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The Giant Dipper and the Save the Coaster Committee


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(Continued from previous page...)

 

There was a near-fatal accident on the set first day, first HOUR of shooting leaving a camera man with severe head trauma. That plus the fact I didn’t get along with that breed of movie techs, I decided to totally abandon the idea of working in movies although I did stick through the production.

 

The Save the Coaster Committee received information that the movie Top Gun was going to shoot inside an actual room with metal storage cabinets inside the old Plunge building. To get there, everyone used a private entrance. That happened to be through the Save the Coaster Committee’s room we used as a storage/office space. I had the key so I had to show up at an ungodly hour to open it.

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The arrow depicts where the entrance to our construction office is - the same entrance Top Gun crew entered the set. Those are the trucks and dressing trailers all lined up.

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In the morning, I acted as host, showing the actors and crew where to go. By the time the catering truck blew its horn, everyone knew how to get where they were. So I shared some lunch.

 

The part that boggles my mind, is I was keeping an eye out for Tom Cruise, who chose to eat in his trailer I guess. But I did sit across the table from Val Kilmer, Anthony Edwards, and Rick Rossovich – and some others. I had seen Val in Top Secret the previous summer in the movie theatre where I worked. I saw that movie over and over again. Sitting across from him in person, I did not put Val Kilmer’s teen idol look in connection with his newer military look. It wasn’t until Top Gun hit the big screen that I went, “Oh, THAT’S who that IS!”

 

Anthony Edwards looked familiar to me, but I never did see the Revenge of the Nerds, and who wouldn’t rather keep an eye out for Tom Cruise anyway? Girls were coming up as close as they could asking, “Where’s Tom?” to which some of the actors replied, “We’re actors too, didn’t you see…and they mentioned some movies.

 

Into the lock/er room to continue filming. The Plunge Manager, David Hargrove, let me come in onto the set. The lock/ers in the old plunge is probably 4x larger than how they show it. The movie company brought in prop lock/ers, and placed two rows in the center of the larger room. In the area surrounding the lock/ers, was LOADED with mountains of equipment. There was a fan blowing a fine white powder to simulate steam. Attached on the walls behind the lock/ers, were the classic long 1925 10’ long oak benches where I had a seat.

 

Props needed some stuffers for the bulletin board prominently displayed near the showers. There were several such things available in our office. They took some copied pages from my Save the Coaster scrap book and posted them up on the board!!

 

Sorry about the lock/er - it won't let me type it the right way.

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#4 was a coaster-shaped fold-out donation request brochure

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Match the numbers!!

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While the set was being fine-tuned, I could hear the actors horsing around while they were getting ready to film. I heard something about Clarence Gilyard’s (Sundown) towel either being playfully pulled off or if it dropped. I heard one of the actors excitedly exclaim, “It’s purple! Oh my God, it’s PURPLE” along with some good natured laughing.

 

Then Tom walked in. He sat on my right on the same bench as I but on the other end. He carried with him a huge ghetto blaster and was smoking a cigar. He was pondering deeply. From the blaster played Simon and Garfunkel’s live version of “Sounds of Silence” which I happen to love. Without even looking at him I mentioned that I liked that song too. In my peripheral vision I saw him roll his head on the wall towards me. I froze and felt the coldest shiver up my back as his icy stare pierced my stupid head. In about 5 minutes David told me I had to go.

 

I guess I was so star-struck I didn’t realize that Tom was emoting for the depressing scene right after Anthony Edwards (Goose) was killed. But how was I to know?

 

Close to wrapping up for the day, I did get to meet Tom Cruise briefly, right at the door into our office. I shook his hand and said, “Hi, I’m Tim Cole”. I said I was guarding our Save the Coaster office, so he would know I had some purpose for being there. He was very cordial.

 

My best friend at the time, Bruce Wilkins, kidded me for weeks as he told everyone that I “tried to impress Tom with my involvement in the coaster.”

 

His 1990 movie Days of Thunder, he plays race car driver Cole Trickle whose recruiter’s name is Tim Deland played by Randy Quaid.

