Tag Archives: memories

Remembering Marineland (Or Not)

I don’t remember much about Marineland of the Pacific. It was an ocean park/aquarium like Sea World that operated near Los Angeles for several decades, closing in 1987. I know I visited at least once, with my grandparents, but all I remember is:

  1. The view from what I assume was Palos Verdes Drive, as the car crested a low summit, brown hills rising to the right and falling gently toward the ocean on the left. The park stood on a promontory jutting out into the ocean. I haven’t been able to locate the spot, but that could just mean the road’s been moved.*
  2. A sign saying “CAFE” visible from the parking lot, which I misread as rhyming with “safe.” (Evidently I was very young at the time.)
  3. That’s about it.

You’d think I’d remember the sea life at least a little, though I suppose it’s possible I’ve misattributed some memories to Sea World (which, come to think of it, I don’t remember super-well either).

Not much of Marineland remains aside from a few names at Terranea Resort, which now occupies the site. But a piece of that history is coming back. In 2014, a 35-foot whale statue from the park entrance was found in a maintenance yard. The city has approved plans to place the statue at Point Vicente Park just up the road.

Apparently the decline and closure of the park was rather sordid: HBJ, the textbook company that owned Sea World at the time, had tried to buy Marineland’s star orcas. They weren’t selling. So HBJ bought the park in December 1986. Late in January, they secretly loaded Orky and Corky onto trucks in the middle of the night and drove them down to San Diego. A week later, they announced the park would close in March. They shut it down halfway through February, and by May they’d sold off the property to a real estate developer. Plans for a conference center were never realized, and the site was abandoned for 20 years until construction began on Terranea.

*Update: My dad pointed me to the Wikipedia article, which led me to a post at Modern Day Ruins, which led me to the California Coastal Records collection of aerial photographs. I found one from 1986 that indicates that Rancho Palos Verdes Drive is in the same spot as it was back then, but the housing developments on either side to the east of the turnoff weren’t there at the time. That’s probably why I didn’t recognize it. Or the road I remember could be the one down to the parking lot.

Pixar, the Space Shuttle, and Kids’ Museum Memories

Went with the family to see Space Shuttle Endeavour and a Pixar-themed exhibit on computer animation at the California Science Center.

The 6YO loved the Pixar exhibit, which broke down all the steps to creating a computer-animated movie into separate hands-on centers where you could do things like…

  • Apply different textures and bump maps to an object.
  • Rig a character for movement.
  • Change the lighting of a scene (real or virtual).
  • Define a shape in a 3D grid and watching the computer rotate it (way too much time on this one).
  • Create your own stop-motion animation by moving an actual desk lamp.

The only way we got him out was to point out that the museum was closing, and we only had 10 minutes left to get to the touch pools he’d said he wanted to visit. As it turned out, the pools shut down about two minutes before we got there, but staff was willing to let him look at the starfish. And we did catch the last desert flash flood simulation of the day.

As for the shuttle…he wasn’t impressed. He insisted on taking the simulator ride, but the real thing? I guess it’s old news when the whole fleet’s already been shut down by the time you start hanging onto long-term memories. 🤷

Admittedly, a big aluminum hut isn’t as suitable a viewing area for Endeavour as open space in broad daylight, surrounded by an enthusiastic crowd. Though that might have been the fact that it was my first time getting up close. On the other hand, this time I could see both sides. Heck, I could walk under it!

There is a new building in the works, where they’ll be displaying it with one of the external tanks in launch position. I’m sure it will lead to plenty of cartoons and movies where someone goes to the museum, breaks into the shuttle and blasts off.

I couldn’t make the building line up with my memories of visits when I was younger, back when it was the Museum of Science and Industry. The only thing I could match up at all were the wall facing the Exposition Park rose garden, and some of the buildings by the parking lot (a sunken structure now, but I remember it being flat).

Then again, what I remember are specific exhibits more than the layout: a big math/physics exhibit, a chicken incubator, and a multi-screen cartoon about energy sources and engine types called “The Water Engine.” (Each screen has a character talking up internal combustion, flywheels, mag-lev, electric, etc. I still quote the Peter Lorre-inspired fuel-cell scientist saying “And then…we burn the hydrogen!”)

It turns out there’s a good reason nothing fit my memory: They tore down the whole building in the late 1990s, preserving only that one wall!

Fuzzy Memories of Duck Food Danger

Duck! When I was around four years old, I went on a field trip to a park with a pond, and we fed the ducks. Unfortunately the duck food included peanuts. I rubbed my eyes after handling it, and they swelled shut. Fortunately this was long before my food allergies got really bad, so I only had to go into the doctor’s office, not the emergency room.

