We’ll file this one under: The Amazing Rides of the Historic Long Beach Pike.
The heyday of the Historic Long Beach Pike was from 1902 to 1955 (when Disneyland opened). It was one of five amusement zones in the United States. Rides were just being invented and Long Beach had some unique attractions, not found elsewhere.
Built by the Allan Herschell Company of New York. the Double Ferris Wheel was designed by two brothers, Elmer and Curtis Velare.
The brothers called it The Sky Wheel, and it was a double Ferris wheel, with two wheels going in different directions. It was a built sort of like a teeter totter, with one wheel going up and the other down.
“Two wheels of eight cars each were connected with an armature. The armature would allow loading/unloading of the lower wheel while the upper one revolved, then top and bottom wheels would swap and when both were loaded and spinning, several turns of the armature provided serious thrills.”
I don’t have images of the historic Pike’s double Ferris wheel that I can share, but I expect to start learning how to draw soon.
The photo I did find, was from a book of really great references, THE PIKE ON THE SILVERSTRAND, published by the Historical Society of Long Beach in 1982.
In the meantime, please check out the video of the double Ferris Wheel I created in LEGO(r) bricks as a LEGO Great Ball Contrapton. It looks nothing like the double ferris wheel created by the Velare brothers, but perhaps it can be the model for a new sort of ride!
Nestled atop the colorful Pirate’s Cove Souvenir Shop in Shoreline Village is a space to be treasured. It’s a land of discovery and play, where “Anything Can Start with LEGO Bricks”. It’s called Shoreline Village’s Brickersville, and it is an entrepreneurship skills learning space and LEGO themed activity center.
I’m at risk of self-indulgement when I write of Brickersville. It’s a part of me, I’m a part of it. It is so also for the others who participate in the space, particularly the leadership team.
I’m at risk of omission if I don’t. So let me be guilty of self-indulgement.
We believe in the power of play to engage and take us to new learning.
There is NZ Fawkes, Director of Bricking. As of this writing he is 9, soon to be 10.
There is me, Trish Tsoiasue, Squigglemom and the Game Master of my Game. (everyone is the master of his/her own game).
We’re working on scenes of Shoreline Village and the Long Beach Pike, International communities and multi-National projects in LEGO bricks. Visit us, book your event with us, register for our email list and please don’t blink. Whether we’ll be here today and gone tomorrow is the risk we all take as entrepreneurs.
This post is a post in my digital notebook. All details ar subject to change and this post is subject to update.
The term ‘Wild West’ was usually attributed to the period before the Long Beach Pike, which was the name given to the downtown waterfront amusement area since 1902.
In digging around, even as little as I have yet dug, I am discovering the wonders and stories of the old Pike. In 1902, there was no Disneyland. The Long Beach Pike WAS the amusement. It seems to me, that in 1902, theme park rides were not created just by one or two large companies that hired ride designers. They were created by the companies of the ride designers themselves. The amusement areas were not coordinated by a single entity, they were participated in by different entities that delivered different rides. At least… It appears to me that this is so. Perhaps I am wrong. I’m still sorting through all the details, and will update this post when I find out more.
In one of the many discussions I have had about the ‘old Pike’, I was sharing about the influence of Coney Island and the similarites between Coney Island (which I’ve never visited, but now think I should) and the Long Beach Pike. Coney Island started in the early 1800’s and was a destination resort for the wealthy. The conversation went around to the role of Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, Denmark in Coney Island’s development. However, it appears that Tivoli Gardens may be in a different category from Coney Island and officially opened in August, 1843 – later than Coney Island.
Regardless, I am discovering the very interesting rides of the old Long Beach Pike, and amazing facts about them.
I’m listing them here for my future reference, and expect that I’ll be digging around for more information on each of these.
Sky Wheel, double Ferris wheel: Built by Allan Herschell Company of New York. Two wheels of eight cars each were connected with an armature. The armature would allow loading/unloading of the lower wheel while the upper one revolved, then top and bottom wheels would swap and when both were loaded and spinning, several turns of the armature provided serious thrills.
