Oinkers: The Pot Bellied Pig Store

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 and The Cyclone Racer

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.

Larry Osterhoudt shared with me his modeling of the 17 hills of the Cyclone Racer roller coaster.

Long Beach, the Hollywood of Yesteryear

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.

Long Beach is well known for its’ creative community. Ren informed me of a surprising fact. Before there was Hollywood, there was Long Beach! I quickly tried finding out which movie studios were in Long Beach. I found an article on a website called LA Almanac which tells of the Long Beach movie heritage. This article in turn cites archives hosted by California State University, Long Beach.

Here is the lineup:

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.

Halloween in the 50’s

Smilin’ Jack turns 67.

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.

Navy Housing

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.

The Dolly Varden Hotel

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.

Here is a video I took of the hotel.

Cemetary Tour: Historical Society of Long Beach

You can tell a lot about a city’s history from its cemetaries. 8 stories, each taking about 20 minutes. Only $15 if you are a member of the Historical Society of Long Beach (not of the cemetary… in that case, your admission is free! Bahhhhhaaahhaaa!)

For non members, the cost is only $20. Youth aged 5-18 only $8. 4 and under, free! Learn more and purchase tickets at the HSLB site.

Laffing Sal

I’d seen Laffing Sal before, so when I saw a photo of and reference to her in my new copy of Patricia Ann Stockdale’s book “The Long Beach Pike”.

I wondered. “Is that the same Laffing Sal that I saw up at the Musee Mechanique on San Francisco’s Pier 45?” I am sharing the video I took there… It’s not ‘our’ Laffing Sal, but is very close. The clothes and hat might be different.

I found a reference to Laughing (laffing) Sal on Page 45 of the book: The Long Beach Pike by Patricia Ann Stockdale.

Laffing Sal and Laffing Sam were large animatronic characters that were mounted above the “Laff in the Dark” attraction (ride) on the Pike. Wikipedia shares that another animatronic character, Blackie the Barker, was made by the same company and was also mounted above the “Laff in the Dark” attraction. Another site mentioned that Blackie the Barker was the first to deteriorate from the weather. Since they were made in the 1920s and 1930s, it would make sense that the Laff in the Dark attraction was built before or around those years. Let’s call it a research to-do point.

Funnily enough, when I brought up the subject of Laffing Sal, a visiting friend mentioned that he had seen the character at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk. We looked it up, and sure enough, it was! It makes me wonder “What else is on that boardwalk?”

Wikipedia notes that “Laffing Sal (sometimes incorrectly called “Laughing Sal”) was produced by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company (PTC) of Germantown, Pennsylvania during the 1920s and early 1930s. PTC subcontracted fabrication of the figures to the Old King Cole Papier Mache Company of Canton, Ohio.[1]

The figure stood 6 feet, 10 inches (2.0 m) high, including a 12-inch (30 cm) pedestal. It was made of papier-mâché, consisting of seven layers of pressed card stock with horse-hair strengthener, mounted over steel coils and frame. It did not come with a hat — hats were added by purchaser — but wore an artificial wig and was missing an upper incisor tooth.[3] The head, arms, hands and legs were detachable and were held together with fabric, staples, pins, nails, nuts and bolts. When activated, the figure waved its arms and leaned forward and backward. A record player concealed in its pedestal played a stack of 78 RPM phonograph records of a woman laughing. When the records finished, an attraction operator re-stacked and restarted them.[1] A woman named Tanya Garth performed the laugh.[4]

‘Our’ Long Beach Laffing Sal In the Movies and TV

The following references are all taken from Wikipedia.

The 1954 Technicolor 3-D film Gorilla at Large features Laffing Sal and Laffing Sam at The Pike (then called Nu-Pike) in Long Beach, California.

A 1963 episode of Perry MasonThe Case of the Two-Faced Turnabout, features the Laffing Sal and Laffing Sam at the Nu-Pike amusement park in Long Beach, California.

An episode of The Magician with Bill Bixby features the Laffing Sal at the Nu-Pike amusement park in Long Beach in the early 1970s.

The Cyclone Racer Roller Coaster

The last remaining car of the Cyclone Racer can be seen at Looff’s Pike Museum at 2500 Long Beach Blvd.

The Cyclone Racer Roller Coaster was conceived of by Fred Church and built by Harry Traver.(1)

The Cyclone Racer was a two train racing roller coaster that graced the Long Beach Pike between 1930 and 1968. Built to replace the JackRabbit Racer in 1930, the Cyclone Racer was 94 feet tall and had 17 drops(2). This wooden marvel was built on a pier that extended a couple of hundred feet over the water and, looking down, you could see the ocean through purposeful gaps in the pier flooring, making the ride even more thrilling. (3)

The turns and drops were designed so as to make you feel as if you would be thrown off of the car and into the Pacific Ocean. It was indeed a race as, although two trains left the station at the same time, the winning train varied and depended partly upon the load of the passengers in the car. (4)

It appears that there might have been seat belts that could be fastened(5) but lap bars had not yet been invented(6). Note: Upon conversation with Larry Osterhoudt, the part of the Leave It To Beaver episode where I observed a seat belt was observed being fastened, was filmed on the Pacific Ocean Park Pier in Santa Monica. Other parts were filmed on the Cyclone Racer.

The roller coaster was featured in episodes of “Abbott and Costello” and “Leave it to Beaver” (7).

Rides cost 25c for most of the time the Cyclone Racer was operational. Near the end, the cost was increased to 35 c. (8) Note: Later conversation with Larry Osterhoudt shared that the initial cost was 15c. We observed together a photo with a 10c re-ride sign.

The braking was initially done through exertion of physical force, requiring the ride to be operated by men. During the war, this was changed over to air-braking, as men were sent to war, and women took over the role of ride operator. (9)

Larry Osterhoudt, who runs website cycloneracer.com, is interviewed extensively for the video “The Cyclone Racer”, which provided much of the content for this post. Actual video of the ride in action is downloadable from this website, along with considerable amount of additional information for your reading pleasure.

I was able to check out the CD “The Cyclone Racer” from the Bayshore Library in Long Beach. I could not find a copy available for purchase.

In 2003 a bridge, which design evokes memories of the Cyclone Racer, was built over Shoreline Drive. The story of that bridge is very interesting, you can read about it in the Los Angeles Times.

IF you love wooden roller coasters, you can still see one up close at Knott’s Berry Farm. Called the Ghost Rider, it was built in 1998 and appears to still be operational.


(1), (2) – https://www.kcet.org/shows/lost-la/a-walk-along-long-beachs-gaudy-tawdry-bawdy-pike

(3), (4), (5), (6), (7), (8), (9) the Cyclone Racer on the PIKE World’s Greatest Thrill Ride Video, Authentic History Productions, 2004

Egyptian Geese

The Colorado Lagoon sits between the communities of Alamitos Heights and Belmont Heights. Restored and clean, it is a haven for migrating birds as they head north for the summer, or south for the winter.

I had noticed the distinctive birds some time before, but didn’t have my camera at the time. On October 4, 2019 I noticed the birds again, parked the car and walked back to take photos and a video. I shared these on Next Door, a social media site for those who live in close proximity to each other.

Avid birder and naturalist Robb Hamilton reported that they first appeared on September 18th, 2019.

Here are photos and videos. Will the population of egyptian geese continue to grow, or will they simply move on? Only time will tell.

Now, I would like to tell you about the peacocks. I will leave that for another day.