Western Neighborhoods Project is dedicated to the history of San Francisco's Richmond, Sunset, OMI and West of Twin Peaks districts.   read more ...

Outside Lands Podcast Episode 473: Playland Memories Part 2

Part 2 of Nicole & Arnold's conversation with people who visited Playland before it was town down in 1972.
by Nicole Meldahl - Sep 10, 2022

Outside Lands Podcast Episode 473: Playland Memories Part 2 Outside Lands Podcast Episode 473: Playland Memories Part 2

(above) Playland at the Beach, 1951

[Famous Playland on the Beach ... M-405] Not quite famous enough to get the title right, visible here are the Dodger bumper cars building, the Big Dipper, the Ridee-O and Tilt-A-Whirl in the foreground.

Podcast Transcription

WNP473 – Playland Memories Part 2

Nicole: [00:00:00] It’s Outside Lands San Francisco, podcast of the Western Neighborhoods Project. I'm Nicole Meldahl.

Arnold: And I’m Arnold Woods.

Nicole: Well, hello there Arnold.

Arnold: Hello Nicole. Are you wilting in this heat that we're having today?

Nicole: I think I have actually died, left my body and come back as a ghost.

Arnold: Well, you know, we always joke about the WNP office being an ice box. And I'm doing the podcast from the WNP office and this is one time I'm very happy it is very much cooler in here.

Nicole: Well, I'm broadcasting from home and it is sweltering. My cat is next to me and is very upset about this. But you know what? It's okay. We get this, these kinds of days maybe [00:01:00] three times a year tops.

Arnold: Hopefully it lasts just that short of period.

Nicole: And I will say before, people who don't live in San Francisco, get honest about this. We definitely have the best weather patterns when you take the whole country into context. So, thank you, San Francisco. But anyways, that's a long diatribe about not what we're talking about on this podcast, because today we welcome back podcast listeners to our second installment of Playland Memories with our incredible guests, Lorri Ungaretti, David Friedlander, Judy Leff and last, but certainly not least, Kevin Brady. So thank you again everyone for joining us.

Arnold: We talked last week about some of the most epic rides at Playland. So, this week we'll highlight some employee stories and tackle the park’s declining years. But as we did last week, let's jump in with a hot take from one of our live guests this week. [00:02:00] It's Kevin Brady. Kevin, you spent time at Playland, both before and after it closed. So, let's start with your memories of your first visit there. When was this and how old were you then?

Kevin: It must have been preschool. So, let's say five. I don't know. I know I was about a foot shorter than those washing machine things that beat you up after I got lost in the hall of mirrors. Somebody had to come back and get me. But yeah, and then falling down in the spinning barrel, that was a lot of fun. But they don't stop that barrel, do they? They just, you just crawl out. And then the big thing, the, yeah, spinning on that, getting bounced off the Joy Wheel onto the concrete, the concrete floor ringed by nice padded walls. But you seldom reach those cause you usually skidded on this concrete floor. And then [00:03:00] the big fun was the, that slide, once you got the hang of that, I, we talked about the terror of it last time. And that was scary. And it was really hot up there. Was it three stories high we decided? And it's just, it was stifling. But it was once you, one's high, I got the hang of that. It was so much fun. And then you just turn around and race back up as fast as you could and do it again.

Nicole: So, we're continuing the theme of, okay, we've all survived Playland as a group, which brutalized you, but was fun in the process.

Kevin: Oh yeah. Build character.

Nicole: Were any of you chewed up and spit out by the Fun House like, like Kevin remembers?

Lorri: I think last week somebody said that you had to go the gauntlet to get to the fun.

Kevin: Yeah.

Lorri: And that's what I think is true is that the, the spinning barrel and the wash machine things, [00:04:00] did you call them that?

Nicole: It's called the Human Laundry. That’s the official title.

Lorri: Human Laundry. Okay. I look at those, they scared me. The moving floor and all those things getting in were things you survived and got passed. And then, of course, then someone would blow the air up at you and then, you know, you'd be gone. But then it got fun. And you're right. I mean, I liked a record player cause my brother was really smart and he figured out right away that if you sat in the middle, you wouldn't get. kicked off. So, I would sit near him, but it was never close enough. So, I always got kicked off. And the slides and those other things were fun.

Nicole: Judy, do you have something to share?

Judy: Well, the way I think of it is, you know how you go other amusement parks and there's that sign you have to be this tall to ride this ride? The Fun House, you have to be this tough to get this far, right? And the cool thing was, and you just kind of hit on it with your [00:05:00] question to Kevin, which is that, if you went there over time, you could track your own progress. Oh God, I made it right. I made it this time. I stood in the whatever, or I didn't get scared by the air or I knew to anticipate it. And so, you could kind of track the progress of your, you have to be this tough to get through this. Which again, I'm not a child psychologist, but I think it's, I think it's good. Nor do I play one on podcasts. But I think it's good for children to go someplace like that and track their progress like that.

Arnold: It was a learning experience.

Nicole: Yeah.

Kevin: I got another one.

Nicole: Oh, good.

Kevin: What I, another thing we haven't talked about is that mezzanine and they had those little boxes where you push a light and there would be some gag. Well, I assumed it was a gag. It wasn't funny [00:06:00] to me, but I figured previous civilizations must have found this funny. And I've never had this explained to me. About half of 'em, the lights didn't come on and I didn't know what it was at all. And then the ones I did see was like, what is that? And again, even the grownups couldn't exactly explain to me just why that was considered funny and why I was still sitting there.

Nicole: What were they, can you describe for us and our listeners?

Kevin: Well, they were little. I, they were little light boxes and no bigger than well, the audience can't see me, but about two by, let's say six with a little, like a little compartment and you're looking through glass and there'd be a button and you push the light and it would light up like a really bad pun or some stupid gag. And again, I have to assume it was a gag, cause it wasn't very funny. But, you know, that's just my opinion. [00:07:00] And I didn't really understand it. I know, again, previous civilizations.

Nicole: Lorri?

Lorri: Yeah. I didn't even know that they were jokes. I didn't get 'em. I mean.

Kevin: Maybe I got ‘em.

Lorri: I thought they were pictures. I thought they were old ancient pictures and we were supposed to get, learn something from 'em. But, and half of them didn't work, because I think they must have been something in the Fun House that when it broke, they just didn't deal with it. But I never knew what those were either. But I didn't, I didn't get it even that it was supposed to be funny. I just thought that it was like a historical picture or something. I didn’t.

Kevin: I guess I assumed they'd be funny because it's the Fun House, right?

Nicole: If we ever gonna do it…

Kevin: I could have got it wrong. I dunno. There some people didn't think it was that funny to have those giant clowns glaring down at us either.

Judy: I always thought they were the x-rays of the broken bones of children, who wouldn’t quite make it [00:08:00] down the slide. I wonder, I wonder why I did not go on the slide.

Kevin: The ones who weren't tough enough.

Nicole: Continuing the theme of the darker side of Playland for our podcast series. And if we exhibit again, that is definitely an interactive exhibit, we're gonna have to build.

Kevin: Yeah.

Lorri: I'd love to talk to somebody who was an adult and knew what those things were.

Kevin: Yeah.

Lorri: I don't really know what they were.

Nicole: Maybe Reino will know.

Kevin: No, we're the adults, I think we're the adults now.

Lorri: Yeah, we’re the adults now.

