Nov 27, 2007

Long Beach, The Pike, & The Cyclone Racer

The description on the back of this vintage postcard reads: Near the entrance of the famous Rainbow Pier, is the popular Amusement and concession center, known as "The Pike," where crowds congregate daily to enjoy the many interesting and amusing attractions. [My note: The Plunge, seen in the background, was an indoor salt water swimming pool.]

My brothers and I were born in Long Beach, California, as were both of my parents. My Mom spent most of her youth in Nebraska; however, my Dad grew up in Long Beach where he later met and married my mother after she moved back to California. They then purchased a newer suburban home in Long Beach and raised 3 children.

By the late 60's, The Pike (shown above) was a fading flower. Much like it's star attraction, a wooden dual-track racing roller coaster called the Cyclone Racer, the amusement park had taken it's last ride to the top and was rapidly declining.

The Cyclone Racer at The Pike in Long Beach, California

Before The Pike was torn down, my Dad felt compelled to share a final Cyclone Racer ride with me– his eldest. At 10 years of age, I had only ridden the tamer Disneyland attractions, never the serious stuff. The Cyclone Racer– functional from 1930 to 1968– was one of my Dad's favorite childhood pastimes, an added bonus of living in a beach resort city. Introducing this ride to me was perhaps his way of saying good-bye. For me, it was my "ride" of passage.

As our train slowly gained elevation, my emotions were like a mixed cocktail of fear, apprehension, and ecstasy. This exhilaration was tethered to my confidence that Dad could protect me from anything. Nevertheless, this "confidence" was challenged when our ride gained momentum. I remember clinging to my Dad as my feelings seesawed from fright to glee. I walked away from this experience with an indelible daddy-daughter memory, and an insatiable love for roller coasters.

A vintage postcard of the Pier at Long Beach, California - 1910.


  1. I remember in elementary school when some of the Pike was still there, going into a fun house with my friend!! My mom often tells of her going to the Pike!! She lived in Gardena, not to far away!

  2. I remember the pike! We use to go swimming at the Plunge. I hated the bathing suits they made you wear. Oh, my gosh I can't believe you found a postcard with a picture of the Pike. What memories.

    Gail of Long Beach

  3. Beautifully written KJ. I've never even been brave enough to go on the roller coasters at Disney World, never mind something this big. You are brave.

  4. Hello my dear,
    first of all, what beautiful old pictures. It's great to see what it looked like before.
    And now a translation of my text to the pictures on my blog.
    I have helped e male friend to decorate his home, bit by bit.
    This is his living room which looked like the first four pictures, before the decorating.
    What I say is this:
    " This is what it looked like before..... and so..... and so.... and so..."
    I don't know if my translation is good enough but I've tryed anyway :-))
    Love Eva Agnes

  5. My husband lived in Southern California for part of his youth and I think for a time in Long Beach. I'll have to ask him about the Pike. He also lived across from Disneyland and I think that's the reason he loves amusement parks. Love the old postcards.

  6. Sheila . . .

    I would be interested to know when your hubby lived here and what school he went to.

    As a kid, I always told myself that IF I ever ran away, I would live in the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse at night and on Tom Sawyer's Island during the day. (I was convinced that there were secret caves that only I knew about!) When I grew up, I realized that I actually lived just off a major street that Disneyland sits on. All I had to do was walk east (for several miles) and I would have been there! Somehow, I felt duped that I had to wait until I was an adult to find that out!


  7. My daddy memories are all wonderful ones too :)
    Have you read that book ...can't say the title exactly...but The People You Meet In Heaven...first takes place on a pier like this one.

  8. Wow that brings back fond memories of my Brother and I pitching pennies and dimes in the arcade! We used to bring home bags of carnival glass that we had won! I know my Mom still has a few pieces stashed away somewhere!

  9. What a lovely daughter-father memory. I grew up in Northern California, so I do not have memories of The Pike. I have seen vintage photographs on this area though. Recently, I spent the day with a friend, Mark (an orthopedic surgical physician's assistant),who is very romantic and attentive, at the remodeled Rainbow Pier area. The walkway over the area was created to simulate the old roller coaster. I enjoy the Long Beach area - an architectural blend of old and new. Reminds me of San Francisco where I have fond memories of day trips with my father.

    Some would say of my friend, Mark - "he's a keeper", but I am patiently waiting(well, if you know me - waiting impatiently) for God to send me "the one". I am on God's path...on a journey to love.

    Thanks for the memories! Hugs :D

  10. I asked my husband about when he lived in Southern California and he said that they lived there in the early 60s and perhaps in the late 50s. He went to Fremont Jr. High. They had lived in Anaheim, moved to Long Beach to be near the naval base and then moved back to Anaheim.

    He remembers his family thinking the U.S. was under attack by the Russians in 1962 during the Cuban missile crisis when the fireworks started going off at Disneyland. He says his mom yelled at him to get under the table. He soon learned to love living so close to Disneyland.

  11. Love those old postcards of amusement parks- fun times!

  12. Oh...I'm so glad I didn't miss this post. I love it. My dad lived in Long Beach for several years when he was a teenager. His high school years. That would have been in the early forties. He's told us lots of stories about Long Beach. He loved it there.

  13. I am Kj's Daddy. I was born and raised in Long Beach. Graduated from L.B. Poly Hi in 1950. There is so much I could write about the pike and the plunge. I will just make a few comments on each facility.
    The Cyclone Racer or the Jackrabbit Racer, named after the Poly Hi school mascot in the early 20's I think, was always my favorite ride on the Pike. I looked forward to taking my kids on it. When they shut it down in 1968, Karen, (KJ) was the only one big enough to be able to ride on it. What a delight to read her comments on that long ago experience.
    As an adolescent, a buddy and myself, would take our newspaper delivery wages for the month and go to the pike and head for the "Rolleycoaster". We would stop at a donut shop on the Pike and buy a dozen donuts each. The first ride was 25 cents and rides thereafter were 20 cents. We would grab the front car if it was available, or move up when it was free. We would not give up the front seat unless the attendant asked us to. This happened a lot. We would move back but only as far back as we had to. By moving forward at the end of each ride we would soon be in the lead again. The fun ended when we ran out of money or donuts, I can't remember which.
    Memories of the Plunge, I'll save for another day.

  14. The Pike was the place to go pre Disneyland. I begged to ride the cyclone racer every time I went there as a kid. Finally, when I was 12, I was allowed to ride it with a friend. Then I knew why my parents hesitated to let me ride it. I think I rode it two times after that the last time being when I was about 19. It's a wierd thing to remember, but I remember eating a Mounds candy bar at the Pike. It's still my favorite candy bar. The last time I was there must have been about 1955. I was so disappointed in the place. It was really run down.
    Thanks for the memories.


Thanks for stopping by!
♫ Karen