2007-10-12 / Columnists

Historical Views of the Rockaways

A Rare Postcard from L.A. Thompson Amusement Park
From The Rockaway Museum Commentary by Emil Lucev,Curator Dedicated To The Memory Of Leon S.Locke

The Lamarcus A. Thompson Amusement Midway came to the old Rockaways' Playland site in 1902, and became part of George C. Tilyou's Steeplechase Park on the Rockaway Beach Peninsula.

Tilyou's Steeplechase was located between Beach 97 and Beach 101 streets, boulevard to beachfront. Thompson set up his equipment on the East end, and this spot became Rockaways' Playland in 1928.

Playland sold many postcards over the years from 1928 to 1985 (the year it closed). They are beginning to show up at postcard shows, and at premium prices - I might add!

As a reminder (you may remember past views on Thompson Park), old L.A. invented and set up the first gravity ride (a switchback rollercoaster) at Coney Island in 1884. In 1888 The New York Times reported two such rides in Rockaway Beach. Both were lost in the great fire of 1892 in Seaside!

Thompson rebuilt his entire park for the 1924 season, and introduced his whirlwind model; a seven-and-a-half-storyhigh, initial dip, "super" coaster. Dubbed the "hurricane" by locals, the Gravity Wonder ran from the rear of the old Howley Hotel, down the West side of Beach 97 Street, to the boardwalk. When Robert Moses destroyed Seaside with his Shorefront Parkway project, two hundred feet of Playland Park (old Thompson Park) were condemned, and the coaster shortened and rebuilt as a smaller version.

Both sides of the postcard featured today are reproduced here. The front is a typical view of the character of the Rockaways in summer (right, guys!)…and on the back, Thompson Park personnel rubber stamped their own logo, as well as a special poetic message about the park. It states: If you're woozy and tired and feeling blue; and you'd give the world for a joyous lark; just pack your grip and join me here; and won't we have fun in Thompson Park?

The card, signed "Henry & Helen," was mailed from Brooklyn in June, 1925, addressed to Mr. and Mrs. Jennerjahn, at P.O. Box 116, East Northport, Long Island.

You can see other photos from Thompson Park in my book - "The Rockaways", visit arcadiapublishing.com to get a copy.

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