In the early 1980s, after Holmquist was bought out and their offices moved from Arcadia to Santa Ana, Nissley discovered a box of reel-to-reel tape with the name and address of Pacific Ocean Park. Holmquist had recorded the sounds on acetate — one of the cheapest materials available at the time.
The tapes were already decaying badly. Nissley got to work digitizing them right away
"When I would copy them off, the tape was brown," said Nissley. "As you saw it come off the capstan, what was going up was clear. And there was a little puddle of dust."
The brown dust was the backing falling off the tape — rendering it unplayable.
Nissley recovered dozens of sounds from the tapes. You hear ride safety warnings, sound effects and the goony bird — a fan favorite from the park’s glory days. The bird awaited visitors at the end of the park’s Banana Boat ride.
"It was a ride at the very end of the pier — kind of like you were almost going through a jungle," said Nissley. "And when the ride’s over, everybody that I talked about this — they said I remember the goony bird!" (via What does a defunct amusement park sound like? The lost sounds of Pacific Ocean Park | Off-Ramp | 89.3 KPCC)
"I accidentally found them when I was doing my research on the sewer book. An engineer had given me four CDs, with some .jpegs, and I was looking for sewage photos. But then last December I got a little bored, and I picked up one of the CDs, and I’m looking at them, and I’m thinking, ‘Oh. My. Goodness. These are amazing! This is a project that really needs to be put online so people can see these images that have never been seen before.’"
And with the L.A. City Historical Society, the L.A. City Archive and the Haynes Foundation, she did just that, and you can browse them or hit the “random search” and let the website give you a tour of historical L.A. (via LA historian discovers treasure trove of historic photos, now online | Off-Ramp | 89.3 KPCC)
What’s your favorite thing about visiting the Watts Towers?
A mostly unpaved Los Angeles River meanders through Elysian Valley, also known as Frogtown, in 1940. (USC Libraries/California Historical Society Collection)