The YouTube artist (and I mean artist) known as NASS has posted another of their awesome videos showing old footage of a city cleaned up, remastered, with frame rate adjusted and a creative soundbed added. The result is a virtual time machine, a mesmerizing look into the past using footage found at the Internet Archive but improved immensely. This new video shows us San Francisco, downtown Los Angeles and the now vanished Pacific Ocean Park. The San Francisco we see here is Sam Spade’s city, not Jerry Garcia’s. It’s crisp, clean and tough. The downtown LA we see is a vanished one–it’s a neighborhood called Bunker Hill which was been all but demolished during the urban expansion of the late 60s/early 70s. And then we come to the real find–the footage of Pacific Ocean Park.

What was Pacific Ocean Park? It was an amusement park in Santa Monica designed to compete with Disneyland only placed in a much nicer location. The park combined the spirit of American post-war optimism with a good does mid-century aesthetic sleekness. A joint venture between CBS and Santa Anita Raceway, it opened on Saturday, July 28, 1958 with an attendance of 20,000. The next day, it drew 37,262, outperforming Disneyland’s attendance that day. Admission was 90 cents for adults, which included access to the park and certain exhibits.

But POP was destined to live for only nine years. In 1965, Santa Monica began the Ocean Park urban renewal project. Buildings in the surrounding area were demolished and streets leading to the park were closed. As a result, visitors found it difficult to reach the park, and attendance plummeted to 621,000 in 1965 and 398,700 in 1966. At the end of the 1967 tourist season, the park’s creditors and the City of Santa Monica filed suit to take control of the property because of back taxes and back rent owed by the park’s new owner since 1965. The park closed on October 6, 1967, and its assets were auctioned off from June 28–30, 1968. The proceeds from the sale of 36 rides and 16 games were used to pay off creditors. The ruins of the pier became a favorite surfing area and hangout of the Z-Boys of Dogtown fame. The park’s dilapidated buildings and pier structure remained until several suspicious fires occurred; it was finally demolished in the winter of 1974-75. Other than a few underwater pilings and signs warning of them, nothing remains of Pacific Ocean Park today. Thus this footage represents a true archaeological dig–the rediscovery of a dead civilization in all its SoCal glory. Click here to go to a very nice website featuring photos and descriptions of the parks many rides/sites/attractions.

All in all I find this one of NASS’s most satisfying restoration reels. Their sound work continues to get more detailed and nuanced and the frame rate adjustment–from 24FPS to 60FPS–works wonders, though I’m at a loss to explain how slowing down the footage makes it feel more realistic…


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