Saturday, January 28, 2023

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

Today we're going to visit the famous (and historic) Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. It was founded in 1907, and as Wikipedia tells us, it is California's oldest surviving amusement park and one of the few seaside parks on the West Coast of the United States. Pretty cool! Fred W. Swanton formed the Santa Cruz Beach, Cottage, and Tent City Corporation in 1903 and the following year, the City of Santa Cruz granted permission for commercial buildings to be built. On 14 June 1904, the Neptune Casino opened with an arcade, grill and dining room, and a theater. Now you know.

I'm starting with the best image, this fantastic photo of a mom and her two sons posing in front of the amazing entrance to the Fun House. You can read an excellent article about the Fun House HERE, but in short it opened in 1925 - however the clown entrance wasn't added until sometime in the 1940s. The linked article states that kids would try to steal the teeth, and I've seen black and white photos that do not have the dark teeth here, so maybe they were successful! Incidentally, you may remember these boys from some Disneyland pix.

It seems as if 99% of all boardwalk and carnival rides go in circles, and this tiny car ride is no exception. I swear it looks like that kid is sitting in a large shoe, he barely fits. But hey, he's happy! 

I don't have the foggiest idea what this ride is called. It's kind of goofy looking, but maybe those vehicles are supposed to be stylized airplanes? I know YOU guys will know.

Aw, mom and dad look as cute as two bugs. Besides the ride seen in the previous slide, there is something to the left that may or may not be another attraction? Some sort of Ferris Wheel variant? The star of the photo is the Giant Dipper roller coaster, built in 1924, and reportedly one of the most popular wooden coasters in the world. A 2016 estimate says that over 60 million people had ridden the Giant Dipper, and in 2023 many millions more have been thrilled by it.

I hope you have enjoyed your visit to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk!


Nanook said...

And here I was all set to go into the Fun House in my wet bathing suit. So much for that plan.

That poor lad looks as if he was born in that car-! He better be making plans to 'trade-up' right-quick.

Thanks, Major.

JB said...

Major, that flat ride is called the Flying Scooters. It probably has other names and other variations in appearance, as well. (If Andrew chimes in, he'll probably know the model and manufacturer). It's kind of an interesting ride: The front 'sail' can be swung back and forth. So as the ride spins around, the 'sail' can be used to swing you outward, or inward, which equals higher and lower. Sort of a low-tech Rocket Jets.
The only reason I know this is because I downloaded a working 3D model of the ride for RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 (a themepark simulation game).

In the last pic, that's a classic Rock-O-Plane ride on the left. Made by Eyerly.

Why yes! I did enjoy my visit to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk! So nice of you to take us there, Major.

TokyoMagic! said...

Nanook, I think that sign reads, "Patrons In White Bathing Suits Not Allowed In Fun House."

Knott's installed their own "Flying Scooters" ride, 10 years ago. It's in the "Boardwalk" section of the park (formerly the "Roaring 20s) and it's called Surfside Gliders.

Thanks for the vintage trip to the Santa Cruz Boardwalk, Major!

Chuck said...

I’ll just say these are cool and I wish I could be in them. I hope Ken Martinez checks in today - this is his “home” park and he worked here at one time.

JC Shannon said...

Boy, that could be me and my brother. My mom used to love going to fun places. Ah, good times. The younger one is wearing the 60s kid uniform, except he is not wearing his US Keds, a fashion faux pas for sure. It seems like the perfect weather too. Every time we went to the Boardwalk or POP it was foggy. Oh, and Major that is a shoe he is driving, it's a Shoebaru. Budum bum! But seriously, this is a great randomsat. Thanks Major.

Andrew said...

JB, good ID on the rides. The Flying Scooter was made by Bisch-Rocco, and this is the smaller version they produced. Love that paint scheme.

I think the park is closed in these pictures, and the kids are just climbing on the rides for some goofy pictures. Aside from this family being the only ones there, the second picture shows the Flying Scooter cars tied together and tied to the ground by a chain, which would never be done if the ride was open.

In the last picture, I wonder if those are old railroad station waiting room benches?

Thanks, Major, for some pictures of what's probably my #1 bucket list amusement park! Hoping Ken chimes in with his ride operator stories!

Andrew said...

I have to leave this here too. I've been on several Flying Scooter rides, but they all pale in comparison to the Flyer at Knoebels in Elysburg, PA. This is what I mean. It has a noisy diesel engine, hasn't been slowed down, and has no pesky rope attached to the top of the sail to limit its range of motion... perfection. ;-)

JG said...

