When Santa Monica had nude sunbathing

Santa Monica once had nude sunbathing - endorsed by a famous Chicago Tribune war correspondent

I've been getting quite a bit of mail on the story I posted Monday about a new book that covers the history of Pacific Ocean Park, the amusement park on a pier that was the place to hang in the late 1950s and '60s.

Folks have reminisced about the Banana Train ride, the dramatic starfish entrance, the Wink Martindale P.O.P. Dance Party and concerts at the Cheetah Club (all of which are exhaustively covered by Christopher Merritt and Domenic Priore in their book, "Pacific Ocean Park: The Rise and Fall of L.A.'s Space Age Nautical Pleasure Pier.")

But reader Lawson Desrochers, who was born and raised in Santa Monica and who has a postcard collection of the area that dates back more than a century, came through with a vintage postcard that shows another old Southern California pleasure pier: the Crystal Pier, which resided at the end of Hollister Avenue in the early decades of the 20th century.

The pier was home to the Rendezvous Ballroom. It also advertised some locally famous "nude sun baths."

These were so renowned that Chicago Tribune war correspondent Floyd Gibbons once endorsed them in a brochure directed at early visitors to Los Angeles.

"I'm a son of a gun for the sun," he wrote. "I've taken nude sun baths all over the globe from Timbuctoo to Moscow, but I've never found the sun better than right here in Santa Monica."

I would hope so. I can't imagine that the sun in Moscow makes for bun tanning as good as L.A.'s.

It also makes me think that it's a total bummer that Santa Monica no longer has a nude sunbathing station. I vote for installing one right next to the bait-and-tackle shop on the Santa Monica Pier. Perfect for those who like to fish in the buff.

Thanks to reader Lawson Desrochers for the postcard. For more on the history of the Santa Monica piers, check out Paula A. Scott's "Santa Monica: A History on the Edge."

In the meantime, you can find me on Twitter @cmonstah.

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