The California amusement parks we’ve lost forever

SAN FRANCISCOKRON) – News that the Great America amusement park in Santa Clara will be Closing in the next 11 yearYou may be able to recall other California theme parks which have closed down over the years. These parks are some of the most iconic and memorable.

Playland on the Beach

Playland at the Beach straddled San Francisco’s Ocean Beach on the western end of the Richmond neighborhood from 1913 till 1972, though the first ride — the Gravity Railroad roller coaster — opened in 1884.

Playland’s fun house with animatronic characters was a popular attraction. The Santa Cruz Beach fun house was similar to the Playland one until a 1983 remodel.

You could also find bumper cars, Ferris wheels, shoot-the-chutes, carousels, and even a gigantic camera called the Camera Obscura.

After the demolition of Playland at The Beach, this scene was taken near Ocean Beach. In 1972, San Francisco’s amusement park had already closed. (Clem Albers/San Francisco Chronicle via AP).

After the death of General Manager George Whitney Sr. in 1958, Whitney’s widow sold her stake in Playland to a real estate developer, who in turn sold to Jeremy Ets-Hokin, who tore down the site in 1972 with the intention of building condominiums. Playland was shut down in a quiet manner on Labor Day weekend.

However, the memory of the park lives on in the Bay Area: the Laughing Sal animatronic character is at the Musée Mécanique on Fisherman’s Wharf, the Camera Obscura is next to the Cliff House building, and the carousel is at Yerba Buena Gardens in the south of Market neighborhood.

The Pike/Queen’s Park

The Pike was an amusement center in Long Beach. It opened in 1902, and closed in 1979. It was renamed Queen’s Park in the late 1960s after the RMS Queen Mary arrived to become a permanent fixture in the harbor of Long Beach.

A grisly moment happened just before the park’s bon voyage: While filming an episode of “The Six Million Dollar Man”A crew member transported what he thought was an inflatable mannequin, but it was actually Elmer McCurdy’s corpse. McCurdy was a bank robber and was shot to death in Oklahoma in 1911. The corpse was previously in the fun house exhibit.

Police were called and McCurdy’s body was taken to the Los Angeles County Coroner’s office and a forensic anthropologist was called in to make a positive identification. McCurdy received a proper burial in Oklahoma the next spring.

Pacific Ocean Park

The California amusement parks we’ve lost forever
More than 60 feet above ground, three plastic sea horses top the gateway to Neptune’s Courtyard at Pacific Ocean Park, shown Feb. 18, 1958. (AP Photo)

Pacific Ocean Park was shorter-lived than its southern neighbour, and only lasted from July 26, 1958 to October 6, 1967. It was designed to compete against Disneyland, which opened in Anaheim, California, in 1955.

It was a joint venture of CBS and Santa Anita Park’s racetrack. It covered 28 acres and featured a merry go-round, a funhouse, a mirror maze and Flight to Mars.

It was also used for filming episodes of the original. “Twilight Zone,”Together with other CBS programs at the time.

Disneyland came out on top, even though it was made difficult to enter the park by an urban renewal project. The sale of rides and games were used to pay the park’s many debts. Rent and taxes were also due to the park.

The park’s pier lived a ghostly life until it was eventually demolished in the 1970s.

Manteca Waterslides

From 1974 to 2004, the Manteca Waterslides, a water park, was located in Manteca in San Joaquin County. It was situated right next to Interstate 5 and also housed the Oakwood Lake Amphitheatre, a concert venue. The park was closed on Sept. 26, 2004, as the owners blamed the rising labor costs.

The expansion of Oakwood Lake has made it possible to submerge the area that was once home for the waterslides.

But that wasn’t the end of waterslides in Manteca. Last year, the Great Wolf Lodge opened a 500-room indoor facility with 16 waterslides.

Frontier Village

Frontier Village was a San Jose amusement park that operated from 1961 to 80. The original plan was to build it in Sunnyvale on the El Camino Real. But it fell apart after the San Jose City Council approved traffic improvements for the South Bay. After neighbors filed lawsuits against it for noise complaints, the park began losing money. Ironically, it also faced competition from Great America in 1976.

Frontier Village, a residential subdivision, replaced it.

The park featured a ride on a horseless carriage, Ferris wheel and canoe rides.


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