 

Towards the end of the movie, when Tom is being brought out to his car for the important race, he sees his recruiter in the crowd. They exchange acknowledgments, with Tom saying “Tim” and Randy saying “Cole.” My name is Tim Cole in case you missed it. I never let my friend forget it.

 

That had nothing to do with anything coaster but it’s a fun story to tell.

 

If this following story is not true, may the state lawmakers make roller coasters illegal in California. Pushing this up to an R-rating, at some time during that day, I was walking along the row of dressing trailers that were set up between the coaster and the plunge near our office. Suddenly this nude figure appears in the doorway of one of the dressing rooms as the actor leans out as if he was expecting someone else. It was Rick Rossovich!! He didn’t make any attempt to backup into his trailer as I strolled on by. O…M..G…is he BLESSED! I think it was the biggest one I’ve ever seen in my innocent 24 year old years and not so innocent older years. Rick is the one that does that pose during the volleyball scene. Later he would costar alongside Anthony Edwards in E.R.

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Rick Rossovich

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My First Save the Coaster Committee Meeting.

 

It was in October of ’81 at Carol Lindemulder’s home on the corner of Pringle and Neale Street in the midtown area of San Diego. You know how when you’re talking to someone on the phone and you imagine what the room they’re in looks like? Based on my previous encounter with coaster savers I was pleased to find out Carol’s house was not a darken room with only the glow of a television and a dark couch with cats. It was instead a beautiful bright and airy house with paintings and art pieces. Carol took me on a tour of her southwestern style adobe home showing me a spacious studio she made for herself on the second floor, plus all her paintings. She had a playful black shepherd named Patsy.

 

As more people arrived for the meeting, to me it didn’t seem like these older people were real coaster fans. That confused me and it took me a while to realize that everyone else there was more historically preservation minded and had saved and restored other San Diego landmarks like the famous Villa Montezuma. Others were friends of Carroll or had worked with her before. This time they were saving a roller coaster.

 

There was a total of about 8 or 10 of us circled in the room. This must have been the second or third meeting I was attending for Carol brought everyone up to date on her research of the coaster. It was much like her presentation before the PF&R board weeks before. She presented an 8x10 black and white photo of the park taken in 1938. She talked about how the roof of the station house originally had a Victorian gable-style roof instead of the current 50’s modern billboard with the flanking fins. A matter up for discussion was whether or not this would be a good photo to use as the logo.

 

Another topic was how to raise money and how to promote the cause. We talked about selling Save the Coaster T-shirts. The front would be a silk-screened pencil drawing of the coaster using the art of renowned artist of historical landmarks, Robert Miles Parker. Parker was also the founder of the Save our Heritage Organization.

 

I forgot what I heard exactly that made my ears prick-up – I think it was something about the Giant Dipper being restored back to its original condition, up until it is operable. To get clarification on what I thought I heard, I whispered the woman next to me if the Dipper was going to actually be able to operate. Without taking her eyes off Carol, she casually nodded yes.

 

That’s when they had me for good. I brought up the movie of the animated ride of the coaster I did in 1979. They were anxious to watch it so I was asked to bring it next time. I’m not sure if that’s the same night I was nominated and voted to be on the board of directors. Meeting adjourned.

 

I was ecstatic. All I could talk about after that night was the Belmont Coaster and how I’m in a group that was going to get it running again. I got a lot of speculative feedback from coworkers at the restaurant, but they weren’t doing anything about it - and I was, so I always felt I had the upper hand.

 

When I had a valet parking shift there, my station was where I could barely see the Giant Dipper a mile down the boardwalk. Here are the keys to your Dipper – er – I meant Beamer sir!

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Carol Lindemulder's former home.

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Successful historical preservation effort of the Villa Montezuma lead by Carol and SOHO.

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The Giant Dipper. In color, you'd see the colors red, green, and yellow. The Giant Dipper neon sign is another story you'll hear about soon.

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Years before Save the Coaster Committee, renowned local artist Robert Miles Parker penned this drawing. Later it was printed on Tshirts.

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From my station at the restaurant, I could see the coaster down the boardwalk about 1 mile away

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^That last picture looks just about where the Green Flash is located. That is one of my favorite local beach hang outs. I love that beach. My uncle Henri's house is only three blocks inland from that area.

