Venice Timeline




  • By September 50 oil wells were in production on the Venice Peninsula. The frormer residential area became an ugly, polluted place and Florence Nightingale Grammar School was closed for safety. By the end of the year, the oil field became the 4th largest in the state.

  • Amusement revenue was cut sharply during the first summer of the Depression. Only a few improvements were made on the Venice Pier. A Monkey Zoo and only two kiddie rides opened.


  • The weather was strange as record temperatures hovered around the 100 degree mark throughout the summer. Ocean temperatures reached between 76 and 78 degrees and hammerhead sharks were sighted in bay for the first time. It was so hot in Los Angeles on July 26th that 350,000 people fled to the beach between Del Rey to the Ocean Park Pier. Thousands camped out on the beach at night.


  • The year 1932 was considered the worst of the Depression. First National Bank of Venice and Ocean Park's First Marine Bank went bankrupt.

  • Five water polo players from Venice played on the USA's Olympic water polo team. Unfortunately they lost their final match to Hungary and only won the silver medal.

  • Local beauty pageants became so popular that Venice hosted the state wide Miss California Contest in the Venice Ballroom.

  • The Kinney Company's pier amusement business was so bad the summer of 1932, that they defaulted on their bond interest payments. The company went into receivership.

  • Bingo parlors became the only profitable business in Venice. Technically they were illegal, but clever operators developed variations that allowed the customer to use their "skill" to choose numbers. One of the most successful operators was John Harrah and their son Bill. (They would later move to Reno, Nevada in 1937 where they built a sucessful casino).


  • The Long Beach earthquake on March 10th wrecked Venice's high school. Students took classes in tents for nearly 18 months while the campus was rebuilt. Only a few other Venice buildings were damaged in the quake.

  • In April Congress passed the Little Volstead Act which allowed the consumption of 3.2% beer. A beer garden opened on the end of the Venice Pier and the Ship Cafe reopened under the ownership of Tommy Jacobs. Finally liquor consumption became legal again in December when the states ratified the repeal of the 21st Amendment.


  • For ten years Venice residents were dissatisfied with Los Angeles government. Although property taxes had increased 116% by 1929, not one bond issue for local improvements was approved by the electorate until 1930 when a new police headquarters, library, and municipal swimming pool were built. However, secessionists managed to get 12,000 signatures on petitions asking for a state constitutional ammendment to hold a special election within the old incorporated city. While it was passed in the Assembly, powerful lobbyists delayed it in the Senate until it adjourned for the year.

  • Venice held its first Mardi Gras Festival in August. The three day event featured parades, costumes and entertainment. Business was the best in five years, primarily because round trip trolley service from downtown L.A. was reduced to 35 cents.

  • Business also began to improve beginning in 1935 when McDonald Douglas began building DC-3 commuter aircraft in nearby Santa Monica. Venice was a cheap place to live for the aircraft workers.

  • Construction of the new Venice High School began in February 1935 and completed in time for September classes. Its 1200 seat auditorium was finished until January 1937.

  • Plans were proposed to extend the beachside Roosevelt Highway south through Venice to Playa del Rey. It required condemning all the property between Ocean Front Walk and Speedway at a cost of $2,000,000 per mile. The piers would also be torn down. But the state, always short of highway funds, delayed it year after year until World War II intervened.


  • The buildings on Windward Avenue were remodeled to have a more modern look. Brick buildings were restuccoed and colorful neon lighting was installed along the colonnade's arches and rooflines of the buildings.


  • Much of low-lying Venice is flooded during a huge March rainstorm when flood waters overflowed the banks of nearby Ballona Creek. The streets that once were Venice canals were again filled with water, but unfortunately so were people's homes. Lifeguards evacuated 2000 people from their homes and a large number of families were given Red Cross emergency aid at the Sunset Pier. Damage to 500 homes was $100,000.

