Saturday, May 02, 2015

Miscellaneous Amusement Parks, Florida 1968

The warmth and sunshine of Florida have made it a vacation destination for decades... all of Florida's  frozen neighbors love to head south and bask in the balmy weather. It's the perfect place to build amusement parks! 

This first photo from April 1968 shows a happy woman standing outside Busch Gardens in Tampa. I guess you can't pose with a giant beer bottle*, so a fiberglass Clydesdale horse will have to do. Hey, lady, can't you read the sign? If nobody follows the rules, it will be anarchy. 

I wonder if they ever served beer (free beer, by the way) at this Florida park, like they did in Van Nuys? I still remember men walking around with small metal buckets full of beer. It made me want some.

*Of course, you CAN pose with a giant beer bottle if you go to Duff Gardens! I am especially fond of Surly. "Take a picture, it'll last longer. GET OUTTA HERE!". Let's not forget about Tipsy and Queasy.

This next picture (from August, 1968) is from Cypress Gardens. Looking like a blue flower, this southern belle gets to literally sit and look pretty (and smile and wave) for passing boats. There's something so old-fashioned about the whole idea, I can't help but love it. Did the women consider it a fun job, or the most boring job ever? We'll never know. Where Cypress Gardens once stood, Legoland now reigns, though the botanical gardens are still there. 

Alright, I know this isn't a photo of an amusement park, but it IS an amusement! We see yet another smiling lady, posing next to a tram/train known as the "Overseas Railroad". I tried to find some info about the ORR, but what I found had nothing to do with this little ride. I wonder if it was a part of some other amusement park - the equivalent of Disneyland's trams? Or did it give folks a seaside tour of some Florida town? 


Nanook said...


Finally - the perfect Mother's Day gift: A fiberglas Clydesdale-! Now why didn't I think of that -??!! GDB - the blog that keeps on giving-! (And the images ain't too bad, either-!)

Thanks, Major.

TokyoMagic! said...

Major, I'm only guessing here, but maybe the Overseas R.R. was a tram that operated on the Overseas Highway connecting Florida with the Florida Keys? That railing in the background looks like it could be along a stretch of a causeway.

TokyoMagic! said...

Curiosity got to me, so I did some research. There used to be an Overseas Railroad that ran passengers and freight from the tip of Florida down to Key West, but the route was damaged in a 1935 hurricane. The trains never ran after that and in 1938, a highway was built on top of the existing train route. Maybe the tram in the photo ran along that highway, and it's name was a tribute to the Overseas Railroad that used to haul freight and passengers along the same route.

Anonymous said...

Yes, they did serve beer at Busch Gardens in Tampa. I can remember my brother, mother, and I waiting while my father stood in line to be get his beer. This would have been in the early '80s. I'm also pretty sure it was free, though it seems like there was some kind of system that limited the amount you could receive.

Chuck said...

Major, the last picture is of the "Conch Tour Train" on Key West. Operating since 1958, the tram takes visitors on a tour of the island. The "Overseas R.R." lettering is a nod to Henry Flagler's extension of the Florida East Coast Railway that connected Key West to the mainland.

Here's a more recent image of the tram, which still uses the same paint scheme as your 1968 photo:

More info on the Conch Tour Train is available at

And if you're specifically interested in the attraction's history, check out

Kenneth Lane said...

Yes they did have free beer, as I recall, when we visited in '73 but you were limited to one or two SMALL cups. Of course, this was long before I was legal age. (although I did have my first Pina Colada at the Monorail Bar in the Contemporary Resort several years later)

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, there is nothing that says “I love you, mom” than a fiberglass Clydesdale!

TokyoMagic!, I saw that there was an Overseas Highway, but it doesn’t look like it would be much fun to cross it… just miles of open water. But I suppose it’s possible!

Anonymous, I wonder how they limited the amount people could drink? Maybe they had a card that needed to be punched, or something. Thanks for the info!

Chuck, well now that you mention it, I think I actually have a photo of the “Conch Train” somewhere in my collection… it was probably hand-labeled with the correct name. Now I need to find that one! Thank you for doing the research.

Kenneth Lane, it sounds like they didn’t use the little galvanized metal buckets that I recall from the Van Nuys park, which I always thought was a cool thing when I was a kid! Your first Pina Colada at a Disney park, that’s something I wouldn’t expect!

Nanook said...


There (was) at least one restaurant which had other ideas about the "perfect" Mother's Day gift... The former Hurricane Cafe, in Seattle - which on one Mother's Day displayed the following message on its outdoor sign (Yes - it was that kind of joint): Nothing says I love you like bacon and eggs

Melissa said...

I used to work in an art museum, and if I had a nickel for everyone who just *had* to have a picture of herself touching a stature next to a sign that said “Do Not Touch,” well, even then it wouldn’t begin to pay for the constant restoration due to grubby mitt damage (when it was even possible). Statues of naked people seems to be especially irresistible targets. Sometimes I think nobody is older than five.

Grandma used to go to Florida many a summer, but never went to an amusement park bigger than Sea World. She liked more out of the way places, but the cousin my age who live with her really wanted to see some Shamu tribute show that was going on.

That Cypress Gardens belle looks like a WDW Cinderella.

Whenever I hear the word “Anheiser,” I think of “Hello, Mr. Stein,” a song Groucho Marx did when he was a juvenile singer just starting out in vaudeville.

Hello, hello, hello, Mr. Stein!
I’m so glad to meet you, Stein;
You must let me treat you.
Hi lee, Hi lo, this Anheiser’s fine;
We’ll have a jolly time.
Oh, fine!
Hello, hello, hello, Mr. Stein!
I’m as dry as I can be;
Stein is just as dry as me.
Where, oh, where has that waiter gone?
Fill Mr. Stein!

Melissa said...

Also, that tram shot was just calling out for a new background.

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, well, I admire their moxie, at any rate! Bacon and eggs… you could do worse! Like go to Sizzler.

Melissa, your comment reminded me of a trip to the amazing Field Museum in Chicago. They have beautiful bronze statues of various indigenous people; all of the statues have a very dark brown patina, but the statue of one particular woman has been “fondled” so frequently that her breasts are like shiny brass. What the hell!? And your Grandma reminds me of my niece, who wanted to go to Sea World rather than Knott’s Berry Farm. Foolish child!. Wow, how do you know of a song that Groucho sang as a juvenile? Was it in any of their movies?

Melissa again, it’s like a vacation photo by Heironymous Bosch!