The Beverly Center in Los Angeles, California may just look like a normal mall these days. But, from 1945-1974, the Beverly Center (on the corner of Beverly Blvd. and La Cienaga, was a year-round, one-acre, mini-fairground, complete with pony rides, cotton candy, little roller coasters and even a ferris wheel.
The year-round, perpetual fair was the brainchild of David Bradley, a Californian businessman who was born in 1911. With a good knowledge of engineering, and a degree in Economics from Dartmouth College, Bradley set his sights on the entertainment industry. He worked as a manager of various touring big bands and became enthralled by the outdoor parks and fairground venues he came across on the road.
In 1945, Bradley decided it was time to "bring life and laughs to people after the death and destruction of the war." So, he purchased a small amusement park that was located in the middle of Los Angeles (Beverly Park, which was owned by the Frock and Meyer Amusement Company). Not only did he purchase all the rides, but the land was owned by the Beverly Oil Company, so he even transformed a massive oil well into a dragon. He reportedly recouped his investment within his first two years of operation. It was that successful of an endeavor.
According to KCET:
"Bradley had very particular notions about what a children's amusement park should be. He believed the park should be spotless, and that customers should always look and feel good on rides, never demeaned. He also believed that "an appealing ride must tie together participation of the customer, make the customer feel comfortable and still be an adventure." He spent hours in his machinist shop on the property, fixing and perfecting rides, and constantly coming up with new ideas. He rotated rides to fit in with the fads of the times. Staples included the Little Dipper roller coaster and a ride made of fish shaped cars called "Bulgy the Whale." Bradley also loved old amusement rides, and began to buy and restore many old carousels. He sold most of them, but kept the 1916 C.W. Parker Carousel, which had had a long LA history, first at the Ocean Park Pier and later at the Looff Hippodrome on the Santa Monica Pier."
Bradley wasn't alone in creating this piece of L.A. history. His wife Benice was by his side until their divorce in 1970. What's interesting about Bernice was that she worked in Disney Studios' "story research department." She eventually quit working at Disney Studios and ran the box office at Beverly Park. Bernice was the person responsible for introducing Bradley to Walt Disney himself. In fact, Walt would bring his daughters to Beverly Park, and it was during these trips that Disney began to conceive the idea of Disneyland. Bradley served as consultant and advisor to Disney during the planning stages of Disneyland. Bradley even went to Europe to conduct research at European amusement parks for Walt.
"There were usually about twelve kid-sized rides, as well as animals, hot dogs and cotton candy. Parents sat on benches watching their children ride the merry-go-round, and birthday parties were celebrated at picnic tables. For the children who grew up going to this pebble-strewn, family- run park, it was a respite from city life- quite simply put: "It was heaven." - KCET
It was also a great place for part-time fathers to take their kids! As this ad from 1971 clearly demonstrates...
"Beverly Park became known as "the" place for divorcees to bring their children, and as one divorced dad put it: "This is a good place to pick up women." It was also a melting pot of all races and ethnicities, at a time when LA was still a largely segregated place. "It's a neighborhood thing," Bradley explained about the park's charm, in an increasingly metropolitan Los Angeles.6 He also admitted, "this is very much a daddy park." - KCET
There was a little something for everyone...
Here's some great vintage footage of Kiddieland:
Due to higher rent, "surrounding expanded oil drilling" and just exhaustion, Beverly Park closed in 1974.