What? Another book on the pier? Don’t we have enough of them? You may be saying to yourself; what makes this one special?
The others are good but this one traces the history of the pier from its beginning as a public utility. “The growth of Santa Monica in the early twentieth century forced the city to confront a serious sewage problem. After considering several options, officials agreed that the best method was to cast it out to sea.” This was before our modern day ecology push. It was concluded that if a pier could be built long enough to go past the surf, the waste would wash out to sea and not back to the shore. So began our pier.
A century is a long time. This book contains pictures and facts that are impressive. The pier also at one time was used as a yacht harbor. We still have the sign over the entrance to the long extension from Ocean Avenue to the pier off Colorado Avenue which mentions this bygone attraction.
There really was a Popeye. At least there was a real live person who inspired the character. He was a Norwegian who would fish off the pier in the 1920s and 1930s. The man’s name was Captain Olaf C. Olsen. A picture of him with his catch can be found on page 29. A portrait snapshot of him is on page 58. He was a fishing boat operator at the pier.
For trivia fans there is a listing of the 10 most ominous storms on page 75. On pages 58 and 59 we have detailed with snapshots the 10 things that started at Santa Monica Pier.
On pages 109 to123 we have small venues with pictures of the past businesses on the pier. The Santa Monica Sea Food Co. is now located on the corner of 19th Steet and Wilshire Boulevard for those of you who wonder where it is after reading “Santa Monica Sea Food survived on the pier throughout the next couple of decades, until it moved inland a few blocks.”
The pier has undergone many face lifts. At one time we knew the pier by a different name. It was called the Newcomb Pier in the 60’s and 70’s. The story is detailed on pages 44 to 45.
What the City Council couldn’t do back in 1971 the storm of 1983 nearly did. “The notion that the City would tear down Santa Monica Pier, a structure that it owned and that offered free pleasure to its citizens never really entered anyone’s mind. Furthermore, it was the last of the famous pleasure piers that once lined the Southern California coast. If anything it was a monument. Nobody would be crazy enough to tear down a monument. But there it was in the newspapers, there it was on television, and there it was on the Santa Monica City Council dais: the pier, the heart of Santa Monica, was going to be torn down.” City Manager Perry Scott wanted to take down the pier. “On June 13, 1972 the City Council unanimously approved of the project.” Read all about it on pages 64 to 67.
The pier has a great history. I recommend this book be in the library of all who live and visit Santa Monica.
James Harris is the pier’s Historian.
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