It might be my oldest memory related to food allergies, though it was something my parents and I already knew about. (I’ve quite literally had this allergy as long as I remember.)

Last month I went with my four-year-old son’s preschool class on a field trip to a park with a pond, and they fed the ducks.

It was a little unnerving!

Nothing happened this time around.

It got me thinking, though. I tried to remember as much as I could about the incident. Since I was so young, I’m not entirely sure how much is first-hand and how much is just remembering the story as it’s been retold. Memory is a tricky thing, nowhere near as accurate or stable as we’d like to think.

I wrote down the fragments I do remember, then asked my parents to tell me what they remembered about it. It was interesting to see what did — and didn’t — line up.

I remember a wide, curved pond, encircled by a wide sidewalk, with dense trees on the far side. The day is overcast, possibly drizzling a bit. A red box sits on a post, a vending machine for the duck food.

My parents are pretty sure it was the Woodbridge neighborhood in Irvine, which has two artificial lakes. The breadth and curvature fit. I’m not so sure about the trees, and the distance across seems too far, but it’s a big enough area that some part of the lake might fit.

My dad also remembers duck food dispensers “like gumball machines” along the shore, so I didn’t make those up.

OTOH, it was a summer day camp, so I’m probably wrong about the jackets and weather…but then I spent most of this week in June gloom, so who knows?

I remember looking at my face in a mirror. Not what I looked like, though I’m told I laughed like it was the most hilarious thing I’d ever seen.

The odd thing is that I picture a wall-mounted mirror on a tile background, but my dad remembers a handheld mirror.

I vaguely recall a crowd of children walking around in jackets, with maybe two or three adults, and the feeling of itchy, swollen eyes.

I didn’t remember the paramedics or my dad taking me to the doctor. Though now I can dredge up a faint memory of a van and an EMT looking at me. I picture an awning connected to a building, like you’d find at the drop-off point of a hospital or entryway of a hotel, with yellowish or off-white walls and glass doors. I’m not sure that location makes sense, though.

And one mystery that had baffled me: Why were there peanuts in the duck food? Was it like trail mix? Was it some sort of pellets with peanut butter as the glue?

It turns out we ran out of food from the dispenser and started tossing in bits of another kid’s peanut butter sandwich.

That’s kind of weird, because this time around, when we stopped for a snack, the child who sat nearest to us had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

It’s probably just as well that I made sure not to touch my eyes after helping feed the ducks.

Watching the Space Shuttle Land in 1988

The Shuttle!

When I was twelve, I went with my mom, brother and a family friend to see the Space Shuttle land at Edwards Air Force Base. It was the first mission after the Challenger disaster, and the orbiter was Discovery.

I took a roll of slides using a manual SLR camera and (for the landing itself) a telephoto lens. With the last shuttle mission ending tomorrow, I decided to track down the slides and scan them. Continue reading

Touring the Mt. Wilson Observatory in 1992

The Station Fire burning through the Angeles National Forest north of Los Angeles is expected to reach the summit of Mt. Wilson sometime tonight. In all likelihood it will damage or destroy the communications towers and the observatory complex. The Mount Wilson Observatory is an active observatory, and is also of historical importance because of discoveries made there over its 105-year history. In particular: Edwin Hubble’s* observations with the 100-inch Hooker telescope (shown at right) indicated that universe is much larger than was previously thought, and that it was expanding — observations that revolutionized astronomy and led to the current Big Bang theory.

I’ve been to the observatory once, on a tour my family took on August 8, 1992. We’d just come back from a trip to Florida where we visited Disney World and Cape Canaveral during the summer I was 16. I really wish I could remember more about the trip…but I took pictures and labeled them (though not in much detail). With the observatory threatened, I thought I’d dig them out and scan them**. You can see all eight on my Mt. Wilson Observatory Tour 1992 photoset on Flickr.

The Observatory’s website is apparently hosted on the grounds, so the fact that its fire status page is still responding indicates it’s still there and has power. The latest update says that they’re setting up a backup info page at http://joy.chara.gsu.edu/CHARA/fire.php, but that’s showing a 404 error right now.

*As in the Hubble Space Telescope.

**Scanning them was not a problem. Digging them out? That was a problem. I knew exactly which photo album they were in, and thought I knew where the album was. As it turned out, it wasn’t there. It was in an unopened box shoved at the very back of the long,narrow hall closet, such that I had to move 3 other boxes, several bags, and an unused CD rack just to see that it was labeled “photo albums” on top. Edit: And, oh yeah, the trail of ants along the wall, going after the long-forgotten bag of Halloween candy. The wall I kept brushing up against. How did I forget that part?

That’s the missing piece that makes the classic phrase more than a simple tautology. It’s not just that it’s in the last place you look. It’s that it’s in the last place you want to look.