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The Giant Dipper and the Save the Coaster Committee


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The Day That Changed My Life

 

The Public Facilities and Recreation Board voted on a continuance of the matter, scheduled on the docket for October 7th, 1981.

I forgot why I didn’t make a bee-line towards Carol when the meeting was over. I was probably more interested in press coverage out in the hallway. I was asked by a radio reporter about why the beach park meant so much for me to go through the trouble of designing and presenting my idea. Caught unprepared, whatever I said, I remember he lost interest right away.

 

The night prior to the October meeting, I once again climbed up the Giant Dipper’s lift hill and raised about 4 or 5 flags made from my Mom’s old curtains. With red and black magic marker, I wrote clever sayings that could barely be read on these tiny curtains 70’ up in the air. “We love our old Rollie”, “One Mission Beach, one coaster, please…” are a couple I remember. I’ll post pictures later if I can find them. (I FOUND THEM -SEE BELOW)

 

I was not prepared for how the last meeting ended with all three proposals being rejected so I wasn’t sure what to expect at this one. The topic of Mission Beach Roller Coaster came up about an hour into the program. Carol Lindemulder once again took center stage.

 

"The Save the Coaster Committee Inc. will be formed for the exclusive purpose of restoring the Giant Dipper roller coaster back to its original condition. Added will be a roller coaster museum focusing primarily on the history of the Giant Dipper while touching on the history of seaside roller coasters and their general role in the development of surrounding beach communities. Admission and donations collected in the museum would help with maintenance costs of the restored coaster."

 

A board of directors was coming together and important-sounding contacts had been made. I was all ears throughout the entire 10 minutes of her presentation and hung on every single word.

 

Impressed that there was a group of known names in both the political and historical aspects of the proposed project, the PF&R board voted to allow Carol 90 more days to establish a true committee. Obtaining ownership of the roller coaster, insurance, non-profit status, completing a fund-raising and rehabilitation schedule, and having the integrity of the structure analyzed were amongst the many tasks to be completed within that time.

 

Obtaining ownership of the coaster?? What's this??? At the end of that meeting I raced up to Carol and hastily introduced myself, and asked what can I do to help? She invited me to a board meeting sometime that month and gave me her card for Call Carol Interiors. My life changed on that day.

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The first building completed was the Roller Rink. It opened its doors to the public at 2pm March 7th, 1925 - nearly three months before the rest of the center. Constructed by contractors and builders Trepte and Son of San Diego, the tile and stucco structure was 90’x150’ with a Spanish influence in design and a skating surface of carefully selected maple.

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After serving 40 years as a roller rink, it became a bumper car pavilion (1966)

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The midway barren. After moving the bumper cars to another location in the park, the roller rink became a "Spoof Safari". Electric cars took passengers through a haunted house type of attraction. The building was boarded up in 1977 right after the park closed. (1984)

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It was a home for the world's population of pigeons. I took this that weekend before it was torn down in March of 1987.

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My painted version of my idea for a Belmont Fun Center presented before the Public Facilities and Recreation Board in 8/81

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The night before the 8/5/81 meeting, I hung up flags made from Mom's old curtains, after she used them to make a dress..lol

Edited by hillflyer
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Pictorial History of Mission Beach Amusement Center. PT 1.

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The ocean and the sand are one of San Diego’s staples. What started as nothing but a sandbar was established as Mission Beach in 1914. Ten years later, construction started on what would become the Mission Beach Amusement Center. It was built by sugar magnate John. D. Spreckels for the purpose of attracting prospective land buyers for around the area.

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Mission Beach Amusement Center opened to a throng of thousands on May 29th, 1925. The main attractions included a bathhouse and a dance casino, both boasting to having the latest and greatest amenities. The bathhouse, or, the Plunge, is the indoor Olympic-sized swimming pool that still serves swimmers today.

 

There was also a roller rink hall, a carousel, and a small thrills and spills area.

