This lovely book far exceeded my hopes and expectations for it. POP is such a long-gone, forgotten bit of my childhood that it's hard now to believe it ever was real except when one sees it in an old TV show or movie on METV or ANNTENNAE TV (The final confrontation between Richard Kimble and the one-armed man in THE FUGATIVE took place in POP), but as a kid I loved its "Flight to Mars," its Magic Flying Carpet dark ride, it silly Tub dark ride, its great mirror maze (Immortalized in a classic TWILIGHT ZONE episode), it's wacky banana train ride, and its super rollercoaster. I have vivid memories of riding in the sky ride bubbles out over the sea with my dad and my brother. Dad, my brother and POP are all long gone now, but this book has brought it and them back.
The story the book tells (Because the text is as wonderful as the hundreds of pictures) is a fascinating one of greed, stupidity, red-tape, government ineptitude, and more greed. I'd always wondered why POP only survived for 9 years while Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm go on and on, seemingly immortal. After reading this book (And I devoured every word in it), I now wonder how it stayed opened for as long as it managed. (Just reading the hilarious paragraph describing the hideous cost-saving practices in the food courts during its waning days will turn your stomache. "Don't eat the cold slaw, it was black this morning. He's colored it." Watered-down ketchum, rancid mayonaisse, the cheapest legal hot dogs fillings, an employee disciplined for throwing out pizza dough covered in mold.) The idiotic idea to fire all the designers and art directors two years after opening because it was "All designed now" was particularly hilariously stupid. It's like Walt Disney firing all his Imagineers in 1958, because, you know, Disneyland is finished now.
Because when the Turf Club and CBS sold it after it became clear that it could never be profitable, the park went into the hands of non-creative businessmen, men for whom "Creativity" was turning a profit on a parcel of land three times over, and the creativity that a place like POP needs to thrive was replaced by greedy, rapacious money-men. Disaster was inevitable.
The lengthy final chapter, describing the park's withering, it's ultimate failure, and the long slow rotting-in-public that it endured for years, as businessmen wrangled to try to squeeze out more profit where none was ever to be had while a veritable parade of inept government agencies for two cities (The park straddled a city border, half in Santa Monica, half in Venice), the state and the Feds made its demolition increasingly impossible, even as its rotting hulk became ever-more-dangerous, is a sobering and fascinating read.
When I was young, I loved POP. Now I'm old, and I love this book.