So I’m often asked why I’m so passionate about Rocky Point State Park and the former amusement park there. To give you a clear understanding of why, allow me to start from the beginning. In some future blogs, I promise to vividly describe the amusements and my experiences at the amusement park over several decades. But I need to start at the beginning.
Here I go dating myself. My first visit to Rocky Point Park was in June 1962 at age 7. I had already been to my two other local amusement parks, Crescent Park and Lincoln Park, as well as others in New England including Paragon, Revere, Salisbury. But Rocky Point remained elusive. The adults in my life were always telling me that Rocky Point was a “pain in the butt to drive to” from East Providence to Warwick Neck. Many trips were planned. Many were cancelled for one reason or another. But finally, after the last day of school in June 1962, our grandmother (our Dad’s mom) firmly pledged to take us there. Still, I regarded the promise with guarded optimism.
Rocky Point seemed to be located in a forbidden zone. None of my neighbors or elementary school classmates had been there. No accounts to share. That’s how dreadful the drive was supposed to be. Not been there. Not done that.
But hey, the day arrived: a sunny June Saturday morning. My grandmother pulled her new Ford Fairlane into our driveway, and me, my two younger brothers, and my female cousin piled in. I rode shotgun with Nana, as we called her; a AAA road map in my lap. I’m quite sure Nana took all the backroads. I recall going over the Point Street Bridge, seeing the the marquee for the Shipyard Drive-In (Allens Ave), the Miami Diner and other Rhody roadside icons of the time.
But somewhere, something went terribly wrong. Not sure if it happened at Warwick Ave or West Shore Road. Nana got lost. Now Nana was a smart woman. A widow, she was the assistant to the state librarian. She worked in the state house; she assisted state lawmakers during the legislative sessions. She dealt with books and maps on the highest level. So when she proclaimed that the AAA road map was inaccurate, this was cause for alarm. We began motoring in what seemed like an endless zig-zag: past Warwick Veterans High School, Newport Creamery, the Holland House.
Back and forth. So close, yet to far. The nightmare was real, and it looked like we’d once again be denied entry to the forbidden zone known as Rocky Point Park.
Finally, Nana pulled up to a Warwick restaurant to ask for directions. Outside was a number of coin-operated rides, such as a rocking horse and a rocket ship. Nana promised us she’d be right back, and sprinted up to the foyer. Suddenly, one of my brothers began trying to convince us that the coin-op rides actually comprised Rocky Point Park, and that the park was closed! Not sure if he was trying to prank us or if he was really that naive, but it launched my other brother and my cousin into tears, and propelled me into my very first f-bomb scolding. Think Chevy Chase in National Lampoon’s (Summer) Vacation…well maybe not that direct. So as not to give this blog an R-rating, I told my offending brother to shut up, and assured the others that this stop WAS NOT Rocky Point Park and that Nana would get us there, PROVIDED we all calmed down by the time she returned to the car. I explained to the kids that Nana’s nerves were shot, and if she saw crying or instigating, she’d return us to East Providence. Within the minute, Nana emerged from the foyer, a confident smile on her face that had, “I got this!” written all over it. In her car, cooler heads, including mine, prevailed.
Hitting the road again, we were guided by a host of friendly Rocky Point signs, including a big-ass one at the Sunoco station, corner of West Shore and Warwick Neck Road. I was never so relieved to see the park’s colorful entrance arch at the end of Rocky Point Road. And speaking of relief, I really hoped there was a rest room near the midway gate.
To be continued…