Sunday, February 24, 2013

another day, another historic rabbit trail - Peralta Playland

On Friday I attended a press event to celebrate the reopening of part of the channel between Lake Merritt and the estuary as part of the larger 12th Street Project. I was invited by Erik Niemann, who has been tracking the progress of the 12th Street Project on his blog. After the event, Erik and I talked a bit, and he mentioned a train tunnel nearby. It seems that the site next to the Kaiser Convention Center had been home to a small amusement park called Peralta Playland, and the tunnel from the miniature steam train called the Oakland Acorn was still around. This was getting interesting.

Lil' Belle

I had planned on stopping at the Oakland History Room before heading over to city hall to see an exhibit from the National Park Service about the Anza Trail, but now I had something else to research. When I got there, I checked out the current exhibit, which shows historical info about Oakland's waterways, which was fitting since I'd just been at one. I mentioned Peralta Playland to librarian Dorothy Lazzard, and she said, "Oh, have you seen the picture of Lil' Belle from there? It's part of the waterways exhibit."

By this time I'd forgotten what I'd originally come to the history room to research. Peralta Playland, Lil' Belle, the Oakland Acorn, and who knows what other connections there were to research? I searched old Oakland Tribune articles, learning about some of the rides, and then I found a map showing the route of the "viking launch", which plied the waters between Peralta Playland, Children's Fairyland, and the duck pond on the east side of the gardens. And what's this? The Hippopotamus Train going overland between Children's Fairyland, through the gardens, to the duck pond and back?

I've been putting everything I found onto the Oakland Wiki page I created for Peralta Playland. It's a good start, but there's lots more to learn, like: when did the park close? what was the story about the lawsuit over the creation of the "Star Flyer"? what other rides were there?

Did you ever go to Peralta Playland as a kid? What are your memories of it?

That wasn't Friday's only rabbit trail. On my way to Lake Merritt, I was thinking about where to eat after. Woody's Cafe? Is Portal open for lunch? What about that pho place that @BikeBlogChris mentioned, Pho Ao Sen? That's around here somewhere. Riding from the library towards city hall, I thought, "oo...I could stop at Disco Volante! Or what about Aria, that Afghan place I've been meaning to try?" I did eventually make it to city hall to check out the exhibit. I decided to head up to Burma Superstar in Temescal, in part to check out the new bike rack in front of it. But my ride up Telegraph involved thinking about each of the following in turn: Rudy's Can't Fail Cafe, Telegraph, Commonwealth Cafe, Oasis Food Market, Beauty's Bagels, Homeroom, Cafe Eritrea, Arbor Cafe, maybe one of those Korean places, Lanesplitter...oops, wait. Right, Burma Superstar. I'm glad I was great. I'll write more about that some time.

And then there were the historic rabbit trails I started down at Saint Mary's Cemetery and Mountain View Cemetery after lunch...


Unknown said...

The Lil' Belle was built by Arrow Development of Mountain View, who were contracted by Walt Disney to build rides for Disneyland. Between 1953 and 1970 Arrow would develop the ride system for at least fifteen of Disney's attractions, including the Matterhorn Bobsleds, Pirates of the Caribbean, and the Haunted Mansion.
It is a fascinating, little told story with deep roots in the Bay Area.

Arlette said...

Good thing you didn't try Disco Volante: