Voted the World’s Best Seaside Park

Remembering the Boardwalk, 1950

My first trip to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk was in 1962. I was 2 years old and was allowed my first ride on the Giant Dipper. It seems you could ride it at any age if you felt you were ready. I was part of a long family tradition of visiting Santa Cruz. My Mom, Grandparents and Great Grandparents all loved Santa Cruz.

We would rent a small cottage acrossed the street from the Dipper and stay for up to three weeks at a time. Each night as our Mom would take us back to the “cabin”, my sister and I would cry, “we never get to do anything!” Staying in those cabins was great fun. Going to the beach all day, listening to the screams as we swam and then returning to the cabin for a bath, outside, in the concrete sink. Years later we would stay at the Ebb Tide Motel. We loved the location and the pool with a slide. We would go into town to have breakfast at the Bubble Up Cafe then head to the beach to get some more sunburn.

As a small child my favorite ride was Bulgy the Whale but we always called them “the fishes”. As I grew older the gas powered cars became my favorite. I loved standing on my assigned number in the circle waiting for my car to come to a screeching halt in front of me. I used to daydream about actually driving one of those cars out on the streets. I would love to see the cars come back to the Boardwalk. We used to call the sea monster “Cecil”, from the Beanie & Cecil Show. I spent many afternoons with my sister at the Funhouse, an activity that we also did many times at Playland at the Beach in San Francisco. This is the reason I love seeing Laughing Sal at the Boardwalk now. I used to be so scared by her laugh and she seemed so much bigger. At the fun house my favorites were the wooden slide with the burlap sacks and the spinning disc. I was always able to get a couple of the bigger guys to befriend and help little me stay on till the end.

While we were at the fun house our grown ups would spend time playing Facination. Then our Grandpa would come and get us and let us throw the baseballs at the milk bottles while we waited for the ladies to finish playing Facination. As the night wore on our Grandpa would declare, “banks closed” in reply to our request for more money for games and rides. He would then buy us a chocolate dipped banana with nuts, and we would walk back to the motel to rest up for a repeat the next day.

Spending the 4th of July was always the best. Watching the fireworks light up the sky over the bay was great. As a teenager in the 70’s it was sad to see the bandstand go dark and I am happy to see it back in great form.

I have raised both of my sons visiting the Boardwalk and now they have their memories to bore their children with. Today I cannot wait to get there to eat my first Hot Dog on a Stick below the Dipper and then ride the Dipper, hands raised high. I love that this place is still here. Even though it changes, it is frozen in time. Thank you for the memories.

John Sharp

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