Boardwalk Tour

Silver Slugs at the Boardwalk

October 28, 2015

Silver Slugs who were lucky enough to sign up early before spaces filled for our second tour of the Boardwalk were treated to a very fun "inside" tour, led by the Seaside Company's Tish Denevan. See what some of the Silver Slugs had to say about this event.

John Wilkes:

The Silver Slug tour "behind the scenes" of the Boardwalk packed far more into its hour and a half than I would have believed possible. Our guide was tall, cheerful, well-spoken, deeply knowledgeable Tish Denevan, a long-time, high-level Seaside Company employee who started at the bottom decades ago as a ride operator. She introduced our group of 21 to the fascinating evolution of the Boardwalk and surrounding property through more than a century.

What few of us realized was that the 100-year-old Boardwalk is world-famous, and not just our own local fun spot. It has been officially recognized by an international amusement park trade group as the best seaside amusement park on the planet (the most recent runners-up were parks in Hong Kong and France). It routinely wins first place in US seaside amusement park competitions. The Boardwalk has been included in the book 1,000 Places to See Before You Die

Another surprise was the tribal esprit d'corps of the nearly 2,000 Seaside Company workers. It seems that many, if not most, of them spend nearly their entire working lives there. The interior walls of the second-floor offices are covered with photos and paintings showing a devoted and happy family, proud of their unique expertise in maintaining and keeping safe the various custom-made rides and public spaces, as well as preparing new ones. The merry-go-round and the Giant Dipper are national landmarks.

The Seaside Company owes its spectacular revival--it was a bit seedy when UCSC opened in 1965--to Charles Canfield, the current head of the family that has owned the property for many decades. According to Tish, Mr. Canfield has personally overseen the decades-long rehabilitation and enlargement of the Boardwalk. His goal, Tish said, was to make it the best it could be, not the most profitable it could be. Semi-retired now, the quiet, contemplative Mr. Canfield continues to guide the evolution of the Boardwalk with an artist's single-minded devotion.

Mr. Canfield's passion for the preservation of the Boardwalk was revealed to us Silver Slugs, not only in the constant refurbishing under way of the buildings inside and out, but in the truly astounding collection of lovingly restored artifacts on display in the second-floor offices, hallways and stairwells. The Seaside Company can't seem to bring itself to get rid of anything. Anyone want to try out a 1910 strength-building machine? Or see how much electrical current you can stand? Put your nickel in the slot and hang on. Covering the walls are photos, paintings, posters and other memorabilia dating back even to the late 1800s, even before the Boardwalk was built, when the property was the site of a gigantic bath house and tent city.

The history of the Boardwalk wasn't all fun in the sun, however. We also heard about two cataclysms that stopped Boardwalk operations dead for a time. The first was a fire early in the 20th century that started in a kitchen and burned the entire structure to the ground. (Miraculously, it would seem, as soon as the fire was doused the Boardwalk and its buildings were completely rebuilt and operating again in time for the next tourist season). Many years later the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake did serious structural damage to the underpinnings of the main Boardwalk buildings and to the beach bandstand that must be taken down and rebuilt annually (SC City Building requirement).

The Boardwalk foundations are all massively rebuilt now and stronger than ever. As we strolled around in the gigantic maintenance shop in the full basement under the buildings we saw the extensive repair work -- most of it in steel. The Boardwalk will be around for many generations to come.

Silver Slugs who missed this truly unforgettable tour can sign up for a similar tour through Santa Cruz City Parks and Recreation.  They offer two guided tours a year, Tish said. But she also revealed to one of our members that you see and learn a lot more with her!

Lynne Wolcott: 

This was my second year touring the Boardwalk with Tish Denevan. I wondered if I’d hear a “repeat” of last year’s presentation but Tish had so much new information to share that the second time around did not disappoint. Her wealth of knowledge is incredible and the stories she shared were so interesting, enhanced by her witty comments and jokes. Tish was a fountain of information. She showed us a photo on the wall of the administration area of one of the Wallenda trapeze artists walking along the top of the Ferris wheel while it was in motion! When the plunge was in operation, the water was drained and refilled daily! And who knew about the ghost that runs across the balcony in the ballroom??? An ice-skating rink on the beach?  She even let us try our hand at tossing the ring into the clown's mouth at the merry-go-round.”   

Donna Baldini:  

The two things that stick out: the “purchase of 40,000 rings a year [for the merry-go-round]! Wow! And “Tish's own connection. Working multiple jobs since she was a teenager, the mural including her mom/aunt, and her earthquake story. I would have enjoyed the ghost stories and seeing the green room with any guide, but her own story interwoven made the tour truly special.

Esperanza Nee: 

First, thank you Lynne, and Corinne, and all the others that cared enough to organize the "encore" tour. It exceeded our expectations and we have a new appreciation for this community jewel. Tish was the perfect person to lead the tour. It was clear that her enthusiasm and knowledge of the place is grounded in long years of first-hand experience with the site and the people who maintain it and make it work. She is rightfully proud of her association with the Boardwalk. I loved being face-to-face with the historical artifacts and photos in the hallways, taking a peek at the green rooms, the signatures of luminaries, even the workshop! What an operation. Her behind the scenes stories are priceless. I have a new found respect for the place.

Nancy Pascal: 

It was a delightful morning and Tish is an outstanding guide. She obviously loves the Boardwalk and all it means to the community and visitors. I especially enjoyed seeing the employee areas. Staff must be inspired by the colorful graphics, posters and displays. It is bright and cheerful, an inviting place to be. I was honored to win the prize for having the longest history (in our group) for visiting the Boardwalk. My first recollection is from the early 40’s, visiting the Fun House and riding the Merry-Go-Round. Thanks to Corinne and Lynne for arranging the Tour.

Elaine Kihara: 

Great tour. Loved learning about the Boardwalk history (and some of its secrets). Tish couldn't have been better, and it seemed like she was having as much fun as we were.

Group Photo  Group Tour

Beginning of Tour