Monday, May 31, 2010

Amusement Parks

Memorial Day weekend was the opening of a great memory of my past and that is Luna Park at Coney Island. In the mid to late 50s we spent many weekends in NYC thanks to my fathers business ventures and this resulted in some rather unusual opportunities for a young teen. First was exposure to Broadway musicals of which my mother would drag me to but the payback was she would have to take me to ballgames - so I spent some quality time at Yankee Stadium, Ebbets Field and The Polo Grounds. So while I got to see everything from My Fair Lady to The Music Man my mother got to see Mickey, The Duke and Willie. Now the second part of this equation was Coney Island.

I was actually allowed to venture on the subway by my lonesome to go to Coney Island. Not bad for a twelve year old but I could easily navigate Boston so I could do NYC. Different age back then. I loved Coney Island. I loved the fun houses. I loved The Cyclone. I love Nathan’s. I loved the games of (no) chance. I just loved amusement parks.

My first venture into amusement parks was Paragon Park at Nantasket Beach. We actually rented a house one summer for a few weeks and I spent many a time attempting to get on rides for which I was deemed too small. For the next few years I would measure my height every few months hoping to finally reach the magic number that would allow me to ride The Giant Coaster which is still active in another life. This started me on the path to being a coaster affectionate after I experienced my first fright filled trip through the dark tunnel and up the steep hill with knees shaking and a death grip on a handle bar. The drop of that first hill wondering how the car stayed on the tracks and memories of newspaper reports of deaths from the coaster. The sheer terror of the quick turns and being tossed around like a rag doll and the bruises that appeared the next day from this harrowing journey. Naturally I rode and rode until my money ran out.

Once I was able to go on that coaster others would beckon and a train ride to Revere Beach provided the next great adventure for a local coaster rider. Since driving at age eleven was out of the question I would do anything possible to get a relative to transport me to one of the parks that still attracted great crowds. Lincoln Park was close by and so was multiple rides on The Comet whose decaying hulk still exists. My aunt’s lived in Hartford so Riverside Park was an easy drive for them and my aunt’s loved to play Fascination so a trip was almost a guarantee with each visit. Freddie “Boom Boom” Cannon had a great song called Palisades Park and I could care less about the song as the park became a goal and on a trip to NYC I got to go. This was before the internet so research was limited but I knew of the parks in New England so I’d somehow manage to get to them all. My father had family in Pennsylvania and that opened up a treasure trove of parks topped off by Hershey Park.

This fascination with amusement parks has continued and I even joined ACE and would occasionally go to their meetings at various amusement parks. When Six Flags New England opened up Superman my ACE card got me to the front of the line and any seat I wanted - no five hour wait since we critiqued the coasters. Ride as many times as I wanted. VIP treatment. Eat your heart out peasants.

Some folks pass on certain things to their children and my big contribution has been they all just love coasters and amusement parks. One family vacation centered around a trip to the Mecca of amusement parks - Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio. This is the coaster capital of the world! We managed to get my wife - The Lovely Cynthia - on one of the smaller coasters saying it was a simple ride. I still remember her vomiting into a large flower display after the ride.

Veronica or Betty? Mary Ann or Ginger? Coke or Pepsi? Steel or wood? Steel coasters do things that wood cannot. Twists, turns, loops, speed and so on. Cheaper to build and maintain and they were all the rage since Knotts Berry Farm installed one. Heck…I flew a a Citabria aerobatic plane out of North Middleboro for years so I didn’t need any loops. But like Vinyl with records the woodies have made an amazing comeback. I prefer them. I like the bumps and the grinds. My favorite is The Rattler at Six Flags Fiesta Texas. This one had to be changed three times since it had created too rough a ride. The designer eventually died of a heart attack supposedly brought on my the stress of getting this machine going.

I could create quite a list of coasters and parks and rate them but that would require a book rather than a post and just reflect opinion. In a few weeks I will go to Denver to see the Sox play but one game will be missed as I’ll head to Elitch Gardens for a few jaunts on their coasters. Cynthia will be invited but somehow I think she’ll pass on any and all rides. In fact the only think I now prefer is coasters as just about anything else makes me sick.

