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Old Amusement Parks

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It seems that a good number of my childhood memories come from visiting amusement parks or fairs with midways. My dad taught us how to properly lean to make the Tilt-A-Whirl go fast enough to make us all queasy :wacko: (and I have passed this along to my kids- it's an important life skill, you know!)

 

By the number of websites I have come across that commemorate defunct parks and show what's up at parks still operating it is obvious I am not alone!

 

This summer I visited two great amusement parks:

The North Pole in Colorado Springs- Lots of great old rides, entertainment and Santa reigns supreme year round. The candy cane roller coaster had unexpected speed and the train ride was fun and educational. The carousel includes all eight original reindeer and Rudolph. You can even have Santa send your kids a letter around Christmas time- or send a postcard marked North Pole.

 

Bay Beach in Green Bay, WI- Free to get in and the rides are only 50 cents a go round! The classic rides include the Yo-Yo (swings), giant slide, Tilt-A-Whirl and Scrambler. The kiddie ride area has the traditional boats, motorcycles, bugs and even a mini Yo-Yo. There are picnic areas near by so you can bring lunch and have a bite to eat before spinning around at high speeds.

 

I still have memories of riding the Lost River (or Lost Canal) at Bertrand Island in NJ. That ride scared the socks off of me- so I rode it alot! That is the park I also learned about the helicopter ride and being able to make the helicopter go up and down at my command- such power!

 

What are your amusement park memories?

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I'm not sure that the Santa Cruz (California) boardwalk of the 1940’s and 50's could be classed an amusement park, but it had a huge roller coaster and lots of game stalls, with a real old fashioned arcade at one end.

 

It was a favorite summer gathering place for teen agers who drove over the old Santa Cruz Highway from the Santa Clara valley, or took the steam train from San Jose.

 

I remember it well as a great place to take a date on a Saturday.

 

Dave

 

Keep the Show on the Road!

 

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Just found a piece of great history from Fairyland Amusement Park (located on old Route 66 at 40th and Harlem Ave., Lyons, Il. ) for sale:

 

http://www.urbanremainschicago.com/item.aspx?itemID=4293

 

fairycl.jpg

 

Christine

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I'm not sure that the Santa Cruz (California) boardwalk of the 1940’s and 50's could be classed an amusement park, but it had a huge roller coaster and lots of game stalls, with a real old fashioned arcade at one end.

 

It was a favorite summer gathering place for teen agers who drove over the old Santa Cruz Highway from the Santa Clara valley, or took the steam train from San Jose.

 

I remember it well as a great place to take a date on a Saturday.

 

Dave

 

Keep the Show on the Road!

 

"Had?" "Was?" It's still there Dave unless these latest storms have washed it away. Even the arcade is still there. You can take the train into the Santa Cruz Mountains although it is a diesel now and doesn't go all the way to San Jose.

 

Roadhound

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"Had?" "Was?" It's still there Dave unless these latest storms have washed it away. Even the arcade is still there. You can take the train into the Santa Cruz Mountains although it is a diesel now and doesn't go all the way to San Jose.

 

Roadhound

 

Rick,

 

The arcade was filled with machines that even in 1953 or 54 were antiques. I remember one where you put in your coin and them pulled or pushed two handles, and the farther you did, the stronger the shock you got. Your muscles tightened up from the current until you couldn’t take the pain or you didn’t have the strength to continue.

 

But even better were the “girlie” card dispensers. You put in a nickel and got out a bathing beauty “pin up” photo on a post card. This was before Playboy recalibrated the exposure scale, so they seemed pretty hot stuff. B)

 

That was also the day when you were belted into the roller coaster instead of locked into your seat. Of course we took off our seat belts and “floated” over the crests, rising a few inches off our seats. There were guys who stood up, but after someone literately lost his head on an overhead cross beam they forbid that kind of stuff. The “best” I ever did was ride without the belt, with my hands in the air, for the whole ride. Believe it or not that was tough to do...and stupid to boot! :rolleyes:

 

The merry go round was famous, and had real brass rings that you tried to pull out of a dispenser as you whirled by. Surprisingly I can still see that dispenser clearly in my memory. I don’t recall what we did with the rings though.

 

Glad it is still there! I think I have an 8mm home movie I took there 45 or 50 years ago from the ferris wheel. I’ll have to look for it!

 

Dave

 

Keep the Show on the Road

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Old Orchard Beach had a great amusement park in the 1930's, 40's and into the 50's. There were rides - an old wooden roller coaster, dogem cars and other fun things to do. In the 1930's, maybe back into the 20's, the old pier that stood over the Atlantic Ocean, featured a dance hall that catered to the big bands, such as the Dorsey Brothers, Red Nichols and the Five Pennys and other well known name bands. Many of these big band names played at smaller dance halls along the Maine coast and some inland, even.

