Rocky Point’s chip off the old (wood) block!

When Rocky Point reopened in 1948 after a 10-year hiatus, something important was missing.  It had most all the amusement park staples such as a carousel, fun house, dark ride, and Ferris Wheel.  But it debuted without something all amusement parks had — a roller coaster.

Rocky Point’s owner Vincent Ferla should be forgiven for not operating a coaster at his park’s rebirth.  After all, his predecessors, the Castiglioni brothers, lost two major coasters to the 1938 hurricane.  One of those coasters, the Flying Turns, was only seven years old at the time of the storm’s devastation.  Ferla’s main competitor in Rhode Island,  Crescent Park, had the Zephyr coaster as its signature ride.  And in nearby Dartmouth, Massachusetts, Lincoln Park was operating its then-new Comet coaster, a slightly smaller version of the legendary Coney Island Cyclone.  Still, people flocked to Rocky Point and nobody seemed to complain about the coaster-less park.  They received a late Christmas present in 1952.
Leis

On January 15 of that year, construction began on a junior wooden coaster.  It was commissioned by a concessioner, Alfonse Amore, a Providence bakery owner who also operated several pizza stands at Rocky Point.  National Amusement Devices (NAD) of Dayton, Ohio would build the coaster under the direction of East Providence resident Ed Leis, who had designed and built Crescent Park’s Zephyr coaster in 1939 and supervised construction of Lincoln Park’s Comet in 1946.  The coaster would be slipped into land between the Caterpillar ride and Laff In The Dark (the strip on which the Looper ride once operated)  as seen in this 1957 aerial.

Overhead

The Comet Junior was completed by April 1952.

Billboard

Here’s a 1957 park diagram showing the coaster’s location, circled in red.

InkedDiagram_LI

The Comet Junior had a double out-and-back profile, meaning that it had two levels that left and returned to the loading station over a series of  hills.  Like most other junior coasters made by NAD, Rocky Point’s featured a wooden track mounted on a steel superstructure.

Junior4

Junior’s turnarounds were quite intense, especially the top turn over the station — brutal if you were seated the rear car.

Junior2

The Comet Junior ran the NAD’s smaller model Century Flyer trains.

Junior 1

The coaster was an instant sensation and it was prominently promoted in this 1958 brochure.

Brochure

The infamous Wildcat became Rocky Point’s second post-1948 coaster in 1958.

wildcat1

But the Comet Junior remained a fan favorite.  See how the junior coaster took up a good section of undeveloped real estate as seen in this 1962 aerial.

Inked1962_LI

As the landscape changed into the 1960s, the Comet Junior gained some new neighbors. In this 1966 frame grab of an 8mm home movie shot from the then-new Skyliner, we see the concrete track for the Turnpike ride which featured the ever-popular gas-powered Streco Turnpike Cruisers.

Junior 3

Here’s another overhead from the early-1960s.

InkedOverhead 2_LI

In this mid-1960s photo, we see that the Caterpillar has been replaced by the Roto-Jet, Laff In The Dark is now Juungleland, and the Fun House has been converted into the Castle of Terror.  Still, the Junior Comet remains in place and unchanged.

Inked1960s_LI

In the 1970s, the Comet Junior was given a fresh coat of paint and renamed the Blue Streak as you can see by the partially cropped sign at the far right.  It’s new neighbor was now the Spider.

Blue Streak

At some point in the 1970s, the Tumble Bug became the Blue Streak taking the coaster’s signage.  If anybody knows the exact removal date of the Comet Junior, please indicate so in the comment section below.  It appears to be no later than 1973, as the Wildcat is still standing in the background of the photo below.
Bug Blue Streak

Rocky Point wasn’t the only local park with a Comet Junior.  Both Crescent Park and Lincoln Park had nearly the exact same models made by NAD with Ed Leis as builder. Here’s Crescent’s.

Com Jr

And here’s Lincoln’s.

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Have any Rocky Point Comet comments – pardon the pun?  Please share your experiences riding the Rocky Point Comet Junior below!

 

Photo credits:

Jake Tasho

Anita Cerri Ferla

You Must Be This Tall

Rhode Island Monthly

Michael Laferriere

Rio Ribeiro

 

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One thought on “Rocky Point’s chip off the old (wood) block!

  1. Great photos of the park from this era! I always wondered by all the other local parks had big wooden coasters and Rocky Point’s largest coaster was the steel Wildcat. I guess it didn’t matter that much, as Rocky Point outlasted all the other local parks by many years.

    I believe the Comet Junior’s last year was 1971. If you look at the top photo here, you can see the Sky Diver in the background next to the Flume’s lift hill – and it was only in that space for one year (1971). When the Diver moved to the new “ride alley” in 1972, it was in the space formerly occupied by Comet Jr. That Blue Streak signage was moved to the Tumble Bug / Turtles, and the ride tubs were also painted blue to match the sign. Rocky Point was great at recycling ride signs: Castle of Terror = House of Horrors, Blue Streak Coaster = Blue Streak Tumble Bug, Ride the Cuddle Up = Ride the Musik Express = Ride, Hug and Swing (whip)!

    Like

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