I’m on a search for truth and history. I want to find memories and to create them as we engage individuals to put themselves into a specific place today and visualize life is it might have been at some previous time.
I share this message with different people who come to our little space in Long Beach, Shoreline Village’s Brickersville, as I seek to understand what memories they have of the village and the old Pike.
On Sunday October 27, 2019, we had an interesting memory that I would like to share with you.
The father shared his memory of Oinkers, the Pot Bellied Pig Store. Folks would buy their pot bellied pigs and, I suppose, their feed and supplies. Those who purchased their pigs would walk them along Shoreline Drive. I suppose it was quite the fad. He shared with me that he had photos of himself and his brother sitting on the land that was there before there was anything, sometime in the 80’s.
According to this fellow, there was nothing, then there was Oinkers, then eventually the Yard House restaurant. I was so excited! I would like to tell you that I was new to this country in the 80’s. I have no memory of a pot bellied pig fad, but I suppose there could have been one. I like to give my visitors the benefit of the doubt.
I shared this memory with my husband after I returned home. He thinks that my visitor was ‘pulling my leg’. What do you think?
My visitor has promised to bring a photo of himself with his pot bellied pig, and one with his brother sitting on the land that was there before the Yard House restaurant. I’m sure he will be back.
Do you have an interesting story to tell? Can you validate his story? Can you invalidate it? Visit us at Shoreline Village’s Brickersville to share your story.
Larry Osterhoudt with his partial model of the Cyclone Racer.
I visited with Cyclone Racer enthusiast, Larry Osterhoudt on Thursday, October 17, 2019 at 3:00 PM.
Larry’s on a mission to re-create The World’s Greatest Ride, the old Pike’s Cyclone Racer roller coaster, on a new pier in downtown Long Beach. He’s spent years studying old photos and videos and collecting facts and tidbits, not just of The Cyclone Racer, but also of roller coasters of old around the USA.
It may seem like a Wild Idea, but we all know that some of the best ideas start as Wild Ideas. Whether Larry’s vision of a new Pike with a new Cyclone Racer will be realized, time will tell. Today I will share with you some interesting tidbits that came up in conversation with Larry that day. It’s not everything I learned that day, some I will save for another day.
Larry walked me through the 17 hills of the Cyclone Racer. I’d heard the number before but, not having thought too much about the way a rollercoaster works, the meaning of the 17 hills didn’t impress me. That day I realized this: The only conveyance of energy to the roller coaster car was then, and still is the chain that catches the car and takes it up to the top of the first hill.
After that, it’s all gravity and momentum.
The roller coaster needs to be able to complete the run each time, consistently, regardless of the weight of people in it.
This is what fascinates Larry Osterhoudt. Here is a video of the 17 hills of the Cyclone Racer design, as analyzed and captured in his engineering drawings.
It’s just something I heard at an artist’s gathering in – of all places – downtown Los Angeles. I was attending a signing event for creative entrepreneurs, zine writers and authors.
You never know when you’re going to find out that someone is from Long Beach. I was hanging with Ren Hanami, David Kono and Don Schmidt. I found out that all have lived in Long Beach at some point in time, some longer than others. David remembers the old drive-in which was near where the Lakewood Blvd/PCH traffic circle is now. His memory precedes the traffic circle. I expect I will be talking more to David Kono.
Actress, director and author Ren Hanami (left), Actor and producer David Kono – Flying Dragon Productions (center) and artist, illustrator & sensei Don Schmidt (right) at CALE event, at the center: A Place Called Home.
California Motion Picture Manufacturing Company (1910, first studio west of Chicago)
International Moving Picture Company in Long Beach (1911, a joint American-Japanese filmmaking venture). In 1913, the Edison Company purchased the studio and made films there. I have more thoughts about Edison’s films – another time.
Balboa Studios was formed from the International Moving Picture Company later in 1913 and was the most productive independent studio in the world from 1918 until 1923, producing comedies, westerns and adventure films. From 1918 to 1923, it was known as Long Beach Studios. Since ‘talkies’ started in 1927, the Balboa Studios movies must have all been silent films. By 1923, when the Long Beach Studios ended, Hollywood had become established, and property in Long Beach and Signal Hill was increasing in value. The studio land was sold and cleared for subdivision.
