Whatever happened to amusement parks?
I mean, I know they still exist, but now it’s all just Six Flags and Disney. There might be one or two more, but I doubt it.
Growing up in the 70’s and 80’s, you couldn’t swing a newborn baby without hitting an amusement park. Rocky Point Park, Riverside Park, Whalom Park, Kings Castleland, Lincoln Park and more were all within an hour or two drive. Needless to say, the infant mortality rate was incredibly high back then. But it was well worth it for the shorter lines on all the good rides. Trust me.
Paragon Park in Hull, Massachusetts was the closest one to my boyhood home. It was my parent’s house, but they were kind enough to let me live there with them. Occasionally they would feed me as well. I always thought that was a very magnanimous thing for them to do. Our house was about five miles away from the park and during the summer I would constantly ask if we could go to Paragon. But it was the 1970’s and people didn’t love their children back then. Or at least they didn’t feel the need to prove that they loved their children by “doing things” for them. It only took 14 minutes to get to Paragon by car, according to Google maps. I would second their findings. Good job, Google maps. I believe that is an accurate assessment of travel time betwixt the two points based on my many, many years of knowing how to get there from here. Apple maps couldn’t figure that shit out. Boy do they miss you Steve Jobs. And I as well.
Paragon Park was located on Nantasket Beach. Coming down George Washington Boulevard, the main thoroughfare between Hingham and Hull, you would see the old giant wooden rollercoaster in the distance and you would think, “Today just might possibly be the day that I die on that thing, I should get my affairs in order. Where’s the fried dough?”.
It never happened though. There was one time that I almost died on the smaller Cyclone rollercoaster they had when the safety bar on the cart wouldn’t lock down. I told the older boy running the ride that the bar was broken, and he said, “Just hold on tight, kid.” That ride was maybe the scariest two minutes of my life up to that point. And that includes that time I stayed up way past my bedtime to watch Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot miniseries on television one night and that kids dead brother started scratching on the second floor window begging to be let in the house. Holy Shit!!
I wish I could meet the guy that ran the Cyclone today and tell him, “That was not a professional way to do your job, former older boy now older man. I was a little kid who trusted you to take care of me. You failed in your duties to serve and protect me. Go fuck yourself.” But I’m sure he knows. How could he not know how horrible a person he is, right? Plus he’s probably already dead from huffing paint or something.
The Bermuda Triangle was another popular ride at Paragon Park. It was a log ride through a dark, dank sewer that might or might not have ended with the passengers being sprayed with urine. Fun stuff. I remember the first time I went on it when I was about seven or eight. I had already heard about the horrors of the Bermuda Triangle thanks to an episode of Ripley’s Believe it or Not, so I was a bit apprehensive to say the least. I was certain that there was no way we were coming out of this alive. But it was a really boring ride, pretty much just a cement tunnel with no lights. When I got older and we figured out that you could stop the boats from moving by holding onto the walls it was considerably more fun. The boats would all get backed up in our little traffic jam, and we would laugh like boys have been prone to do since forever and will probably continue to do until at least tomorrow. Then the older boys running the ride would get all tough guy on us and yell things like, “Hey little kid, don’t make me have to come in there and give you the business but good!”
They also had two water slides, although I’m not sure they were actually affiliated with Paragon Park. I remember going to them as a kid, and being told to be careful because some psycho child killer was supposedly jamming razor blades into crevices in the slide. They said you would slide down and hit the razors and bleed to death within minutes. The 70’s were a groovy time.
One time, when I was about eleven or twelve, I went to the water slide in cut off jeans. That’s right, I’ve always worn only the sexiest of homemade bathing suits. It’s kind of my calling card. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried going down a water slide in jeans, but they are not very conducive to slipping and sliding, even when cut to ridiculously short lengths. I kept getting stuck going around the turns due to the aforementioned negative slippage ratio that is commonly found in dungaree based pantaloons, so I rolled over onto my stomach trying to find the sweet slide spot. All of a sudden this hot twenty something year old baby lady came crashing into me, much like that Dave Matthews guy is always singing about. I rode the last half of the ride with my beautiful boy face nestled in this hot mamma’s cleavage. (Truth be told I don’t remember what she looked like at all, but she had boobs, that she let my face touch, not that she had much choice due to both gravity and centrifugal force. But to a twelve-year-old boy, that’s a hot lady) After the ride ended we awkwardly got out of the water and she gave me her digits. I promised to call her later, but The Greatest American Hero was on that night and I forgot. I hope she got over me.
