The Pike Amusement Park
REMEMBER IT FROM:
Kelly had a fun day of merry-go-rounding, double fisting cotton candy, and getting shot in the head when she and her little buddy Skip visited this amusement park.
FEATURED IN THIS EPISODE:
- “ “, Season 1
VINTAGE FOOTAGE OF THE KIDDIELAND & MORE:
Famous for its dual-track roller coaster – The Cyclone Racer – which extended out over the Pacific, the Pike Amusement Park in Long Beach was for many years a west coast rival to New York’s Coney Island. Situated on a pier which now allows terrific views of the RMS Queen Mary across the harbor, this family-favorite seaside amusement park was a Long Beach staple for 90 years, and the perfect place for Kelly to spend the day with her favorite little guy and his gun.
First opened in 1902, The Pike became popular with sailors on leave from the nearby shipyards; during WWII the park thrived in its heydey – a mile long main street solidly lined with novelty shops, side shows, shooting galleries, games, and food; it’s kiddieland area complete with roller coasters and a beautifully crafted carousel, but within a few years it was experiencing insurmountable competition from super-parks like Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm.
Under new management in the 1950′s, the park was dubbed Nu-Pike, but little had changed – in fact, the Pike became noted for its unsavory characters and unsafe amusements (we’re told the coaster went off its tracks due to poor maintenance.) In 1971, its name changed yet again, this time to Queens Park, to herald the newly moored Queen Mary across the harbor – even Charlie’s Angels changed The Pike’s name yet again to “Brady Pier Amusement Park”.
The Pike closed for good in 1979, just three years after Kelly’s shooting, only to be demolished to make way for seaside condos, a parking structure and a mall, which is still called The Pike, and does offer amusement park type attractions including a ferris wheel and roller coaster, which are visible along the Long Beach shoreline.
NO LAFFING MATTER:
Perhaps the most strange of The Pike’s curiosities is the tale of the dead man housed within the Laff in the Dark funhouse, the colorful fascade of which is clearly visible behind Jaclyn Smith in her scene at the kiddieland.
Just weeks or perhaps months after Jaclyn and the Angels crew shot their sequences forat The Pike, Lee Majors (of Farrah Fawcett-Majors fame) and the crew of The Six Million Dollar Man moved in to film sequences for a Bionic adventure set in the amusement park in December, 1976. (If you’re interested in checking out this episode, Bionic Expert Clive Banks tells us it’s entitled “Carnival of Spies”.)
When the Six Million crew began to stage shots in the Laff in the Dark funhouse, a crew member moved what appeared to be a dummy prop of a man hanging from a noose, and accidentally broke off its arm. Upon closer investigation, it turned out that the arm – and the hanging body – were those of a REAL man – a genuine outlaw killed in 1911 after a bank heist and murder. It seems that when no one claimed the body of Elmer McCurdy, his mortician stored the embalmed body in the back room of his shop, until years later, it was sold to a traveling freak show and carnival. Later, as the truth about Elmer’s reality faded into history, his corpse went on to appear in cheap wax museums, touted as the wax figure of an old-west outlaw. He ultimately ended up in the Laff in the Dark exhibit at The Pike, among other less-creepy curiosities, and after his discovery, he was shipped back home to Oklahoma for a proper burial.
THEN & NOW PHOTOS:
MAP AND ADDRESS:
Site of Amusement Park (Defunct/Demolished)
95 South Pine Avenue
Long Beach, CA 90802