The scores of people who have explored the Remembering Rocky Point Park exhibition so far have experienced the ultimate memory machine – bringing their thoughts back to the fun they experienced at the former Warwick, RI park which closed in 1996. Same holds true for me, yet it was the exhibition’s small details that triggered many of my fond memories.
Remembering Rocky Point Park is being held at the Warwick Center for the Arts, 3259 Post Road, Warwick, through Thursday, June 27th. Gallery hours are Wednesday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and every fourth Thursday, 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. The exhibition, featuring the vast collections of Sean McCarthy and Jason Mayoh, is truly amazing.
Here are some of my personal reflections on the exhibition. When I helped Sean and Jason and their crew move in the exhibits on May 20th, we took extra care in moving Sean’s restored circa 1963 House of Horrors car up the stairs and into the Center. I have helped move Sean’s car several times already, including stops at Movies In The Park at Rocky Point State Park and at Rhode Island Historical Society for a May 2018 event there. But on May 20th, as we rolled the car into the hall, something occurred to me for the first time.
The seat seemed just barely wide enough for two people, let alone three. So in 1964, how did me, my dad, and one of my younger brothers fit in one of these cars on our first journey through the then-Castle of Terror? I vividly recalled boarding our car with ample room. Below is a still from the movie Tales of Rocky Point Park which shows two youngsters and an adult in a car from the same fleet.
So clearly, a party of three was doable. I had just turned 10-years-old on that 1964 visit to Rocky Point and my dad was in his early 30s and in great shape. And I think my brother that rode with us was seven-years-old at the time. So looking back at it, I suppose it was feasible. But still, glancing at that seat again, it was hard to believe!
Next, a look at one of the park’s baseball pitching machines that Sean restored.
It’s one of three Iron Mike machines that Rocky Point used in its batting range, at least as early as 1957. In the 1957 aerial photo below, you can see the range to the right of the Skooter building and behind the Bug.
This was the location that I first hit in the range. I was in Little League at the time, so I picked the machine that was posted “Slower Speed”. Indeed, this Iron Mike did pitch at Little League speed. But the issue for me was the size of the bat I was swinging; I couldn’t find a Little League-sized bat. So while somewhat frustrating, I did make solid contact a few times which I found rewarding given the circumstances.
With the 1970 midway expansion, the batting range was moved to the very back of the rear parking lot. Below is a little graphic I put together for the exhibition.
This rendition of the range was similar to a golf driving range in that it had distance markers; in this case, distance in feet as opposed to yards. I seem to recall the markers set up like a baseball stadium with 330-feet down each foulline and 400-feet to straightaway centerfield. Only issue was, the baseballs that the machines pitched were rubber-coated and somewhat spongy. Even the great Babe Ruth, who once played in a pro game at Rocky Point, would have had been frustrated hitting these soft baseballs. There’s a basket of the Rocky Point range balls on display at the exhibition.
And there was another dilemma: the bats were heavy wooden “warclubs” as we called them; the likes of which were never issued on my high school or college baseball teams. Often times, the heavy bat would actually swing the batter as it did to this poor soul below in a clip from an 8mm home movie shot at the Rocky Point range.
It wasn’t until I got my driver’s license and could bring my own bats to the batting range that I really started hitting the ball there with authority. In my sophomore season in college, aluminum bats were allowed. The aluminum bat I bought at a sporting goods store in 1974 saw lots of action at the Rocky Point Batting Range!
Finally, don’t miss the rhino head that Sean restored.
This papier mache head has an amazing history dating back to 1963 when it one of the first displays riders would see in the then-new Jungleland dark ride. In that ride, it was simply the head you see above, but mounted on a floor-level conveyor that would lurch it forward with a blast of compressed air. Riders would not see the machinery behind the rhino head and in fact, believed it to be a full-bodied, charging rhino because of the lighting and background scenery that supported that illusion. The rhino was one of many such jump-scares in this short-lived dark ride which I describe in detail here.
Be sure to visit Remembering Rocky Point Park before it closes on June 27th. Admission is free, but you’ll be sure to want to buy a souvenir shirt.
So check out the exhibition for yourself and see what fond memories it rekindles for you!