Some amusement parks have survived to this day while others have become faded memories of another time. A certain part of the demise can be attributed to the ultimate evil prince of amusement parks - Walt Disney! Yep - uncle Walt and the creation of the theme park. Some of the madness of theme parks have seeped into the world of amusements parks with shows and productions. I want rides! I want fun houses! I don’t want cartoon characters and fluffy Disney rides.


Suo Mynona said...

Cedar Point. WOW.

I went to Cedar point with my lovely bride to be the day before graduation. It was only a couple hours away from our college. The wooden roller coaster there has a thrill and "je ne sais quoi" the newly engineered coasters lack.

There is no sense of danger on the new coasters. New coasters give thrills by G Forces. The old large rickety wooden coasters provide more sensory input IMO. That said, I do love new coasters as well.

Wally Glendye said...

We took the kids to Hershey Park two years ago which is the best I have ever been to. We also did all of the parks in Florida last year but Hershey has it all including two great wooden coasters. We still take the kids to Six Flags & Canobie Lake each year only to ride the coasters.

I grew up in Quincy and spent many nights at Paragon Park on the giant wooden coaster when I was young. I still remember the shaky coaster at Licoln Park & the very clean Rocky Point Park.

Here's a great link to Paragon Park:

I guess Knig's Castle Land doesn't qualify under this category.

Wally Glendye said...

We are coasters nuts and plan our trips each year around which parks will give us the most thrills. Cedar Point is on our list along with King's Dominion in Doswell, VA & Dorney Park in Allentown, PA.

Here is a great datbase which gives you plenty of info on the coasters:

Did I mention that the one in the Mall of America isn't that bad?

Family Guy said...

Going to Ct. there is a park called Lake Compounce. I think it may be the oldest amusement park in the country.

Wally Glendye said...

It looks like a good one with two wooden coasters. We also are addicted to train rides and I see that they have a Train and a Trolley ride. It is on my list, thanks Family Guy!

bogofree said...


Here is a listing of world wide train museums and many do have rides. There is one in Southern Connecticut along the coast. Name escapes me.

Wally Glendye said...

This is a great tribute to Paragon Park along with the Beach Boys singing in the background:

Guaranteed to put a smile on your face!

chica said...

I really am enjoying this and the links.

bogofree said...

I use to spend hours on the airplane ride at Paragon. It was on top of a building that had a game room inside and you would have to walk up stairs. Learned to really control the flight of those things.

The park had two fun houses and both burned down. Neither could match up with Coney Island but they were still great.

When you left the park there was a second smaller area that had several rides and games.

I believe Revere Beach had a Virginia Reel ride that was quite impressive. I know the original coaster use to attract a crowd to watch if anyone got killed as the original configuration was rather dangerous.

Wally Glendye said...

This link shows some stills of Revere Beach and the Cyclone Roller Coaster:

Wally Glendye said...

Don't forget the Wild Cat at Salisbury Beach:

Wally Glendye said...

How about Pleasure island in Wafefield which was billed as the "Disneyland of the East":

I remember going there as a little kid a;long with King's Castle Land in Whitman. Wollaston Beach in Quincy used to have a small Amusement Park near the Clam Box & Beachcomer.

Wally Glendye said...

Whalom Park had a decent Wooden Coaster but they also had a nice little beach. My family would pack us up in the morning and everyone would be asleep from exhaustion on the way home from Lunenburg.

bogofree said...

I grew up around the corner from King's Castle. Use to go skating there since one of the two ponds was same size as a hockey rink.

Amazing how many of those old parks still have remnants left.

bogofree said...

Here is a list of defunct parks in Massachusetts.. I was going to mention another place I remember called Mountain Park in Holyoke. Some on the list have pictures.

North Slope Rigger said...

