Hi David~ though few years older than you (I graduated high school in 1974), I used to cut school (a lot) and drive down to Santa Monica to sit and mourn the wreckage of what seemed to bea pretty good amusement park (not great like Luna Park or, perhaps, Disneyland, but wonderful nonetheless). This was ’73. I had been there once when I was about 8 or 10, and while it was still functioning, it was already pretty threadbare. Much of the mechanical parts of the rides were not working, and many rides were closed. I don’t think the combined ownership understood how tough a Disney-type attraction would be to maintain, especially in salt air. All that said, it was just a wonderful place and the moldering remains were nostalgic. Most of all the Mahi-Mahi ride, which was defiant to the end.
In 1973/74 I shot Super-8 movies of the park which I cut into a fanciful farewell. When the bulldozers came I shot that too and had my ending. It was, like your trip there, a cloudy day and we also jumped the fences and climbed up to the midway. It was a great day and I still have the footage somewhere.
Thanks for the website and memories. Long live POP.