Nicole: So, god help us all.

Kevin: Well, at least grownups.

Nicole: I think grownups is a subjective term. But, that's, that's another conversation. But so, okay. All of you grew up in the neighborhood, you all went to Playland. And I think that we need to, for me it feels like this was truly a local spot. You know, people from the Sunset and the Richmond districts, they worked there, [00:09:00] they played there. Arnold didn't somebody out, one of our listeners shared a story about living nearby.

Arnold: Yes, our friend Julie Alden shared this memory. Quote, “from 1943 to 1949, we lived on Irving Street at 18th Avenue. It was a wonderful location for us kids because Jefferson School and also the public library were right there. And was close to shopping in either direction, up or down Irving. During the summer, we played in this street on 18th Avenue until it got dark. As a family with no car, we took the number 7 streetcar, along Lincoln Way to the end of the line at the beach to get to Playland.” She goes on to say, “we didn't have much money, but had enough to ride the Chutes, the Merry-Go-Round, the scary ride with dancing skeleton.” I believe she's talking about the Laugh in the Dark ride there. “And also have enough money to get something to eat. My most favorite ride was the Shoot the Cjutes. I have a vivid memory of riding up to the top, listening to,” [00:10:00] this is gonna be a lot like my Big Dipper description last week. “Listening to the click click, click, click as the boat climbed. And that terrifying moment when the clicking stopped and the boat began to tip forward down the downward track and then down when you went splashing water everywhere. What a thrill. There were a lot of games to lose money on. There were prizes of cheap ceramic figures. I remember that I had won a Popeye. You could play skee ball and save up your tickets to get something better.” We talked about that last week. She notes, however, “that by the time our children were old enough to go to Playland, there wasn't much left. But the Hot House and Pie Shop were still great and the It’s It ice cream sandwiches were.”

Nicole: That's what I miss most, even though I never experienced it, is the food along Great Highway. We need to bring back that food.

Kevin: Yeah.

Arnold: We just did a OpenSFHistory blog this past weekend that describe all the food [00:11:00] concessions as you walked up the Great Highway from Fulton to Balboa, and there was a lot there.

Nicole: Did you write that Arnold or was that a Frank Dunnigan piece?

Arnold: That was one of my pieces.

Nicole: Fantastic. Can't wait to read that. Sorry, I haven't already. So, we had another shared memory, unless anyone, if that sparked a memory with any of our esteemed guests. Nope. Everyone's shaking their head. Okay. We'll move on to Lourdes Livingston and one of our favorite members, and also a friend of the mayor of the Richmond District, also known as Jamie O’Keefe.  Lourdes has sent us a wonderful recollection of growing up and visiting the park. She says, I'm gonna read this dramatically cause all of our contributions are wonderfully well written. “So it was a Saturday morning in 1957. From the bottom of the stairs inside our house on 15th Avenue, it was my mother's beckoning call to all [00:12:00] six of us kids that stirred action. ‘Everyone clean the house now so we can all go to Playland.’ There was a scuffle of footsteps running up and down the stairs. Commotion. When the chores are done, we all climbed into the pale, blue and white, Chevy station wagon and headed for Playland at the Beach. First stop the ticket booth. My three eldest siblings, Rudy, Mike, and Mary,” hope I pronounced that right, “took off for their three favorite rides, the Diving Bell, Hey Day, and the Roll-O-Planes. My next two brothers, Brendan and Patrick, dashed for the Fun House and the Dodgers. I was the youngest at four years old and, of course, I clung to my mother's right finger with my left hand. We always paid a visit to Laughing Sal. My viewpoint was from a steep perspective, looking up at both the laughing lady and my mother. Laughing Sal terrified me. Her laughing was unstoppable and I could [00:13:00] still hear her hefty laugh through the loud hollow speakers, her upper body, swaggered to and fro. The tattered fabric of her dress, shivered with her movements. She would continuously laugh to her last breath and inhaled a magnitude of air to only belt out another laugh until she exhausted any mmmph of air from the depths of her belly”. Woo! “I wondered why my mother and I had to stand there and succumb to such torture. Then my mother started laughing with the laughing lady. My mother turned to me and started mimicking the gesture and with syncopated rhythm, she suddenly transformed into the laughing lady. The thought of the laughing lady as my mother felt nightmarish. I couldn't imagine being fed and clothed by Laughing Sal. At my first whimper, [00:14:00] my mother stopped and returned to normal. I was shaken, yet relieved. I didn't have to go home with Laughing Sal, after all.”

Arnold: That is a very vivid memory. Thank you Lourdes.

David: That's classic.

Nicole: And scene.

Arnold: I'm sure there are many kids who are relieved that they also did not have to go home with Laughing Sal. And we had a great big Laughing Sal discussion last week.

Nicole: It makes me think of like, what if we all got together and wrote a screenplay very much like, you know, like Toyland, what was that? You know, where all the toys come alive and like…

Lorri: Toy Story.

Nicole: Yes. Well, yeah. Toy Story, but I'm thinking even farther back like…

Arnold: Babes in Toyland.

Nicole: Thank you.

David: Oh yeah. Yeah.

Nicole: That one. Yeah. Like how terrifying would the Playland version be?

Kevin: Oh yeah.

Nicole: Judy's and all those stuffed animals.

Arnold: You know, Jamie was a busy [00:15:00] beaver and got a lot of people to write into us. And, as we mentioned last week, she also put us in touch with Diane Guaraldi Robinson and her brother Paul Guaraldi, siblings whose recollections we shared a little bit last week. We're gonna share some more for you now. Diane says, quote,” the 1950s. What a great time to grow up in San Francisco, having three older brothers and one younger brother. The younger one being too young to go to Playland. We were free to venture out on our own. Of course, our eldest brother, a teenager, was to care for us while leaving mom at home and the baby and relax in peace and quiet without the other kids being home. The four of us would catch the Muni bus heading to Ocean Beach and Playland. We had saved our money from doing odd jobs around the house. Jobs like pulling weeds, mowing lawns, sweeping walkways, and so on. It was so exciting to count the pennies, [00:16:00] nickels, and dimes to prepare to choose the attractions we would soon purchase.”

Nicole: Arnold, I'm wondering what our illustrious guests had to do to save up money to go to Playland. Did you get it from your parents or did you have to hustle like the Guaraldis?

David: I was an only child, so I got a little bit of an allowance. I don't remember ever working for the money that I took to Playland.

Lorri: I had an allowance every week. We had an allowance every week. My brother would always spend it right away and I'd lend him money. But I knew that if I was going to Playland, I had to have the money to go to pay.

Arnold: So even though you had an allowance though, like when I had an allowance as a kid, I was expected to do chores around the house to get that allowance.

Lorri: Oh yeah.

Arnold: Is that true of you as well?


Lorri: Yeah, right. That was definitely. And, but I had friends who would just go to their parents and say, can I have some money? I'm going to Playland or whatever, and they'd get it. [00:17:00] And I'd think, wait a minute, you know this, there's I get an allowance and I have to spend that.

Nicole: Kevin, did you have to work hard for that money?

Lorri: No, I don't think, I don't think it felt hard.

Arnold: Go ahead, Kevin.

Kevin: I did both. I did both. I, if I was strapped for cash, I would ask for it. I was an only child too, so at least there was, there wasn't the competition. And then, but then I was also had jobs around, around the neighborhood, where I would have money in my pocket. So, it all, if there was a sudden decision to go to Playland, then it just depended on what I had on hand.