I found Euclid Beach in the defunct parks link. I remember going there decades ago while station in the navy.

The Sox are moving up Bogo and you may actually get to wear a Sox jersey on your trip.

If anyone thinks capping this well is easy think again. That sucker is over a mile down. Here is what happened. It caught fire, blew up and the pipe broke. Would have been real nice for Obama to attend the services for the eleven killed.

Suo Mynona said...

This topic has clearly generated some interest. It is such a nice respit from all the other drudgery and bad news that surrounds everyone everywhere.

One of our favorite places was Story Land in NH. It is the best bang for the families with young kids. Plus it is better than Disney, IMO, for small kids because of the smaller scale. You can arrive late in the day at the park and your admission is free the next day. It allows you essentially one nice warm up session and full day. The concession stand is very reasonable as well.

Sorry for the cut paste but here is their pricing policy:

"Purchase the full-price admission during the last three hours of any day (after 3:00pm July and August, or after 2:00pm other months), and you’ll receive a free pass to come back the next day."

anonymous said...

A trip upcountry is not complete unless you take young kids to Story Land. They love it and it is far less congested than places like Disney and great on the budget. The other place is Santa's Village and Six Gun City. For Wally there is Hobo Railroad.

anonymous said...

I left out Weirs Beach. Nice place. So many things in this state and nearby states that means a family vacation does not have to run into the thousands.

bogofree said...

Last summer my wife - The Lovely Cynthia - and I did a tour of NH. The first stop was Strawbery Banke which was a twenty year lapse between visits. very impressive changes. Next was the Enfield and a stop at the Shaker Museum and that was followed up by a trip to the Polar Caves. Old person stuff as my daughter said. Stayed a two very nice B & B's.

bogofree said...

Forgot Clark's Trading Post.

anonymous said...

We have gone to Old Orchard Beach and York Beach about once every three or four years.

Suo Mynona said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Suo Mynona said...

The old fashion Flying Horses Carosel in Oak Bluffs is a wonderful trip in the off season. It is not crowded so the kids can ride endlessley until they capture the BRASS RING!

Heritage Museum in Sandwich is a must for all ages. There is literally something for everyone. I highly recommend a day trip to local and relatively unknown gem.

Wally Glendye said...

Been on the Hobo Railroad, Conway, Cape Cod, Edaville, Winnepesuakee, The White Mountain,(Clark's Trading Post) The Mount Washington Cog, The Narrow Guage In ME & The Green Mountain Flyer in Vermont.

My kids are teenagers now so we don't do Storyland & Santa's Village anymore and I have to admit that I miss it more than them.

We rent a nice place in the Eidleweiss section of Madison, NH just before Conway. Each year and frequent Old Orchard Beach, York Beach & Weirs Beach.

It was sad to see Heritage, NH (next to Storyland) close a few years ago.

I'm off camping, I hope everyone has a good weekend!

bogofree said...

And for the baseball fans at the Heritage Museum in Sandwich is the Cape Cod League Hall of Fame. At last count over 400 players from that league ended up in the majors. Sandwich Glass Works is also nearby as is Dan'l Webster Inn for lunch or dinner.

anonymous said...

I loved the Scrambler and still do. Usually it is a staple at every park and carnival. I also enjoy the Octopus and the Wild Mouse. Flume rides are great on a hot day.

LMAO said...

I see that the Massachusetts Senate is putting the finishing touches on their version of a gaming bill. They will have no slots at race tracks as opposed to the House version with limited slots. What is important is they both agree on expanding gaming by having three or more resort casinos built.

So and guess this would constitute a political roller coaster with the end being I and millions of others will have the opportunity to avoid going out of state.

The Edmonton Mall in Canada has an indoor roller coaster. In fact I think they have several.

Suo Mynona said...

Obama's promised transparency is becoming increasingly opaque. Soon night vision goggles will be needed to recognize anything.

The minority of self professed erudites keep telling third rate d*psh*t citizens they just do not understand the lofty "no brainer" mantras because they are so parochial.