Ren Hanami and Don Schmidt (pictured above) are creators of children’s book, Ninja Mom and the Tengonis in the Tiki.
I remember the year we piled in the 39 Ford and drove all the way from Artesia to Wilmington to see “the largest pumpkin in the world. At least that’s what we were told. I can’t believe it was 67 years ago or that the Phillips refinery still carries on the tradition.
My parents made every holiday something to look forward to. They made life fun. And, in the 50’s simple things like a drive to Wilmington to see Smilin’ Jack was special.
Bonnie Schmidt shared a photo from 1972. “This is one of my favorite pictures of JoAnne and me when we lived in Long Beach navy housing.”
Her memory is faint. She recalls ” We lived on Grove street near Signal Hill. There was a golf range not far from us. When the weather was dry and windy, our apartment would be covered in sand from the range…lol! I believe the nearest big street was Bellflower Blvd. “
Long Beach’s Naval Shipyard presence spanned 1938 to September 30, 1997. I won’t address this right now, as the subject is too broad.
Here’s a photo of some Navy housing at Santa Fe Ave & West Hill Street in Long Beach. It’s not the same location, but one might imagine that there were several places where the Navy was housed in Long Beach.
Here is the description from the website: “Photograph of an aerial view of a United States Navy housing area in Long Beach, 1940-1950. The houses are laid out in a large rectangular area at center. All of the homes are small, two bedroom structures. A paved road encircles the development, and two roads intersect in the middle. The houses are arranged in an orderly fashion, with most lined up parallel to the streets. The land around the housing development is filled with trees and bushes. Picture file card reads: “U.S. Navy housing. 400 Units, 2 bedroom size on a 40 acre site at Long Beach, Calif. Completed in 85 working days at a cost of $1,300,000. Duplex houses were of stranded steel frame construction, concrete floors, stucco exterior, topped by a colorful fire-proof composition shingle roofing. Circa 1940’s. From: McNeil Construction Company History Album”.
The photo is public domain and was digitally produced by the University of Southern California Library from the California Historical Society Collection at the University of Southern California. You can find it here.
Today it is called “The Varden”. I took a photo of the outside of the building, and walked through the front door. I wasn’t sure it was still a hotel. There was a man sitting behind a desk, so I guessed it might still be one. I thought “What a cute European style hotel!”
The fellow at the desk shared their bookmark advertising with me. It said “European style hotel.” The implication is that it has a small room capacity (35 rooms), serves continental breakfast (it does), and has a feeling of history (certainly). It is all of these, plus it has an afternoon wine gathering. The hotel has been upgraded to a stylish boutique hotel. It’s historic, but does not feel old, as it was recently renovated. I asked whether there was a bathroom in every room. The old hotels in Europe often have shared bathrooms, one or two per floor. I caught myself as I asked, because it’s obvious from the sign.
You may have noticed the sign on the roof as you drove or walked along Pacific Avenue in downtown Long Beach. The hotel website shares that the Dolly Varden was built in 1929, named after circus performer, Dolly Varden who lived in a penthouse on the top floor. It makes me wonder whether it is still a penthouse, and whether Dolly’s penthouse occupied the entire floor. That would certainly have been a luxury.
The hotel’s website informs “The 1935 sign on the roof of the hotel was given city landmark status in 1995, and will remain in place after the renovation. The sign’s landmark status was partially granted based upon the message on the sign, evoking the nostalgic flavor of Long Beach’s past as a prominent beach resort town. The remaining basis for landmark status is its silhouette and shape, typeface of the letters, and the use of neon and metal supporting struts. These are all typical of “thirties signs,” and therefore, historical significance.”
I wonder whether Dolly Varden, the circus performer, ever worked on the Long Beach Pike. As I write this, I am also thinking of the “Parade of Elephants” which event took place when the circus came to town, and which was referenced in a book I recently checked out from the Bayshore library.