Monday, November 06, 2006

Playing at Playland

After commenting last week on a friend's blog where she wrote of sightseeing in San Francisco, I received an e-mail from her which included this link. She also sent another link that ultimately led me to posting this photo.

It's the The Fun House at San Francisco's Playland-at-the-Beach. As amusement parks go, Playland was no Disneyland, but it did serve to amuse for decades. Sadly, time moves on, neglected places fall into disrepair, real estate becomes more valuable, developers move in and both venues are no longer.

Just about every weekend, the family would load up in the Chevy and Dad would drive us to Playland and/or The SF Zoo and/or GG park. You have to understand that 'going for a ride' meant adventures outside of Chinatown, where we tootled around taking care of life's business every day. Needing an escape from the boredom of our routine (as if living anywhere in San Francisco could be considered humdrum), we were all for hopping in the car for a frolic in the outer reaches of Fogland.

Without fail, The Fun House could traumatize me with every visit: those moments of panic and confusion at the entry trying to figure my way through the mirror maze, followed by a dizzying squeeze between huge, spinning barrel sized drums made of fabric, only to make my way into the main room of The Fun House to find myself dodging erratic blasts of air that would shoot up from holes in the floor (aimed at gals wearing skirts, no less!). Having braved all of the above, my reward would be a climb to the top of, then a thrilling descent down - the longest and coolest wooden slide in the world.

Playland-at-the-Beach was also where I first experienced Skee Ball and bumper cars. It's the place where my young and impressionable taste buds were introduced to yummy beef enchiladas covered with zesty red sauce and savory chicken pies that featured a mouth-watering flaky buttery crust.

Another image which stands out as a distinctive memory is of an ornamental frieze above the exterior fronts of Playland restaurants and businesses. The frieze looked like a fa├žade of doll-sized row houses, and were painted in bright colors. With their cottage style windows and doors, I liked to pretend they were the homes of the Seven Drawfs.

Though she and she alone represents all that was wild, crazy and demented about The Fun House, I waited till the end of this post to mention her: 'Laughing Sal'. It is her haunting heehaw laugh in that earlier sound byte. The image of her laughing is the stuff of a young child's nightmares, to be sure.

Those who visited Playland or the Cliff House between 1928-1972 can re-live their memories at this website. Or visit Amusing America and see something of the way it was back in the day.

Yes, I had fun times playing at Playland and The Fun House. Though I suspect the latter is also where my dislike of clowns began...

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