David: The other thing was, is everything was a lot less expensive.

Lorri: Oh yeah.

David: Arnold could talk about…

Kevin: Oh yea.

David: Dimes and pennies and yeah, you know, a roll of pennies went a long way.

Arnold: How about you, Judy?

Kevin: Or turning in, turning in bottled bottles.

David: Yeah. [00:18:00]

Lorri: Oh, right.

David: Yeah.

Kevin: We would really scour the neighborhood for bottles.

Nicole: Is that still a thing? I don't think that's still a thing, right?

David: In some states, it's still a thing.

Lorri: No.

Nicole: Yeah.

Kevin: I don't think we can get cash for them. No.

Lorri: We don’t recycle bottles anymore.

Kevin: No.

Lorri: We don't recycle that.

Kevin: That kept us afloat.

Nicole: Yeah. No, I remember we used to, I had a friend of the family who would turn in while was recycling for betting money at the racetrack. That's another story. Judy, did you have to hustle for your Playland spending cash?

Judy: No. I was, you know, my brother was so much older than me. The, he left home when I was six and my mother was so happy to have my dad and I out of the house so she could have some peace and quiet that I'm sure she would've paid three times, whatever the going rate was to get, it was kind of the equivalent of go play in traffic, you know. Just, I did, you know, I did. [00:19:00] Oh. I, oh, interesting. So, I reached out, sorry, newsflash, I did…

Arnold: Breaking news on our podcast.

David: Warning on this podcast.

Judy: Okay, I reached out to my favorite Playland expert who responded with the old Peep Show boxes. They had little joke questions. Then when you pushed a button, the box would light up and you'd see the punchline.

David: Oh.

Kevin: Oh.

Judy: And he actually sent me a picture.

David: Wow.

Judy: Which I know does our, our…

Nicole: No.

Lorri: Blurry, can't see it.

David: It's like a solar flare.

Kevin: Yeah.

Judy: Hold on.

Nicole: Ask and ye shall receive.

David: Really?

Nicole: Ye shall..

Kevin: Boy.

Nicole: Judy's trying to show us.

Kevin: Oh, there we go.

David: Oh, okay.

Arnold: Yeah, for our podcast listeners, Judy is showing us a picture of one of these picture boxes.

Nicole: On her phone via Zoom. So, like, you know, high quality.

David: Great.

Kevin: That’s amazing though. Nobody's ever even mentioned that. That's the first time I've talked about that since I was, I don't know how young.

Nicole: Yeah, so…

Kevin: But not very often. [00:20:00]

Lorri: I must have been really young, because I don't remember reading anything. I just remember a picture. So, I probably was not even old enough to get what they were doing at all.

Judy: Yeah. Thanks to Mike Winslow for that very fast answer. Thanks, Mike.

Kevin: No kidding.

Lorri: Thanks, Mike.

Arnold: Yeah. We ask…

Kevin: Well, how does he have that photo, by the way? What else does he have?

Judy: Oh, he has them all, are you kidding?

Nicole: He has a Playland website. Very comprehensive.

Kevin: Oh. Wow!

Arnold: Let's continue on with Diane's story. .

Nicole: Yes.

Arnold: She added quote, “after going on rides, we dashed over to a huge arcade with lots of games. A long wall of skee ball machines as the favorite of everyone. You would roll the wooden ball to reach a ring that had points. The smaller the ring, the higher the points  At the end of the allotted balls, the machine would spit out tickets, as did, as did other games in the room. The higher the points, the greater the amount of [00:21:00] tickets were ejected. You could turn in your tickets for cheap toys or gadgets, or save the tickets for a big prize. Often we would save our tickets and, but the big prizes were difficult to achieve. Eventually our parents took us back to Playland to turn in our tickets for a toy. Then we would all joyfully walk across the street to the beach for a family day.” So, I'd like to take a quick poll here. I know we talked last week about Judy's dad getting a, a elephant and Lorri shooting basketballs to win something. But did, let's just generally, did you guys spend some time in the arcade or the midway trying to amass tickets and what do you recall getting with your tickets? So, David, I'll start with you.

David: Well, skee ball was one of the main things I think I did back then. And just as an aside years later, I took my grandkids to Chuck E. Cheese, which has skee ball, and tried to tell them the story of Playland. [00:22:00] It's like whatever. They have no interest in that. But if I won anything I had a, somehow I got a giant panda back in the ‘50s. And I don't know if it came from Playland or not, but it could have, and that's maybe what I would've spent my coupons on. Skee ball was the go-to play for me.

Arnold: For you Lorri, beside your basketball experience, did you spend any other time playing games in amassing tickets?

Lorri: I didn’t really. And I discovered skee ball when I was a lot older. And I love skee ball, but I never played it at Playland.

Arnold: So, the basketball was the one.

Lorri: The basketball was the big thing. Yeah.

Arnold: Judy besides your dad getting you the elephant, did you by yourself?

Judy: No, I was such a skee ball girl. I just loved it. And I remember probably the first time I turned into a cranky old lady was when I went someplace and I got so excited cause they had the skee ball and I ran up and the balls were not wooden. They were plastic. [00:23:00] And all my muscle memory and all my years of crafting my, you know, expertise at skee ball were based on a certain weight and heft of a wooden ball. And I just, I, you know, that was when I really turned into a, the get off my lawn person that I am today. Cause it was like, you cannot have plastic balls in skee ball. It's supposed to be wooden.

David: That's a great memory. That's perfect.

Kevin: That’s a good one.

Judy: And I do remember saving up tickets, by the way, that, and that you guys just reminded me about that, that if you only won a few tickets here and there, you weren't gonna get much. And so yeah, if you kind of saved them up and kept track of them, you could get something better.

Arnold: Do you remember anything other than your father getting you the elephant, that you got with your own tickets?

Judy: You know, A 1961 Chrysler, I don't know. I mean I can't remember how many tickets we saved.

Kevin: Wait, that was you?

Judy: I’m sorry.

Arnold: That's [00:24:00] okay. Kevin, how about you?

Kevin: It beats an elephant. No, I, I remember having a go at everything, but I never got into saving tickets and I know I never walked out of there with a panda bear or a ‘61 Plymouth or anything. Chrysler, I'm sorry. I know, I just, it was just an occasional thing for me. I usually, if I was going down there, I was heading for the Fun House.

Nicole: I have to say skee ball has stood the test of time and it's now a popular bar attraction.

Kevin: Oh.

Nicole: I just was on vacation in L.A. and there was this big sprawling bar in the arts district and it had a, like a whole wall of skee ball, which some guys were not using very responsibly and I thought this is a real liability. Which is probably why Playland shut down. But outside, they also had an area where you could throw axes.

Kevin: Ooh.

David: Oh, okay.

Nicole: At a bar.

David: Yeah.

Lorri: I, [00:25:00] you know, I think that…

David: Bad idea.

Lorri: The Musee Mecanique, either the one that's still existing or the one that was by the Cliff House for a while, I think they had skee ball. And that's where I discovered it as an adult, I think.

Nicole: I discovered it as an adult at Buckshots, that used to be on Geary for a really long time. They actually had a skee ball league that I not, I was not personally in. But my girlfriend Michelle was at it. And yeah, she did a really good job. And one of the bartenders there would give us free ice cream floats, so…

Kevin: Whoa.