 

I miss San Diego. Comic Con can not come soon enough. I need to get back there.

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This is a cool thread to read. I've only been to San Diego once and we happen to drive by Belmont Park. I convinced everyone to go ride the coaster with me. I had no clue until just now the history of this coaster. Very interesting stuff.

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Besides Carol, there were two other people of note that were at this meeting. One was Architect Donald J. Reeves (1936-2013) whose love for historical San Diego resulted in his involvement in the saving of many buildings and classic San Diego memorabilia. Another was prominent Mission Beach businessman/resident Norman Starr who lived only three blocks from the coaster. He was a contractor who also had a fondness for historical San Diego.

 

Within weeks following that first meeting, work was already starting to take place on the Dipper property. Norman Starr and his loyal team of laborers were the first to get right to business. The wooden plank fencing that surrounded much of the coaster was removed for exposure and security purposes. For that same reason, the skirt around the station house and all the tunnel walls were removed. A new chain link fence was put up around the entire coaster, along with a gate…that I got a key to!

 

To me, this was an event so exciting, I filmed that day’s activities with my super 8 camera. I spliced it in to the animated coaster-ride movie I made two years earlier, along with some haunting nighttime footage (using tracks played from the Rollercoaster movie soundtrack album).

 

This is when I made my first sectional model of what I thought the coaster should look like when completed. I thought we needed to use a visual aid of how beautiful it could really be when restored to convince those who thought otherwise. It was a quarter-inch scale model of the mid-section made from balsa wood. I had recently seen a photo of the Giant Dipper at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and I loved the white with red trim color scheme so I duplicated that on the model.

 

For the remainder of the year, our Save the Coaster meetings focused on our next presentation before the Public Facilities and Recreation Board. On January 20th, 1982, we stormed the auditorium as scheduled with an enlarged photo of the coaster, my model, my movie, and a real coaster car. The presentation featuring historical facts, the film, fundraising examples, and commentary lasted about an hour. Everyone who spoke favored the restoration.

 

In fact when it became the antagonist's turn to speak, a city council member asked if anyone in the chambers dare be brave enough to approach the podium and speak out against the plan. There was silence.

 

The proposal we brought before the board was once the value of the coaster was declared, the owner Bill Evans, would donate it to the Coaster Committee for a tax break. Then the STCC would propose to lease the land for 5 years from the City @ $1.00 a year as a non-profit group.

 

Motion to proceed was moved and the next step was to get approval from the San Diego City Council. That meeting was put on the August docket.

 

Giddy has a Gayboy, a friend of mine Shari Champion, and myself, drove down to the coaster that stormy afternoon immediately following the meeting. As we approached the coaster, I noticed that someone had taken/stolen/removed the “B” off the 50’ wide blue Belmont marquee. It remained “elmont” park for years. It would be a couple more before we found out what happened to that B. Stay tuned…

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(L) The very first section I ever built of any roller coaster. ® I was starting to recreate the 50's style station house before I knew it used to have a different roof.

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(L) The central section of the coaster made after I learned that it once the gateway to the park. I also made the station house with the original roof. ® The model I presented before the PF&R board of how nice the coaster could look. I pieced the first section I made to this bigger section.

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In the early morning of 1/20/82 the B off of the Belmont sign disappeared.

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The Save the Coaster’s next public appearance would be before the Mission Beach Town Council in April of 1982. In anticipation of that meeting, I shot and edited about 5 more minutes of footage into the film I had shown previously. Footage included some black and white film where I tried to simulate some of the ride’s original construction. It also included footage of the 1981 fire which I tried to duplicate using my coaster model. My idea was to go to the beach after work (after 1am), film the silhouette of my model up against a small fire I set in one of the fire rings. Somehow, my model got caught up in the flames. What made it on my film was my coaster model literally burning to a crisp. I clearly remember feeling devastated and depressed the next morning after I woke up. To top that, after that Town Council meeting, Carol told me that while she still liked the movie, it was fine the way it was before.

