Monday, August 18, 2008

Paradise on the Palisades

August 18, 2008

What New Jersey child born between 1898 and 1971 doesn't have a story to tell about adventures at the famous Palisades Amusement Park at Fort Lee? It seems it was a magical place for youngsters, teenagers on dates, and families with children of all ages.

A little research tells me it was started as a trolley park, but when amusement rides and games were added, it had no equal. The Nicholas and Joseph Schenck, also in the budding movie business in Fort Lee, bought the place and named in Palisades Amusement Park and never looked back, not even when they took their business to Hollywood and helped create another industry altogether.

Palisades holds many memories for people who grew up in Hoboken.

Here's what "Downtown Chick" wrote me: Palisades Park was a short bus ride away, and the times were slower. Many kids starting going without parents at a very early age.

I think I was 12 when a bunch of us hopped the bus with towels under arms and headed for that fabulous place. It was the only pool I've ever seen that had waves. It also started out like the ocean, just barely covering the feet & then just got deeper and deeper. It had an actual sandy beach. No seement pond there! This was our Riviera. Just a short bus ride from Hoboken to Cliffside Park & you were in Xanadu.
Just a bunch of high rises there now. I wish I could find the story my son wrote. He was born in 1961 so he had a few good years at the Park. It was a wonderful story about a young boy's disappointment upon finding out the Park was closing.

Slezak wrote of the park:
How can anybody forget Palisades Park, after eating a hot dog at Callahan’s? I seen PAUL ANKA there...the rock and roll shows...for parking!

Swimming was great with fake waves. As a kid, BUSTER CRABBE, remember him (FLASH GORDON)? He used to try to teach kids how to swim there. I cried too much. He left me alone. I still can’t swim.

Up the viaduct...climbing the 100 steps to North Street Park to swim, that’s where I almost drowned...I got pushed the deep part...great memories.

That Slezak. All memories are great, even almost drowning.

You can't stop me, even if you've heard this one (I ran it before on the post called Days of Ice Cream and Roses), from Dennis ("Rabbi"):

We were Mousie, Eddie, and Dennis. Poor Mousie had to get all his teeth pulled out due to a gum desease, but this also had a bright spot. While riding on the bus up to Palisades Park, we would spot some girls to go swimming with and maybe go on rides with, if we got a kiss, or two.

If Mousie thought they were ugly, he would take out his teeth and smile at them!! Oh! It really was a laugh. One time on the diving board, he dove into the water and lost his teeth! Don't ask me how he did this. We had to go diving for the darn things and we got them. We three were from different parts of Hoboken, yet were fast friends.

No doubt it was a wonderful place, with all the rides, the rock and roll shows in the 1950s, and those mysterious waves in the water! It had to come to an end. According to Wikipedia the park was a victim of its own success. It was too popular for its own good, with generations who had grown up there, bringing their families. In its last days it was just too expensive to operate and accommodate the crowds who never stopped coming.

But think of all the years of fun that kept it alive for so long! It will live forever in the memories it generated.


Nan said...

Never been, but I sure loved the Freddie Cannon song. It set my teenage heart to dreaming. I think American Bandstand might have done some shows from there.

Anonymous said...

My cousin, Jack, sent me a link to this blog and I'm so glad he did, because I was born and raised in Hoboken (1954).

I only live a couple of towns over now, but every time I ride through the streets of Hoboken I'm amazed at all the changes. And whenever I hear someone brag, "I live in Hoboken!" I just smirk, because to myself I'm saying, "Yeah, well, it's not YOUR Hoboken. It will always be MINE! Guess you had to grow up there to understand. :)

Growing up in Hoboken meant playing outside until your mother leaned out the window and called you upstairs for dinner. Back then we never had to worry about child abduction and all the things that us parents have to worry about now.

We'd play simple games, like Johnny on the Pony and Kick the Can, and us girls would stand on the corner and flirt with all the boys playing stickball and making bets on who was going to break the next window!

Growing up in Hoboken meant running up the block to Ralph's candy store on 7th & Willow, where a nickel would get you a bag of penny candy.

The best were those hot summer nights when mom didn't feel like cooking, and we'd go to Biggie's where my dad would eat clams on a half shell while us kids would have hotdogs or sausage, pepper and onion sandwiches. Another treat was choosing your slice of watermelon from the green glass covered cabinet Biggie always had standing out on the sidewalk.

And the Clam Broth House! Another treat! Because what other restaurant let you eat steamers at the bar and throw the shells on the floor!

In the summertime, families would sit out on their 'stoops.' Everyone knew their neighbors in those days.

