In a prior post I wrote how an idyllic Skokie, Illinois street once stood in for Mayfield on Leave It to Beaver. Although that episode has no connection to silent movies, I was surprised to see that the Season 5, Episode 21 installment “Beaver’s Fear” does. During the show older brother Wally and his cool older friends allow young Theodore to tag along on their trip to the “Bell Port” amusement park in order to qualify for a group discount. Shaken by Eddie Haskell’s constant teasing, Beaver has doubts about withstanding the roller coaster, but in the end Beaver has a great time, while Eddie freaks out, and must be carried bodily from the coach at the end of the ride.
The former Cyclone twin-track racing roller coaster at the Long Beach Pike (1915-1968) stood in for the Bell Port attraction. Although the rear projection footage is about as convincing as Ken Osmond’s acting during the scene (see both above), it nonetheless provides a fascinating photographic record of the long lost coaster, one of the last twin-track (or racing) coasters in the country at the time of its demise.
The twin racing coaster was originally called the Jackrabbit Racer at the time Harold Lloyd filmed Number Please? there in 1920, but was renamed The Cyclone in 1930 after it was upgraded with higher peaks and longer drops. The Loff Hippodrome shown above and to the right housed a distinctive carousel that appeared both in Number Please? and in Buster Keaton’s 1920 comedy The High Sign. My book Silent Visions explores in detail all of the beach-side amusement parks appearing in Lloyd’s films.
Lloyd was not the first comedian to feature the Pike’s star attraction in an early film. Below, the Roscoe Arbuckle – Buster Keaton – Al St. John comedy The Cook (1918) also included many scenes shot on the twin-track coaster.
In one of my earliest posts, I write about the Long Beach Goatland attraction that appears during the Arbuckle-Keaton-St. John comedy The Cook, and how the surviving Loff Hippodrome roof and cupola tower (right) sits in a nearby parking lot. Sadly, a check on Google Street View shows that the cupola is no longer there. [[UPDATE: Reader Charles Rogers, below, writes that the cupola has been moved to some storage yard between the 710 freeway, 16th, Gaylord, and the Los Angeles River. You can see it behind a fence in Google Street View HERE.]] The Pike and Silver Spray Pier were torn down long ago, although the Rainbow Harbor entertainment center that stands there today (see below) has a Ferris Wheel.
Note: in a Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon connection, director Rich Correll, who as a young man was Harold Lloyd’s friend and film archivist, and who remains a leading Lloyd expert and staunch Lloyd proponent, had earlier been a child actor on Leave It to Beaver, portraying Beaver’s friend Richard Rickover. Although Rich did not appear in the Bell Port amusement park sequence, he does appear in the same episode, providing another link between the show and the silent era.
HAROLD LLOYD images and the names of Mr. Lloyd’s films are all trademarks and/or service marks of Harold Lloyd Entertainment Inc. Images and movie frame images reproduced courtesy of The Harold Lloyd Trust and Harold Lloyd Entertainment Inc.
Leave it to Beaver – (C) 1962 Revue Studios.
Hi John, I don’t know if I mentioned that my wife and I live in Long Beach and really enjoy its rich and colorful history so it was really a pleasure to see the post about the early Long Beach Pike and the Silver Spray Pier! We were very familiar with the renovation down at the Pike over the last decade and many times saw the Looff Carousel Hippodrome cupola sitting on blocks along side the road when we’d be down there. Recently we’d made a trip down there and saw it missing but then found this building between the Laugh Factory and the Ferris Wheel on the corner of Pine & Shoreline, and thought, there it is! We were excited that they were able to reuse it. But then, when I compared it to the photo you’d taken of the original sitting on the blocks and did a closer examination, It became obvious it’s not the same structure. The roof line is different on the tower and this structure is 8-sided where the original was 16. I guess they felt the old was just too structurally unsound to be able to reuse. Thanks again for the stuff on Long Beach! I’m going to enjoy immersing myself in it!
Dave David G. Gansen
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The Cyclone Racer was NOT the last twin-track roller coaster at the time of its demise in 1968. Kennywood Park’s (Pittsburgh) Racer coaster opened in 1927, and runs to this day. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bSMkmw71m14
Thank you Derek – I stand corrected. Cheers, John
Thank you for detailing this history. When I first watched Number Please?, I was so curious as to where that was filmed!
Thank you Clint – my book fully explores Number Please?, including the many locations in Venice, and at the Venice Pier, appearing in the movie. Cheers, John
It seems that the cupola still exists in storage, or did as of last December. I’ve found it on Google Maps here: https://firstname.lastname@example.org,-118.2074613,3a,60y,98.17h,90.97t/data=!3m7!1e1!3m5!1sXaxdkrOb1XvJ4oVPxiPZIg!2e0!6s%2F%2Fgeo1.ggpht.com%2Fcbk%3Fpanoid%3DXaxdkrOb1XvJ4oVPxiPZIg%26output%3Dthumbnail%26cb_client%3Dmaps_sv.tactile.gps%26thumb%3D2%26w%3D203%26h%3D100%26yaw%3D89.47156%26pitch%3D0%26thumbfov%3D100!7i13312!8i6656
Don’t know if that long link works, but you can look at the 710 between 16th and Gaylord and see it between the highway and the river, from above or from the highway in streetview. Hope this helps.
There it is. Thanks Charles, the link worked fine. How strange to see this remnant of the grand old days just sitting there anonymous and abandoned.
Kennywood Park in Pittsburgh still has it’s wooden double track racer rollercoaster, which is called “The Racer” and it’s 91 years old (several safety remodels have occurred over the years). It’s 1 of only 3 still existing in the world. They still maintain three of their wooden rollercoasters; another of which is actually called “The Jackrabbit” (which is the old double-dip style where you get lifted out of your seat).
Hey, thanks RJC. It’s good to know a few of these racing coasters still exist. Venice CA had one – it appears in the background of Chaplin’s Kid Auto Races, which I cover in a separate post.
I just noticed, in the Al St. John shot above, he’s posing on the 1915 Jack Rabbit Racer (torn down in 1930). The “matching” shot next to it, is *not* the same ride. It’s a different racing coaster named Cyclone Racer, which replaced the Jack Rabbit for the 1930. BTW – there are more than just 3 wooden racing coasters in the world. In the US alone, there are several – American Eagle (6 Flags Great America), Lightning Racer (Hersheypark), The Racer (Kings Island), Racer (Kennywood), and Racer 75 (Kings Dominion). The Rare Jazz Congress may have intended to mean Möbius loop racing coasters, but that number isn’t correct either. There are five of those worldwide.
Thanks Derek – the research for my Lloyd book described the original Jackrabbit Racer as being expanded and rebuilt in 1930, and renamed the Cyclone Racer. I guess that’s different than being torn down and replaced by the Cyclone Racer. Either way they were similar racing coasters occupying the same spot. I’d have to dig out my notes, so I’ll defer to your expertise. Glad to hear there are more survivors hanging on.
I spent just about every Friday night in the late 60’s ( 67-69 ) & some of the early 70’s between 10 thru early teens. I would go with my older brother he’d go lose money playing Light a line on the midway arcade area, I’d go ride the rides. I remember the old wood coaster was called the wild mouse this was post WW2 but the coaster during WW2 used to go out over the water it was a deadly ride.The fun house was called Laff in the Dark it had a October Fest couple dancing over the entry way (Mech. Couple ) that was the ride known for the the gun slinger body. Im now 63 and most of my tattoes came from Pops the original midway shop. That was the goo ol days.
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