Wild Wedding at Ocean Beach’s Wonderland

by on June 22, 2016 · 4 comments

in Culture, History, Life Events, Ocean Beach

OB Wonderland oldBy Jonnie Wilson

Perhaps the most unusual wedding ever to be held in Ocean Beach was that of Charles Sanders and Hazel Shaw, who said their vows on August 13, 1913, at Wonderland, O. B.’s 8-acre amusement park, which had just opened a month earlier.

The couple didn’t pick the park’s ballroom or Japanese Tea Garden as the location for their wedding as those venues would have been much too traditional.

Nor did they choose one of the park’s exciting rides, such as the 95-foot high roller coaster, to say their vows.

Clearly, this adventurous couple wanted more thrills than even that ride could provide, so they opted to perform their nuptials in the “lion’s den,” a steel arena which housed the park’s lions, leopards, pumas, and jaguars. It was further decided that Carlos Bernardo, the animals’ trainer, would give the bride away, and the big cats would serve as the couple’s wedding attendants.

Justice of the Peace J. Edward Keating followed the bride and groom into the cage in what was most likely a very brief ceremony.

Carlos Bernardo, armed with a “light rattan whip and a common broom,” made sure his animals stayed on their best behavior throughout the proceedings.

Outside, some 6,000 spectators cheered and the Royal Marine Band played wedding marches and “other selections appropriate to the event” (“Tiger Rag”?).

All members of the wedding party emerged from the cage unscathed and the fearless bride and groom adjourned to the Casino for a wedding day repast.

According to the San Diego Union, the wedding was a “howling success,” with the big cats roaring their approval as the couple said their vows. Since the groom was a pilot who had wowed his bride-to-be with his escapades in the clouds, one might say this was a match “made in heaven.”

The Evening Tribune provided the following details about the couple’s courtship:

Sanders is an aviator. A year ago, he was exhibiting in Seattle, flying Parmalee and Wright machines.Miss Shaw, who was on a brief visit to the coast, witnessed his performances and through mutual friends was introduced to the daring birdman. Later she accompanied him on two or three flights and the intimacy thus established soon ripened into love.”

And the rest is history, O. B. history.

There’s no word on how long Mr. and Mrs. Sanders stayed married, but let’s hope the lifespan of their wedding exceeded that of Wonderland—which only operated in O.B. for two years (1913-15). The amusement park folded in early 1915, after the Panama- California Exposition in Balboa Park–which had an extensive fun zone of its own—became San Diego’s center of entertainment.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Pat June 23, 2016 at 5:22 am

Thanks Jonnie, always love the OB History stories. It’s amazing even though Wonderland was only there such a short time, how it has become such an icon of our history.


Erin June 23, 2016 at 10:55 am

That is soooome MEOWage!

Jonnie Wilson should write a regular column on OB History :D <3


Frank Gormlie Frank Gormlie June 23, 2016 at 1:00 pm

Erin, we totally agree – Jonnie should write a regular column on OB History. Yea!


Gloria Harris November 23, 2016 at 9:31 am

I would like to contact Jonnie Wilson via email or phone. We both are members of the Congress of History and will be presenters at the 2017 Conference. My presentation is titled San Diego Women on the Homefront in the Great War.


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