Nicole: That's…

David: It's not what you know, it's who you know, right?

Nicole: Yeah.

Judy: The question is, are the balls wooden?

David: That was my question. That was my question.

Nicole: I don't know. I can't remember. I also drank alcohol at that bar a lot. So…

Lorri: One of the problems with my doing the basketball, and this is, I learned that when you, when you win something, you gotta play a lot more times, which means you gotta pay more money.

Nicole: Yeah.

Lorri: And [00:26:00] before you're gonna get a big panda or anything like that. And I think that was a big disillusionment for me. So, I, cause I don't remember walking away from the basketball thing with a big prize or anything. Cause I wasn't willing to pay it, play it, you know, 10 times in order to get that many tickets.

Arnold: So, well…

Lorri: I learned something too early.

Arnold: I think that's the point of those games.

Nicole: Yeah.

Lorri: Right.

Arnold: Like, Yeah, I got introduced to skee ball in high school at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. And you pump enough money into the game trying to get the tickets where you're actually buying whatever the prize was that you get in the end. Or paying more than it was potentially worth more than likely.

Nicole: That's true.

Kevin: Apparently the odds are in the favor of the house.

David: Sounds familiar.

Nicole: It's so true. We have some great photos of the early skee ball concessioner at Playland from the Laurie Hollings photo album. That is my [00:27:00] beloved exhibition experience at Naiad Cove. Which is the first time we've mentioned that on this podcast so far.

Arnold: Not the last.

David: Not the last time.

Nicole: But I think the Guaraldi siblings had more to share. Arnold, would you like to continue reading their memories or would you like me to pick it up from here?

Arnold: I will pick up with what Diane's brother Paul had to say. And he said, quote, “as a young child, there are memories forged in my mind that have always been at the forefront in my thoughts. Yet they are foggy, like the days at Ocean Beach.” And what we wish was happening right now.

Nicole: Please.

Arnold: “My sister Diane said that I was too young to go to Playland with her and my brothers. Which was true because she was the lucky one who got to be a tomboy with those three older brothers, free and spontaneous.” Paul was very jealous. Paul adds, “mom did take me to Playland many times and it was to purchase a pie from Whitney's Pie Shop at the front [00:28:00] west end of the park. I was young, maybe four through nine years of age. Here's the foggy part. I recall her buying cherry pies or so, so she told me. But it was a meat pie shop according to my research. So, I guess I will never know what I was eating.” End quote. So lemme first say, fun fact, we have Pie Shop signs in the Naiad Cove. But secondly Paul…

Nicole: Yeah.

Arnold: Your mother was great for filling you with those wonderful memories, but the Pie Shop at Playland, in fact had both meat and fruit pies. So you're not misremembering anything. It had 'em both.

Nicole: I just love that he's like, I can't remember if what she fed me was meat or just…

Kevin: Tastes like chicken.

Nicole: But we do, we have signs [00:29:00] in the exhibition that show that they sold meat pies and showed that they sold, you know, regular hand turnovers and things like that. So, you learn something new every day at The Museum at The Cliff. Among the people who sent us their memories was Peter Batanides, whose grandparents owned and operated the Splendid Inn. And Peter's first job was surprise, surprise, busing tables and washing dishes there. So, he said, “my brother, Steve and I, besides our dishwashing job, also peeled potatoes in a rear storeroom without windows. The 100-pound sack took us a couple hours. The potatoes were used to make french fries. We were paid with point tickets and then fed a nice hamburger lunch. The point tickets were used at Playland as currency issued by Whitney.” And we were, actually that's an end quote. Talk about some cheap labor. And, we were just gifted some of these tickets by a visitor to the museum. [00:30:00] People bring us all kinds of things from their memories to physical things. His name was Henry Cofield and I had such a fun time talking to him, even though his name always reminds me of Catcher and the Rye.

David: Totally.

Nicole: But yeah, that's been a real joy about the museum. Now referencing the museum has become a drinking game on this podcast. So, Peter continues…

David: Everybody take a drink.

Nicole: Yeah, everybody take a drink at the museum. We'll see if…

Kevin: Wait, I gotta refill.

Nicole: Make it to the end.

Kevin: Yeah.

Nicole: Not if you're driving though. Listeners, listen to this podcast. So, Peter continues, “Whitney required my grandfather to keep the store open until midnight. My mom told me one night she was there late with her father, and about 10 o'clock, a guy in his car on a very foggy night was honking his car horn. My grandfather called out to him and the man in the car ordered a single strawberry ice cone, ice cream cone. My grandfather delivered the cone to his [00:31:00] car, all for one nickel.”

Kevin: Whoa.

David: Cool.

Nicole: And he finishes, “my brother and I would walk through the Midway before it was open and we would look for coins that flew out of people's pockets while on some of the rides. The Laugh in the Dark ride was behind the rear fence of our house. And occasionally my brother and I would sneak in and try to scare the folks on the ride. We were lucky we didn't get electrocuted.”

Kevin: Oh, that's good.

Nicole: “Things inside were electrically operated.”

Arnold: Another…

Kevin: Find the third rail.

David: Great story.

Arnold: Another fun fact for people, we actually, on our outsidelands.org, have a picture of, I believe it's Pete's uncle in front of the Splendid Inn in like the ‘30s or ‘40s that Pete donated to us for the website. I haven't checked to see if there's more by him, but there's at least one of a Batanides's family member in [00:32:00] front of the Splendid Inn on the outsidelands.org website. So, thank you Peter. To our listening audience, did any of you eat at the Splendid Inn Diner? Tell us by sending us listener mail about today's lengthy Listener Mail podcast. But let's ask our guests here first. Did any of you eat it at the Splendid Inn? And what do you recall of it? Maybe start with a show of hands that our listening audience won't see at all. Did any of you eat it at the Splendid Inn?

David: It, it might have been gone. It might have been gone by the time we were young.

Nicole: Yeah. Did any of you sneak into the Playland rides and try to scare the visitors?

David:  No.

Kevin: No.

Nicole: Just checking. You're all too good. You're good people. Good, good non-mischievous kids.

David: I don’t know about mischievous.

Kevin: Not there anyway. No.

Arnold: Peter was not the only employee we heard from. We also heard from John Bulawsky, who was quote “a ride operator for about a year and a [00:33:00] half in 1969 through 71”. So, this is very close to the end. John said, “I actually met my wife there approximately 52 years ago.”

Nicole: Oh.

Lorri: Aww.

David: Nice.

Arnold: While working here. “While working there, I operated most of the rides ending up at the Diving Bell.”

Nicole: Woohoo!

Arnold: “It was great fun since I spent most of my time at the beach anyway.”

Nicole: You guys know where you can experience the Diving Bell again, right?

Judy: No. Nicole. Where?

David: Tell us Nicole, where?

Nicole: In an old refrigerator in the Naiad Cove exhibition.

David: Right. Of course.

Kevin: Right.

David: Shameless.

Kevin: The back wall.

David: Shameless.

Nicole: We're all in.

Lorri: Push the red button.