During the week of May 18th, 1925, a vacant lot next to the roller rink was cleared and prepared for the construction of a $50,000 roller coaster. While it’s likely the coaster’s debut was supposed to coincide with the Memorial Day weekend opening of the Amusement Center, the permit to start construction wasn’t issued until the first week in June.

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The team responsible for building the new roller coaster was Frank Prior and Fred Church. http://manchesterhistory.net/bellevue/church.html

In 1918, Thomas Prior passed away and Frank took over the presidency. They built several roller coasters all up and down the west coast, but it is Fred Church who patented many of the design features that contributed significantly to the roller coaster boom of the 1920’s.

 

The Mission Beach Coaster Company was formed to operate the ride and manage the business with George Barney as president.

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The erection of preassembled supports for the Giant Dipper (a common name for Prior and Church coasters) began immediately after the issuance of the building permit on June 8th, 1925. The two nine-car trains were manufactured in Prior and Church’s Venice plant. It took a construction team of 75 men one week to bring the roller coaster into take shape. The labor force was doubled at the start of the second week so that the deadline of July 4th could be met.

 

NOTE: The red marks indicate a possible VIP - I'd be guessing if one of them might be Barney and maybe Prior. The blue mark is definitely Fred Church.

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As a San Diego native, I've always been fascinated by this coaster and the park's history. I've always wanted to see more color photos of the coaster before the restoration so this really has been a fascinating thread!

 

Thank you for your work to save the Giant Dipper!

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I am loving this thread! I hope it gets bumped to the front page. I look forward to the rest of it. Your juxtaposition of facts, pictures and personal stories is fascinating reading. If you ever decide to put it all into a coffee table book. I would gladly pre-order one right now.

 

Like you, I have a great love for this particular ride as well. My father was Sea Bee Engineer in the Navy, and we moved every 2 years up and down the Southern California coast. But for the most part we kept bouncing back to being stationed in San Diego. While not as active as you were in seeing this coaster restored, I did have a great interest in it as a child. My uncle Henri and Aunt Susan lived, and still live about 20 blocks away from the park and we would often stroll by there on morning and evening walks when we would visit. I had my first rides on the Dipper (then Earthquake) in 75' & 76'. Next to the Matterhorn, Corkscrew at Knott's, and The Great American Revolution, it was one of my first "Big Boy" rollercoasters. And as far as I can remember my first ever woodie. We moved across the US in fall of 76', and I didn't even realize that the park had shut down untill we came back to the westish coast (Vegas) in 81'. it was only then on a trip to see my Aunt and Uncle there in Mission Bay when I learned of the state in which the coaster existed. My Uncle Henri filled me and my brothers in on how no one was ever sure what was actually going on with the whole property. That it was tied up in some sort of legal battles because it was now a State Landmark. I remember he would always just end his comments with, "I really don't care what they do with it. I just want them to either fix it, or tear it down. Cause all it is right now is an eyesore and a fire hazard." I didn't realize at the time that he was referencing the fires.

 

It was such a pleasure to get to ride it again when I visited in 06'. For the past 4 years, I have made it a point to get in a few laps while I am down there working Comic Con.

 

Again, fantastic thread. It is a pleasure reading this and I thank you.

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Very cool, especially considering I have actually ridden this one, and while it is not a top 5 or top 10 I do totally appreciate the history of the coaster and made sure to take my time in the little museum checking everything out, very interesting. Also thank you for all the awesome threads, this and the model and anything else you seem to post are always very interesting and informative... fun to geek out on some coaster history.

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Thanks Robb for moving this to the main page and thank you everyone for your positive responses. Mission Beach just celebrated one hundred years of its declaration, so I was waxing sentimental and dug out my old files.

 

There is LOTS more juicy stuff to come, I promise.

 

Thanks again.

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TRUE OR FALSE:

 

In the 1986 movie "Top Gun" you can actually see printed Save the Coaster Committee material tacked on a bulletin board that Tom Cruise stands and stares at in a scene that takes place in the shower room.