Ahh, and Palisades Park! I started going there at a very young age with an aunt and uncle who, as a special treat would take me there a couple of times each summer. Then, as a teenager, I'd board the #21 bus on Washington Street with a bunch of friends, tote bags full of towels and money to spend the day there swimming in those awesome waves and then, all happy and sunburned, would ride the rides and play the stands until it was time to catch the bus back home, all of us wearing a straw hat won on the stand where you knock down those stuffed dolls with a baseball.

Those were the times I'll never forget. :)

Mary Lois said...

Love your contribution, new anonymous person. Keep writing! Find yourself a fun screen name so we'll know it's you. Your description of old Hoboken is enchanting, like so many who had wonderful childhoods here--and not so long ago, either!

People are excited about taking their children to Disney World and Disneyland today, but your description of those trips to Palisades Park beat that all to hell. Really makes me wish I could have been there.

Sheila C. said...

Thank you, Mary Lois! I'm new to this so I decided to create a Google account so that I can post!

Love all the stories about Hoboken, because it's so nice to see others' memories come alive on these pages! :)

slezak said...

FREDDIE CANNON recorded a song about Palisades Park ..BOBBY RYDELL sang the jingle on the radio...Whoever thought I would ever become friends with BOBBY RYDELL...he introduced me to FABIAN, another heartthrob of the 50s. We had a drink together a few times. My wife was thrilled to meet them both ..FABIAN became BOBBY RYDELL'S manager.

Anonymous said...

If anyone of you back there in Jersey want to have a nice day, if it is sunny, just walk the paths of the Palisades from the G.W Bridge. Park your car near the bridge and you will find yourself in another world of deer, squirrels, other animals. It is about a 10 mile walk up river and is really easy. Want to cool off? Walk across the G.W. Bridge.

barbary kid / charles said...

What I remember about Palisades Amusement Park
As I think back to the Palisades Amusement Park era of my life. Our family had a great three (3) generations of fun in that Park. Starting with my Mom and Dad dating there. My mom worked at one of the movie makers as a splicer. They went there often even after they were married, until they moved to South Jersey. All I can say is I have nothing but great memories of that place as a child. As did my wife, our oldest son and daughter. It was closed by the time my next two kids came along. The first time I can remember going there was when I was about 6 yrs. old with Mom and Dad, I have pictures of it yet. As I got older maybe 10 yrs. old. I would save what ever money I got my hands on to go to Palisades Park. Like it has been said, it's only 25 mins. from Hoboken by bus. There was times we rode our bikes there from Hoboken. It took about an hour. At that time you left the bike just inside the gate if you paid to get in. If you didn't pay you left the bike at the hole (you'll hear about that later) and it was there when you got back. I usually went with other friends from the neighborhood like Johnny "The Killer" Badum, Tommy Hanley, Brent" Hoppie" Bassin, Johnny "Big John" Donahue, Peter " Big Bird" Casey, Richie "Dick" Kaminski and myself Charlie "The Bird" Berth. We would go at least four to six times a month. I can remember a hole in the fence on the end of the park where the bus turned around to go back to Hoboken. I don't know who put it there but the guys that owned the park at the time Jack and Irving Rosenthal allowed it to be there. They were great understanding men. In fact I recently saw on the history channel "The history Of Palisades Park". They interviewed one of the brothers (Irving). He said his brother Jack caught one of the new maintenance men fixing the hole in the fence, and he told him to leave the hole alone, I'll tell you when to fix it. The hole is there for the poorer kids to come in the park to enjoy them selves. One of the security guards caught a kid coming through the fence. He brought the kid to the office and was told to let the boy go. After the boy left he told the officer to "turn your back when you see kids sneaking in". We didn't know that we were allowed to sneak in at the time. We thought we were getting away with something. Wow! It wouldn't have been so much pressure on us if we had known that. I forget what day they had Buster Crabbe there. I think it was on Thursdays. But anyway The Killer and I went there for a swim this day. Killers Mom gave us the money to get into the park. She did that once in awhile, I guess to get us out of her hair. So we had the money but we went through the fence anyway. That way we had enough money to go on some rides afterwards. While we were swimming we saw Buster Crabbe diving off the high board. We went over to him and asked if he had the time to teach us to dive off the high board. There weren't many people swimming that day. So he had a lot of time to spend with us. That was about the best time we ever had there. We always had good times there but this day was special. We felt very special hob nobbing with the rich and famous. LOL. He was a great guy to be around, he had a lot of stories to tell. He gave us tips on swimming and taught us not to be afraid to dive from the high board. After that it didn't take long to become fair divers. He told us stories of the movies he played in and his ranch in southern NJ. About his horses, cattle, goats and other animals on his ranch. He invited us to bring our friends and visit him there when we get our drivers license. We never did get there, I guess when we were of age to drive, we had better things to do. I for one will never forget the times I had in Palisades Amusement Park.