- 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
- 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
- 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.