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^That's a trick question. How could anyone notice anything around all the gratuitous man meat that was glistening on screen during that scene. My God! Even as a Breast and Vagina loving, straight edge heterosexual man, I couldn't sheild my eyes from the chiseled, well oiled abs and pecks. Next thing you'll try and tell me is that there was a vollyball scene where the homoerotic suntan oil slathering scene was. C'mon! Get real!

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Wow! I grew up in San Diego and I used to LOVE Belmont Park. This was in the lat 90's and 2000's. We used to skip school all the time and go ride the coaster. I remember making up stories to my parents and then navigating the public transit system ALL THE WAY from Chula Vista to go ride the coaster. wow the memories! Even as a teenager we used to go at night on the weekends and party. Gosh that made me really miss California. I still think that the Giant Dipper is one hell of a ride. It's like being in a car accident, but in a good way. You know what I'm talking about if you've been on this thing, but that first drop was a doozy! lol

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I love this thread! I never rode it, but this is a fascinating story! I had no idea that this much happened to it before it was closed and how it affectef you. Thank you for sharing!

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Thanks everyone for all the wonderful responses. I'm overwhelmed, really.

 

So much so, I was saving this gem until towards the end - but it's not like we all don't know how it turned out.

 

By the summer of 1990, I was employed by the (then) San Diego Seaside company. The Save the Coaster Committee was successful in its mission to keep the coaster from the wrecking ball. On 9/1/89, Seaside took over the serious restoration of the Dipper. You can imagine my feeling of anticipation as I was filling 5 two-hour tapes in the midst of fresh cut wood, drills, paint...and lots of sweat. LOTS. I managed to overlook all those construction guys - it was the coaster I was hot for. Enjoy~

 

1) Music Video

Giant Dipper Restoration

Filmed summer of 1990

Music: Working On It

Artist: Chris Rea

Writer(s): Christopher Anton Rea, Kevin Stephen Welch

Copyright: Magnet Music Ltd., Kevin Welch Music, Warner-tamerlane Publishing Corp.

Edited Spring of 1992 using the post primitive methods you can't imagine.

4:21 length

 

 

2) The day the trains first left the station.

I'll save the story of what happened between 6:07 and 7:35 for the end. That's the fun part.

Crowds were beginning to collect when word got out that we were going to try and run the thing. Former president of the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk turned General Manager of the Seaside Company, Ed Hutton, thought he should make something clear to spectators of what they might see.

 

 

 

3) The new Giant Dipper loses her virginity for the "'first" time. In the 90 minutes after the train was sent out, about 1000 more spectaotors all showed up from the immediate area. You can hear them cheering it on. Note the people in the station house running from side to side.

 

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Fantastic story. It's amazing to hear all the work that went into those efforts, as well as the personal first hand account.

 

I'm also just as fascinated by the Turbo. Didn't know San Diego had one! That ride continues to be elusive. Hope to ride the one getting restored one day.

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Yours truly,

 

Poking my head out from the spool. Sometime in 1982 or 3.

 

At this point, I think all we've accomplished is a newer fence and cleanup of the area, including removal of enough sand to fill a standard swimming pool. It was early days.

 

I think I was up there with Sam and Acer Gary Benner, who took this shot before moving to San Diego

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Edited by hillflyer
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On page 4, seventh panel down I had asked a True or False question.

 

TRUE OR FALSE:

 

In the 1986 movie "Top Gun" you can actually see printed Save the Coaster Committee material tacked on a bulletin board that Tom Cruise stands and stares at in a scene that takes place in the shower room.

 

The answer is: TRUE!!

It was July of 1985. Being that telecommunications was my first Major, I was interning behind the scenes for a really sucky movie called “Sour Grapes” or “Happy Hour” – the latter being the release title. Richard Little (Comedian), Jamie Farr (Mash), Tawny Kitaen (Bachelor Party & Whitesnake videos), Eddie Deezen (Grease), and Richard Gilliland (pre-Designing Women) starred in it. It was produced by Four Square productions, the same people who put San Diego on the Rotten Tomatoes list years previous with “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes.”

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