Tonight was the theatrical premiere of the new documentary, “Remembering Playland”, which looks back on the Playland At The Beach amusement park that sat on Ocean Beach from 1921 to 1972.
The Balboa Theater was packed; only the 9:15pm show on Wednesday still has tickets available (buy tickets). In the crowd were Playland attendees that had been interviewed for the documentary, which is full of great stories about the park best known by locals for its Fun House and cackling matron, Laffing Sal.
Many of those interviewed for the film are part of Playland-not-at-the-Beach, a “museum of fun” in El Cerrito, CA that was created to preserve and recreate the history of Playland. PNATB was also in the lobby displaying memorabilia from the park.
To top off a great night, the It’s It ice cream crew was on hand passing out free sandwiches to moviegoers. The original It’s It was created and sold exclusively at Playland for over four decades.
I came home with a DVD in hand ($15) so rest assured they’ll be available via mail order very soon.
The crowd hits the lobby after the 7pm show
The It’s It truck parked outside the Balboa Theater
A replica of the Laffing Sal animated statue from Playland
A commemorative Playland poster
Handing out free It’s It ice cream sandwiches to moviegoers
Memorabilia on display from Playland-Not-At-The-Beach
On the heels of today’s Examiner story, the Examiner updates us with news that the Department of Building Inspection visited the Alexandria property today and posted two notices.
The first notice alerts owners that they must register the Alexandria as a vacant building with the city. According to city law, this requires paying a $765 fee and continued maintenance to keep it in secure and good condition. The second notice was a violation for a broken window on the premises.
“The inspection did not confirm any of the exemptions provided in the (vacant building ordinance),” DBI spokesman William Strawn told the Examiner.
Kudos to SFAppeal and the Examiner for continuing to fan the flames on this issue.
Now, let’s hope the owners, who are rumored to live abroad, actually receive and act on these notices in a timely manner.
One towering figure in the show is “Indy”, short for Indricotherium, which is the largest land mammal ever discovered weighing in at 20 tons, or roughly the equivalent of 3 adult elephants. Since Indy arrived in the city, he (she?) has been making his way around to the various sights and in honor of that, the Academy is holding a fun Photoshop contest.
Of course I had to make sure that Indy visits some Richmond District sites; what better way for him to learn where he can venture to after the Academy closes?
Will wonders never cease? Once again outsidelands.org delights me with another fascinating glimpse into what used to be in the Richmond District. This time it’s the Cliff House Sky Tram which ran from May 1955 until 1961. The photo below was taken by Erma Zimmerman July 1956. More photos of the sky tram here and here.
The Sky Tram opened on May 3, 1955. Up to 25 passengers, paying a quarter each, had a slow ride from just below the Cliff House across the Sutro Baths basin to a Point Lobos promontory that had been outfitted with a two manmade waterfalls. This was not a roller-coaster, but a very slow sight-seeing glide on a couple of steel cables a few hundred feet above the ground. The whole trip took four minutes and you had to walk back.
Fog, wind, and perhaps general boredom shut down the Sky Tram in 1961. For many years the former Cliff House Sky Tram “station” served as a Golden Gate National Recreation Area visitor’s center. That building was torn down during the 2000 renovation of the Cliff House.
And check out the video below of the sky tram, shot by Ron Biagini in 1960 (courtesy of outsidelands.org). The video includes footage of the installed double waterfall and broken windows of the Sutro Baths building.
Outsidelands.org is a website belonging to the Western Neighborhoods Project, which is a nonprofit organization formed in 1999 to preserve and share the history and culture of the neighborhoods in western San Francisco. Become a member today to support their efforts – you get a quarterly newsletter, special guided history walks, and other great historical information.
There isn’t too much new information in the Examiner article, but it does include quotes from concerned neighbors such as Yevgeniya Lapa, an employee of the Europa Plus market across the street. “They use it like a restroom. It’s dirty.” Another neighbor calls it an eyesore.
The article also reports that the Department of Building Inspection plans to visit the theater this week “to make certain the property has good reason to not be called vacant or abandoned, spokesman Bill Strawn said.”
As the story’s headline alludes to, the theater has evaded current blight laws due to the two storefronts that occupy part of the property on the Geary side. In addition, the YMCA rents some parking spaces in the back parking lot. It is this activity that has prevented the building from being classified as abandoned, which would make it subject stiff fines for not keeping up the property.