Sunday, November 29, 2009

Santa Monica Memories with Amanda

Dear Blog, friends, family, anyone who chances upon this entry:

It’s been a marvelous weekend, starting with Thanksgiving full of good food, great company, heart-to-heart sentiments, and all you ever need and all that you can’t leave behind – love.

My god-daughter Amanda has been visiting since Thanksgiving and will be picked up by her parents this morning before church. They’re due any minute.

Amanda is 14, just the right age to be a little sister, a girlfriend, someone to hang with. And we did a lot of that last item this weekend.

She’s really good company, got a great sense of humor, and is comfortable sharing some stuff from her life with me as she would with a big sister. I hope she’ll always feel that comfort with me – her nina, co-madre, co-mother to her own.

We were busy virtually the two days she was with me, starting with a visit to Santa Monica Pier, now celebrating its centennial and I celebrate the part it played in my childhood after my folks and I moved from Kent, Ohio, in 1962.

When we first moved here, our closest relatives were my Uncle Wayne, Aunt Martha and my cousin Jackie, who lived in Hollywood. That in itself was glamorous to us mid-Western émigrés. And they slowly showed us the pleasures of living on the left coast.

One of those was trips to Santa Monica and its pier that featured a covered carousel (that same carousel “starred” in The Sting – you’ll see it in the opening shots before scenes when Robert Redford – sigh – seeks Paul Newman’s help – another sigh). The pier was old back in the 1960s, rickety old, with tacky souvenir stores and carnival food purveyors. Of course there were the perquisite bumper cars. Below is a photo of the pier, circa the 1960s.

There was one shop that Jackie and I LOVED. It was a huge warehouse that sold plaster-of-Paris knick-knacks that we painted with whatever artistic skill we possessed. Our favorite purchase, though, were tiki charms we painted and strung onto lanyard cord as necklaces. Tikis were the hot ticket along with puka shell necklaces and such – because surfers wore them and looked so cool.

When we were kids, Jackie and I enjoyed another beach attraction, Pacific Ocean Park, aka P.O.P – as in P-OH-P (the color photo below). P.O.P opened in 1958 and lasted only until 1967 when it was closed to pay back taxes. In between, its roller coaster and whirlpool ride terrified me (every time I rode it!).

Today, Santa Monica Pier is a bit more sanitized. The carousel is still there, operating like usual, and the bumper cars have been replaced by smaller versions. And P.O.P. is there in spirit with the Pacific Park amusement rides – a much smaller roller coaster than P.O.P.’s and a nice Ferris wheel that I just had to ride on Friday.

Now, apparently, Amanda doesn’t like heights and hung on to the center pole of our gondola when we first took off. But then she got busy taking photos of herself and of me (the picture at the right is her, with the Ferris wheel as a halo -- just call her Santa Amanda de Santa Monica).

We intended to stick around for another ride after dark, but there was a storm brewing inland and the winds at the pier approached gale force, making walking very difficult, and the chill factor was teeth-chattering. We couldn’t stick it out, and left right after sunset.

It was a nice check-in visit for me to see how my beloved pier was doing. There are more itinerant artists hawking their talents – caricaturists, oil-pastel portraitists and even sculptors who will mold your likeness in clay … for $15! Such a deal and quite good, actually.

I miss the old plaster-of-Paris store, Sinbad’s restaurant, Moby’s Dock (replaced by a Bubba Gump’s Shrimp House), but there are still the tacky souvenir stands and carnival cuisine. And oh yes, the restrooms are a lot nicer than they were when I was a kid.

It was nice introducing Amanda to this part of my childhood and I look forward to sharing more of my life’s memories with her. We’re going to have lots of fun in 2010, and there will surely be another trip back to that Ferris wheel some warm night!

I hope you all will do the same.
Thanks for checking in on me – Cathie Lou

1 comment:

  1. I, too, loved the old plaster of Paris store on the pier. My sisters and I painted many, many hideous "treasures" from there. And P-O-P...that roller coaster terrified me...only went on it once. Thanks for capturing and preserving a slice of my SoCal childhood in this post. Wonderful and spot on!