  • Tony Cornero converted an old brigantine sailing ship into a gambling ship called the Rex. Its superstructure had a specially designed luxury gambling casino. He anchored it just beyond the three mile limit, and announced with radio and newspaper ads that he was open for business. Water taxis, operating from the Venice, Ocean Park and Santa Monica piers, brought hundreds of customers. It was a first class operation with good food, top name bands, unwatered booze and honest games. It was a success and needed Tony $300,000 per month. Other gambling ships also operated in the Santa Monica Bay until Earl Warren, the California Attorney General decided to take action. Cornero held the police boats at bay with high pressure fire hoses when they tried to close his operation that summer. But nine days latter, Cornero unexpectively surrendered. The war moved to the courts where they ruled that the three mile limit in Santa Monica Bay extended to an imaginary line connecting the two ends of the bay. Tony had to pay a fine.



  • Once World War II began on December 7, 1941 a blackout immediately took effect. While National Guardsman patrolled the beach. helmeted air raid wardens inspected their assigned blocks for any stray shafts of light that might be a beacon for enemy submarines and ships. Douglas Aircraft's factory in Santa Monica was completely camouflaged so that it looked like a suburban housing tract from the air. A fake aircraft factory was built across the street. Hundreds of local Japanese residents, many who farmed nearby or operated games on the piers, were rounded up and deported to detention camps in California's Owens Valley.


  • Venice's amusement piers were open throughout the war, except at night. They were a favorite place for soldiers and sailors on weekend leave. Dance halls were a favorite place to meet local girls. James and Benny Goodman played swing music at the Ocean Park Pier's Casino Gardens and Venice's Dance Hall offered the best bands playing country western music.


  • After threats of Japanese invasion diminished in 1943, the amusement piers were permitted to operate in the evenings

  • The piers were also a haven for young Mexican-Americans. They adopted a style of dress distinctively their own; the boys ducktail haircuts, large pleated trousers and long drape coats. The girls wore tight fitting sweaters and black hobble skirts. Going out in one's best attire was called "zooting." It was inevitable that tension would develop between the "zoot suiters" and the serviceman. On May 8, 1943 a clash began when several hundred sailors, soldiers and local teens ran them out of the Aragon Ballroom on the Ocean Park Pier. They clashed again at midnight. About 40 "zoot-suiters" were arrested. Several hours later the Kinney Company's offices at Windward and Ocean Front Walk mysteriously burned. Police roadblocks prevented further clashes the following weekend, but the action moved to downtown Los Angeles where considerable racial violence occurred.

  • The California State Board of Health quarantined Venice's beach as far north as Brooks Avenue because Los Angeles was dumping raw sewage into the Santa Monica Bay.

  • Officials closed the Venice Plunge because rotting timbers on the roof made the structure unsafe. Restrictions of building materials during the war made repair impossible.


  • The Kinney Company's tidelands lease expired on January 13th. The company was stunned when the city's Park's and Recreation Dept. refused to renew the lease. The company had just recently built a new pier entrance and repaired the pier's ageing deck. Besides it was profitable with revenues of $100,000 annually, and was the key to the community's return to prosperity. But officials felt that renewing the lease with conflict with their long range goals of widening the beach and removing all existing piers. The local city councilman tried to intervene and extend the lease another year. Naturally the Parks department rebuked the request because they had been against Venice's honky-tonk atmosphere since the day they annexed the city.

  • The Venice Amusement Pier closed on midnight Saturday April 20th. The Kinney Company had until May 15th to remove anything salvageable. Several of the rides were sold to other parks. Dismantlement took over a year. Finally in May 1947, boys set fire to the Bamboo Slide and it quickly spread to the roller coaster, the only other remaining structure.

  • The Ocean Park Pier kept Venice's amusement park tradition alive. First they installed a double Ferris wheel near the end of the pier, and the huge Strat-o-liner ride that Edmund Martine had begun before the world war intervened, was finally completed.


  • Venice's badly eroded beach was widened during construction of Los Angeles' Hyperion Sewage Plant in El Segundo. Sand, 14 million tons, was sluiced (a slurry of water and sand) north in enormous pipes until the beach was a uniform 500 feet wide. It was strange to see the short Sunset Pier completely land locked before it was eventually removed.

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