Wow, I love the Fun House Clown! I wonder if it inspired the similar element in Pinocchio? Was a clown face just part and parcel of Fun House entries?

Like others, I hope Ken reads today, he will know all about these pics.

I visited here with Mom and Dad in the 70’s, it was fun but we were spoiled by Disneyland. I recall riding the Wild Mouse, a little wood coaster, in my limited experience, Goofys Sky School is similar. The Penny Arcade was awesome and Ken recalls the same game I played.

We visited again just a few years ago and rode the big coaster. I didnt find out this was Ken’s home till after, would have been fun to say hi.

This family had a good time in spite of so many ride closures, “shoebaru” groan!

Thank you Major!


Sunday Night said...

Sometime in the early 60s my parents took me to the Santa Cruz boardwalk, and I went in the Fun House. It was the first time I ever visited an “old fashioned” fun house complete with wooden slide and turntable spin. I remember riding both. It was like going back to the 1920s.

Kathy! said...

Aw, I lived in Santa Cruz for a year and visited the Boardwalk multiple times. No Funhouse clown heads were there anymore. I remember a big spider on top of a haunted house ride with many “homages” to the Haunted Mansion. How unusual that people were able to sit in closed rides like these folks. Thanks for some fun photos that brought good memories, Major.

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, my pants are wet, but I’m not wearing a bathing suit, so I am good to go as far as the Fun House goes. I seriously wonder how that kid got in (or will get out of) that car.

JB, “Flying Scooters” is a fun name, thanks for the ID. I love that it gave riders some measure of control. Just like the Rocket Jets, as you said! Funny that you know it because of RollerCoaster Tycoon 3. Rock-O-Plane, another great name, I know I’ve seen them before but always forget what they are. Be sure to buy a hot dog and enjoy the ocean views today!

TokyoMagic!, white bathing suits? Not thinking about it, not thinking about it. I’m amazed that Knott’s installed such and old-fashioned ride as recently as 10 years ago, but I’m glad they did it. I’m trying to think of some dumb pun name that Disney would give it if they had one at California Adventure, but I can’t come up with anything.

Chuck, yes, I am hoping Ken checks in too! Maybe I should email him and give him a “heads up”.

Jonathan, fun places? Why would anyone want to go to those? I prefer construction sites and swamps. And the occasional garbage dump! The Ked-less kid was a snappy dresser, he was already into loafers at that young age. “Shoebaru”, I love it.

Andrew, the park does look suspiciously empty, but if so, it’s pretty amazing that anyone could just goof around on the rides even if they were closed. However, I imagine the idea sounds like heaven to you! (It sounds pretty cool to me too). Good eye on the chain, which would have meant nothing to me. Now I am an expert! I could see those benches being in a railroad station (or bus depot), but it’s hard to know if that’s where they are from.

Andrew, whoo-hoo! Yeah, don’t slow down those rides! Thanks for that!

JG, I’ve seen other buildings with giant clown faces, including a slide that I have from a place in Louisiana, so I guess that was “a thing” for a while. I went to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk back in the early 90s, but I was with my grandma and mother, we just happened to be in Santa Cruz for another event. So I don’t even remember going on any rides except for the Sky Ride, or whatever it is called. I wish I’d done the Cave Train.

Sunday Night, I know I went in an old-fashioned Fun House when I was little, but can’t tell you where it was. We moved so many times (Navy family), and it’s all a blur. But I remember thinking it was weird! For some reason these stairs that moved back and forth really made an impression.

Kathy!, I am jealous of your time at the Boardwalk - it’s one of those experiences that harkens back to simpler times, and from what I understand, the Boardwalk had undergone a lot of “updating”, so you got to see it when it was GREAT.

Melissa said...

"Nanook, I think that sign reads, 'Patrons In White Bathing Suits Not Allowed In Fun House.'"

White bathing suits always make me think of Elizabeth Taylor in Suddenly, Last Summer.

I don't know about fun houses specifically, but clown mouth entrances aren't uncommon for old-time amusement park entrance gates.

MysteryChef said...

I got to visit the Santa Cruz boardwalk in 1976 when I was a teenager attending a three week summer Esperanto course at San Francisco State University, tagging along with a father and daughter who were fans of this amusement park.

This was my first real roller coaster experience. I’d been on the Matterhorn before, and the Wild Mouse at the Seattle Center Fun Forest, but not a huge, traditional wooden roller coaster. I was impressed by its fiendish design, making riders think their skulls would crash into the overhead crossbeams.

