Out of every one of the four decades I visited Rocky Point Park, one trip always stands out; great memories that will never fade with time. So, of the pilgrimages I made to the park in the 1990s, one in June 1993 with my wife Elaine and our two nephews was my favorite — an evening the four of us continue to fondly reminisce about at family gatherings.
My nephews Dan and Pat are my youngest brother’s children. At the time, they lived on a side street off Post Road, not far from the airport. My wife and I figured that Rocky Point would be an enjoyable experience for the two boys, and the fact that my brother’s house was so close to the park, we could get the boys back home before their bedtime. So, one early June weekday evening we ventured into the teeth of rush hour traffic and headed to Warwick. But the glacial movement of sheet metal on Rt. 95 South didn’t phase me. I was way too psyched up to be annoyed. This was the 31st anniversary of my first trip to Rocky Point as a youngster, and I wanted it to be special.
We picked up the boys in their driveway, assuring my brother and sister-in-law that we’d exercise caution relevant to the ride selection, and that we’d return them by a reasonable hour. Once secured in their car seats, the boys scoffed at the suggestion of caution. After all, both were already members of the Warwick Youth Hockey Association, and seemed to be comfortable with the risks of swinging sticks and flying pucks. Still, I promised them they would have a good time, BUT there were going to be some rides they wouldn’t be tall enough to ride and others that I wouldn’t ride myself. This brought smiles to their faces as we turned onto Airport Road.
On the way I cited the Castle of Terror/House of Horrors as my favorite ride, describing its operation and ensuring them that the displays weren’t real and no that harm would come to them. Having never ridden a dark ride, Dan and Pat seemed intrigued. That noted, I had to introduce a caveat to the discussion, “Sometimes certain rides are closed for repairs. Just saying.”
Good thing I did. When we arrived at the entrance booth we were greeted with a sign indicating that the House of Horrors was among the rides closed for the evening. But that didn’t impact them in the least. They were in awe of the sights and sounds of the midway beyond the gate. It suddenly reoccurred to me that this was their first Rocky Point visit! Whew! For some reason I can’t recall, we purchased ticket books instead of the Pay One Price. Below is the cover that I saved from one of the books.
The first ride we lined up for was the Tilt-A-Whirl, as seen in the title photo. As we boarded the bonnet/tub, I asked the ride operator, that should the boys got dizzy, would if it would be permissible for me to lock up the counter-spinning by pushing the safety bar forward. The young male op gave me a confusing stare. But it soon turned into a smile, as he asked, “You must have ran one of these, right?”
“No,” I replied. “I’m just a ride geek!”
The boys passed their first-ever Tilt ride with flying colors. Since the Spider had caught their eyes earlier, we headed off to that next.
I approached the Spider with some trepidation. I’d ridden it often at both Rocky Point and Paragon Park in Hull, MA, but sometimes had issues with getting a headache. Most people got nauseous on it; I’d get a headache. I was very hopeful that I’d ride unscathed this evening. As you probably guessed, I could only take one boy on at a time, and since the Spider had in fact made my wife nauseous when she was in elementary school, she couldn’t take the other boy. So that meant two straight rides for me, and the boys agreed that Dan would ride with me first, then Pat. Look closely at the photo below and you can see Dan peering over the safety bar.
So my first ride was a breeze, but the second, umm, not so much! About 30-seconds into the circuit with Pat, I thought I got hit over the head with a sledge hammer. My wife quickly picked up on this disturbing visual and asked the ride op to please stop the machine and release us. So this is the part of the trip where the uncle said UNCLE! If that ride op is reading this, I want to express my sincere appreciation for your sudden act of kindness. I’m not sure if I was in any condition to properly thank you that evening. Fortunately some aspirin washed down with a Diet Coke and I was ready to roll again…but not really. I asked the boys if we could take a break from the spin cycle and ride something more linear next. We selected the train ride. I snapped this photo as we departed the station and headed towards the Cyclone.
As we headed out to the woods, I was hopeful we’d see some fiberglas animals from the former Jungleland dark ride that were transplanted along the train tracks after the attraction closed in 1970. No such luck, and I’m glad I didn’t mention the possibility!
Dan and Pat took note of the Cyclone on the return trip to the train station and asked to ride it. I measured them up to the minimum height line and both boys were legit. But I felt it only fair to warn them about the coaster’s steep drop and the shifting lateral forces on the spiral turns. I also showed them how the cars were fastened to the track and could never derail. For those of you familiar with the Rocky Point Cyclone, it was a used Anton Schwarzkopf Wildcat model. Previously, the park had a S.D.C. Galaxi and a Pinfari Zyklon in that location. I always considered the Wildcat the smoother of these three comparable coasters, so I wasn’t overly concerned about any fright issues from the boys. Elaine shot the photo below of me with the boys on the Cyclone ramp, then joined us for a ride in a two-seater yellow car.
No problems! Dan and Pat enjoyed it, but agreed that one ride was enough. I asked the boys if they wanted to try something a bit milder for a change of pace, and they chose the Sampa.
Next it was off to the Roto-Jet. I hadn’t ridden this one in years, so I was looking forward to the elevated platform and noise of the compressed air escaping through the relief valves when one would throttle the jets skyward. The two boys easily fit in a jet with me, and took turns with the throttle.
As the time got closer to “curfew”, I let the boys pick one last ride and they opted for the Flume. I was glad they’d pick the Flume for the grand finale, since we were going to get soaked and Elaine and I had packed towels in the trunk. The boys were thrilled by pacing and natural scenery of the ride. And despite the light load in our log, we generated a surprisingly large splash. (Blurry) photo of us taking the plunge below.
It was a magical evening, and I could tell that the boys would sleep well after we brought them home. As mentioned, our June 1993 visit is fondly recalled at family gatherings, including Dan’s wedding in Newport in September 2016. So much so, that we tried to recreate the Tilt photo with a fountain standing in for the Tilt.
Here’s the 1993 Tilt photo again.
And here’s the 2016 photo of us at Dan’s wedding reception at Rosecliff.
Both Dan and Pat are married and live out of state. Elaine and I welcomed our son Evan into the world about two years after the June 1993 Rocky Point visit, and the three of us have embarked on many other amusement park expeditions since then. Time marches on but some memories stay forever. Every time I visit Rocky Point State Park, I remember all my family visits!
Photo credit: All LaCross Family photos.