I'll back up a little here and give you the full walk from the "King of France" cottage (and later the Porazzo Road cottage), all the way down to Paragon.
Generally after another regular day at the beach, we would be treated to our weekly trip to Paragon Park. We all looked forward to this, myself and all my cousins as well as the grown ups. The grown ups just loved to people watch. My Mom and my Aunts always got a kick out seeing who was wearing what and who walked funny, who was there with their wife or with their girlfriend while the wife was at home.
Us kids just wanted to go on the rides. We'd get all cleaned up, had our dinner and then waited anxiously on the front porch. A quick game of four square in the street, then once my Mom and Aunts finally got their hair just right, it was time to go.
Walking from Hillside Rd, we headed east to Eastern Ave and down the hill. The whole time talking about which rides we were going to go on and in what order. My job was to convince my cousin John that it was safe to go into the Kooky Kastle alone, or to go on whatever ride was a little wilder than the tea cups. John was never real big on the real thrill rides.
Apparently, the " I'm Superman" theory only applied when he had his beach towel wrapped around his neck.
Eastern Ave gave us a pretty decent view of the park. Looking off to the left we could see the beach and sometimes kind of wished we were still there building castles in the sand. Once at the bottom of Eastern Ave. we turned left onto Bay St.
The grassy area near Leonard Real Estate that had been filled with cars parking for the beach was now empty, giving us full view of the boats that were returning to the dock after a full day out on the ocean and we watched as they pulled in.
We're walking past the old Theater building and now we're at the corner in front of Anastos' store, the sidewalk is sticky with melted gum and candy. Checking all the coin returns in the Coke machines was a must, you never knew when you'd score a nickel or better yet, a quarter, or even better a free Coke! ( this happened to me quite often, I would almost regularly hit on free soda ).
Crossing the street and passing alongside CASEY'S and THE SANDS, we'd hear the bar music and peek in the windows. Awfully dark in those bars, but they were always full.
As we walk down the boulevard passing the old bath house on the left. It was open for a short time in the early years, closed down in the later years and I'm pleased to say that today in 2002 it is fully restored and is now once again open with all access, showers and facilities. The MDC beach and highway department building is on the right, a red brick building which housed the trucks that swept the beach in the early morning hours. A little beyond that and we are approaching the TOTEM POLE.
The totem pole was a sign that we were just about there. At the top of the old wooden pole was a fish with tusk like teeth. We would dare each other to run up to the pole and touch it. Nana used to tell us that late at night, that fish would jump off the pole and swim in the ocean until dawn, then return to the pole during the day. Now you know damn well that we always checked to see if that fish was sitting on the top of the pole as we walked by on our way home from the park and the next day had to check to see if it was up there where it belonged!
The MDC police station was next on the right, and we could see the crowded sidewalk ahead. We'd cross the street and approach the first building. An old snack bar. the one with the clock tower. It closed down a few years before Paragon did, it stood empty and dark for a long time. Behind it was the Giant Slide, the kind you had to sit on old burlap bags to ride down on. We only rode that slide a few times, it wasn't in the park and nowhere as fun as it looked. I think its sheer size was it's most intimidating feature. The long walk up the stairs wasn't any fun either and that last bump you took at the end was no fun at all.
The final approach brought us to where there were once a few rides, later demolished to make room for an empty lot. Then during the early part of the 1980's a yellow water slide stood there, ( currently, in 2003, a miniature golf course stands there.)
The next building housed JOE NEMOS snack bar, FASCINATION and the first of the three big Penny Arcades. Sam the Tankard Man had a stand there too and then another arcade simply called PENNY ARCADE.
KOHR BROS ice cream was next, that was always a favorite stop.
We always got our cones at Kohr Bros. Most everyone else got soft serve. I hated soft serve ice cream and the Styrofoam like cup cones they had, I always held out for a sugar cone and hard ice cream.
Whack the Cats and Shooting waters.Around the corner on the right, shoot the hoops. The basketball game where you try to put an oversized basketball into an undersized hoop!
Walk right past those because in about ten feet, we would be going through the gates and looking directly at the big hill of the COMET coaster.
The smell of French fries and cotton candy filled the air, if we walked straight ahead, we would have walked right into the BEEP BEEP CARS.
On the left side of the entrance was another food stand which is where the smell of cotton candy came from.
I almost forgot, somewhere between Fascination and the entrance to the park was the candy shop where we would watch as the machine twisted and turned the NANTASKET BEACH SALT WATER TAFFY.
( to this day, NO other saltwater taffy tastes as good as the stuff we got there).
We generally had a set pattern to tour the park, we'd almost always start at the left.
Playland was Nana's favorite arcade, it had the best skeeball games and the best "prizes". The wooden floor of playland was so smooth and worn, from years and years of people walking in from the beach with sand on their feet, the finish was dull and flat with most of the finish worn away, I'm sure in its early years it must have been something to see. The arcade was always full of people trying their best at pinball and all of the electric games.
