My memories of Playland are very faded and more than a little bit tinged by sadness but that aside there is a great feeling of pride about the place and my familys long term ownership of the place. So here I go with an insiders story of our long lost and beloved Playland at the Beach. Playland was started by the Friedle brothers. My great grandfather Paul Lossman worked for a soda pop company and Playland was part of his district. He struck up a friendship with the Friedle family and as a result was always given free ticketts. His daughter, my grandmother Dorothy first rode the carousel in 1914, the year it was installed at the beach. My grandmother rode the carousel and all the other rides for free for many years. One night they got an invitation from the Friedles to take one last free ride as they were selling out to two brothers, George and Leo Whitney. So my grandmother and her parents went out there that night to take one last free ride. Welllll, little did she know. She was going steady at that time with my Grandfather. She did not know that he was George and Leo's nephew! About a week after the sale my Grandfather Roy took her on a date to a certain amusement park that his uncles had just purchased. She had met George and Leo the week before and boy were they surprised when Grandpa Roy re introduced her as his girlfriend! Well they were married of course and this resulted in a lifetime of free rides at Playland! My grandparents took my parents there when they were going steady and of course my parents in turn took me when I was little. My own memories of going there are very faded, though I do remember rideing the Whip.
The Whitneys took over managing The Cliff House and Sutros on a lease from the Sutro family. It was my grandmother Dorothy who came up with the ice rink idea. The pools were already losing money in the 1930's so they were looking for anyway they could to keep it going. Sutros broke even for awhile as a result of that but finally the Sutros sold it outright to the Whitneys around 1954. It continued into the early 1960's until the Whitneys just couldn't keep it going anymore. It was closed and the place was in the process of being sold but the sale fell through. The Whitneys were faced with carrying a property that was very quickly going to put them out of business so they had to do something. I think it's time to tell the truth here. This may hurt some of my family but, here goes. Yes the fire was deliberately set. Two people in San Francisco city government were each paid $120,000.00 each in advance to look the other way. So the fire was set and that was that. All of the people who participated in it are dead now and the insurance money they got after the fire is long gone.
As for Playlands end my memory is more about which family members were suing each other. It was a very hurtful thing especially as it all involved people that I loved. George Whitneys kids inherited the property after his death in 1972. I don't think they ever setteled their lawsuits against each other before they died. That is very sad to me because Playland was so wonderful. I miss it a lot. On the other hand Playland still exists. Literally! The amusement rides were all sold to carnival operators and continue to bring joy to thousands of people everywhere. I have made it a habit to go to traveling carnivals and ask the on site manager if they have something from Playland. Every once in awhile I find one.
The carousel of course was rescued by my dear friend Marrianne Stevens who restored it and operated it at the Queen Mary in Southern California until she sold it to the city of San Francisco who now operates it at Moscone Center. And my grandmother? Yes she is still alive. She's 95 years old now and has had the privledge of rideing it with all of her great grandchildren! She is well known at the carousel and has still never to this day paid a penny to ride on it!