"Number nine...number nine...number nine..."
As many of you know, last Wednesday -- Sept. 9, 2009 -- the Beatles' remastered CDs were released. Symbolism, to be sure, but a reflection on the power of numbers. (The right-field fence at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, home of baseball's Pirates, is 21 feet high, in honor of the team's late Hall of Fame right fielder, Roberto Clemente, who wore No. 21.)
But if you think numeric symbolism is a recent thing, go to Santa Monica. A little over 100 years ago -- on Sept. 9, 1909 -- the Santa Monica Pier was opened.
And here's the pier at its centennial celebration precisely 100 years later, featuring its now-famous sign:
While festivities were held at the pier on opening day, including swimming contests, the facility wasn't initially designed for entertainment, but to aid the city's sanitation. However, the pier's recreational potential, beyond enabling the public to walk over ocean water, was soon realized, and within a few years another pier was built to the south, featuring a carousel, arcade and other attractions. Jane Alice Peters and her two older brothers likely made at least a few visits.
The pier thrived throughout the 1920s and '30s; in the latter decade, the pier gained renown as "Muscle Beach," home to bodybuilders such as Jack LaLanne (who's still with us today, and in remarkably great shape for someone in his 90s).
By the 1970s, the pier had declined as a tourist attraction, and the city, which had just bought the property, considered demolishing the entertainment area of the pier to build a man-made island with a hotel. Public protest was vehement, and the plan was rescinded -- in fact, three of the council members who had voted for the plan were then decisively beaten at the polls.
However, in 1983, much of the pier was wrecked by two heavy winter ocean storms, and it wasn't until 1990 that the pier was fully restored. Over the years, the area gradually regained its luster, including some amusement park rides that hadn't been on the pier since the 1930s and the creation of an interactive aquarium.
The pier is open year-round, and admission is free. For more information, go to http://www.santamonicapier.org/index.html.