The Santa Monica Pier is one of the most popular landmarks in Santa Monica. Every day a great number of people – residents and tourists – visit this place to enjoy a nice lunch or dinner, a drink or two, one of the many attractions on the Pier or just to go for a calm walk enlightened by the incredible sunset view over the ocean.
Last time we talked about the history of the pier prior to the Great Depression. If you missed the first part, you can see it right here.
By the time the Great Depression was getting underway the Bread & Porridge building had already been standing proudly for its first year of life at 23rd and Wilshire, still our location!
But let’s go back now a few years prior to 1929…
In 1925, a retired sailor – Olaf C. Olsen – started a business with recreational fishing boats around the pier. During the Great Depression, he was giving away a percentage of his gains to families in need. At the same time, Elzie C. Segar needed a hero for her comics “Thimble Theater”. She chose Olsen as a role model and named him… Popeye! Sounds familiar? Yes, that’s right. It is the same Popeye you are thinking about.
Other heroes are also closely related to the Santa Monica Pier. Two actors who played Tarzan – Buster Crabbe and Johnny Weissmuller – are honorary lifeguards there. Preston “Pete” Peterson, probably the most famous lifeguard ever, has his star moments close to the pier. It was exactly there where he developed the “Peterson Tube” – the standard tube for lifeguards all over the world. Baywatch style!
It was 1941 and World War II had broken out. The US Navy gained control over all the biggest harbors on the west coast – San Diego, Los Angeles, and Newport. Commercial fishing for export was forbidden and most of the fish caught in Santa Monica bay were sent off to feed the troops.
In March 1943, Walter Newcomb, a banker from Venice purchased the Santa Monica Amusement Company’s lease, took over the pier and called it, not surprisingly, the Newcomb Pier. He believed (or hoped) that when the war would end people would return back to the pier in search of entertainment. Unfortunately, he died just a year after, but his family operated the pier for the next 26 years.
Walter was right. As soon as the war ended Santa Monica Pier quickly became the popular entertainment zone it was before the war. The king of western swing – Spade Cooley – chose it to be the home of his weekly show The Hoffman Hayride. In 1948, his show was broadcasted live from the Pier on KTLA and became the first variety show to be broadcasted live ever.
In the 1970s, the City of Santa Monica suggested the pier become a bridge to a proposed man-made island. However, the community saved the pier and the crazy island plan was defeated. The city council tried to destroy the pier a few more times, but the pressure from the community was so intense that voters finally passed “Proposition 1” which would preserve the pier forever in its current state. How cool is that?!
Nature tried to ruin the pier in its’ own way. A few consecutive storms in the 1980s managed to destroy one third of the pier. But it was meant to endure. The weather caused destruction just made it easier for city officials and members of the community to act on an already existing plan of restoration and improvements of the pier. The construction was completed in 1990 and there it is – the Santa Monica Pier as we know it today!
Since that time the pier has always been one of the most popular venues in the City of Santa Monica. It has become a premier local for concerts, shows, outdoor movies and much more. Whenever you pass by you can see locals and tourists gather together to experience the majesty of this place – to enjoy one of the numerous attractions, to listen to some live music or just to take a walk, watch the sun setting over the ocean, and leave breathless, looking forward to the next time…
The Santa Monica Pier, ladies and gentlemen!
And just in case you don’t know, Bread and Porridge, our restaurant in Santa Monica is within walking distance. Visit us and have a delicious, satisfying, and healthy breakfast (or brunch) before you go to the pier (or the beach) this weekend!
See you soon!