 

Eventually, as time moved on the old amusement park began to deteriorate - people stayed home and watched the new medium, TV and found other amusements. Things got pretty run down. As I remember part of the pier was destroyed in a storm. The old place got pretty seedy.

 

I was just looking on-line and found that maybe there's life in the old place yet - they have a web site @ http://www.palaceplayland.com/ - so maybe it's still up and running.

 

There is strong competition not 5 miles away on U S 1 - called Funtown Splashtown. They opened a roller coaster a while back that brought coaster riders from around the world to celebrate the inaguaral run. Reading it's history @ http://tinyurl.com/yc28gz5 (click on "About the park", then click on "history") I see it's been in the area since 1960, when it started as the Marvel Drive In, a drive in restaurant. And it grew from there to what it is today.

 

I remember spending many hours at the old Palace Playland by the ocean when I was a young 'un with my folks and my sisters. It was always a great event and eagerly anticipated. It was sad to see how it went downhill in the 60's and 70's, but it has been brought back in recent years, I think. Haven't been over there, tho I only lived 15 miles away, in years.

 

Hudsonly,

Alex Burr

Memphis, TN

Edited by Alex Burr - hester_nec

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Old Orchard Beach had a great amusement park in the 1930's, 40's and into the 50's. There were rides - an old wooden roller coaster, dogem cars and other fun things to do. In the 1930's, maybe back into the 20's, the old pier that stood over the Atlantic Ocean, featured a dance hall that catered to the big bands, such as the Dorsey Brothers, Red Nichols and the Five Pennys and other well known name bands. Many of these big band names played at smaller dance halls along the Maine coast and some inland, even.

 

Eventually, as time moved on the old amusement park began to deteriorate - people stayed home and watched the new medium, TV and found other amusements. Things got pretty run down. As I remember part of the pier was destroyed in a storm. The old place got pretty seedy.

 

I was just looking on-line and found that maybe there's life in the old place yet - they have a web site @ http://www.palaceplayland.com/ - so maybe it's still up and running.

 

There is strong competition not 5 miles away on U S 1 - called Funtown Splashtown. They opened a roller coaster a while back that brought coaster riders from around the world to celebrate the inaguaral run. Reading it's history @ http://tinyurl.com/yc28gz5 (click on "About the park", then click on "history") I see it's been in the area since 1960, when it started as the Marvel Drive In, a drive in restaurant. And it grew from there to what it is today.

 

I remember spending many hours at the old Palace Playland by the ocean when I was a young 'un with my folks and my sisters. It was always a great event and eagerly anticipated. It was sad to see how it went downhill in the 60's and 70's, but it has been brought back in recent years, I think. Haven't been over there, tho I only lived 15 miles away, in years.

 

Hudsonly,

Alex Burr

Memphis, TN

 

Alex,

 

Yah, I forgot the dodge'em cars. You got out in the clear and then revved your bumper car up to full speed (probably 3mph) and rammed the car with the cutest girl driving. I don't know to this day why that didn't impress her....but then who understands women anyway?!

 

 

Dave

 

Keep the Show on the Road!

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Rick,

 

The arcade was filled with machines that even in 1953 or 54 were antiques. I remember one where you put in your coin and them pulled or pushed two handles, and the farther you did, the stronger the shock you got. Your muscles tightened up from the current until you couldn’t take the pain or you didn’t have the strength to continue.

 

But even better were the “girlie” card dispensers. You put in a nickel and got out a bathing beauty “pin up” photo on a post card. This was before Playboy recalibrated the exposure scale, so they seemed pretty hot stuff. B)

 

That was also the day when you were belted into the roller coaster instead of locked into your seat. Of course we took off our seat belts and “floated” over the crests, rising a few inches off our seats. There were guys who stood up, but after someone literately lost his head on an overhead cross beam they forbid that kind of stuff. The “best” I ever did was ride without the belt, with my hands in the air, for the whole ride. Believe it or not that was tough to do...and stupid to boot! :rolleyes:

 

The merry go round was famous, and had real brass rings that you tried to pull out of a dispenser as you whirled by. Surprisingly I can still see that dispenser clearly in my memory. I don’t recall what we did with the rings though.

 

Glad it is still there! I think I have an 8mm home movie I took there 45 or 50 years ago from the ferris wheel. I’ll have to look for it!

 

Dave

 

Keep the Show on the Road

 

Its been 4 or 5 years since I was last there but I do recall that the arcade still had some of the old games in addition to pinball and newer video games. I don't remember any girlie card dispensers but they did have a card dispenser with airplane photos from the 50's. My son thought that those were cool (and so did I!).

