As a youngster in the 1950s, I have vague recollections of Crescent Park’s Pony Ride in which one boarded live ponies to the right of the Dodgem pavilion and were led past the world’s largest and smelliest public restroom, along a short, dirt circle and back. You can see the track (circled) in this photo.
The attraction was somewhat shielded by the midway as seen in the photo below.
And I recall it closing at dusk every day. Seeing the Flying Fish for the first time, at night, in 1959, was an eye-popping experience. In was a brilliant display of lights akin to a mini Times Square. From the alternating flashing bulbs in the Flying Fish lettering to the tracer lights along the lift hill, to the “animated” fish above the loading dock — the sight was spellbinding for this youngster.
I was tall enough to ride the Fish the following year, 1960. To be honest, it didn’t look imposing; actually very kid-friendly. As my dad and I walked up the steps to the wooden loading platform, he pointed up to the undercarriage of the track on the second tier turnaround. “See,” he said as a Fish car rattled overhead, “The car is fastened into the track,” doing his very best to explain up-stop wheels and center tracking to a six-year-old. I felt a lot more secure with this parent-rendered expert knowledge, as I piled into the front of the Fish, my feet on the metal footrest and my hands on the side rails. I felt the car shake a bit as my dad settled in behind me. As we clicked and clacked up the lift hill, I noticed something to my right — the stinky restroom building was still there! (It’s circled in red below). I tried in vain to hold my breath but the air was permeated with the odor of cleaning ammonia. The salt air breeze off the Bay did little to combat it. The nostril assault was on!
All smells aside, our Fish began its ocean journey, taking a sharp left and heading on a flat track widthwise over the superstructure. As we made the hairpin turn high above the rear of game stands and the Laff In The Dark ride, it suddenly hit me – my dad and I were going to die! The front section of the car I was sitting in actually protruded over the track – something I didn’t anticipate. “This is it!” I surmised again at the next hairpin turn. Dying seemed so certain. After three more near-death experiences I had a revelation — something was guiding our Fish car! Not a spiritual presence above but the hardware underneath. Suddenly I recalled what my dad said about the up-stop wheels and the center track. The four road wheels weren’t what the Fish car was really running on; it was the wheels underneath! Now focusing on my re-aquired knowledge, I totally enjoyed the remainder of the ride, and was treated to a repeat ride to boot!
Crescent Park’s Flying Fish had a sister ride on the west coast at Pacific Ocean Park. a twenty-eight acre nautical-themed amusement park built on a pier at the Ocean Park section of Santa Monica, California. Here are two photos of that ride, also designed by Carll & Ramagosta, Inc.
Meanwhile, back in Rhode Island, and across the Narragansett Bay, Rocky Point Park’s Wildcat coaster was cutting its teeth with park patrons at that Warwick amusement park.
I first saw the Wildcat in 1962, not having any knowledge of the coaster from my neighbors or friends who had been to Rocky Point before me. Right off the bat, I could tell it was similar to the Flying Fish but of course had no clue as to the relationship to the two coasters (as I explained in Part I). Unlike the Flying Fish, the Wildcat had it own soundtrack — at least it did in 1962! From multiple bullhorn speakers positioned atop the loading station came the screeching and hissing of a real wildcat! The tape looped over and over! Looking back, I can’t imagine how the ride ops tolerated it! Like the Flying Fish, the Wildcat had four ride ops: a ticket taker, a release man at the loading area, and two brakemen at the unloading platform. The sound was enough to make those of us waiting in line freak out. It’s amazing that the ride ops could do their jobs as diligently as they did!
Since the Wildcat allowed no single riders, I was able to partner up with a girl much older than me whose family had also opted not to ride.
For my first circuit, I don’t recall the hairpin turns as deceptive as the Flying Fish’s. However, the Wildcat’s first drop from the first to second tier was terrifying! The ejector air time it generated had me holding on for dear life. No up-stop wheels were going to rescue me now. Surviving was all on me!
Over the years, I rode both the Wildcat and Flying Fish dozens of times. But all good things must come to an end!
To be continued….
Anita Cerri Ferla
You Must Be This Tall movie collection
Tales of Rocky Point Park
Rhode Trip Photography