We moved on, just past Playland was a spot which housed for many years a GIANT ROUNDUP. In this spot the rides seemed to change every few years but I remember the Round Up the most. This space also housed for many years the HIMMALAYA, (several different rides rotated in this spot, all similar types, there was once a SWISS BOBS. as well as a MATTERHORN, each were a major music source for the park playing songs so loud we could hear it all the way back at the cottage.) And I'll always remember the guy in the booth asking " DO YOU WANT TO GO ....FASTER?!
Just a little before that and on the right almost in the center of the park was first the TILT O WHIRL, and occupying the neighboring space, a YO-YO
(one year there was a ride there called THE LOVE BUG, a small carnival type dark ride.)
Along the left side, bordering the park and the street, stood the great orange steel frame of the GALAXY coaster. This one we could ride. ( Nana never wanted us to go on the big coaster ) Nowhere near as big and thrilling as the Comet coaster, the Galaxy was a bit tamer in most senses although it did have its twists and turns and the two little dip hills. A very popular ride, always had long lines.
A few more steps past that and on the right was the CAROUSEL. Music was everywhere. We loved the carousel. I believe it is a 1928 Philadelphia Toboggan company version. ( it is the PTC # 85 ) The horses were beautiful, the carousel is one of the few I have ever seen that has a ceiling with painted images.
( Thankfully, that carousel still stands today,a little farther down the street from its original home, but its still running and enjoyed by many people today.)
Next was the KIDDIE COASTER also named the Comet, it was a favorite of ours for many years. The HELICOPTER and the TEACUP rides were next and now we're at a corner of the park.
On the left corner was the ride that haunted me for years. THE SCOOTERS-or as most people know them, the DODGEM' CARS. I say this ride haunted me because it had a height requirement which I could never seem to meet. It made me furious that almost every one else got to go while I watched through the steel mesh fence. Every year I tried and just couldn't make it. I finally gave up because it was just so disappointing to me. I always watched though, as it was a big part of the night because the whole gang always, always wanted to see my Dad go on and get creamed by every one!
A growth spurt finally set in for me and after almost ten years of trying I finally could ride the Scooter. For some strange reason though, it didn't seem to meet up to the expectation I had for it. I guess I never really liked that ride after all. Across from the Scooter was the kiddie HELICOPTERS, cool ride if you're five, after that its a little lame.
The KOOKY KASTLE was next, we all went on that one, in the front of the castle, Frankenstein chased a girl around and around, the mechanical screams coming from the inside and the smell of the artificial smoke loomed in the air.
The ROARING TWENTIES arcade and dance bar were next in line, we skipped that one entirely to get around the third corner.- Straight ahead was a few more games and snack bars. Buried in the corner and sprawling out and under the last hill of the Comet coaster was the miniature golf course. You could stand around at about the fourteenth hole and hold on to the wooden supports as the comet raced by overhead. The wooden posts shook and rattled as the comet passed.
The CATARPILLAR ride that sat on the inside corner always was a favorite, the rattle and the spinning up and around the little hills was fun, and then the cover would come over you and you rode around and around for what seemed like an hour in the dark.
Opposite the Roaring Twenties and just before the Caterpillar, that little piece of real estate in the park seemed to always change too. One year a ride called the TIP TOP occupied the space, later and until the close of the park a SIZZLER stood there.
Behind these two rides and safely tucked away from the traffic of the midway there was a KIDDIE LAND, smaller rides for the little ones and a few places to sit.
When I was really young, there was a ride there called the PADDLE WAGONS- You sat on a little car almost like a tricycle and pumped the handles as you scooted up and around a little track.
I have very strong memories of this ride- I know somewhere, someone from my family had the old 8mm home movies of this, I'd love to see them today. (edit 2008- there is a photo of this ride in our Paragon Pictures page )
An OCTOPUS once took up residence in the next spot eventually giving way to the PARATROOPERS.
There was also a ski lift type ride known as , of course, the SKY RIDE. Stand on the little foot outlines and sit down as you were lifted way up and over the park for a birds eye view. Looking down you could see several shoes, hats and various other objects that fell away from their owners and landed on the rooftops of the rides and snack bars.
The MAN WHO GUESSES YOUR WEIGHT was next. My cousin Theresa once spit from the SkyRide and it is believed to have hit the bulls eye, or the weight guesser's head, I think Terry made a point to walk completely around the park to not have to go near that guy for the next two years.
A trash receptacle in the form of a giant pig was nearby too, when you put your trash in his mouth, muffled garbled pig noises could be heard causing a chuckle from the little ones.
