Since the earliest days of roller coaster
s, the name Giant Dipper
has been used for wooden coasters across North America. Between 1924 and 1930, five roller coasters opened under this name; today, only two are still operating, both in California.
The sole Giant Dipper
in Canada was located at the now-defunct Happyland Park
in Vancouver, which opened in 1910. The park's original admission price of fifty cents gave visitors access to a fair-like section with art displays, a dog show, concerts, vaudeville shows, and wrestling contents. Another section of the park was established as a midway; this area, known as "Skid Row
," featured a dunk tank, fun house, burlesque dancers, a palm reader, and a carousel. Happyland did not originally contain any roller coasters, although a ferris wheel was added a few years after its opening. The first coaster to appear on the scene was Dip the Dips
, opened in 1915 and probably designed by amusement park tycoon Fred Ingersoll and/or renowned coaster designer John Miller. That ride was closed in 1925, and built on its site was the park's new Giant Dipper
. Built by Frank Prior and Fredrick Church, the ride featured two trains, initially run with ten two-seater cars but later with eight cars. The coaster cost $65,000 and its track was nearly 5000 feet long (1500m). During the Depression it suffered from neglect, but in 1936 $2,000 was spent on temporary repairs. These repairs were not enough, though, and in 1940 it underwent retracking to the tune of $5,000. In 1947 Happyland's Great Dipper made its final run, and in 1948 it was torn down to expand the park's racetrack.
Traveling down the coast, the next Giant Dipper
was at Playland Park
in Shoreline, WA. Situated on Bitter Lake, the amusement park featured a roller rink with a pipe organ
, a carousel
, and a ferris wheel
in addition to the coaster. The park opened in 1930 and was one of the Seattle area's most popular attractions. The Giant Dipper
there was the largest roller coaster in the Seattle area, and it operated for the full 1930-1961 lifetime of the park. The cost to build it was $75,000, a full ten percent of the cost of the entire park. The coaster was created by Carl Phare, who had worked his way up in the amusement park industry from a ticket taker to a coaster designer. When Playland was suffering financially due to the Depression, Phare took over the lease and began running the park himself in 1931. Two years later, a boy was killed while riding the Giant Dipper
, but closing the coaster or the park as a result was not considered. In 1953 a fire destroyed much of the property, but the owners rebuilt and reopened the park, which continued operating until 1961. At the end of the 1961 season, all of the rides were removed to make way for a community center, high school, and other public buildings. Phare himself died almost one year later, and nothing remains of Playland today.
Another Giant Dipper
was built at Pickering Amusement Pier
, in Venice, CA, in 1923. Another creation of Prior and Church, it rose to 85 feet and featured several banked turns and drops. After only seven months of operation, most of the coaster burned to the ground in January 1924 when a catastrophic fire broke out throughout the pier. Prior and Church
rebuilt their coaster in 1924 on the adjacent Lick Pier
, incorporating the remains of their original construction. This coaster operated until 1931, when progress on the Ocean Park
amusement piers caused it to be redeveloped. The piers became Pacific Ocean Park
in 1958, and closed in 1967.
One of the still-operating Giant Dipper
coasters is at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
. Also designed by Prior and Church, it was built by Arthur Looff and company in just forty-seven days in 1924, at a cost of $50,000. The two-minute ride's fare was originally 15 cents, but it has gone up to nearly $4.00 as of 2004. It has been able to continue operating for more than 80 years because of its outstanding maintenance record. Every two hours during the operating day, mechanics walk the full half-mile length of the track checking for problems; the coaster is also put through a full examination annually including an ultrasound to check its integrity. In 1976, the Giant Dipper
received a new paint job as well as a redesign of its entrance structure. In 1984, the original trains were retired and replaced by trains from Morgan Manufacturing, and the coaster received another structural paint job in 2001 at a cost of $135,000. Today the ride uses two six-car trains, and its maximum speed is 55mph with a drop of 65 feet. It has entered the consciousness of Americans who have never seen it, thanks to its prominent appearance in movies such as The Lost Boys
and Dangerous Minds
; it also shows up in commercials for everything from airfare to beer.
Prior and Church's other still-operating Giant Dipper
is at Belmont Park
in San Diego, CA. Originally known as the Mission Beach Amusement Center, the park's star attraction when it opened on July 4, 1925 was its coaster. Built by 150 workers in less than two months, it cost $150,000 and featured two 18-passenger trains. The ride operated for 30 years, but was then closed from 1955 to 1956. It reopened in 1957 and continued operating until December 1976. By that time, Belmont Park had fallen into disrepair, and the entire park was closed. The land belonged to the city of San Diego, and in the early 1980's the coaster was seen as an eyesore - it had survived several fires, but its paint was peeling and it also was providing shelter to the homeless. A date for demolition was set, but a group known as the "Save the Coaster Committee" managed to get the ride listed as a National Historic Landmark
, and ownership was transferred to them. Unfortunately, the group was not able to raise enough money to rehabilitate the coaster, and it continued standing but not operating for several years. In 1989, a developer looking to reopen Belmont Park contacted city officials to see about leasing the land on which the coaster stood. The San Diego Coaster Company was formed to restore and operate the Giant Dipper
. After a two million dollar restoration, the ride reopened in August 1990. The track is still a half-mile long and trains still go at 55mph. New trains brought in for the 1990 reopening hold 24 passengers each and they continue to enjoy the coaster to this day.
originally written for nonficwrimo06