Pier Life: A Photo Story
A Photo Story by Yulia Morris
The Santa Monica Pier, standing at 1600 feet long, is the only amusement pier left in Southern California. As one of the most recognizable landmarks in the Los Angeles area, it has played a role in many iconic TV shows, movies, and books. Located on the water near the Third Street Promenade, it is Santa Monica’s most important cultural icon, and a popular tourist attraction to this day.
“Seven million people came to the pier last year,” said Santa Monica Pier tour guide Marty Schatz.
Tom Deghionno, a visitor from San Luis Obispo County, was taking pictures on the Pier while his wife Audrey waited for him, looking around the historic premises.
Tom was born in Santa Monica in 1938 and moved to San Fernando Valley when he was 18. “Everybody moved to the valley as it was cheaper. No one can afford living here,” he said. “I missed Santa Monica.” He used to work at Douglas Aircraft, back when they were building planes and producing missiles.
Tom came back with his wife for his Santa Monica High School reunion. “I’ve seen this Pier changed about five times, and this is the most beautiful I’ve ever seen it. I’ve not seen it for probably 25 years,” he said. His wife asked him if it was always like this, as it was her first time seeing the pier. “Right after the war, World War II, it was a simple pier: a lot of sailors, and there was the ferris wheel, a roller coaster, and games of skill, they called it. Bingo, penny arcade. Lots of hamburgers and french fries, and the orders were terrific. It was unbelievable here, as a kid.”
People riding the "Pacific Plunge" and "Pacific Wheel" in Santa Monica, Calif, on Saturday , September 17, 2016. (Yulia Morris)
When a large section of the pier was damaged by two major El Nino storms in 1983, it took seven years to complete reconstruction. To keep people interested in coming to the pier during construction, they started the Twilight Concert Series in 1984, which continues to draw crowds to the pier every Thursday during the summer.
In 2008 Santa Monica sold its oldest and most iconic feature — the ferris wheel — and rebuilt an identical one which runs on solar power, which features 160,000 energy-efficient LED lights. At night, these lights light up the sky for a fabulous laser light show.
The Playland Arcade is the oldest continually operating business on the pier. You can find both modern video games and nostalgic arcade games. It has been open since 1950 and is a family business in its fourth generation. The arcade is regularly packed with people of all ages.
People scream as they ride the Pacific Park roller coaster in Santa Monica, Calif, on Saturday , September 17, 2016. (Yulia Morris)
“There are not many arcades in Santa Monica. Having this here is a great little nook to go out and have fun,” said Santa Monica High School junior Natha Tsuboi after finishing playing an air hockey with his girlfriend Dominique Vereza. “Santa Monica Pier holds a lot of value to people who live here,” he said. Vereza said that their first date was a movie date on the Pier last October.
While many use the pier for entertainment and romance, others use it for more practical purposes.
Jesus Zavala said he comes from Downtown to fish at the pier every weekend. While we spoke, he caught a fish and then threw it away. Meanwhile, Rosemead resident Rowell Hughes said that he keeps the fish and actually eats them.
"I come here once per week. It’s good. You don't need to have a license to fish on the pier," he said, holding up his just caught fish. Among his most common catches are mackerel, perch, white croaker, queenfish, sting rays and leopard shark.
The Santa Monica Pier is also the end of Historic Route 66, which used to be a major free way starting in Chicago, Illinois. According to Schatz, the pier tour guide, Marilyn Monroe used to come and stare at the old carousel on the pier. When you are here, you stand upon a hundred years of Santa Monica’s history.