Memories of Laffing Sal and Playland At The Beach – Part 2

laffingsalGodlessmonkey will be away from the computer for a month on a much needed holiday. While I’m gone I’m rerunning some of my multi-part stories for the benefit of those who might not have read them the first time around or would like to read them again. I’ll be back with new stories from October 16th. Thank you all for your support.

As I said earlier, the name, The Fun House had an element of irony to it. First there was the demonic Laffing Sal and her sidekick you had to pass by to enter, then, once inside you were confronted with a mirror maze set up in such a way that it was easy to bang into the mirrors thinking you had a clear passage in front of you. All that was to get you ready for the obstacle course that waited for you inside.

Once past the mirrors you had to get through some enormous spinning cylinders that were mere inches apart. You had to move fast to avoid suffocating. Then it was on to the spinning barrel. A seven-foot high fast revolving horizontal barrel. You had to walk quickly straight down the middle to avoid falling down and being tumbled all over the place on the hard wood.

When you’d managed to get that far you had access to the rest of the Fun House, with plenty of other attractions involving physical dexterity. There were the rocking horses, wooden horses mounted on industrial springs that were about three feet off the hard concrete floor. You climbed on and they began rocking like crazy and you had to hang on for dear life. Falling off meant a hard landing and some serious bruises.

Then there was the giant spinning platter, one of the biggest attractions. Around 20 people would be allowed to pile on, with everyone trying to get to the very center, because that was the easiest place to cling to. Once everyone was on the platter would begin spinning faster and faster and those at the outside would be spun off into the padded walls surrounding the platter. The last person on the platter was the “winner”. I once badly damaged my hand when I spun off and got it caught under the edge of the platter. Attractions like that wouldn’t be allowed today, far too dangerous, but back then it was the chance you took to have some fun.

Far and away the biggest attraction in the Fun House was the wooden slides. There were six of them, side by side, separated only by small rails. You had to climb around 200 stairs to get to the top of the slides, carrying a burlap sack you got before you started up. Once up there you put your sack on the slide, sat down on it, and away you went at breath-taking speed down the slide, with several humps that sent your butt flying up off the slide and then back down on it with a thump. It was the greatest thrill we could imagine back then, and no one left the Fun House without riding the slides at least 20 times, despite all that stair climbing you had to do.

So that was Playland At The Beach, a magical place for the kids of San Francisco. It closed Labor Day weekend in 1972, and I was there with my then wife and my new baby daughter. It was a sad day. I will forever remember Playland At The Beach and the Fun House. It was great to be a kid in San Francisco back then. It truly was.

The end.

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