This was also my only chance to ride a carousel with a ring dispenser. I had always thought of a merry-go-round as a little kid's ride, but leaning out to grab a metal ring made it much more of a thrill ride.

Chuck said...

”…clown mouth entrances…”. Wasn’t there one of those in It?

JB said...

Andrew, thanks for the link! Excellent demonstration of what the Flying Scooters ride is about. I think you're right about the Santa Cruz park being closed; I hadn't noticed that the Scooter cars were 'shackled'. I think I subconsciously noted the absence of other people but didn't put 2+2 together.

Major, well they can't call it "Goofy's Sky School"; that name's taken. How about "Donald's Flying Boats"? It's not punny, but it sounds like a name Disney would use.

Melissa, "Suddenly, Last Summer". Now I'm wondering if the Santa Cruz Boardwalk sold 'mysterymeat-on-a-stick". ;-p

MysteryChef, thanks for sharing your recollections.

Chuck, seems like there was a Clown Mouth in Beetlejuice and Killer Klowns as well.

Nanook said...

@ MysteryChef-

I believe 'Esperanto' has been mentioned on these pages in the past; uncertain if 'Interlingua' has, tho', as we reference the world of obscure "languages".

The famous, SCBB 1911 Looff Carousel - with its ring toss is pretty-much a rarity these times. I never felt so inadequate as a 20-something, as when watching [probably] 13-15 year-old boys grabbing two rings at-a-time - using one of two methods: Grabbing one in each hand (seems tricky-enough, when the speed of the carousel is factored-in); -or- placing the left hand on the end of the 'dispenser arm' for stabilization, and with the right hand, in rather insane, rapid succession - using separate fingers to grab two rings. The entire procedure couldn't have lasted longer than about 1.25 seconds. (It kinda relegates the 'mere act' of getting a bulls-eye in the clown's mouth reduced to that of child's play-!)

LOOK HERE to see the clown, and in the foreground the ring dispensing arm, with a single ring loaded at the end... just ripe for the taking.

MysteryChef said...

Nanook --
I had forgotten about the tossing the ring into the clown's mouth part of the ride. I know I didn't manage to hit the bullseye.

I would have become an Interlinguist if the downtown Seattle public library had any circulating copies of their Interlingua books. (They were reference copies only, stored downstairs in the stacks.) I had just read an article about Interlingua in a children's news magazine, and I had a negative opinion about Esperanto, that it was a fad from the past. But the library did have several Esperanto books that could be checked out and I was won over. And the rest, of course, is history.

K. Martinez said...

Wow! How did I miss this one? These are great photos of the Boardwalk long ago. I would say around the 1950's. I remember that Funhouse well and the entrance. The Funhouse is long gone and was replaced by a complex that contained two food facilities, Bumper Cars and a Schwartzkopf Jet Star above. All that is now long gone and replaced with different food facilities and a different coaster (the third one in that location). The mirrors in that funhouse still exist at the Boardwalk in the Neptune's Kingdom complex next to the Casino. at least I think so. I haven't been to the Boardwalk since the Covid pandemic breakout.

That Rock-O-Plane still exists at the Boardwalk as does the Giant Dipper rollercoaster you see. I worked both those attractions back in the 1970's and they are still operating. In fact, I think the Rock-O-Plane and Tilt-A-Whirl and the only vintage flat rides still operating there.


The park is most likely open. The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk has always had security to prevent folks from climbing onto the rides. What is probably happening that day is it is early in the day's operations, or it is doing partial operation. Sometimes the Boardwalk will close large sections of the Boardwalk but operate a few rides in the winter or off-season. It depends on the crowds. I worked plenty of days where the Boardwalk was practically empty, but some of the rides were still operating for the few that came.

Chuck, yes, next time give me a heads up. I'd appreciate something like that and it's always great to hear from you anyway. Sometimes my schedule is busy, and I forget to check in.

Mystery Chef, I think you visited at the peak of the Boardwalk history in my opinion. I thought the mid-197's were the best years of the Boardwalk. It's just my opinion, but there were still lots of classic and vintage rides, but with new coasters. In fact, at that time there were three roller coasters operating at the Boardwalk: Giant Dipper, Wild Mouse and Jet Star. I loved the Wild Mouse.

Kathy, I remember that giant spider on the Haunted Castle facade. ONe of my favorite props on the Boardwalk. That Haunted Castle was replaced by the New Haunted Castle with multi-level track. Also, didn't know you lived in Santa Cruz for year. Are you local to Northern California or the Central Coast?

Anyway, this is a great post today. T hank you Major.