Nicole: We're closing. Thank you. We're closing September 25th. We gotta get our monies worth in this place. So, another former employee, Ray Vela had this to say about his time there. “As a young kid [00:34:00] playing drums in bands. I met some musicians who needed a drummer. Most of them worked at Playland and lived in the outer Richmond. I was born in San Francisco and raised in Noe Valley, so it was a hassle going across the city to practice. I remember when my dad would pile us in the station wagon for the drive to Playland, which seemed far away. My siblings and I were so excited to go there, as well as the beach and the zoo.” Man, so many station wagon memories on this podcast.

David: Big families.

Kevin: Yeah.

Nicole: We need to bring back station wagons. Anyway.

Judy: We still have a station wagon.

Nicole: Great.

Judy: 455,000 miles.

Nicole: That is how…

Kevin: Whoa.

Nicole: How.

David: What year? Not a 61 Chrysler?

Judy: No. No, it's not the one I won playing skee ball. No, it's a 1990.

Kevin: We tied that together.

Judy: Yeah. Volvo.

Nicole: Lorri, did you have a memory you wanted to share?

Lorri: No, I had a question. And [00:35:00] that was, if you have any memories from Dennis O'Rorke who took some of the best photographs.

David: Right.

Lorri: Of Playland I've ever seen.

Nicole: Don’t worry, Lorri. We'll get to it.

Lorri: Okay.

David: Right.

Kevin: Stand by.

Nicole: Don't worry. Please stand by. In the meantime, I'm gonna keep on going with Ray's memories. He continued, “I was offered a job at Playland so that I could hang out after work and on weekends to play with the band. I never had a real job and I was getting paid a buck-fifty an hour to have fun. I still have my W2 that Robert Smit had, along with lots of other Playland stuff that we bought and traded. I worked as a relief ride operator, and I would run three rides. The Tilt-A-Whirl, the Mad Mine and the Scrambler. All the rides were right next to each other, so I just jumped the gate across the Midway to run the Scrambler. The Tilt-A-Whirl was next to the noisy Diving Bell, which would have a loud clanging bell and rise to the [00:36:00] water creating waves, splashes and screams over the loudspeaker. My favorite of the three was the Mad Mine. It was similar to the scary Limbo ride, which had a moving car that took you inside a very dark mine shaft. Inside, there were scary props that would jump out at you. Many folks screamed and cried on both these rides, and sometimes we would jump on the back of the car unnoticed to scare them even more. Boy, was that fun.”

Kevin: Yay.

Arnold: So. you had both neighborhood kids and the…

David: And the operators.

Arnold: Doing their best to scare people on the rides.

David: Give ‘em their money's worth.

Nicole: This continues to be a podcast about how terrifying and awful Playland was.

Kevin: Yeah.

Judy: Yeah, they should have called it adrenaline land. It was just…

Nicole: Or just survivor. He wraps up by saying, “speaking of fun, when it rained, I worked inside the Fun House. There, I would operate the control booth, which [00:37:00] included running the Barrel of Joy, the Fun Wheel, which I called the record player and the Human Laundry. When entering the Fun House, one would go through the Mirror Maze.”

Kevin: That's it.

Nicole: “Then be bumped and rubbed by these rolling stripped canvas airbags. Unsuspecting gals with skirts would have their skirts blown up by a sudden gust of air, which I controlled from the tower.”

Judy: I hate you.

Kevin: He’s the one. He’s the one.

David: Now we know the truth. Now we know.

Lorri: Right.

Nicole: I'm sorry, Lorri.

David: The hidden history of San Francisco.

Nicole: No.

Judy: I remember when, in 1967 they announced that we didn't have to wear pants to school, that we could wear pants to school. Right?

Lorri: Not at my school.

Judy: In the fourth grade, you could wear pants to school. This is [00:38:00] West Portal School. And I swear to God, my very first thought, I don't have to wear a skirt to Playland. So, I agree. It was traumatic. I agree with Lorri.

David: That traumatic.

Judy: We're gonna start, we're gonna start like a support group.

Nicole: Well, now it sounds like we've outed Ray as the villain of Playland. Which I don’t think…

Judy:  He's a dead man.

Lorri: I know, but it sounds as if he enjoyed it too much.

Judy: Yes, I agree.

Arnold: I'm pretty sure there was a gender divide situation. Cause we recall Jim Smith's memory last week about how the sailors used to line up near that to watch the skirts being blown up.

Lorri: Ahh.

Arnold: That was like back in the ‘40s.

David: But changing the subject slightly, a dollar-fifty an hour back then was good money.

Nicole: Yeah.

David: We laugh at it today, but that was a decent wage.

Nicole: Yeah.

Kevin: Yeah.

Nicole: So, Ray, yeah I believe you're a good person. You know. Going on, he says to say [00:39:00] the least, that was a popular entryway into the main floor, which was too much fun. And he said, “I could go on, but I'll end with a couple of other fond memories. As employees, and after we closed the to the public, we would hang out at the Dodg’em cars. Head-on crashes were not allowed, but when the doors are closed, anything goes.” Oh Ray, you're not helping me. “Mayhem on the bumper cars. Lastly, being assigned to clean up after parties at Frontier Town. I'd ride the train, drink all the soda I wanted, and eat up the candy and other goodies. They shouldn't put a fox in the henhouse. Hope you enjoyed my memories, and let's keep Playland alive. Cheers!”

Kevin: Oh yeah, yeah. Boy, we're enjoying that one.

David: Maybe he did it for therapy just to get it off his chest, you know?

Kevin: There you go.

Nicole: Oh, really.

Kevin: He hasn't been able to talk about this for [00:40:00] all these years.

David: Right.

Nicole: Is this just a group therapy session now? We're not qualified for that.

David: It might be. I don't…

Judy: Yeah. Now we need to get Lorri and him together for some restorative justice.

Nicole: Forthcoming on the Western Neighborhoods Podcast.

David: Right.

Arnold: You know, remember, Ray was only working in the Fun House when it rained outside.

Lorri: For a dollar-fifty an hour.

David: Right.

Lorri: Which was a lot of money.

Kevin: For high wages.

Nicole: Right.

Kevin: He was only following orders.

David: Right.

Nicole: Let's get, let's get this back on the rails.

David: Yeah.

Nicole: And provide some family friendly content, but from the most friendly, family friendly person I know, Paul Judge.

David: Yeah.

Arnold: Yeah. So, Frontier Town. Frontier Town was at the tail end of Playland's glorious lifespan. The 1960s onward was a bit of a downward spiral. And our friend Paul Judge, checked in to say [00:41:00] this, quote,” forward to the early ‘60s, and I'm an adolescent intrigued with searching and discovering. Emperor Jean Nelson, a DJ on KYA, announced he was broadcasting from Playland and invited listeners to watch the broadcast and enjoy Playland offerings. So, with nothing but curiosity, I grabbed a few dollars from my nightstand and headed six blocks down Balboa Street to La Playa. Watching Emperor Jean talk into a microphone isn't very amusing, but jumping on various rides, discovering that the Diving Bell badly leaked water, riding the Alpine Racer, the much lesser cousin to the Big Dipper, and then multiple admissions bashing around in the bumper cars, sufficed. Eyeing attractive groups of girls was easy to do, but I was too shy to attempt more than discreet glances.”

Nicole: Cutest man of all time.

