The Pike facts for kids
The Bath House and Board Walk, Long Beach, Ca. (1907)
|Location||Long Beach, California, United States|
The Pike was an amusement zone in Long Beach, California. The Pike was founded in 1902 along the shoreline south of Ocean Boulevard with several independent arcades, food stands, gift shops, a variety of rides and a grand bath house. It was most noted for the Cyclone Racer (1930–1968), a large wooden dual-track roller coaster, built out on pilings over the water.
The Pike operated under several names. The amusement zone surrounding the Pike, "Silver Spray Pier", was included along with additional parking in the post World War II expansion; it was all renamed Nu-Pike via a contest winner's submission in the late 1950s, then renamed Queen's Park in the late 1960s in homage to the arrival of the Queen Mary ocean liner in Long Beach. 1979 was the year Long Beach city council refused to renew the land leases and demolished all of the structures and attractions it could that weren't trucked away. The Pike museum is located in Looff's Lite-A-Line at 2500 Long Beach Blvd, Long Beach, CA 90806.
The first major attraction to the seashore at Long Beach was recreational bathing, long before trains and cars, when the only roads were dusty rutted paths littered with horse manure. Residents of Southern California escaped the summer heat by crowding the shore and beaches to enjoy the cool ocean breeze and the Pacific Ocean chilled by the Aleutian current. With the surge of health-conscious new residents and the ease of access to a beach near the services of local merchants, Willmore City became a destination. In 1888, Long Beach Land and Water Company bought William E. Willmore's failed plat of Bixby's Rancho Los Cerritos and changed the name to Long Beach in 1892. The amusement zone began in 1902, as a beach and grand bath house resort at the Long Beach terminus of the Red Car interurban commuter electric railroad system Pacific Electric Railway southern expansion from Los Angeles. A grand bath house was constructed at the shore, scheduled to open Independence Day, 1902. The grand opening of the bath house, known later as The Plunge, coincided with the inaugural run of the first "Red Car" from downtown Los Angeles to Long Beach on the morning of July 4, 1902 – which established service connecting communities along the line to offices and shopping in Downtown Los Angeles as well as bringing bathers and families south to Pacific Ocean shoreline recreation.
Long Beach Municipal Pier
Stretching Pine Avenue south from Ocean Avenue into the Pacific Ocean, the Long Beach Municipal Pier had an upper and lower deck to a service building on the end. Sheltered at the mouth of the Los Angeles River, the public pier served a range of purposes, primarily for trade and commerce, servicing freight and passenger shipping, but also served anglers fishing as well as pedestrian strolling. A simple wooden boardwalk was laid directly at the top of the sand west along the shoreline connecting the pier to the new bathhouse.
Pike, a simple boardwalk
"Pike" was the name of the wooden boardwalk connecting the Pine St. incline of the Long Beach Pier west along the shoreline to The Plunge bath house. It gradually grew in length, was widened again and again and was later poured in concrete and illuminated with strings of electric bulbs as "The Walk of a Thousand Lights", the midway anchoring the widely dispersed attractions and "The Pike" changed context from the original wooden boardwalk to the entire amusement zone. As it grew from a simple beach access made of planks to a midway of concessions, it included The Plunge bathhouse (pictured), Sea Side Studio souvenir photography, the Looff carousel, McGruder salt water taffy, pitch and skill games, pony rides, goat carts, fortune teller, weight guesser and a variety of dark and thrill rides, amusements and attractions large and small.
For a short time, the Long Beach Pier and Rainbow Pier both existed, sharing combined shore access at the Pine street incline. Rainbow Pier was actually a horseshoe (rainbow)-shaped breakwater with a roadway constructed along its crest, connecting Pine St. and the Long Beach Pier eastward to Linden. In the early 1920s, the original Long Beach Municipal Auditorium was constructed on 20 acres (81,000 m2) of tidal zone landfill located south of today's intersection of Ocean and Long Beach boulevards. After the construction of the auditorium, there were problems created by storms and coastal erosion in the area. In order to protect the auditorium from these problems, the horseshoe (rainbow) shaped breakwater and road was constructed around it. Because of its shape, it was named "Rainbow Pier".
