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S.S. Palo Alto – Sea Cliff State Park Aptos California

Today’s featured image, a postcard photo of the S.S. Palo Alto was taken in the late-1940s at Sea Cliff State Park Beach located at Aptos, California. The Ship, an oil tanker made of steel-reinforced concrete was built in Oakland in 1919 for the US Navy and never used. The Sea Cliff Amusement Company purchased boat in 1929 and had it towed it to Aptos, sunk it, built a fishing pier leading out to it for access and turned it into a seaside attraction complete with amenities. The broken-up ship has survived.

Note the rare semi-custom 1941 Mercury convertible parked on the far-left-hand side of the photo fitted with fender skirts, full-sized hubcaps, and a spotlight.

Share with us what you find of interest in this photo and the second picture (below) of the Sanitary Laundry Model “T” Ford delivery vehicle courtesy of the Michael J. Semas Collection.

  • Sanitary Laundry circa 1915 to ’16 Model “T”Ford delivery car (below) in the oil fields near Taft, California. 

16 responses to “S.S. Palo Alto – Sea Cliff State Park Aptos California

  1. It looks like the hub caps on the 41 Mercury convertible appear to have a bar across the middle. They are what we called “flippers” in the late forties and fifties. The bar was held on with a couple os small screws and it wasn’t unusual to see some one driving with one out and the bar flapping as the car moved. Also it appears to have been lowered in the back. This was easily done by installing longer spring shackles, however without a stabilizer bar the rear end would sway whenever the vehicle turned.

  2. There appears to be a post war Cushman by the shore and there’s a fight going on above the laundry guys heads.

    • Looks like a model 32 or 34 . Model 32 came with out transmission , model 34 came with a 2 speed sliding gear transmission. US armed forces used a lot of both. Robert

  3. I am surprised there are no comments on the 2nd photo of the model T Ford. In the faded background it appears there are 3 tent type buildings on some sort of foundation. Are those the laundry or are they military barracks of some sort? I can’t make out enough of the car to say any more than the caption given tells. It might be worth noting this is an aftermarket body adapted to a runabout car with the turtle deck removed.

    That’s all from my limited knowledge.

    • Well, it must have been a progressive outfit to adopt a truck that early. 1915-16 is fairly early for a commercial vehicle in what looks to be a rural area.

      The fact it’s an aftermarket body isn’t surprising, factory commercial bodies and wagons were in the future.

  4. Taft was a oil boom town in the 20s. Ford City next to Taft was so named for all the Model Ts parked in front of houses of ill repute according to a good friend that grew there.

  5. Growing up in San Jose California during the ’50s and ’60s, we occasionally made weekend drives over the Santa Cruz mountains for a day at the beach. New Brighton Beach was one of my dad’s favorite beaches. It was a bit of a hike and often favored by people that didn’t like crowds or surfers. Just slightly South of the New Brighten Beach was Sea Cliffs state park and beach. We often went there. My dad appreciated history, and took us there numerous times because of this concrete ship. I remember one of the first trips we made to there, walking way to the back of the ship, looking into what I guess had been crew areas. Within a few years, the back half of the ship had been “roped off”. If you look at the photo above, you can see the break forming about halfway back. The ship had been “sunk” onto the shallow edge of the ocean to become a permanent tourist attraction. I don’t know how much if any preparation was made for this. I would guess not much if any. Anyway, the ship continued to settle, and not evenly. Little by little, that crack near the middle widened, and the front and back halves began twisting and pulling apart. Hence the closing off of the back half of the ship.
    We continued to visit the ship occasionally, and I enjoyed seeing that bit of history. Been a few decades now since I have been there. Nature and the ocean seemed determined to reclaim it. It became sad for me to see how much it had deteriorated during the twenty years I did see it occasionally. From time to time, I see a photograph of it, like today, and remember it fondly.

    A bit farther North of New Brighten Beach, are several other tourist trap type historic sites. I loved going to the Santa Cruz Beach and Boardwalk! It dated back to well before the 1920s, and had one of the finest Merry-Go-Round carousels in continuous operation in the world! But, that was years ago. I think the carousel is still there, as is the giant wooden roller coaster that has been in use since the 1920s. But a lot has changed. I haven’t been into the park for almost forty years now. I understand that the amusement park has grown very large and has many modern rides to thrill the masses. But I also hear that some of that wonderful old stuff is still cared for and visited by connoisseurs from the world over.

    The model T is quite interesting. It appears to be a 1915 (zoomed in I cannot see the electric horn button a 1916 should have), but could be a ’16 (if the horn button has been removed?). The added rear body section is very nice. Such “peddler’s” boxes came in a wide variety of styles.

    • Hi Wayne – I, too, remember this ship fondly. We lived in the Bay Area at the time and made the trek over the hill via Route 17. You could plan you r trips early AM or late PM to avoid the bumper to bumper madness of the beach traffic. Eventually my parents bought a beach house in Santa Cruz on 5th Avenue almost across the street from the Harbor Masters House. A duplex for $25,000 in 1965! Ocean view, four houses to the beach. While looking for property to purchase we ran past the concrete ship many times. My parents relented and we had lunch on the beach and got some time out of car as I was prisoner in the back seat of either our 1956 Chevrolet Station Wagon or a 1962 Pontiac Grand Prix. My dad would pull out fishing poles from time to time and we would fish on the pier when my Mom stayed home. I don’t recall catching much but it was time with my Dad.

    • That’s a coincidence …
      In ADELAIDE, South Australia we have a BRIGHTON BEACH and immediately south of that beach we also have SEACLIFF BEACH.
      How about that Wayne!

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