Arnold: Paul went on to say, “the next time I went to Playland [00:42:00] was with some neighborhood school chums on the last day of junior high. We spent hours goofing around the Fun House, convinced that its slide was quote, ‘so boss.’ A few weeks later, another outing with the same bunch spent roller skating at Skateland, eating corn dogs and afterwards exchanging quote, ‘goodnight kisses,’ that introduced a new perception on relationships with girls I had known for a while.” He goes on to say, “the summer of ‘66 was a great deal of time was spent crafting my slot car and racing it on the various tracks that one rented time on at the Model Car Raceway. It was for me a feverish hobby. Then like other commercial pastimes and fads, it faded from existence.”

Nicole: Yeah, I think we should interrupt this Paul Judge memory for another hot take this time from one of our special guests who has actually been a guest before. Of course, you all know him, David Friedlander. You spent a lot [00:43:00] of time at the Family Dog, and that was in the Ocean Beach Pavilion where the Model Car Raceway was as well. So, David, let's dig into all of your, let's therapy your experience at Playland now.

David: For me, Playland wasn't the destination. It was a place to go on the way. You know, sure, I didn't have any specific memories of the Fun House, but when Kevin was talking about the burlaps sacks and the screams that nobody could hear, I re, I remembered it. I had a collective memory that, oh, I think that was me. But, you know, but again, not having a specific memory of the Diving Bell or the Fun House, though I know they were there. Pretty much, I was there to eat It’s Its, play skee ball, you know, whatever. But then, you went down the road a little bit and you could go to, as I said before, Kelly's, as I got older, the Cliff House, Sutro Baths before it [00:44:00] burned. The tunnels and the hills beyond that, Sutro Heights. But one of the memories that I had mentioned to Arnold, and I was pretty young at this time, when my dad would drive to Sears on Masonic and Geary, we would usually go down the Lower Great, down the Great Highway, up around the corner, up the hill. Well, I can, I have this memory, fairly vivid, of the Ocean Park Pavilion. There was a point in time, I think from maybe the mid-‘50s to the mid-‘60s, it was the Surf Club. And it had acts, music. And I remember looking up at the marquee and seeing Danny and the Juniors on the marquee. Now Danny and the Juniors, for those of us who are old enough, At the Hop, Rock ‘n Roll is Here toSstay. They were a big doo-wop group in the late ‘60s and I was thinking late ‘50s and early ‘60s. And I'm thinking, how cool is that? Cause I'm a young kid and here they are on the marquee at [00:45:00] the Surf Club. You know, so that's one of my, one of my memories. But again, Playland for me was just on the way to whatever other adventure I was having that day with my posse of friends, that I liked to call it, on our bicycles.

Nicole: You know, David, we have a Play, we have a Surf Club hand-painted sign in Naiad Cove at The Museum at The Cliff.

David: Is that right, Nicole? Wow. That is so cool. But I wanted to mention too that, tying a couple things together, something Judy mentioned last week about, didn't matter what school you went to. You know, and something that Paul mentioned too, because Paul was talking about the sounds, the collective sounds that we all remember. The seals on Seal Rock, the foghorns, Playland, all of that. We all experienced that regardless of what school we went to or for, who our friends were, that was. And so, Paul is able to really articulate that really [00:46:00] well.

Kevin: Yeah.

David: Speak to that kind of collective consciousness memory that we all shared. I really liked that part of it. Not that I didn't like our individual ones, but he was able to articulate that real well. So, thank you for that.

Arnold: David, David, you recently joined us because you grew. and continued going to that area, specifically the Family Dog. That was our podcast episode 467. So, we won't go into all the experiences that you had there, but in…

David: Thank you.

Arnold: Like the end days of Playland, were you, when you went to the Family Dog, you saw music, you saw Professor Gaskin, were you also spending any time at Playland during those days?

David: Actually the only part of Playland, I mean, I spent a lot of time at Kelly's Cove, you know, when I was in high school and even afterwards. We’re talking, in the late ;60s and there was a Mexican restaurant at the corner of Balboa and Great Highway called the Bull Pup. And it was right next to…

Kevin: Yeah.

David: The Family Dog. And we [00:47:00] ate at the Bull Pup all the time. They had really, well, my memory's, good Mexican food, a lot of onions. That's what I remember, a lot of onions. But again, we mentioned Playland was kind of going downhill, a little seedy. You know, so to speak. So, as you got older into your teenage years, at least for me, I really didn't go spend any time there. Maybe buy an It's It. But that was, those were my memories.

Arnold: Thank you so much, David. You're the best. You mentioned Kelly's Cove there, and I believe our good friend Paul had some more to say about that, Nicole?

Nicole: Yes. Let's return to our regularly scheduled Paul Judge memory right now. He continues, “I won't go into the gravitational pull of Kelly's Cove here as it's very much its own topic. But suffice to say that Playland at the Beach played an important role amongst the surfing-beach community. Playland's many food stands and cafes supplied at much needed, affordably priced [00:48:00] food, calories and warmth to those bone chilled waves riders and beach goers.” Yeah, this is what I need to come back. This is what I want to see again. He goes on, “Playland by the late ‘60s was feeling shabby and sometimes sketchy. It's appeal to the public had diminished. In earlier decades, throngs of San Franciscans and visitors could ride street cars to the beach to spend an entire day being entertained and enjoying themselves. In post-World War II America, greater social mobility, the automobile and the bridges spanning the Bay allowed people to seek other destinations and recreations. Had a different business plan been adopted, resuscitating life and new attractions, perhaps Playland could have hung on and survived as the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk has.”

I also wanna point out, me as Nicole, that liability insurance, OSHA standards, all of these things was very much the death knell for like mom and pop roadside attractions like this. And [00:49:00] even, even like skating rinks and things like that, it really kind of did it in, And his final thought was, “by the time of Playland's closing after Labor Day weekend in 1972, the place had been in San Francisco's loss column, along with the Fox Theater on Market Street.

David: Yeah.

Nicole: Sutro Baths, Fleishhacker Pool, and the last 49ers game at Kezar Stadium. Warm memories of Playland linger for many in nostalgia among aging older generation. Yet it is hard to imagine they will, or hard to imagine the will, the real estate, or the means to create and sustain such an amusement park setting today.”

Arnold: Paul really paints a big…

Kevin: Whoa.

David: Perfect. That’s a perfect…

Kevin: Cue the violins.

Arnold: Lorri, you had something to say about that?

Lorri: Well, I think it's worth asking our, all of us, what our [00:50:00] last memory is of Playland. Because my last memory, or should I answer it now?

Nicole: Yeah.

David: Yeah.

Lorri: It’s, I was in high school and it was in 1968 or ‘69, and I, you know, it was at the point where I wasn't a, any longer waiting for my parents to drive me out there. We took some friends and I took a bus out there. We were harassed by groups of boys, but not in a good way. And it was just really seedy. It was just no, no place I ever wanted to go after that time that I went that year.

Arnold: Yeah, we, when we kinda heard David's last days there and Judy, did you have some memories of those?

Judy: Yeah, unfortunately, my last memory of Playland was breaking my tailbone. Well, I should say cracking my tailbone.

Lorri: Ow.

Judy: At the roller skate rink.

Nicole: Ooh.

Judy: [00:51:00] Which was a, an injury that I think I never healed from actually took a really long time, put me off roller skating right away. But…

Nicole: Are you saying Playland broke you?

Judy: Playland, well, between Laughing Sal and my poor tailbone and finding out my dad wasn't Sandy Koufax. I don't even know why I'm on this podcast. I gotta tell you.

Nicole: I think you're a very important touchdown for how, for what Playland has done to people. Now more people will feel comfortable coming forward because of your courage.

