Charles Phoenix’s Slide of the Week: Cyclone Racer, The Pike, Long Beach, 1956
CYCLONE RACER, THE PIKE, LONG BEACH, 1956
Two well-suited women, both toting enormous handbags, are upstaged by three trashcans in the foreground and The Cyclone Racer – one of the great wooden roller coasters, in the background. Roller coasters are where architecture and transportation become one. Roller coasters are archi-tation or transport-tecture.
Billed as “the greatest ride on the face of the earth,” the Cyclone Racer Roller Coaster was a Long Beach landmark and the Pike’s most thrilling attraction for nearly four decades. Built in 1930, the all-wooden coaster had two side-by-side tracks. The ride began with the cars starting together then racing all the way to the finish. On the last dip, the cars dropped ninety feet down a fifty-degree angle at eighty miles an hour. Over the years the rickety roller coaster claimed the lives of more than a few drunken sailors who ignored the “DO NOT STAND UP” sign.
The Pike was a waterfront carnival a la Coney Island in downtown Long Beach. Conveniently located at the end of the Red Car line, it began just after the turn of the century as “The Walk of a Thousand Lights,” a boardwalk for a fashionable hotel and plunge. By World War II, the Pike had become fifteen colorful acres of thrill rides, freak shows, penny arcades, shooting galleries, shows, bars and tattoo parlors catering to a less than wholesome Red Car-riding beach crowd and the thousands of salty sailors stationed in Long Beach. Cotton candy, hot dogs, hamburgers, fish and chips and fried shrimp were the food fare. Movie theaters, bingo palaces, dance halls, a plunge, bumper cars, a merry-go-round, a double Ferris wheel, coin-operated fortunetellers and the Tunnel of Love were all labeled with animated neon signs. The atmosphere was loud with carnival barkers, blaring jukeboxes, merry-go-round music and screaming thrill seekers on the rides.
In 1969 the legendary Roller Coaster was demolished. Little by little the run down remains of the pike were torn down as the property was slated for redevelopment. Today, not one remnant remains from one of Southern California’s earliest amusement and entertainment centers.
Here’s to the two ladies, the Cyclone Racer and you!
P.S. see and read more about the Pike in Southern California in the 50s
RETRO SLIDE SHOW TOUR OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA,
“It is the age of space and we have just landed in the most modern metropolis on the planetâ€¦”
Norris Theatre, Rolling Hills,
Saturday January 14, 2006
Online tickets and info
RETRO VACATION SLIDE SHOW TOUR OF THE USA,
“Our journey begins backing out of the drivewayâ€¦”
Lancaster Performing Arts Center,
Saturday, January 21, 2006
Online tickets and info