Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Laffing Sal Laughed Endlessly at San Francisco’s Playland

Remembering Laffing Sal—the year I first saw her was 1966; I was just a small child, a mere 10 years old. She stood almost 7-feet tall, at the entrance of the funhouse.

Laffing Sal wasn’t very pretty but she was certainly memorable, and very colorful. She had bright pink cheeks and fire-engine red lipstick. She wore a little green hat on short, red, curly hair, and her mouth was fixed open in laughter, showing a big gap between her two front teeth. Her boisterous laughter, a continuous cackle, was heard throughout the entire amusement park. And it was said that she frightened many small children and annoyed scores of adults.

Playland was set at the seaside, along the Great Highway; and just how many times our family made trips to this fun-fest theme park, “Playland at the Beach”, taking a couple of busses to get there, mind you, I cannot say. But we went countless times during my early childhood years, often stopping to play on the beach or taking a browse through The Cliff House. I also remember the roller-coaster, the Twister, the Scrambler, and the concession stands were aplenty: shooting galleries, hot dogs, and cotton candy.

Laffing Sal stood at the front, and most imposing, loudly cackling away, her arms at her side waving in small circles, as she bent, leaning forward and back, again and again. Once you got past staring at Laffing Sal, and had convinced yourself that she wasn't really menacing at all, you entered the fun house.

You first walked through a maze of mirrors, then entered to squeeze through “spin-dryers,” stepping off to fall on a colorful “joy wheel” (large disks that spun very, very quickly, and fast enough to throw you off a distance on the floor). Continuing beyond, you had more obstacles to overcome: rotating barrels, moving bridges, rocking staircases…until at last you reached the coveted indoor slide. At the time, the slide was said to be “the longest and bumpiest indoor slide in the world,” about 200 feet long, the equivalent of a three-story building.

This indoor slide had stairs to challenge any child’s age level. It was a heart-pumping and blood-rushing climb. Before climbing the stairs, the children were obligated to take their shoes off, however socks were to remain on. Now try to imagine the stench from all those sweaty little feet without shoes; the air was stale at the top, enough to feel claustrophobic. But the exhilaration of riding the slide was worth it all. Each child was given a burlap sack to sit on and slide. WEEEEEEE...! So rang the echo on the way down. And then they did it all over again.

“Playland at the Beach” was named so in 1926. And in 1972, it happened; Playland closed forever on Labor Day Weekend.

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8 comments on Laffing Sal Laughed Endlessly at San Francisco’s Playland

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By Uttam Gill on November 05, 2012 at 09:07 am

Great account of your childhood memories...Certain moments and visuals gets graphically etched for ever in our mind and that’s how from your treasured memories you picked up a beautiful account of your life…

As I am given to understand, “PLAY LAND” later on converted into sports arcade…

I am just thinking about “Laffing Sal” …India was too far then for “Laffing Sal”…Let me share with you we had golliwogs then to entertain us…

Enjoyed reading this…Keep it up

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By Barbara MacDonald on November 05, 2012 at 11:14 am

Oh yes, so many memories of this sort of thing also Virginia...great time... and those mirrors in the fun house, how silly we all looked.

I remember Cedar Point, which is in Sandusky, Ohio..they say it is the roller coaster capital...and yes, i would ride it over and over wanting to be in the front car so u could see yourself flying down...arms in air... pure joy and thrills...

great article, thanks for sharing the memories ...:-)

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By HomeRearedChef on November 05, 2012 at 11:23 am

Thank you, Uttam! Though we didn't have much money then, or a car to travel with, I have awesome memories of doing these family travels by bus with my familia. Yes, they are forever etched in my mind and heart; they often will liven my spirit.

Thank you, friend, for the visit. :)

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By HomeRearedChef on November 05, 2012 at 11:26 am

Good morning, Barbara! Aren't some of our childhood memories just pure joy? Writing them down puts a smile on my face. And this of course will be a great way to tell my children. But I share them, too, with the many, like you, that will also remember happy memories of their own.

Thank you for the visit, Amiga. :)

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By souschef on November 05, 2012 at 11:27 am

Terrific memory triggers here!

When I was a kid we never appreciated any story from an adult that started with, "When I was a kid...." But now I find them to be triggers for my own memories and so now I really do appreciate them.

Thank you for that!

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By melanie jean juneau on November 05, 2012 at 11:37 am

Wonderful vivid word pictures. I must have lived in a cloister or something. I have only heard and seen such spectacles in American movies. Maybe only larger cities like Toronto had them?

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By HomeRearedChef on November 05, 2012 at 12:22 pm

You are very welcome, Souschef, but I thank YOU for expressing as much. If my stories can trigger good memories for someone else, I say WUNDERBAR!!

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By HomeRearedChef on November 05, 2012 at 12:27 pm

Then I consider myself blessed for having had the opportunity to see so many marvels coming to the United States. What a country!

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