The MAGIC MINE TRAIN was next on the left, an old steam locomotive. Not a miniature, a full sized train with two or three cars. I think the same guy ran that train for years. It would take you into a long dark tunnel filled with "scary" scenes and out the other side, to the outside borders of the park. Alongside the tall white wooden frame of the giant coaster and around again. It went past the "old west" scenery to return you to the black tunnel. The bell clanging all the way.
Alongside that track was another ride that would haunt me and one that I never ever got to ride. The TURNPIKE CARS. My brother Rick rode it frequently. Miniature cars that rode along a center track down a tiny little street, complete with street lights that stood for many years after the park closed down. The roadway is still there today and the garage that housed the cars is still in use as a storage barn. That ride closed down with the invention of a better more efficient miniature engine and a new ride appeared across from the Mine Train called the INDY 500.
Nothing more than mini go cart that rode around a small oval track. The set up was impressive though, a fully covered race track complete with lights, a starting line and a track crew. This ride would become the source of a lot of fun for all of us. Until we actually became too big to fit into the cars. The Indy 500 also became Paragon's pop music source after the Hammalaya was gone.
After the Train and the Indy we approach the hill that takes the log boats of the BERMUDA TRIANGLE ( or Congo Cruise) up just before the final splashdown.
I mentioned earlier that the Bermuda triangle was one of the first Tunnel Of Love rides, nothing more than a long slow cruise in a leaky boat through spider filled concrete block tunnels lined with more "scary" scenes. The Triangle was fun and if you were a teenager out and about with a date, it was the ride to ride.
The Triangle let you float through the old tunnels and finally out to where your leaky old log boat that was now half full of dirty salt water was lifted up a hill and when at the top you saw the guy sitting there with his foot on the wooden brake lever which tips your boat to one side you knew your ride was almost over.
The toothless bearded guy would always smile and in a sneaky creepy way eyeball your girlfriend, and he'd say, "hope you had fun" and release your boat to fall some twenty five feet down that hill to splash into the water that was waiting at the bottom.
We'd get out of those old log boats, work our way down the walkway and around to the next stop.
We have now come almost a full circle around PARAGON PARK, just before we got to the Triangle we had to pass the vomit maker, the TRABANT. the ride that looks like a roulette wheel and has a nasty reputation for literally turning your stomach.
We ate tons of junk food along the way, maybe a greasy burger a caramel apple, popcorn and some soda. We stopped only a few times to catch our breath or to wait while someone else was on a ride. We had tons of fun and NEVER EVER wanted to leave. ( My mom would tell the story this way: "Those kids never left that park without crying." )
As we come around the final corner of Paragon park there is but one more ride that has yet to be challenged.
Standing there looking down at us, almost daring us to try it, stood a monster. Looking like the skeleton of a huge dragon or dinosaur a full 94 feet high and towering over everything there, stretching out along one full side of the park from one end to the other. From the ground below, and when your a kid, it looked like it went up and up forever. The lights flashing at the top, the noise coming from its huge chain, all of the happy people lining up to go again and again.
After so many years of wanting to ride,we finally could do it. ( this was after my 8th grade field trip to Busch Gardens in Virginia and I had experienced the Loch Ness Monster for my very first real roller coaster ride)
Waiting in that loading station there were butterflies in my stomach. I couldn't believe it was going to happen.
Getting into the seat and locking the lap bar, waiting as the operator released the brake and letting the cars slowly roll out and down away from the station. Wave at everyone as you go by, you never know, by the time this one is over, you might not feel so good.
Around the corner to the left and behind the station, approaching the lift hill. Feeling the train as it chugs along the wooden track and finally hooks up with the lift chain. Clank clank clank, click click click. Slowly the COMET climbs up the 94 foot hill. Looking back over your right shoulder you can see Boston way off in the distance. On a good clear July fourth, you could even see the fireworks display over Boston. Click click click, clang clang clang. Closer to the top. Get ready. One last quick look at all the neon and lights that make Paragon Park shine at night, a stray balloon floating in the air, the moon reflecting off the Atlantic Ocean off to the left.
The apex. 94 FEET IN THE AIR and almost straight down and slightly to the right. WHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Your breath is taken from you for a brief minute. If you're a first time rider, you're thinking, what have I done? The downward descent lifts you slightly off your seat.
Down the hill, at the bottom, there is no time to catch your breath, you are pushed into the seat and then up again immediately into the second hill. Air time from the smallest bunny hill, down again, a little breather as you shoot up to the corner. A quick calm then around to the right and a slight dip and down again, up, down, quick lift, airtime up, and down, up and weaving into the base of the big hill, the squeal of steel and wood , the sound of a whole lot of happy riders, and we're back in the loading house.
We made it.
The fun, the food, even the crying all the way to the cottage. (or at least until I got my chocolate chip ice cream on a sugar cone from Kohr Bro's).