Photo by Randy Tunnell.

It seems that everyone involved with the imminent sale of the antique wooden carousel on Cannery Row agrees on two things: one, that it''s a darn shame the thing has to go, and two, that there''s nothing to be done about it.

Peter Casas, the new leaseholder for the Edgewater Packing House building, where you can still get a ride on the 87-year-old carousel for $2, has plans for a Wild West center with mechanical bull and an OK Corral laser tag game. He''d like a carousel, too, but it just isn''t practical to lease the one that came in the building when he could buy his own. So a few years back, he offered owner Eleanor O''Kane $80,000 for it. She turned him down. Used carousels sell from $75,000-for a cheapo fiberglass model-to much more for an antique in great shape.

Casas offered to let Mrs. O''Kane keep the carousel there until she could sell it, at which point he could buy his own, smaller carousel and have room for the Wild West''s bumper cows.

Casas plans to be a bidder at the May 19 auction, but he''ll only pay so much-with all due respect, he explains, the Herschell-Spillman is "not a Cadillac. It''s a Chevy at best. It was not top of the line when it was built."

Since the story broke in the Herald two weeks ago, Casas says, he''s fielded a lot of worried phone calls from people attached to it. "I didn''t realize how many people on the Peninsula have deep feelings about it," he says. Nevertheless, to pay what Mrs. O''Kane would like to sell it for-about $250,000-"doesn''t make good economic sense" for him.

As for Eleanor O''Kane, she says she will not sell the carousel for less than what her late husband would have. Dick O''Kane, whose restaurant and bar helped turn Cannery Row from a decrepit industrial zone into a thriving tourist attraction, adored his carousel, which he bought in Ohio a quarter-century ago.

Of all the spirited ponies, she herself is partial to the carousel''s lovely unicorn. "Mr. O''Kane loved them all," she says. "About two weeks ago I went and looked ''em over and tears just rolled down my cheeks because I could see my husband jumping on for a ride."

Candy O''Kane Hyder, Dick and Eleanor''s daughter, is disappointed, but she says it''s out of her control.

"When Pete called me and said he wasn''t interested in keeping that ride, that was pretty much the deal," she says. At this point she just hopes the auctioneer doesn''t sell the carousel off in parts, but rather sells it in one piece. "My dad would''ve wanted that," she says, adding, "Peter [Casas] told me at some point that maybe someone would purchase it for its historical value to keep it where it is. I''m not really sure where that went."

Alas, Bruce Kibby, a senior planner with the city of Monterey and a staffer for the city''s Historic Preservation Commission, explains that the carousel just doesn''t cut the historic mustard.

"Tourism is important in terms of overall Monterey history, but not in terms of Cannery Row," he says. "In Cannery Row the historical significance is related to the fishing industry and not the entertainment era that followed it." And so it''s unlikely the city will jump in to save the merry-go-round.

Besides, says Kay Russo, director of Community and Recreational Services, even if the city were to leap to the rescue and pony up the money, "You''d have to put it someplace. Where are you gonna get the land? Where are you doing to put the facility? And then it would probably cost the kids $25 to ride it.

"I have fond memories of it, too-everybody does-but I''m also realistic."

Kalisa Moore, longtime owner of Kalisa''s Cafe and the doyenne of Cannery Row, is one of those people who laments the passage of an era that the carousel''s demise embodies. Long gone, she says, are the days of the 812 Theater with its beanbag chairs and the Cannery Row of irreverent fun. "Cannery Row is strictly a business place now," she says. "To me, it has lost its heart.

"I care about the carousel because it''s gorgeous. It was Dick O''Kane''s biggest pride. I''m sorry-sorry he''s gone, sorry it''s going, sorry it goes."

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