 

I had heard of the American Coaster Enthusiasts (ACE) and meant to join after I saw the group pictured in a nice spread in LIFE magazine. Coaster World Magazine (a.k.a. Roller Coaster magazine) featured an article about the “Earthquake” by ACE member Joe Barna and we were sent a copy.

It was mentioned that a roller coaster convention was coming up in June at Hershey Park Pennsylvania. This would be the first time I’ve ever traveled on my own so there was a lot to think about before I decided to go. Carol had already been talking to Richard Munch, a co-founder of ACE, and told him she might send a representative. Me!

 

It was kind of all last minute, getting prepared to go on this trip. To make late-accommodations for me simpler, Richard invited me to bunk with him. Also staying in the room were Clarence Heintz and Jeffrey something. Back then, conventions started on Thursday and ended the following Saturday night with Sunday being the tag-on day. I worked at my own sales station selling Save the Coaster t-shirts and on Saturday night, I went up on stage before those in attendance at the presentations. I showed the film and made a few quick remarks. I HATE public speaking and I felt a little awkward so Richard Munch came to my rescue and made some strong pleas to help are group out.

 

The day before I left for the convention, the committee had a special guest visit the Giant Dipper. It was none other than Texas-based roller coaster designer Bill Cobb. He was brought out to analyze the integrity of the coaster’s condition and give his assessment as to if it would be feasible to restore it. His resume includes the Judge Roy Scream at Six Flags over Texas, and the Texas Cyclone at Astroworld in Houston. La Monstre and the Riverside Cyclone came after his visit to the Dipper.

 

The morning of his arrival on the Dipper property, there was a press conference with about a dozen media from all sources there. They filmed and interviewed him as he did a live exam using a pen knife to dig in to some of the wood. He was explaining in general terms about how much work it would take to restore the coaster. His findings were broadcasted on all news sources: “Yes, the Dipper can be restored and possibly run again.”

 

Another win for our side!

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This still blows me away.

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Connecticut resident Joseph Barna ® is the one who coaxed me into joining ACE. His claim to fame was his coaster-riding Keeshond "Zonker". On his visit, we shared each others coaster memorabilia and ate ice cream at Carol's home. That's me on the left.

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THE STATION HOUSE pt 1

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The Giant Dipper on opening day 7/04/25. The coaster and the station were completely unpainted when opened. According to a review of the coaster's opening day, the article quotes, "Later on after the sea air has seasoned the wood the scaffolds will be give a fresh coat of white paint. Note the Victorian style roof.

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In 1955 almost exactly one year to the day after Jack Ray took over the Mission Beach Amusement Center lease, fate took an ugly turn once again. On Wednesday morning, February 2nd the roller coaster inexplicably caught fire. The blaze was discovered by former park leaseholder Roy Matheson, who at that time was still in charge of some of the rides and concessions. Destroyed was the coaster office, motor room, a set of coaster trains and some of the wooden framework. While firefighters were investigating the damage, they discovered the body of Walter T. Barney, 59, president of the Mission Beach Coaster Company. Barney operated the coaster since 1948. Firefighters believe the blaze started in the motor room where Barney must have been trapped while working.

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Reopening Day - May 31st, 1957 of the New Belmont Park. Jack Ray also was a carnival designer having created much of the 'circles and triangles' on ride facades and attractions at the Seattle Worlds Fair and around the world. At this point, the Giant Dipper sign was removed and the name eventually forgotten. It was renamed Earthquake in May of 1976. Note the motor house has a new design and was not painted yet when the coaster reopened.

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Showing the general state of disrepair of the station over its abandoned years.

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Volunteers from the California Conservation Corps tear apart the 50's style facade that covered up the original trusses under the roof. Later we realized much of this simple frame and plywood was used to simply cover up any evidence of the 1955 fire.

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The drop-ceiling was also installed in the 50's, probably to cover up both the visible burned areas and for structural reasons. You can see the black ceiling up towards the front of the newly constructed duplication of the original front.

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Thanks for the frequent updates! What about the original rolling stock? Obviously some of them were lost in the fires over the years but do any survive today and was there ever any debate about refurbishing them for use during the restoration?

