Editor’s note: This monthly feature uncovers Santa Monica’s history by compiling notable city happenings from a century ago. The stories are found in old newspaper archives.

The roller coaster at Santa Monica Pier opened to the public a century ago this month as development picked up in the area.

The ride stood as one of the main features of Charles Looff’s amusement pier, which was being built alongside the existing municipal pier.

The attraction, known as “Blue Streak,” sent passengers “far out over the water” and gave them “a fleeting glimpse of the whole Santa Monica-Venice shore line,” according to a Los Angeles Times brief.

Work was also beginning on the extension of the amusement pier, whose future length was estimated to be more than 1,000 feet.

Meanwhile, more hotels, apartments and stores were expected to be added in the area of the pier.

A 150-room hotel was slated to be built near the intersection of Ocean and Colorado avenues, according to a Times article. Blueprints for the site were being crafted by Ellet P. Parcher and Edward A. Strong.

Showing skin

At least in the eyes of one pastor, bathing suits were becoming too risque.

During a sermon a hundred years ago this month, the Rev. C. Sidney Maddox lamented what he dubbed “postage-stamp bathing suits” and other changes in beach attire in the early part of the 20th century.

He said he missed the “old-time mother-hubbard affair, trunks below the knees, a good full skirt, just as low, and an overskirt, arms to the elbows and a dude collar,” according to a Times brief. “Then we came to the one-piece skirted suit, so common today, a decent comfortable thing, but some were not satisfied. …

“They tightened them up a little and a little more. They cut off the trunks and did away with the collar. They cut and slashed until about all there is left of some of these suits is a string and two tassels. Where will be the end in this affair?”

Car thieves nabbed

Three armed suspects believed to be associated with a gang of auto thieves were arrested 100 years ago this month after an unusual pursuit.

Robert Merkenkaup, Frank Crowley and Frank Ward reportedly stole tires from a movie industry worker whose car was parked in the Inceville area, according to a Times brief.

A motorcycle police officer was notified as the alleged theft victim gave chase, eventually catching the suspects between Inceville and Santa Monica.

The victim was injured when he confronted the suspects, who were later taken into the custody of the sheriff’s department, according to the brief.

Family feud

Although she was not named in the will, a woman 100 years ago this month was claiming to be the daughter of a late Santa Monica judge.

At stake was a piece of J.J. Carrillo’s estate valued at approximately $110,000, or about $2.4 million in modern currency, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Josephine Carrillo Penelon filed a petition in probate court to nullify the existing will, according to a Times brief.

“The claim of Mrs. Penelon as a daughter of the Santa Monica police judge will be vigorously fought by the heirs named in the will,” the brief reads.

Drugged driving

A local law enforcement leader was concerned with what he saw as a rise in “opium joy-rides” in the area 100 years ago this month.

Former police chief E.E. Randall was in the hills north of Santa Monica when he saw a couple “puffing contentedly” at an opium pipe, according to a Times brief. Randall relayed the information to authorities.

The trend was seen as “the latest innovation of auto parties,” the brief reads.


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