Remembering Silver Beach

The merry-go-round’s band organ could be heard in the distance, and the enticing aroma of caramel corn filled the air.  Passing a food concession or two, we found ourselves in front of the Fun House, stopping to watch as teenagers maneuvered along obstacles such as a huge rolling barrel until they were up high on a catwalk, all the while being taunted by a red haired, freckle-faced Laughing Sally.  But my sisters and I knew her silly cackling was no match for what was coming next…

We moved on to the Mirror Maze, where a kid looking through the windows at the full-length fun house mirrors might have wondered how the maze-goers could ever find their way out.  Did they wander for hours before finding the exit?  An unforgettable mechanical clown, a clown we loved AND feared, guarded the front of the Mirror Maze.  We forced ourselves to watch this satin-clad creature in its glass enclosure – his body shaking with maniacal laughter, then lurching forward mid-laugh.  My sisters and I hurried away, his unnerving laughter still ringing in our ears.

A store came next that sold wire jewelry: necklaces, bracelets and rings of wire-wrapped polished beach stones - so very popular in the tourist shops of the times.  After that was the Penny Arcade, with its noisy pinball machines, games, shooting galleries and photo booths.  Laff in the Dark was the next attraction we passed, and a favorite of mine.  Upholstered cars were lined up on tracks behind a railing, waiting to take ticket holders through swinging padded doors to the ghoulish delights beyond.

Concession barkers called out to us as we passed the game booths, and we picked up our pace, slightly embarrassed by their shouts.  There was a Fortune Teller, a Darts game, and the Fish Pond – a family favorite.  The Fish Pond featured weighted and numbered toy ducks that we plucked out of a water trough as they floated past, and the prize won corresponded with the number on the bottom of the duck.  Our prize was ALWAYS a plastic bird-shaped water whistle, no matter the number, but we went home happy!

Beside the Fish Pond was the cavernous Bumper Cars building with a strong smell of ozone, and stubby-nosed cars powered by a sparking, electrified ceiling.  Woe be the poor guy or girl that gets bumped backwards, because they would most likely spend the rest of the allotted time trying to straighten out their car, only to be bumped immobile again.

A Cork Shooting Gallery came next, followed by a Souvenirs store.  A glass case filled with fancy handled pocketknives was out in front, and pennants, postcards, t-shirts and touristy what-knots and do-dads could be seen inside.  Finally, a Spill The Milk game, with weathered stuffed animal prizes hanging to the side, dusty from their long waits to be adopted. 

The Ferris Wheel appeared as we immerged from under the covered midway into the sunlight, and the old white Shadowland Ballroom, a building that had hosted many famous entertainers and multitudes of dancing couples, was located across the boardwalk to our left.  At the very end of the walk, excursion boats were stationed on the river, waiting to take passengers out for a spin on the lake.  We had strolled the whole length of the park while making mental note of the rides we would choose, and as mom and dad circled back down the walk…my sisters and I knew our fun was about to begin!

Water Whistle and the Silver Beach Clown

We hurried down the ‘beach,’ or west side of the midway, passing the Guess Your Weight concession, then the High Strike game, stopping to watch as a young man tried his strongman skills while attempting to ring the bell at the top.  (Better luck next time buddy!)  Our main interest was always the barn shaped building that came next, and our very favorite of all the attractions – the carousel, or merry-go-round to us kids!