I’m a sentimental person, which means I save everything. I have a footlocker full of my elementary school awards, class photos displaying my not so hip 1970’s school clothes, and some ugly pottery from my Junior High school ceramics class. Now that I’m a mother I’m collecting a mountain of mementos from my triplets’ youth. The past and present converged recently when my siblings and I took my kids to the Santa Monica Pier. Spending the day at the pier was a favorite pastime when I was a kid. I’ll never forget the joy I felt by nailing my brother to the wall while we were swirling around in the bumper cars. As we lead my children onto the pier, my sister and I marveled at the pristine condition of the now historic merry-go-round. That distinctive building that encloses the ride looks the same as it did in the 1970s. I remember how cool I thought it was that it became one of the locations used for the classic Redford/Newman film ‘The Sting’.
The waves that lapped the pylons of the wooden pier filled my kids with wonder as we paused to look over the rail. As with all things, change has come to the pier over the years. There is a roller coaster now, a swinging pirate ship and a plunging ride that looks like it will drop you into the depths of the Pacific.
As we strolled down the walkway a willow young lady in a red dress sang to us in hopes of earning some of our change, while vendors offered a wide variety of t-shirts, hats and other treasures to tourists. An upscale Mexican restaurant anchors the end of the pier tempting hungry visitors.
We decided to stop for lunch at a restaurant across the street from the pier and then double back for more fun at the arcade which I remember fondly. Of course, in my day a game of skee ball or Pacman cost 25 cents. Those days are long gone. The dollar bills kept flying out of my wallet as each of my kids waded through the games, hoping to score enough victories to earn a cool prize. Halfway through our adventure on the pier I separated from my siblings to take my son to the restroom. As I strolled back up the pier a wave of people came at us. It was a mass exodus off the pier for no obvious reason. I pushed past them to reach my family near the rides only to hit a barricade. I asked pier employees what was going on and they told me that the police were closing the pier due to an emergency. When I found my family my sister told me that the police were called because employees found a suspicious backpack locked onto a bench. It turned out to be owned by a visitor trying to keep his backpack from being stolen. A bad move in this day and age. Everyone was frantically trying to get a refund after the pier started shutting down but fortunately the pier was quickly opened back up when the all clear was given and we were able to continue having fun.
Short lines and an ocean breeze made for a perfect day of amusement on the pier. I indulged them with French fries and Dipping Dots—treats that are a sure fire way to put smiles on their faces.
People let me tell you…when the dog bites, when the bee stings, get yourselves in some bumper cars! Really, it’s the secret to happiness. No need for a trip to Tibet to glean wisdom from the Dalai Lama or a session with a shrink to ruminate over mommy issues. Trust me on this. What sweet childhood memories do you share with your kids?