 

The merry go around is probably the same as it was back then although it probably has been refurbished once or twice. There are still brass rings that you can grab and then you try to throw them into a clowns mouth as you go by.

 

The rollercoaster is still there but the cars now have a lap bar that keeps you from flying out. I couldn't imagine riding it without a belt let alone trying to stand up and ride it. They also have a few other roller coasters and rides that weren't there 50 years ago but I bet there is enough left to satisfy your thirst for nostalgia.

 

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Most of my youth trips to an Amusement Park was to Dorney Park within a few minutes of home on foot. At that time, the public road went through the middle of the park and no admission was charged. They kept "up-to-date" by enclosing older rides, and even had a theater in the round in a tent and a great arcade with many of the vintage machines that Keep remembers from the west coast. Just today they announced the plans to move a Demon Drop ride from another park (I believe it was from Cedar Point, another great park) to Dorney, but they will be putting it at the location held for years by the bumper cars. I would love to be able to buy one of the cars to restore, but even if they go for sale, I doubt I could afford one.

A great park to visit in central PA is Knoebel's, the largest admission free park in the USA. We plan to take our granddaughter there this summer.

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Here in Wisconsin (Columbus, WI) there is a newish amusement park called Little Amerricka. They have a whole bunch of vintage rides that they have collected into one place. They even have the ride that I always saw on the New Jersey boardwalk that I was too small to ride- the Wild And Wooly Toboggan (see photo below). It seems I am now a bit too big to ride.

 

They also have a monorail around the park, bumper cars and the parachute ride. There are 3 roller coasters- a kids size, The Mad Mouse (sans seat belts or bars) and a new wooden coaster. They also have a train ride that goes quite a ways through some farm scenes.

 

Here is there website: Little Amerricka

 

They also have a FanPage on FaceBook.

 

The only thing they are missing is Skee-Ball and Pinball.

 

little22.jpg

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Rick,

 

Thanks for the update on Santa Cruz!! BTW, I think they had the airplane cards when I was a kid, but the pin ups sold better! The air plane cards may even be "new old stock." That would be a kick!

 

Another amusment park that deserves note is Great America in Santa Clara. I think it goes back pretty close to when you were a younster. I know I was still ridihg roller coasters, so it had to be a long time ago!! Again, I think I have movies, in this case maybe from 30 -35 years back.

 

Speaking of movies, I'm doing 3D videos now and I am planning some on old roads and old cars, but imagine the effect on a roller coaster.

 

And Dave, it would be a kick to see a bumper car restored, but then you'd have to electrify your shop floor and ceiling! :lol:

 

Dave

 

Keep the Show on the Road!

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Rick,

 

Thanks for the update on Santa Cruz!! BTW, I think they had the airplane cards when I was a kid, but the pin ups sold better! The air plane cards may even be "new old stock." That would be a kick!

 

Another amusment park that deserves note is Great America in Santa Clara. I think it goes back pretty close to when you were a younster. I know I was still ridihg roller coasters, so it had to be a long time ago!! Again, I think I have movies, in this case maybe from 30 -35 years back.

 

Speaking of movies, I'm doing 3D videos now and I am planning some on old roads and old cars, but imagine the effect on a roller coaster.

 

And Dave, it would be a kick to see a bumper car restored, but then you'd have to electrify your shop floor and ceiling! :lol:

 

Dave

 

Keep the Show on the Road!

 

I think your close on your estimate for when Great America opened. If I recall I was in 7th grade which would put it in the 1976 timeframe. My parents took us down there twice during the first summer that it was opened and we thought it was the greatest. It had roller coasters like Magic Mountain and you didn't have to hassle with a ticket for each ride unlike Disneyland and Santa Cruz.

 

When it opened it was called Marriots Great America but sometime in the last 30 years it was sold to Six Flags and the Marriots was dropped. Six Flags also owns Marine World which used to be in San Carlos (?) but is now in Vallejo. Marine World has a unique mixture of animal shows, waterski shows, plus roller coasters.

 

Does an amusement part that opened in the 70's qualify as an "Old" amusement park?

 

Roadhound

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I am not sure if 1970's qualifies as an old amusement park... but I remember Warner Brothers Jungle Habitat in New Jersey in the 1970's. It was not open very long though. It was hurt by the opening of Great Adventure just up the road... oh, and some incidents that have become urban legend.

 

This theme park was a drive through safari type of deal (not quite like Jurassic Park...). The animals were free to roam around and come up to your car and say hello.

 

I found a great video from a visit in the 70's:

(complete with background tunes!)

 

I understand there are still remains there today and that folks use it for hiking and biking around. Rumors circulated that Warner Brothers just closed the doors and left the animals there- so there are rumors of exotic wild animals still wandering around there today.

 

Christine

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