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Playland: 1934

Playland: 1934

An interesting look at San Francisco car culture circa 1934. "Ocean Beach Playland -- Red Bug and Cliff House on Great Highway." With a billboard advertising Topsy's Roost, a dancehall and fried-chicken emporium just out of frame to the right. 5x7 negative, formerly of the Wyland Stanley collection. View full size.


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Cruising Strip

Note how there are four cars making U-turns here to head back southward on the Great Highway. Either they were looking for parking at Playland or they were out enjoying the weekend cruising strip along the beach.

My grandfather used to work at Topsy's Roost.

He was a sous chef there until opening up his own restaurants. That was a wild place. People would sit in their "roosts" and then slide down onto the dance floor to dance away the night.

Some great images and story about the place here.


Actually, the piping visible at right in the photo once fed an artificial waterfall that flowed downhill alongside the mini-windmill.

The attached 1927 photo from the SF Public Library shows the waterfall in its free-flowing glory.

Also, National Park Service did indeed remove several large, hollow fake rocks along the cliff face in the late 1970s. I used to patrol there for the Park Service, and one never knew what they were about to encounter when they entered the intensely creepy interiors.


To the Cliff House of the 1970s. I want the crab salad, an order of onion rings, and two of the tequila sunrises.

Lasergirlnm is buying. Thanks!!!

Cliff House!

When I lived in the Santa Clara Valley in the 70s, one of our favorite special night-out places to go was Cliff House. To sit next to the windows and look out over the ocean without seeing anything else but water was scary and fascinating at the same time. They had a crab salad on the menu that took up a seashell-shaped bowl that was the size of a lavatory! And they had THE best tequila sunrises ever at Sunday brunch. Sometimes I wish I could go back to those days.


Nowadays we hear people say that cars all look the same. After looking at this picture, cars today all have like styling just as the cars in this picture do. Just as most four door, two door and hatch type models today share like design, there's three distinct styles of cars in this photo that are all very similar too.

Boots and all

A boot was a term used for a luggage compartment on a stage coach so it looks as though the English usage was just a continuation of the term from horse drawn to motorised. I suspect that an English person from the late 19th/early 20th centuries would think of a trunk as something to go in the boot.

Seal Rocks Island

The building next to the sign in Shorpys picture is very similar to the one in the attached picture.

[There was no picture attached, but the building at the left edge is the most recent Cliff House, built in 1909 and today restored to its original appearance. -tterrace]

I'll pass on the half fried chicken.

I want my chicken fried completely.

Scaffolding to build the faux rock facade

I've climbed these cliffs a lot. The fake rocks are still there.

I'm pretty sure that was a workmen's scaffolding to build them.
The closer cliff has been covered with ferro-cement and the pipes on the right seem to be connected to some sort of water feature that is still visible today as
pools, cascades, and fonts when it rains.

By 1938 the whole area was commandeered by the Coastal Command and next to the parapet at the top there still stands an OP pillbox.

Scary Masonry

The scaffolding on the hillside was a skeleton that would support fake rocks being constructed out of cement or some similar material. I believe these were added to control erosion of the hillside as a project of the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps). In later years, as they began to deteriorate and holes opened in them, the fake rocks made a nice clubhouse for illicit teen activities. The rocks were an eyesore and a safety hazard when they were finally removed sometime in the '70s.

A Trunk

The two cars left front show why we call the compartment in the back of the car a "Trunk". It was just a natural migration from an add on to a part of the car.

But I still haven't figured out why the British call it a "Boot"...

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