In the late 1940s, the City of Long Beach began filling in the water area enclosed by the Rainbow Pier breakwater, creating Rainbow Lagoon and Wilmore Park, [sic] additional public trust lands upon which a larger, more modern auditorium was constructed. Filling of the shoreline area continued in the late 1950s and early 1960s with the Tidelands Filling Project.
In 1954 there were 218 amusements in the park, but during that time the zone began to face stiff competition from Knott's Berry Farm and then Disneyland (both less than 20 miles (32 km) away) and the rough "free-for-all" reputation of The Pike may have discouraged some families from attending. In the 1950s, the area underwent another face-lift. Advertising with coupons appealing to families appeared in local newspapers. A Kiddieland collection of carnival flat rides, a "Bud" Hurlbut miniature train and petting zoo were installed on the silted-in new sand and public restrooms were built of concrete and cinder-block near a new picnic area, giving it a post-World War II modern look, and the park was renamed "Nu-Pike" as result of a write-in naming contest.
In 1969, the name changed again to "Queen's Park", to coincide with the public opening of the historical ocean liner RMS Queen Mary, which the city had purchased as a combination tourist attraction and hotel. The park retained this name until closing and demolition (1979–1980). Most locals continued calling it "The Pike".
Entertainment and shows
A grand bath-house was constructed at the shore and was scheduled to open on Independence Day, 1902, the day on which the Pacific Electric Railroad established service connecting communities along the line to offices and shopping in Downtown Los Angeles and bringing bathers and families south to shoreline recreation. Admission was charged for use of the clear, 'vacuumed', indoor freshwater pool, changing-rooms, and waterslide, all of which lay beyond a colonnade and sundeck. An interior balcony surrounding the pool and an outdoor one facing the beach offered people-watching on reclining lounges. The name was later changed to "The Plunge". When it closed, it was converted to the Strand Theater.
Until 1902, primary access to bathing was over unpaved roads by horse and buggy. A large livery and stables had been built to care for the animals of the bathers. Opening the Pacific Electric Big Red Car line to Long Beach diminished the importance of the livery, which closed as the automotive culture of Southern California developed. It was converted into a skating rink in 1906, then a dance hall by 1911, "The Majestic" featuring big bands. In the 1950s it changed hands and was renamed "The Lido Ballroom".
Live and motion picture theaters
Long Beach downtown featured several theaters, many of which were along the "Walk of 1000 Lights". Starting east of Pine Street with access at Ocean Blvd. and The Pike was Lowes, known for first-run major releases. Several small shop-front theaters, exhibiting side-shows and independent films, came and went along the Walk of a Thousand Lights, but one big (and very tall) one, the Virginia, was later converted into the dark ride "Whispering River". The Strand Theater offered a double feature, after being converted to a picture house when The Plunge closed.
A Pike attraction from 1909 to 1930 was the "Wall of Death" – Reckless Ross Millman, among America's first motorcycle daredevils, built a motordrome near the Jack Rabbit Racer.
The Long Beach Municipal Band played most Sundays and holidays. The band was led by Herbert L. Clarke, who had been a member of John Philip Sousa's Band.
Beginning at the entrance to the "Walk of a Thousand Lights" through the arcade archway entrance of the last surviving building associated with The Pike, the Ocean Center Building containing Hollywood on the Pike cabaret and an amusement arcade, one could stroll west along the midway past storefront games, such as ball-pitch and shooting galleries, as well as outdoor amusement machines such as fortune predicting weight-scales, and several large indoor collections of coin-operated Electro-mechanical amusements - pinball, skill-prize merchandisers, penny-pitch, nickelodeon viewers, love and strength testers, fortune tellers, the House of Mirrors and more. Among the most popular coin-operated amusement machines and devices were the redemption games which dispensed tickets, such as skee-ball.