Bu said...

What is this Wonka? Some kind of fun house? Why? Having fun? Best. Line. Ever. I use it all the time and crack myself up while bystanders look at me strangely. We did not go to any place like this ever. My parents weren't into all. Us kids were very into it, so when that happens....later in go to work at Disneyland. There ya go. I've driven through Santa Cruz...always going to somewhere else. I did a few design jobs in Carmel down the coast a few more miles, which is another kind of destination, and was home to Doris Day who owned the "Cypress Inn". You would walk into the lobby and have to step over dogs to get to your room. Not kidding. So very charming, as is the whole village...which culminates at a lovely Pacific Ocean beach. I have to consider myself very fortunate to be paid to live in places like this in life. Rides I did experience later in life...much to the consternation of hearing Walt's voice saying "NOT BY THE BEACH...we DONT want people coming in in white bathing suits!" But, during the 1939 promotion at the Queen Mary we did a little expression of these types of "carny" rides. We branded it "Brighton Beach Fair" was cute, but rather low brow...we tried. There were some fun costumes for the ride operators that in the Wrather days were clothed in basically tattered and faded rags. Also not kidding. The rest of the '39 promotion was actually well done and gave some life to a dying tourist attraction/hotel/banquet hall/bar/shopping al. We opened the first stateside Harrods (then lent us official "Green Man" uniforms) and QE2's cousin came for the opening - the ...Prince Michael. We had a exhibit of super duper cool cars from 1939 all restored, and ultimately for sale at the end of the promotion. There was a convertible Rolls Royce that did not have license plates nor registration nor anything...and the Prince got in, started it up and drove away. I got the "why did you let him do that, this can be a problem! We are only renting that car!"....he and a small entourage drove around Long Beach and returned unscathed. Disney brass types were nervous. I went to ride the tilt a whirl after that, which was great fun...until some guest started walking around it mid-ride. Booze was big biz at the QM and I will leave it there for a delightful Saturday. Thanks Major.


I just saw the restored HAROLD LOYD 1928 film “SPEEDY” and a big chunk of the film was shot at Coney Island - Steeple Chase -Luna Park and shows great clear footage of the Flying Scooter … also a flying Zeppelin …. And awesome views both day and night of the park’s entrance with spinning windmill like spiral stars ..of course everything looks incredible….and incredibly DANGEROUS!!
After a lift and drop , the Shoot the Chutes has to be hand paddles back to the loading ( arrow development was 30 years away)
The ROARING 20’s : the Charleston - rumble seats - 20 cent gasoline -radio commercials- rickets - whiplash - deadly amusement parks Bi-Jingo!!

Just that 1928 Coney Island entrance needs to be recreated somewhere!

A friend of mine is deathly afraid of clowns : I can’t wait to show her that Santa Cruz clown entry !!

Chuck said...

Mike, “A friend of mine is deathly afraid of clowns…”

Are you implying that there are actually people who aren’t?

DBenson said...

Attended UCSC (class of 77) and would get down to the Boardwalk multiple times each year. Back then, the antique machines weren't really regarded as treasures. They were just old, but still working so leave them be. The fun house was long gone. What is now Neptune's Kingdom was originally the Plunge, a big indoor swimming pool with unfussy, vaguely art deco architecture. The pool itself had long since been filled in and topped with a hand-crafted miniature golf course, far less fancy than the one now in place.

Machines dispensed B&W postcards of celebrities already unfamiliar, fortunes, and joke calling cards ("Girl Inspector"). Little metal men kicked ball bearings at goals, or putted them into holes. Motorized Mutoscopes showed ancient film clips. One, "The Old Swimming Hole", ended with a topless young lady waist deep in opaque water, innocently waving to somebody off camera. A machine that looked like a Mutoscope promised "The Original FAN DANCE". Deposit your money, and you saw a Japanese fan with little doll legs attached, bobbing on strings.

There was a real live marionette theater in the arcade building, a room with a single bleacher. I saw a performance in what was possibly its last season. A talking Pink Panther was the host, and there was also a dancing R2D2. Sometimes wondered if copyright lawyers got after them.

Even then, Disneyfication was in progress. A big modern log flume ride went up, state-of-the-art pinball and then computer games crowded the more mechanical stuff to the edges of the arcade, and stretches of modern theme park architecture appeared. The Boardwalk still has a lot of character, but a lot of the quaint and occasionally racy old stuff is either gone or polished into Respectability. Last time I think the fan dance was still there. Pretty sure The Old Swimming Hole was gone.