2004-06-25 / Columnists

Historical Views of the Rockaways

From The Rockaway Museum
by Emil Lucev, Curator
Dedicated To The Memory Of Leon S. Locke
Playland In 1958

Historical Views
of the Rockaways
by Emil Lucev, Curator
Dedicated To The Memory Of Leon S. Locke
Playland In 1958


Although Rockaway’s Playland passed into history when it was demolished in 1987, there are many who have fond memories of the last of our three wonderful amusement areas located in Rockaway Beach.

Seaside was founded in 1857 by James S. Remsen; Steeplechase Park was opened in 1901 by George C. Tilyou and L.A. Thompson Park was opened by Lamarcus A. Thompson in 1902. The latter became Playland in 1928.

From 1857 to 1984, people came to the Rockaways to have a little sun and surf and amusement park fun with their families. After 127 years of fun, however, Rockaway beach as a surfside amusement park ended.

The mortal wound was provided in 1937, when Parks Commissioner Robert Moses tore down the whole amusement area, including a good portion of Playland, for his Shore Front Parkway project. What was left of the old Steeplechase Park, the baths, remained in place until 1962.

Moses did the same to Coney Island, an area he called "an over-commercialized mistake."

To his way of thinking, Rockaway Beach was a "cheap amusement area." Historians are still wondering what Moses did for fun. Probably nothing, because he set out to destroy the places where other people had fun.

In Historical Views this week is a photograph of the Rockaway Playland midway in 1958. The Racy Rocket Ride is on the left, in front of the Atom Smasher Roller Coaster. The "Hell and Back Spook House" and the Fun House, concessions and games of skill and chance line the midway towards Shore Front Parkway.

The Kiddy rides are in the foreground. The midget racer and fire engines are seen, but behind the camera are the Ferris Wheel, the pony carts and the sky fighter.

Other kiddy rides at Playland included speed boats, pudgy the wheel, Roto-Whip the jet racer and a small carousel.

To the right of the camera is Faber’s Poker Roll, Skee Ball and Shuffle Ball. Next came the Cuddle-Up Ride and the Skooters. Finally, there were the Rock-O-Plane, the Whip, and the Carousel.

There was a large Penny Arcade along Shore Front Parkway and Beach 98 Street was loaded with various game and food concessions. Then, there was O’Gara’s Bar, where Eddie Williamson did Elvis impersonations. There was Martin’s Corner, a go-cart ride Nunley’s Carousel and, across Rockaway Beach Boulevard, the Joy-Town Kiddy Rides.

There were also two miniature golf courses in the area.


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