November 09, 2013

Photo Essay: The Faces of The Santa Monica Pier Carousel

I'd had my eye on that carousel on the Santa Monica Pier for a while.

But I was always in a hurry, or with someone not quite as young-at-heart as I am, so it took me a while to get inside the historic carousel building once known as Loof's Hippodrome, to ride this one: Philadelphia Toboggan Company's #62 carousel, built 1922, relocated from Venice in 1947, the third carousel in this place.

My first ride, a few weeks ago during the Glow festival, didn't go very well.

I'd waited in line for a while, and, unbeknownst to me, in my scurry to mount any of the 44 horses, chose one that didn't move up and down. What's the point of a merry-go-round horse that only goes 'round?!

So, remarking on the beauty of the horses and their intricate carvings, I vowed to return for a proper up-and-down ride, which I finally got today.

Again, upon my return, I swiftly chose a horse - this time focusing on selecting an inside "jumper" (of which there are 28) rather than an outer, stationary one (of which there are 16), not paying much attention to its color or style.

But once I was on it and looked down, I realized I wasn't atop a horse at all: was a goat!

Horns and all.

Apparently when the older horses need to retire, they are replaced by new creations courtesy of artist Ed Roth, who, out of deference to the other horses, replace them only with other animals.

Apparently, at one time there was (or maybe is?) a triceratops (which I couldn't find), but once that carousel starts spinning, you can really only see horses.

No two horses on this carousel are alike.

They all sport different scarves and sashes and hooves and coats and bridles.

Most of them are open-mouthed, chompers glaring, ready to race.

Their eyes appear gentle...

...some looking up, others casting their gaze downwards...

...breathing heavily, tongues wagging.

And then you realize:

...they're smiling.

These fierce beasts are mighty...

...but they're friendly.

They even let a heavy old lady like me ride them with no children in tow.

And they do not complain.

They do not whinney.

They merely gallop along to the sound of a Wurlitzer organ, an automated band that plays a prescribed soundtrack, spinning forever in circles, at least, until the music stops.

When I dismounted my goat, I thought I'd go for another round. After buying another ticket and queuing up again, I noticed another non-equine wild beast hidden amongst the horses: a rabbit. Next in line with no one behind me, and the rabbit already occupied, I asked the ticket-taker if I could wait until the next time so I could ride the bunny. She nodded, and when my turn came and the gate was opened, she called out to me, "Go get that bunny..."

I got him, and he is magnificent.

There's something familiar and comforting to me about riding a merry-go-round, even though I don't really remember doing it as a child, not until my teenage years at Carousel Center (whose PTC #18 was manufactured in 1909 and installed upon the mall's opening in 1990, when I was 15).

There was something unfamiliar and thrilling today about riding a goat and a rabbit in circles in a landmarked building - pretty much the last of its kind, having survived fire and threats of demolition, age, wear and tear.

Some older guys had come just to watch the carousel spin, and some children were there for birthday parties, but they weren't riding the animals.

If I was going to the carousel, I was going to ride. And if I was going to ride, I was going to do it right, and ride a goat and a rabbit.

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1 comment:

  1. The first time I got to ride the Santa Monica Pier carousel was when I was around seven or eight in the neighborhood of 1940 or 1941. First we had breakfast at a restaurant near the end of the pier. My sister who was two or three and I had some extra toast that we pinched off pieces and dropped through a grate in the floor and watched fish grab them. I expect that dad held sis while mom and I each got an outside horse. Each time we went around mom reached out and got a ring and actually got the gold ring, good for a free ride. I was too small to reach them.