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.

Making Long Beach History

All around us, at every second, history is being made. Oxford describes history as:

“The whole series of past events connected with someone or something.”

This project is about the history of Long Beach, a community of about 1/2 million residents in Los Angeles County, California.

I invite you to read of my experiences, explorations and musings as I find people, places and stories to consider. Some of them will be stories of yesterday. Some of them will be stories of today. The history of tomorrow.

Patricia Tsoiasue is otherwise known as Squigglemom, and is the creator of the Community Lemonade Game, a scavenger hunt for finding community that uses a basic set of values as a guide. The Gauntlet is the challenge.

The Gauntlet is the Challenge

Five things in my challenge:

  • Learn about Long Beach’s History
  • Connect with individuals and share what we learn on this blog, on the Squigglemom YouTube channel, and on any other media our community cares to share.
  • Connect the truths to fiction we write and publish
  • Create visuals in LEGO and other media (it’s my challenge)
  • Make Lemonade

It won’t be easy, and it won’t be quick. I invite you to join my discovery of Long Beach as it was yesterday, and as it is today.