Of all the amusement parks I’ve visited and/or researched, I can’t think of one that had so many “moving parts” than post-1948 Rocky Point Park. Trying to document the rides’ comings and goings, as well the movement of rides over the midway, is like trying to measure the speed of dark. However, I’m going to try to do it here with the help of John Malone who is an expert on Rocky Point’s ever-changing landscape from 1970 on.
In this series, I’m going to present the rides that were installed, replaced and/or relocated to other sections of the midway; NOT including those rides that were converted over the years, such as the sequence of the Crystal Maze/Fun House/Castle of Terror/House of Horrors.
In Part I, we’ll look back at the rides that debuted in 1948 following the park’s 10-year hiatus, as well as others that were installed in the 1950s and 1960s.
First, let’s check out Rocky Point’s Looper, a 1948 original. Rocky Point’s Rok ’n Rol’s roots trace back to the Looper, a 1942 ride by the Allan Herschell Manufacturing Co of North Tonawanda, New York. An old operator’s manual shows that riders activated a foot pedal, engaging a clutch to flip the tub.
The postcard below shows where the Looper operated on the Rocky Point midway. As you can see, the ride was partially enclosed.
The Looper was replaced in 1952 by the Comet Jr. wooden roller coaster.
The Comet Jr. was removed in the early 1970s and the Skydiver, which had debuted in 1970, moved into that spot.
The Caterpillar, another member of the Class of 1948, was located next to the Looper.
The Caterpillar ride was invented by North Tonawanda, New York’s Hyla F. Maynes in 1922, and debuted at Coney Island in 1925. As mentioned, Rocky Point Park’s Caterpillar debuted in 1948 and ran through the 1959 season. The ride featured a complete circuit of motorized vehicles which were connected end-to-end all the way around the ride, in a manner similar to the Musik Express. Also, the cars traveled a circular, undulating (wave-like) track and featured a stripped canopy that automatically began to slowly surround the cars and fully encapsulate them once the ride reached its maximum velocity. The three photos below show Rocky Point’s Caterpillar in 1957.
The Caterpillar was replaced for the 1960 season by the Roto Jet which operated right up until the park’s final year.
Rocky Point’s circa 1948 Cuddle Up, detailed in my previous blog post, was removed for the 1971 season to expand the buffer zone for the new Flume ride.
The Whip, circled below in its original location, sandwiched in by the Chicken Coop, Arcade and Palladium, was moved in the 1960s near the midway entrance. Of all the original 1948 “new” rides, the Whip lasted the longest, running into the early 1980s.
Rides that survived the 1938 hurricane and reopened in 1948 were the Herschell-Spillman carousel, the Tumble Bug, the Circle Swing tower (which was retrofitted with R.E. Chambers Rockets), and the Chambers Laff In The Dark. These rides have been chronicled in past blog posts here. Sadly, of these four rides, only the carousel operated into the park’s final year, albeit without its circa 1915 wooden menagerie. As we know, the Circle Swing tower still stands tall in Rocky Point State Park.
Rides that were a little late to the 1948 party included the Spitfire seen below.
Designed by Frank Hrubetz & Co., the ride combined the elements of the Paratrooper and Fly-O-Plane rides. Operated by John Barchi, it’s seen again in these Rocky Point postcards below.
Video evidence suggests that the Spitfire was destroyed, or at least severely damaged, by 1954’s Hurricane Carol. It’s replacement in close proximity was the Flying Coaster seen here in flight among the 1960s Weeping Willow backdrop.
The Flying Coaster was invented by the prolific ride designer Norman Bartlett. His patent was filed in 1957 and granted in 1959. The ride consisted of eight cars which were attached to arms. The arms were connected to the motor at the center of the ride that spun the ride in a circle. There was a ski jump-style ramp on one side of the ride which cars would ascend and leave, flying in the air as the hydraulic arm would slowly lower the them back to the track.
The Flying Coaster was one of my favorite Rocky Point rides — it was unique and very thrilling. The photo below shows a mid-1960s malfunction of the ride and patrons hover around it. I’m fairly certain that the Coaster continued to operate for a few years after that malfunction.
I can’t seem to recall the year that the Flying Coaster was removed. If anybody does, please let us know in the comment section below. According to John Malone, the Yo-Yo eventually occupied the Flying Coaster’s former concrete platform, although one of the park’s Tilt-A-Whirl’s may have had a short stay there too.
Speaking of Rocky Point’s Tilt’s, one didn’t debut in 1948, but you can clearly see one in these two 1957 photos below.
As we know, Rocky Point had several Tilts over the years, and they popped up in different locations.
So that’s all for this evening. We’ll resume this series with Part II at a future date when we travel back to 1971 and its midway expansion, and later explore Ride Alley and all its movement with the help of John Malone. For now, enjoy the ride…while its still in the same place!
Harry Michelson/The Amusement Parkives
Tales of Rocky Point Park
Anita Cerri Ferla
You Must Be This Tall
Rhode Island Monthly