it sounds like a truly wonderful place. Your tin cup with the photos sounds pretty cool; I have a tin tray from there, somewhere.

Lou and Sue, no no, “China Grove” is MY favorite! Oh all right, it can be your favorite too.

Melissa, I wonder if Frank Oz ever imagined that puppeteering would turn into a big Hollywood career?

zach, yes, ask your friend if he remembers Ken! That would be cool.

Andrew, unfortunately Disney has raised prices and offered less plenty of times, I hope the Kennywood people don’t take that as a model to follow. As TokyoMagic! says, “They ruin everything!”.

Anonymous said...

Wow, what a great post!

Major and Ken, thanks so much!

I had only a few visits to the SCBW, my first one, I recall the buildings looking like photo 1. I think that was probably in the 70's, but not sure.

Second trip we had our kids with us, I think we rode some of the junior rides, but money was tight.

Third trip, just a few years back, my wife and I were in town for business, and I never noticed the changes to the Casino. We rode the Dipper and the Carousel.

Really enjoyed the comments too, thanks everyone.