2009-07-03 / Columnists

Historical Views of the Rockaways

Do You Recall Rockaways' Playland Of The 1960s Decade?
From The Rockaway Museum by Emil Lucev, Curator Dedicated To The Memory Of Leon S. Locke

Long, long ago … in the Rockaways of that time… we had a viable and wonderful amusement park known as Rockaways' Playland. Since 1901 and up to 1985, there had been an amusement park on the site, located from boulevard to beachfront, between Beach 97 and Beach 98 Streets.

In 1901 the park began as an addition to the then Steeplechase Amusement Park, and four years later the site mentioned was purchased by its operator, Lamarcus A. Thompson, and renamed L.A. Thompson Amusement Park. After being sold in 1928, the site was renamed Rockaways' Playland by A. Joseph Geist and Associates, the new owners.

Over the years countless amusements, rides, games, concessions of all types, shows, carousels and roller coasters provided thrills and entertainment to patrons of the fun place. Can you recall any from memory?

And for those who did not have the pleasure of Rockaways' Playland, here is a complete listing of Playland's attractions in the 1960s plus. Rides: Roller Coaster, Whip, Tilt-a-Whirl, Round-Up, Roc-o-Plane, Bubble Bounce, Skooter, Cuddle-Up, Pretzel and Carousel. Walk through attractions: Davy Jones' Locker, Fun House and Mirror Maze. Kiddie Rides: Jeep, pony cart, jet racer, merry-go-round, water boat, sky fighter, ferris wheel, Bulgy the Whale, Roto- Whip, Tubs-o'-Fun and fire engine. Merchandise establishments: souvenir, novelty, costume, engraved jewelry, monogrammed hats and gift shoppe. Special attractions: fool-the guesser, baseball batting range, character reading, basketball, bowling alley. Counter store games: fish bowl, watch-la, ringthe coke, pop-em'-thru, over-12, roll-down, balloon dart, huck-a buck, bear pitch, electric penny pitch, ring-the-nail, nickel pitch, and basket (one ball in basket). Shooting galleries: "mow-'em-down' machine gun gallery, live ammunition gallery, shoot-a-photo and electric eye. Electric or mechanical games: Pokerino, skee ball, shuffle and bing-o-reno. Group games: Fascination, rabbit race and greyhound race Ball games; doll rack, crazy cats, Yukon kids, tipover the-milk-bottle, break the record and milk bottle. Penny arcade: 250 machines, nine auto-photos and six voice-o-graphs. Refreshments: Six Food which sold frankfurters, shrimp, French fries, hamburgers, waffles, sundaes and cones (ice cream), malteds, chow-mein on a bun, shrimp rolls, pizza, cotton candy, caramel-corn, taffy, popcorn, candied apples, tempting desserts, ice cold drinks, coffee or tea and jumbo pretzels. Souvenir, novelty and gift shops included Rockaway Beach bracelets, New York City bracelets, pennants, jumbo cigars, ceramic ware, figures and figurines, colorful shells, picture postcards, various types of hats and caps, free monograms on same, assorted toys, various gift items, sunglasses, and costume and religious jewelry, plus engraving added. In 1985 Rockaways' Playland closed for the last time, and a plethora of reasons were given as to the final ending of the biggest little amusement park in the world. Demolition began two years later, and new housing muffled the sound of joy and laughter that once echoed over the beach.

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