Judy: But still, I love, still I loved it. I mean, That's the thing. I was so excited. Oh, Playland is so exciting. Yeah, it was great.

David: You've been able to transcend your upbringing.

Judy: Thank you. The check is in the mail.

Arnold: I'm gonna hold on to Kevin's last memory of it for a little bit here. Just to break back in because Lorri asked for it, we deliver. Dennis O’Rorke, [00:52:00] a photographer who lived just behind Playland. I mean literally.

Nicole: Yeah.

Arnold: He has pictures from his bedroom window of Playland. And so, he has many memories of the tail end of the good years while also recalling the not so end day, good end days of Playland.

Nicole: Also, Arnold, where can you find some photographs of Dennis O’Rorke’s right now?

Arnold: Naiad Cove exhibit at The Museum at The Cliff,

Nicole: Correct.

Arnold: And on our websites, I should add.

Nicole: Also that, yes.

Arnold: Anyways, Dennis had this to say quote, “I don't have any first impressions of Playland because it just seemed like it was always there. I even have a funny photo of my father and myself when I was under one year old. Another recollection was how many military personnel were visiting there at Playland in the ‘40s.”

Nicole: Hubba, hubba.

Arnold: “And the constant presence of the shore patrol. Sailors were drawn to that concession [00:53:00] where you swung a giant hammer and tried to strike a bell way up on the pole. Large crowds would gather to watch.”

Nicole: On brand.

Arnold: Then he said, “I am old enough to remember riding on the Shoot the Chutes and how spectators seem to really enjoy being splashed when the boat hit the water. Then there was the racing carousel over on the now Safeway block. There also used to be a very mild little motorboat concession on this same block. I can remember seeing striped bass when I went down in the Diving Bell.”

Kevin: Wow.

Arnold: “I was lucky enough to hear Marvin Gold's recollections of operating the Diving Bell. When I was pretty little, there was one concession that featured an airplane on a wire that flew you around. And you could win the only prize offered, which were cigarettes, by betting where it would land.”

David: Gee.

Kevin: Whoa.

Nicole: Good job kid. Here's your pack of Marlboros. [00:54:00]

Arnold: “And there was one place devoted to merchandise that could be redeemed with, I think green stamps.” But he may be thinking of the Playland tickets.

David: Yeah.

Arnold: Or the Whitney money. He adds, “when I was a kid, the Musee Mecanique was located in those chalet-like buildings just north of the Ocean Beach Pavilion building. I believe admission was free and a youngster with no money could hang around until some well-heeled tourists dropped coins in the slot that activated those incredibly animated displays. And there was the ever-present Hurdy Gurdy music there.”

Nicole: That's still true, by the way. You can get into Musee Mecanique for free and then just like grift off everybody else putting their money in the different machines.

Arnold: Down at Pier 45. The Zelinskys, we love them.

Nicole: Yeah. Hot tip. If you're trying to take someone out on a date for cheap.

Kevin: Next kid.

Arnold: So, Dennis went on to…

Kevin:  To the floor.

Arnold: Dennis went on to say, “same for [00:55:00] the Sutro Baths Museum up the hill. Essentially the Playland experience extended from Fulton Street all the way up the hill to Merrie Way.”

Kevin: Wow.

Arnold: “And it was right across the street from Kelly's Cove. Most favorite spot. There was an upbeat carnival-like ambience to the area due to the presence of the food concessions along the Great Highway, which presented a much happier face than the interior Midway, which was no longer maintained as it was in the Whitney era.” Before we go on to Dennis' recollections of the dying days of Playland, this is where I want to sneak in Kevin's story of his final time going to Playland. Kevin, take it away.

Kevin: Yes.

Arnold: This is a great story.

Kevin: Oh, let me just throw in one more thing. I worked at the Musee Mecanique when it was under the Cliff House for about two weeks.

Nicole: Two weeks? What happened?

Kevin: But that's not what I came here to tell you. What?

Nicole: Two weeks? What happened? Did you get fired?

Kevin: No. I had to go on [00:56:00] a, a trip.

Nicole: Ahh.

Kevin: And then when I came back, you know, he didn't care. Anyway, my last visit to the Fun House was a party that, I don't know who threw it, but it was after the, it had closed. And it was set up, itt was just a bunch of college kids, basically. Grownups of a, of old drinking age, I'm sure, cause somebody seems to have had adult beverages. And the whole place was wide open and there we were as adult. You can't see, your listeners can't see my air quotes. But we were adults, enjoying all those things that terrified us as kids. And it was just a wonderful party. But I have yet to meet anybody, and I hope this broadcast brings these people out, anybody else that was [00:57:00] there or knows anything about it or if they went to some other party during that phase when they, the thing was being rented out. And it was just a wonderful time. We tried everything and everything worked. I could walk right through the barrel. No problem.

Lorri: Oh.

Judy: Did your skirt go up? That's what I wanna know.

Nicole: I thought at first you were like, I don't remember anything from this party. Please write in with your memories. So, beats my spotty memories.

Kevin: Yeah, yeah. Fill me in. Yeah, fill me in. It comes under hashtag, “Was that you?”

Arnold: That is just an epic way to bring Playland to a close there, Kevin. Thanks so much for that.

Nicole: Help Kevin remember his epic party.

Kevin: Yeah.

Arnold: So…

Kevin: Help me fill in the background.

Arnold: Dennis had some things to say. about those [00:58:00] final days. Nicole, why don't you finish up his recollections.

Nicole: Yeah. So, he finishes by saying, “so today no Louis’, no Ocean View restaurant, no Hontalas family, and no Pronto Pup stand. However, thanks to the folks at WNP, many memories are being preserved and there is more than a glimmer of hope that the special area will continue to delight locals and tourists alike as it did in the days you would see sea lions on Seal Rocks. When the Whitney's bailed out and that other group took over, there was a temporary feeling to the operation. This was pretty traumatic to me. During the last years, I had not spent much time in the Midway, but was a grateful customer when it came to food concessions. Primarily the Hot House, the Bull Pup, and the Chicken Range, with an occasional foray to the It's It window.” Fun fact, the daughter of the folks that owned the Chicken Range volunteers as a docent sometimes at The [00:59:00] Museum at The Cliff. So yes. Kevin holds up something he's been working on for a long time that says Naiad Cove. Every time, every time we say that.

Anyways, back to Dennis O’Rorke's thoughtful memory. “But before the dismantling started, I made a point to spend time watching the crowds in the Midway. And revisiting the Fun House and really getting into that experience. There was that spinning platter where you tried to rush over and grab the center spot. The twirling barrel, and both slides. There was also that group of rideable horses that could really buck back and forth, plus the moving walkways. I have pictures of these.” And I have to say, you can tell that Dennis O'Rorke was walking around and thoughtfully trying to capture the people and the places at Playland. His images really have a nostalgic feel to them as he's taking them. And that, I think that's why they're so powerful today. He sees these people through his lens [01:00:00] and we see them now.

He ends by saying, “one thing that really struck me was what a great recreational Playland was for senior citizens, especially those of modest means. They could get on the bus downtown and head straight to Playland, where there was a variety of affordable games of chance, as well as very reasonable and varied restaurants and food concessions.” And yeah, some of his most powerful photos are just adorable elderly folks hang, like sitting on benches and just hanging out, carrying popcorn, walking hand in hand. I have to say Dennis O'Rorke's photography is some of my favorite photos I've ever seen of San Francisco and I know Mr. Woody LaBounty feels the same.

