Tuesday, July 15, 2008

From Playland to Beverly Center

In 1946, Dave Bradley opened Beverly Park and Playland at Beverly and LaCienega. It had a Tilt-a-Whirl, bumper cars, a roller coaster, merry-go-round, pony rides, blue hippo, you name it. And gourmet food, according to their ads.

Bradley earned a degree in Economics, which was not much use during the Depression. He worked in odd jobs all over Los Angeles--as a stringer for the Hollywood Reporter, a manager of several big swing bands, and (during WWII) a machinist with Lockheed Aircraft. Then he opened Playland--or Kiddieland, depending on who's telling the story.

One of his visitors at Playland was Walt Disney, and Bradley became an advisor to Disney on many of the rides at Disneyland. He was one of the geniuses who decided that everything on Main Street would be built to 7/8 scale, so people would feel tall and not so overwhelmed as they walked around.

Playland closed 28 years later in 1974, because oil drilling at the site was increasing. Bradley moved his business to Long Beach and continued to make amusement park rides for international customers, as well as places like Knotts Berry Farm, Opryland, the Six Flags parks, and even the Pike. This picture of the Timberline Twister at Knotts is from the Coaster Gallery website, and it's a Dave Bradley design.

In 1978, a $50 million project to plop an 8-story mall on "one of the few remaining quaint sites in urban Los Angeles" was announced. And so we have the Beverly Center, which, given what we do there, could still be called Playland.

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