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1955:

 

Tearing down the Giant Dipper was an option the Mission Beach Coaster Company was considering over trying to rebuild it. Once they decided to declare bankruptcy, new park lease-holder Jack Ray asked to take over the Coaster Company’s lease when in expired the next year. While the future of the Dipper remained uncertain, Ray insisted that he needed a roller coaster in order for the park to have any chance of succeeding. He stated that he would have to build his own.

 

Immediately, Ray installed a small wooden coaster called the "Big Dipper” designed by Herbert Schmeck of the design firm Philadelphia Toboggan Company. This 35’ tall kiddie ride was originally installed at Hoppyland Amusement Park in Venice in 1951. After the park closed in 1954, the Dipper was moved to Belmont Park where it stood for a few seasons starting in 1955. It was then moved to the Pomona County Fair Grounds near Los Angeles where it served until it was permanently destroyed in 1975. While located at the fair, it was used in a very dramatic shoot-out scene in 1973’s movie “The Clones.”

 

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The Midway to Ray's New Belmont Park. He was responsible for the construction of the Enchantedland section of the park centered. It remained there until 1976. Another glimpse of the elusive Big Dipper.

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Double Ferris Wheels take attention away from a partial glimps of the Big Dipper. This Schmeck designed coaster took the place of the Giant Dipper while it was closed for two seasons.

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  • 1 year later...

HAPPY 25th ANNIVERSARY OF THE HISTORIC GIANT DIPPER REOPENING!

 

All ACE members, watch for the summer issue of Roller Coaster! magazine. The San Diego Mission Beach roller coaster had one close brush with the wrecking ball after another since it the park went into decline as early as the 40's. My cover story will feature an article about the trials and tribulations and eventual success of the Save the Coaster Committee and our efforts keeping the Giant Dipper guarded from one wrecking ball after another.

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My wife and i went to San Diego when she was pregnant with our son she urged me to go on the Big Dipper while we were there but i didn't feel like riding without her. I would like to get back out there and ride it.

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  • 2 months later...

Two things coming up that I'm excited about! Very shortly, the ACE publication Rollercoaster! magazine will have the Giant Dipper on the front cover along with the 27 page long story that goes with it. Tim Baldwin asked me to do a cover story about what happened during the 5000 days the coaster was SBNO. I based it on much of what you can read here. It started as 33 typed pages, I struggled to whittle it down to 19 typed pages before turning it in. There are lots of never seen before photos I hope you enjoy.

 

Second, watch for a show called "Super Into" on TRUTV later this month or early next. It will be an episode about coasters and pieces of my model and me will be in it. Find the "models, games, and other randomness" to "The Airplane coaster..." to see pictures of the shoot. PPPP

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Not to go off topic here but...I have never seen two double ferris wheels side by side before. How cool is that?

 

It's sad that we don't see more of these great rides. I haven't ridden one since I was a teen, but I remember them being a lot of fun. Definitely a lot more fun than the traditional ferris wheels that we see today.

 

That being said, I would love to see one of these end up at Knoebels one day!

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I have never seen two double ferris wheels side by side before...that would be really disorienting to ride!

 

Speaking of double ferris wheels, it's sad that we don't see more of these great rides. I haven't ridden one since I was a teen, but I remember them being a lot of fun. Definitely a lot more fun than the traditional ferris wheels that we see today.

 

That being said, I would love to see one of these end up at Knoebels one day!

 

I rode one at the Long Beach Pike once, I think there were two side by side there as well. Scared the beegeezus out of me. The weightlessness as one swings over the top is frightening.

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  • 1 year later...

Just found this today on You Tube shot on the site of the abandoned Giant Dipper in San Diego circa 1984.

 

 

I made that big yellow sign! This was during set up for our "Beach Ball Fundraiser" which was pretty ill attended, I think we just broke even. Look at what a mess the coaster was. I should have remembered how hard it was to raise any money before asking for such an amount on Hatchfund .

 

Thanks to all my donors! Thus far I am 43% funded for my next project....the Art of the Cyclone Racer! Click here for more info.

 

http://www.themeparkreview.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=71374

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  • 3 weeks later...

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