The last time I saw the Giant Dipper roller coaster in person at Belmont Park (in the Mission Beach area of San Diego), the park was permanently closed. The roller coaster looked really old at a time when I was young. That was in 1979 or 1980 before I owned my first car.
I, and the other people I hung out with back then, used to spend a lot of time at the Mission Beach boardwalk. I don’t remember how we used to get there or how far it was from the Marine Corps base. We either rode a city bus or walked. We walked a lot back then.
I went through basic training at the Marine Corps base in San Diego in 1978. After I completed my class A schools, I was stationed there. I spent almost exactly two years there before being transferred to the air station in Yuma, Arizona.
Life wasn’t exactly boring in 1979, 1980 and 1981, but it wasn’t like it is today. You have to remember we didn’t have cell phones, computers or home video games. Most people didn’t even have cable TV.
There wasn’t much to do on the base. The main attraction was a bowling alley with a snack bar, a regular bar (or tavern) and a small arcade in the building. I developed an affinity for chili and rice at that snack bar.
I remember playing video games in that arcade way back when PAC-MAN was a big deal. But that was during the week, when I didn’t have time to go anywhere else after work. When I had more than a day off, it was off to a large arcade on Broadway in downtown San Diego or another large arcade on Midway Drive. I had to take a bus downtown but I always walked on Midway.
I didn’t spend every weekend playing video games, of course. My friends and I went to the beaches during the day and the movies at night as well.
My companions and I spent many days and nights hanging out at various beach areas. I remember Mission Beach, Pacific Beach and Ocean Beach. I won’t mention some of the other beaches.
Mission Beach is about seven miles from the base, so we probably rode a bus to get there. Bus rides were only a quarter back then. Before I bought my first car, I rode buses everywhere in San Diego, with and without the people I usually hung out with.
I remember getting out in front of the parking lot in front of the roller coaster, which wasn’t working back then. We hung out at the boardwalk a lot because that’s where a lot of women hung out. There were several that roller-skated back and forth along the boardwalk when we were there.
I understand Belmont Park reopened in 1988 and someone renovated the roller coaster by 1990. While I returned to San Diego years later, for various reasons, I never went to that specific area again. Of course, watching young women roller-skating wouldn’t have been a good idea by then. My wife wouldn’t have appreciated it.
By: RT Cunningham
January 20, 2017
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