Paragon closed in 1984 and the land was used for condos. Dumb, stupid condos. Why wouldn’t you want to get rid of your awesome amusement park and build shitty condos? “There’s way too many awesome amusement parks and not nearly enough shitty condominiums around nowadays”, is something you always hear people on crystal meth say just before they beat their wives.
The only things left from Paragon Park are the carousel, which they moved down the street, and a couple of arcades that were out in front of the park. The Giant Coaster was taken down and shipped to Baltimore, where it’s now known as The Wild One at Six Flags America. Hopefully it’s being operated in a wildly irresponsible fashion by some older boys with careless disregard for the safety of others..
Just like it used to be.
This was just like The Kinks’ “Come Dancing” except with thrill rides and more urine. Fantastic fun to read, man!
I loved that song! But maybe a splash too much urine. Hahaha. Thanks a lot!
Bahh leave it or not Ihhhm walkin’ on air, I never thought I cold feel so free-e-eeeee, flying away, on a wing and a prayer, whooooo could it beeeee? Believe it or not, it’s just meeee!
you fucking kill me.
i think the fact that we are the same age, growing up here on the east coast, many of your recollections could very well be my own. i loved those amusement parks. they are no fun if there isn’t a real risk of dying. and the jean cutoffs? my brother also rocked that look for a long time, with tube socks, shirtless, naturally. it was amazing.
keep making tears run down my legs.
Hahaha, thanks Tracy. Everytime I drive by those condos that took over Paragon, I think, “What the fuck?” There literally used to be about 10-15 amusement parks within a 50 mile radius, now I think they’ve all been torn down to make way for banks or pharmacies. It’s a bummer. The old Riverside is now a Six Flags, but the rest of the ones I named are long gone. I don’t know if there’s anything sadder (or spookier)than an abandoned amusement park. Although I blame Scooby Doo for making them spooky.
i think the cost of insurance has driven some of them out of business. i grew up in NJ at a time before NJ’s “six flags – great adventure,” so our amusement park was seaside heights, which was recently smashed by hurricane sandy.
I know a lot of them had financial problems and I’m sure the insurance premiums skyrocketed in our overly litigious society. It’s just sad to me that the only ones left are the “chain” parks like Six Flags or Disney, or Dollyworld. Hahaha
Ha ha. I was rolling with this one, Bill. That kid telling you to hold on tight! And going down the waterside with boobs smashed in your face! Lucky you were so close to an amusement park! Now they are so expensive.
We used to get into Paragon for free with coupons from local grocery stores. I think Six Flags is like $60 to get in for the day. I really liked the smaller, almost neighborhood amusement parks. Kings Castleland was one that was literally 5 minutes from the house I own now, but it is a Stop & Shop now. Sadly, the smaller parks are a thing of the past.
The headless lady ride scared the crap at out me at our local amusement park on Long Island (she was a big painting of a headless lady in a red dress driving a shriner’s car )
That sounds pretty creepy. I remember the haunted house at Paragon was called Kooky Kastle, and it didn’t scare me much. The one at Rocky Point on the other hand horrified little me.
My crappy fun park was the Great Escape in Lake George, New York, which sadly was bought out by Six Flags a few years ago and is all safe and homogenized now. It was TERRIBLE and the paint was flaking off and the rides rattled and the mascot was this not-a-dog-not-a-monkey thing named “Dorf” that terrified the kids and we LOVED that place. We went every year. It was our Mecca. I miss that place. *sniff*
It sucks that all the “mom and pop parks” if you will, have all gone away. Some of them were really fun as a kid. Rocky Point Park in RI was another favorite that we went to every year. Seeing them close is like being forced to close chapters of your life. Sort of. Hahaha.
King’s Island in Cincinnati, OH was the best, but only if you could rock a half-shirt with your name airbrushed across the front. Otherwise it pretty much sucked.
Hahaha, I can so see you doing that, and I would love to join you, but I’m wicked busy tryin’ to win this Van Halen mirror in the dart game.
It was my boyfriend who rocked the half-shirt but my name was airbrushed onto the back. David Lee Roth was on the front though. No one I knew was ever really into Van Hagar. =p
Van Hagar wasn’t even into Van Hagar.
Dollywood!! Now what if the cleavage on the slide belonged to Dolly…and ultimately, YOU became the inspiration for Dollywood? It could have happened!
I’d also like to think that I’m at least partly responsible for 9 to 5 as well.