Kevin: Yeah.

Nicole: We're just gonna move on to listener mail. Arnold, do you feel like that is an okay executive decision?

Arnold: You’re the Executive Director. All your decisions are final.

Nicole: That is so not true, [01:01:00] but thank you for that.

Arnold: Well, Nicole, let's start off by telling people how they actually send us listener mail.

Nicole: It's super-duper easy. You just email us podcast@outsidelands.org. Or you can find us on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. So you can message us all through there. Perhaps this week's Playland Memories podcast may generate even more stories of Playland. Please feel free to send those to us. We will keep reading them and sharing them. We are loving this theme. And even though this podcast is pretty much listener mail anyways, right, Arnold?

Arnold: Yeah, we did, however, receive a few comments on last week's Part One of the Playland Memories podcast that we thought we would share with you. These were people who hit us up on Twitter in response to our posting there, Anita said, quote, “the rollercoaster was dangerous. The Fun House likely would not pass [01:02:00] safety today. It was a fun place though.” You are correct, Anita. Very doubtful that much of it would pass safety inspections today, but if it had stuck around, we hope that the safety would've been upgraded over time.

Nicole: Also on Twitter, our friends at the San Francisco Cable Car Museum mentioned, and I quote, “it had seen balmier days and had fallen on hard times, but still it was sad to see it go. No more raucous laughter along the beach from Sal, or the smell of caramel corn, Bull Pup tacos and pies.” Indeed, we are definitely sad that it closed, especially since neither Arnold or I were able to actually visit it.

Arnold: Which is why we turn to experts in these two podcasts.

Nicole: Yes, experts.

Kevin: Here we are.

David: We're experts?

Nicole: Friends.

Kevin: Yeah, that's us.

Nicole: Fun-loving folks.

Arnold: So, I believe there may [01:03:00] be some actual benefits if you were to maybe become a member of the WNP.

Nicole: Oh, so many benefits. In fact, I would say that joining Western Neighborhoods Project, you get a whole Playland of benefits. Am I right folks?

Kevin: Whoa. Whoa.

Nicole: Starting at the low price for $50 a year, you get a quarterly membership magazine. You get discounts on events and other exclusive perks. And those discounts really are discounts right now. Some events at The Museum at The Cliff are 10 bucks for members, but $30 for non-members. So that's a real discounted rate y’all. And your membership also supports all the other good work we do, right? Supports this podcast. It supports the Cliff House collection, which is insanely expensive to maintain. Judy knows what I'm talking about. And all the other good things. So, if you wanna become a member of the family [01:04:00] in a not creepy, not, you know, mafia kind of way I encourage you to clickity, clickity, clack the big orange button, the top of every single page on our websites, outsidelands.org or OpenSFHistory.org. And Arnold, what kind of awesome things are happening right now?

Arnold: Yeah. I believe we have some announcements. And of course, I think we may have mentioned this already.

Nicole: Oh.

Arnold: The Museum at The Cliff is still going strong every weekend through September 25th. From 11 to 5 on Saturdays and Sundays. If you haven't seen it yet, what are you waiting for?

Nicole: What are you waiting for?

Arnold: It is free after all. Because of capacity limitations, you should reserve your spot because we had a lot of people up there these weekends. But you can however, walk in and register if you forgot to do so ahead of time. You merely, but if you do wanna make that reservation, you [01:05:00] go to our, the events page of our website outsidelands.org. And Nicole, do we have some other things happening.

Nicole: Yeah well, the big news around the west side right now are Ben Wood's awesome new projections that are happening outside. You don't have to come in the Museum in the evening because well, one, we're not open. But two, you can just walk on by and see history come to life through the windows of the old Cliff House restaurant. There's two separate ones going on every night from sundown to 10:30 PM. There's one, the brand new one we just premiered last week, overlooks Kelly's Cove and depicts the history of Kelly's Cove from some awesome surf films never before digitized before Ben reached out to a neighbor named Terry. And Carol Schulte, Bill Hickey, you know all the legends that we've talked about here on this podcast are animated before your eyes. And then on the other side, there's four vignettes, four installments of the history of the area. So, I, grab, [01:06:00] grab, grab your loved ones. Grab hot cocoa or something stronger, and head on out there. Safely in numbers because sometimes it's a little sketch in the neighborhood.

Arnold: Because we're running way, way long at this point, let me quickly run through a few others. We have a history happy hour at the Museum on Wednesday, September 14th at 6:30 with the authors of the book about the 49 Mile Scenic Trail in San Francisco, Kristine Poggioli and Carolyn Eidson. We have a guided curator’s tour of the Museum happening on Friday, September 16th. And that's a history one, not the curator, the art curators tour.

Nicole: Yep.

Arnold: And on September 17th, our favorite park service ranger, John Martini, is doing a Sutro Heights history walk. And on Sunday, September 18th, the Daly City History Guild is presenting a lecture at the Pacelli Gym in Westlake featuring Jim Smith and [01:07:00] Tom Wyrsch, presenting Tom's documentary. Remembering, get this, Playland at the Beach.

Nicole: Yeah.

Arnold: So, you can visit them on Facebook for more details, but visit our website outsidelands.org/events for information, ticket prices, and getting tickets for all the other events.

Nicole: Way to stick it out and share some incredible memories with us. Let's give a round of applause, a quiet one so we don't blow out the speakers here. For everybody who joined us, Lorri, David, Kevin, Judy, this was so much fun. Thank you.

Arnold: And Nicole, do we have a preview for next week?

Nicole: We do. We are taking one more step down the Playland memory lane as we interview Reino Niemela, the son of the man who painted all the signs at Playland from 1937 to when it closed in 1972.

Kevin: Whoa. Cool.

Nicole: And you won't wanna miss this. I hypothesized at our gala about who made our cowboy and something [01:08:00] Reino just brought out of the archives proves I'm right. You won't wanna miss this podcast.

Arnold: Thanks again, everybody listening and with us. We will see you next week.

Nicole: Thank you everyone.

David: Thank you.

Ian: Outside Lands San Francisco is recorded by Ian Hadley. Content creation and media production at ihadley.com.

Nicole: To learn more about the Western Neighborhoods Project and more on San Francisco history, go to Outsidelands.org. You can also find us on social media at Facebook, which is outsidelands with an S, at Twitter, which is outsidelandz with a Z, and on Instagram, which is outsidelandz, also with a Z. And check out our historic San Francisco images website at OpenSFHistory.org.

On the Map (click marker for larger map)
More Podcasts
  • Podcast # 194: Sloat Boulevard

    From the zoo to St. Francis Circle, stories about San Francisco's widest (maybe) street. (Outside Lands San Francisco Podcast Oct 16, 2016)
  • Podcast # 422: Balboa Street Businesses

    We take another virtual stroll down a Richmond District business corridor, Balboa Street. Where else but on this Pod can you visit both beloved, but lost businesses and learn about those that endure to this day? Become a WNP member and join us on the live podcast each week, plus other great benefits of membership. http://outsidelands.org (Outside Lands San Francisco Podcast Mar 20, 2021)
All Podcasts...

The Outside Lands San Francisco podcast is also available as a subscription via iTunes and by RSS feed.

Save SF History