The thrill of flying a jet fighter! Throwing back the throttle and navigating your jet high into the air overlooking Narragansett Day! Oh, the rider-controlled elevation of the metal sweeps! With the help of lots of compressed air, of course! Such was the Roto-Jet at Rocky Point Park.
According to amusement park historian Victor Canfield, these rides were manufactured by the firm of Kaspar Klaus in Memmingen, Germany and imported into the U.S. by Eric Wedemeyer.
“The first permanent installation in the U.S. was at Palisades in 1954,” Canfield continues. “Several rides were sold at the end of 1954, and in 1955, the new Roto-Jet was a big hit at Rye Playland. In all, one used ride and twenty new rides were imported from 1953 to 1957.”
Canfield further noted that apparently Walt Disney was so impressed with the Roto- Jet, that he commissioned a customized version of it, Dumbo The Flying Elephant, for Disneyland in 1956.
Rocky Point replaced its adult Caterpillar with the Roto-Jet by the 1960 season. The Caterpillar had debuted with the park’s reopening in 1948. After removing the Caterpillar, the park erected two game stands and installed the Roto- Jet on top. It was the only known Roto -Jet to have been erected atop a building.
Rocky Point’s Roto-Jet operated up to the park’s closing, making it one of the oldest surviving rides in the park. Over the years it received different color schemes. Despite its popularity, it wasn’t heavily promoted by the park, nor was it the first thing that came to Rocky Point fans’ minds when asked about their favorite rides. So what became of Rocky Point’s Roto -Jet after the park closed it’s gates for the final time? In 1999, when on assignment for The Providence Journal at the former Whalom Park in Lunenburg, Massachusetts, I asked former park co-owner John Bowen if his park had obtained any of Rocky Point’s rides. He replied that they did indeed purchase the Roto -Jet, although they were using it for parts to support Whalom’s aging ride (at right).
“To be honest, I couldn’t tell you what part of our ride is from your park’s ride,” Bowen chuckled at the time. Whalom closed in 2000.
If you want to locate the site of the former Roto -Jet ride in Rocky Point State Park, it’s approximately where I drew the red circle below.
(Image credits: Billboard, Anita Cerri Ferla, You Must Be This Tall movie collection, Mark Thompson, Disney Resorts, George LaCross)