Gary Nissley, a dedicated music collector and former DJ at KPCC who passed away in 2021, curated a unique collection of sounds from the bygone era of Pacific Ocean Park. This iconic amusement park, often referred to as “P.O.P,” was established in 1958 on the site of the former Ocean Park Pier and Santa Monica Municipal Pier. A beloved recreational hub, P.O.P featured attractions like the Banana Train, the Whirlpool, and the iconic goony bird that bid farewell to riders.
In its heyday, Pacific Ocean Park captured the imagination of locals and tourists alike. However, the park faced closure in 1967 for repairs and sadly never reopened, marking the end of an era in Santa Monica’s amusement history. Despite its closure, the spirit of P.O.P lives on in the digitized sounds carefully preserved by Gary Nissley.
Holmquist Sound, where Nissley worked during the early 1980s, played a crucial role in creating sound effects and narration tapes for Pacific Ocean Park. Nissley stumbled upon a box of reel-to-reel tapes from Holmquist Sound, recording various sounds on acetate, a common material at the time. Despite the tapes’ rapid decay, Nissley successfully digitized them, rescuing sounds that had become integral parts of the park’s identity. Gary Nissley’s collection not only preserves the auditory essence of Pacific Ocean Park but also serves as a testament to the ingenuity of technicians who, despite limited technological resources, crafted captivating sounds for the park’s immersive experiences.
The decline of Pacific Ocean Park marked the end of an era in Santa Monica’s amusement history. However, its spirit lives on in Pacific Park on the Santa Monica Pier. Established as an admission-free amusement park, Pacific Park continues the tradition of seaside entertainment, featuring rides like the Pacific Wheel solar-powered Ferris wheel, the Route 66 West Coaster roller coaster, and Inkie’s Air Lift Balloon Ride.
Gary Nissley’s digitized sounds not only offer a nostalgic journey into the past of Pacific Ocean Park but also serve as a bridge connecting the historical amusement park to its modern counterpart on the Santa Monica Pier. The Pacific Park on the Santa Monica Pier, distinct in its own right, carries on the legacy of providing joy and entertainment to both locals and visitors, ensuring the continuation of the vibrant seaside amusement tradition in Santa Monica.
Take a listen to the sounds below!