Neptune Beach Opened 100 Years Ago this Month

Courtesy Chuck Millar During 1920s and ‘30s, the “Aerial Thompsons,” — known as “The Kings of the Air” and billed in the newspapers as “a pair of vaudeville artists and headliners” — thrilled crowds at Neptune Beach by performing stunts on a wire 175 feet in the air.

 

March 31, 1917 dawned a sunny, but frosty day in Alameda. Robert C. Strehlow and his partners August Freese and Pete Peterson weren’t worried though. They knew that the frost would dissipate and the sun would warm the day and attract visitors as the doors opened for the first time at Neptune Beach. The trio had waited for this day. They had gone to considerable expense to convert the long-closed Neptune Gardens to a more modern attraction. 

Strehlow, Freese and Peterson had a hand in building the 1915 Pan-Pacific International Exposition across the bay in San Francisco. The Exposition closed on Dec. 4, 2015; by February 1916, the three were busy transforming a long-neglected resort to what the Oakland Tribune called “a miniature Coney Island.” Among other attractions, they had tugged the Exposition’s roller coaster from San Francisco to the east side of the bay, reconfigured it into a helix-shaped ride and set the cars ready to roll.  

According to the Feb. 16, 1916 edition of the Tribune, they had the tower at Central Avenue and Webster Street and the eight-foot concrete walk that encircled the 87-acre park in place. The doors opened for the first time that Saturday morning. The creators breathed a sigh of relief. The crowds came, enjoyed themselves, and they would come back. 

Join Alameda Sun publishers Eric J. Kos and Dennis Evanosky at 10 a.m., Saturday, April 1, at Taylor Avenue and Webster Street. The duo will lead a two-hour walking tour “Neptune Beach: Yesterday and Today.”