Save Santa Monica Pier, 1972


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Save Santa Monica Pier - 1972

Ever since we were young, we seem to have gone against the old sayings of our parents' generation, like "to get along, go along" and "you can't fight city hall." Sometimes the things we stood up for were grand and important, such as civil rights for all. Other times they were smaller issues, like the wanton destruction of a popular pier in Santa Monica, California. If it seemed wrong, we stood up in protest. Sometimes we even surprised ourselves and won.

The historic Santa Monica Pier celebrated its 100 year anniversary on September 9, 2009. Yet there would be nothing to celebrate if the popular pier had been torn down 37 years earlier, as ordered by the city council.

In 1972 a somewhat insensitive city council voted to remove the pier and replace it with a concrete island and 29-story hotel. Local citizen activists were a bit upset, and formed Save Santa Monica Bay to oppose the tear-down of this widely used--and free--public gathering place. Our chairman, Pieter van den Steenhoven, asked me to serve as media spokesman for the duration.

Santa Monica Pier - The Sting movie

Santa Monica Pier in The Sting movie

Santa Monica Pier - The Sting movie

At this same time, the Academy Award winning movie “The Sting” was being filmed at the Santa Monica Pier. Robert Redford and Paul Newman were treading the old boardwalk where so many of us had gone. They rode the horses on the carousel, where we had been on dates, then later brought our kids. Of course the director added 1930s scenery around the pier to make it look like what they wanted for the movie, but the Merry-Go-Round building and surrounding streets and walkways are clearly visible. What would have happened if the pier had been torn down during the filming? We will never know.

Santa Monica Merry-go-Round in The Sting movie

Santa Monica Merry-go-Round - The Sting movie

Chuck Henry was a newsman at ABC-TV in those days (now he is news co-anchor on NBC) and helped by providing some great TV coverage of what we were doing. Cliff Tarpy, a reporter at the Santa Monica Evening Outlook, also provided good coverage. With that, and a great deal of public support, we were able to qualify a “save the pier” initiative for the Santa Monica city ballot. We turned in so many signatures that the city council knew the next step would involve tar, feathers and a quick ride out of town. So it reversed the decision to tear down the pier.

The next city election resulted in the initiative being passed by the voters, and Pieter won election to the city council along with two other newcomers. We had carried the day with pennants flying. Today, the Santa Monica Pier is still there, it's still free, and it's still enjoyed by everyone from toddlers to centenarians. With any luck at all, it will continue be there for many years to come. 

-- Sanford Holst


I was a boy of 14 then. Living in the Purser Apts as it was called back then. Right on the boardwalk on the right side of the chess tables. What a great place to spend your youth. I'd love to find someone else who lived there at the time to trade stories with.

-- Danny Y, Big Island Hawaii

I was there in 1972, helping to save the pier. So glad we prevailed. These days I stroll the pier with my children. Thankfully, they can enjoy it just as I did all my life.

-- Morgan P, Laguna Beach, CA


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"Surfer Girl"

by the Beach Boys

Little surfer, little one,

Made my heart come all undone.

Do you love me, do you surfer girl?

Surfer girl, my little surfer girl.

I have watched you on the shore,

Standing by the oceans roar.

Do you love me, do you surfer girl?

Surfer girl, surfer girl.

We could ride the surf together,

While our love would grow.

In my woody I would take you everywhere I go,

So I say from me to you:

I will make your dreams come true.

Do you love me, do you surfer girl?

Beach Boys - Surfer Girl album

Beach Boys - Surfer Girl album


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