Fond memories of roller coaster

Published 7:42 pm Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Editor, The Smithfield Times:

John Edwards’ wonderful “Remembering Tidewater amusement parks” in The Smithfield Times’ Sept. 2 issue brought back fond memories.

As a kid, growing up on Willoughby “Spit” (we always had fun with that word!) in the late 1950s, my pals and I often “walked the beach” from the “Little Bay” side (Willoughby Bay), around the point (where the derelict wreck of a “German submarine” was; it was not, but that’s another story) and along the “Big Bay” side (Chesapeake Bay) to Ocean View Amusement Park. This was possible back then because homeowners with “riparian rights” had not begun constructing all those barrier fences down to the low tide mark that protected their property from the “trespassing” of “juvenile delinquent” beachcombers like us!

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In any case, when we got to the amusement park, we mostly just walked around and made adolescent jokes about the crowds of sailors from the “navy base” and their girlfriends. Our meager allowance did not allow such extravagance as the 25-cent cost of the roller coaster ride, for example. This was the locally famous Leap-the-Dips — or “Leepty Dips,” as we called it — because we never actually read the real name in lights on the marquee.

But every Thursday, as I recall, the park advertised “Dime Day,” when all the usual quarter-dollar rides were only 10 cents. We got off the bus from school, regular city bus in those days (5-cent student fare from Northside Junior High School), at Ocean View Station rather than continuing on down the spit to our home “stop” as the cross streets were called. Besides, our parents worked and nobody was there to meet us anyway.

We would arrive at the park about 3 p.m. when hardly any customers (guests?) had yet arrived. We handed in our dime to the roller coaster guy and got into the seats, pulled down that lap bar thing that was supposed to keep us from flying out of the seat, and we were off on a most exciting ride! To attract more customers, the operator would let us ride around, sometimes 10 or 15 times, just to keep the cars moving to attract attention until “real” adult customers showed up. Then we had to get off. But for one dime, rather than the usual 25c for one time around, we got many, many rides around! We kept this little scheme a secret from the other kids on the bus. We didn’t need any competition!

So, much thanks to John Edwards for bringing back memories of a glorious childhood of capers at one of Tidewater’s wonderful, but also now regrettably gone, amusement parks.


Albert P. Burckard Jr.