2005-11-04 / Community

Playland’s Past Becomes Emerald Isle’s ‘Present’

by Roseanne Honan

A sign from the Emerald Isle Playland in North Carolina.A sign from the Emerald Isle Playland in North Carolina.

  • It’s amazing how inanimate objects possess a great deal of life and meaning. They have the ability to conjure up the past, and allow the tangible and heartfelt to come alive within us.
  • For many, Rockaway’s Playland has become a fading memory. Traces of its significance over the decades can be found in the occasional Historical Views , or through the memorabilia relegated to the back of The Wave offices. But for Lynn Anderson, a chance summertime drive to Emerald Isle in North Carolina this year brought her right back in time to Rockaway’s past.

    Anderson, a transplant to the Tar Heel State, was vacationing with family visiting from the Rockaways. Rather than going to Myrtle Beach, the family decided to take a drive through the Emerald Isle, a coastal town near the Outer Banks. With three young grandchildren in tow, Anderson happened to see a sign for an amusement park up the road. They stopped at the Emerald Isle Playland, and she suddenly had the feeling she had been there before.

    Looking around at the old-time rides, the bumper boats and carousel, Anderson said she started to feel “goosebumps,” as she realized that these rides were all too familiar. The moment became surreal for Anderson, who was astounded that these rides could quite possibly be from the Rockaway Playland of her past. She had assumed that most had been destroyed or dismantled after Playland was closed down in 1986.

    Anderson became increasingly excited as the memories flooded back. Born and raised in Rockaway, she can remember not only herself and her seven brothers and sisters going to Playland, but her own son, Billy, now in his late thirties, having fun on the carousel. And now her own grandchildren were on the same rides; three generations of her family allowed this little treat. “I was stunned that the rides I grew up with were there. I was visualizing everything as it used to be in Rockaway, going back in time in my mind. My husband was telling me to calm down because I was so thrilled, but it really meant something to me. Seeing the rides brought back good memories,” explained Anderson.

    While her grandchildren were enjoying their time at Emerald Isle, Anderson continued to marvel at the possibility of a fortunate coincidence. The gentleman who was operating the rides remarked that some were originally from Rockaway. Anderson asked him which Rockaway, making sure they were referring to the same one. He said they were from Rockaway, New York, from an amusement park that was shut down, confirming her suspicions. She started clicking away with her camera to preserve the moment for posterity, and to share a great find with The Wave readers.

    While the section of the amusement park the family was in was mostly deserted, Anderson’s grandchildren had a wonderful time on the older, “tamer” rides. Unfortunately, the well-preserved carousel was not running that day for lack of visitors (Anderson mentioned most of the park-goers were on the more “exciting” water rides).

    The rides that Anderson chanced upon this summer may not rival thrill-seeking roller coasters, but they hark back to a simpler time that she equates with pleasant recollections. As the landscape of Rockaway’s peninsula continues to evolve, it’s nice to know that a piece of Rockaway’s past has been given a second chance to create more happy memories for generations to come. And anytime Lynn Anderson wants to reconnect with a part of her Rockaway of the past, she knows she can always follow the road back to Emerald Isle.

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