Proximity to the Naval Shipyards and its many sailors on extended leave during retrofitting supported an ink economy. The dense collection of tattoo shops made next-door and cross-street neighbors of many minor and world-renowned artists, the most famous being Bert Grimm's original Tattoo shop and tattoo artist Rick Walters. The shop is the oldest in the US. Kari Barba purchased the shop in 2003, and it still operates to this day under the name "Outer Limits Tattoo". It is the last remaining business from the original Pike.
Drinking and dining
From low-brow seedy dives like Rudy's (cocktails) and open front liquor stores to upscale cabarets featuring suggestive girly-shows like Hollywood on the Pike, many an opportunity existed for visiting sailors and locals to get drunk - which they did, often in excess. A side effect of mass inebriation and intoxication was that every pocket and corner of the entertainment zone had on it at one time any number of bodily fluids.
A variety of eating establishments ranged from snack stands with corn-dogs, cotton candy, popcorn and hot nuts, or one could sit at soda-pop fountains and counter service restaurants like Lee's Barbecue with menus of chicken, ribs and fish meals, to a secluded booth with table service on linen.
- Laff in the Dark, Dark ride featuring three animated ballyhoo characters over the facade center, a Laffing Sal, Laffing Sam and Blackie the Barker, which was the first to deteriorate from weathering.
- River Ride, [dark ride] ride in cars. Spooks, converted to walk thru attraction. Voodoo Hut, walk thru attraction.
- Round Up, a Frank Hrubetz Co. 30 passenger tire drive single trailer model 18-18.5 RPM, 45° tilt, with chain restraints.
- Rotor trailer model with previewing platform. Sold to Magic Mountain as Spin-Out in 1979.
- Wilde Maus aka Wild Bobs
- Loop-O-Plane by aka Hammer
- Loop Trainer, aka Looper
- Looff Hippodrome (1911–2005) with Carousel (1911–1943) see below.
- Carousel (1944–1979), three course, open air.
- Niagara Barrel (?-?), a wooden spiral slide (often mis-captioned as Bisby's Spiral Airship.)
- Horse Race, a W.F. Mengels Galloping Carrousel, two course, rocking style carousel.
- Space Capsule, observation crane, also known as Moon Rocket and Kiddie-land Hi-Ride.
- Crazie Maize, storefront House of mirrors.
- Skooter, indoor Bumper car.
- Dodgem, Reverchon flat ride bumper car.
- Fun House, storefront walk-through of challenging paths.
- Tilt-A-Whirl by Sellner, later renamed Tilt.
- Super Trooper, umbrella ride.
- Sharks Alive, diving bell, submersible shark tank view.
- Sky Ride, Watkins chairlift.
- Kiddie Land - a collection of several carnival style children sized flat rides and truck rides, such as "hot walker" style miniature boats and sport vehicles.
- Giant Slide.
- Go Karts, Briggs & Stratton gasoline engine powered go-karts.
- Miniature Train (?-1979), a "Bud" Hurlbut steel coaches with gasoline-powered 'steam form' locomotive.
- Wheel of Fun, child Ferris wheel, 6 cages.
- 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.
- Davy Jones Locker- dark ride, ride on cars.
The Looff Carousel Hippodrome
Charles I. D. Looff was one of the first great American carousel master carvers, having installed the first successful carousel at Coney Island, and developing amusements, carousels and roller coasters around the U.S.; examples of his carousels at Santa Monica Pier Looff Hippodrome (1922) and Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk with brass ring feature (1911) still stand. In 1911, Charles I. D. Looff installed a carousel at the Pike in Long Beach, and he took up residence with his son, Arthur Looff and the rest of his family in the second story above the shops in the carousel hippodrome building that would later become home to Lite-a-Line. The horses of the original Long Beach Looff Carousel carved in 1911 were destroyed by fire in 1943. A new outdoor carousel was constructed nearby, and then the building was used as a gaming hall for "Lite-A-Line" bingo/pinball game and for many years was the last remaining building to survive the Pike demolition that began in 1979. The roof structure and cupola had been saved in the parking lot west of Pine Ave and the Ocean Center Building on Seaside Way was awaiting preservation by Mike Cincola, who married into the Looff family and has preserved much of the history of the Pike, some of which can be seen on display at his relocated "Lite-a-Line". The cupola was removed with its crest of popcorn lighted orb and saved intact by Cincola in 2010, but the roof was dismantled, it remains the last surviving original structure of The Pike.
