2013-05-31 / Community

Memories of Playland

By Dan Guarino

Rockaway’s Playland may have been razed in the late 1980’s, but as summer approaches memories of its rides, thrills and chills come flooding back.

Just behind Dalton’s Seaside Grill on 108th Street and Rockaway Beach Boulevard, a small part of Playland’s 86 year history comes artistically back to life.

Starting with an all too familiar corrugated steel storage container, artist Geoff Rawling was commissioned to recreate a colorful glimpse of Rockaway’s past.

The whimsical work pulls back a big-top curtain to reveal images of screaming roller coasters, whirling bumper cars and galloping carousels and, of course, the ever-present smiling Rockaway Playland clown.

Inside the restaurant, Rawling, a longtime resident and former Rockaway Artists Alliance president, has created additional murals which carry on the theme.

The original Playland was opened in 1902 by prominent Rockaway land developer William Wainright.

In its heyday the amusement park, located at Beach 98th Street and bordered by Rockaway Beach Boulevard and Shore Front Parkway, attracted thousands of visitors per day during each summer.

The Playland “Atom Smasher” roller coaster was prominently featured in the movie ‘This is Cinerama’ which touted the new realistic thrills offered by the then new wide screen movie process. In 1987, the year the amusement park was torn down, The New York Times wrote, “The 86-year-old shorefront carnival, a jumble of fantasy, food and thrills dominated by a landmark roller coaster, has succumbed to changing tastes, rising insurance costs and the decline of the Rockaways as a summer resort.”

Playland permanently closed to the public in 1985.

Still, standing close to this outdoor mural, you can still hear the whirl of the roller coaster and delighted shrieks of days gone by.

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