Boardwalk Blog - Stories
As California’s oldest surviving amusement park, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk has been a part of the West Coast’s culture and history since 1907. While many other major seaside parks along the Pacific Coast have disappeared over the last century, the Boardwalk has persevered—celebrating over 115 years of laughter and memories. Today, the Boardwalk is home to more than 40 rides and attractions, 26 midway games, 31 food outlets, 2 arcades, a mini-golf course, a laser tag arena, and a bowling center. Some of the most beloved attractions have entertained guests since the early twentieth century, while others bring exciting new innovations to the park. The Boardwalk’s distinctive tradition of blending its rich history with the latest trends and technology helps welcome millions of guests year after year.
Remember Skee Roll? Many Boardwalk guests do! It’s sometimes called Skee Ball, but either name describes the same game. Hi-tech versions still reside at the Boardwalk. But for this blog, I’m recalling the bank of Skee Roll alleys that filled a concession 40-plus years ago near where our Pirate Ship ride sits today.
We received more comments about our iconic Wild Mouse coaster than any other subject I’ve covered so far. So I feel obliged to write a postscript to Wild Times Building the Wild Mouse and The Legacy of the Wild Mouse Lives On!
From its earliest years, the Boardwalk has been a mecca for youth. A 1914 photo from our local Museum of Art & History shows a cluster of activities on the beach for youngsters – several swing sets, two tall slides, a teeter-totter, balance beam, and several contraptions I don’t quite know how to describe. Another Boardwalk archive photo from around that same time reveals a long line of finely dressed youngsters on the sand waiting their turn on a distant slide.
I previously recalled our Wild Mouse and the unforgettable experience it gave those of us who rode it. Its compact size understated its intense thrill value. It’s deceptive two-passenger car design, unbanked 90-degree turns, and negative G-force “bunny hop” hills concocted a uniquely “wild” ride. If you ever rode it, you can’t forget the experience even to this day.
When I swam in the plunge in the late 1950s and early 1960s, I remember staring up at the trapeze bars and rings hanging silently from the ceiling. Empty platforms were perched above the building’s balcony level on the upper west and east walls. All were hushed reminders of the days when an incredible water spectacle occurred in that building – the water carnivals!
A while back, a photo was contributed to our Boardwalk Memories webpage that puzzled me. Behind a 1920s image of Ray O‘Reilly and his girlfriend Victoria, relaxing against a Boardwalk railing, a structure sits far in the distance. I had no idea what the edifice was. Until recently when a series of hand drawings, dated 1927, surfaced in our archives. They depicted the construction and operation of a Shoot-the-Chutes ride at the Boardwalk.
Over the last 112 years, many entertainers have graced the Boardwalk’s Cocoanut Grove Ballroom stage. One original group left its mark – literally!
What does an independently owned, traditional amusement park do when a giant theme park enters its marketing area? Many simply went out of business in the 1960s and 1970s. Not so for the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.