According to its misnamed "Queens Pike" entry in the Roller Coaster DataBase, The Pike had the following roller coasters:
Bisby’s Spiral Airship
Bisby's Spiral Airship, built in 1902, had cars that were suspended beneath a steel monorail track and could swing freely. The cars traveled up an inclined lift track to the top of an expanding, spiral cone-shaped, steel tower. As they began their spiral descent, centrifugal force caused them to swing outward before returning to the station. This is commonly acknowledged as the first suspended roller coaster type ride. This tall steel tower figures prominently in early postcards of Long Beach Pier (Pine Ave., later to join the west side of Rainbow Pier.)
Often confused – Many photos and postcards seen on the web are mis-captioned Bisby's Spiral Airship. If the structure has one long thin approach of steel to the top of a cylinder and camel-back return, that's Bisby's Spiral Airship. If the structure pictured is a thick wooden cone spiral slide, the entrance next-door east of Lee's Barbeque with a switchback stairway to a shack on top, the caption should read "Niagara Barrel".
The Pike's first more traditional wooden roller coaster opened for business in June 1907. It was built by Fred Ingersoll and named the Figure 8 after the shape of the tracks. It was built on pilings that reached out over the water.
According to a 1966 editorial in the High Tide, the newspaper of Redondo Union High School, a rider met tragedy when he disobeyed a sign instructing riders not to stand up: "He apparently thought this would spoil his fun, so he proceeded to stand up. Unfortunately, his head was knocked off."
Figure 8 was closed in 1914 and demolished to clear the way for new development.
Jack Rabbit Racer
In 1914, the Pike Amusement Zone undertook several upgrades and a new roller coaster named the Jack Rabbit Racer was opened in May 1915, becoming the second largest racing coaster in the country. It was again designed by Fred Ingersoll, this time with the help of John Miller. It was part of the Silver Spray Pier which included several new rides and concessions. One could look down through the tracks and see the water. In the mid twenties, several expansions were made to the area and the Jack Rabbit Racer was remodeled, raising the ride's dips to a greater height and steepness. An elevated band shell was built into the coaster with track running right over it. Jack Rabbit Racer was removed in 1930.
One of the best-known historic coasters, the Cyclone Racer was built in 1930 to replace the Jack Rabbit Racer. The Cyclone Racer was a dual-track (two trains could launch side by side at the same time), racing wooden roller coaster, the brain child of Fred Church and built by Harry Traver.
To increase thrill, the new coaster was built on pilings over the ocean, several hundred feet beyond the shore. Eventually the entire pier stood over sandy beach, not water, because of the sand deposition due to the slowing of water caused by the new harbor expansion and breakwater. Over 30 million riders rode on the Cyclone before it closed in 1968.
It was removed to clear space for a Shoreline Drive cloverleaf to the Magnolia Bridge in anticipation of the RMS Queen Mary's imminent arrival (a connecting road which was later demolished when found unneeded, proving the Cyclone Racer was removed unnecessarily.) The Cyclone Racer was the last remaining seaside dual-track roller coaster of its kind in the United States until it was disassembled and cataloged in September 1968 with the promise to Long Beach citizens that it would be rebuilt elsewhere.
Enthusiasts seeking to re-create this roller coaster have made a three-dimensional model and are looking to perhaps have it rebuilt in Southern California. The last remaining Cyclone Racer roller coaster car is located in the Pike Museum at 2500 Long Beach Blvd, Long Beach CA 90806.
The Pike Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.