Saturday, September 11, 2021

Amusement Park Extravaganza

I have a folder of random scans of slides featuring random amusement parks from around the USA. I thought it might be fun to look at a few of those!

First up is this May, 1968 photo of the marquee sign for McKee Jungle Gardens, in Vero Beach, Florida. The Jungle Gardens originally opened in 1929, on 80 acres that were planted with scores of exotic plants and flowers from around the world. I was pleased to see that it is still around! Well... sort of. Wikipedia explains: Although the Garden was successful for several decades, it shut down in 1976, and most of its land was sold for development. The site remained vacant for twenty years until the Indian River Land Trust purchased it in 1995. The current Garden was formally dedicated in 2001.

Next is this undated photo from Fantasy Island, in Grand Island, New Jersey. The park was founded in 1961 (probably not too many years before this photo was taken) on only 12 acres of land, but eventually expanding to 85 acres in 1974. Dwindling attendance has resulted in bankruptcies and a list of changing owners. It even changed names; at one point it was called "Two Flags Over Niagara Fun Park", and then "Martin's Fantasy Island", before announcing that it had closed for good in 2020. Supposedly there is a chance that the park could reopen, however.

This next slide is labeled, "Pleasure Island (Donnie, 1964)", and I can only assume that it is the Pleasure Island amusement park that was in Wakefield, Massachusetts - though it looks surprisingly rinky-dink. It was one of C.V. Woods' attempts to profit from his experience helping Walt Disney in the earliest phases of developing Disneyland. The two did not get along, famously, and Woods went on to found Pleasure Island, "Magic Mountain" in Colorado, "Six Flags Over Texas", and "Freedomland". Pleasure Island opened in 1959, and lasted only 10 years before closing.

And finally, from September, 1968 comes this photo from "Tiger's Indian Village". Alligator wrestling! I've found at least one photo of that same gentleman wrestling an alligator, stating that he is none other than Bobby Tiger. I've also found mention of a "Jimmy Tiger's Miccosukee Indian Village" in Florida - I'm not sure what's going on. Were Jimmy and Bobby brothers? Did they each have their own park/souvenir stand? Or were they one in the same? It sounds like this park was located 47 miles west of Miami. Other than that, I can find very little solid information about Tiger's Indian Village.

I hope you have enjoyed today's Amusement Park Extravaganza!


Nanook said...

I love our 'junior miss' and her swell glasses and bow-! Are we to presume the 'big boy', with his Kodak Brownie Reflex camera strapped over his shoulder, is "Donnie"-? I'll have to add Alligator Wrestling to my bucket list. Sounds like a real blast to me.

Thanks, Major.

TokyoMagic! said...

It looks like one of the monkeys on the McKee Jungle Garden sign, is doing a Jane Fonda-type of stretching maneuver.

In that Pleasure Island photo, we can see a giant birthday cake off in the distance. I wonder if C.V. Woods loaned that to Walt Disney the following year, for his park's Tencennial celebration?

Does Bobby Tiger have all of his fingers?

Melissa said...

Fantasy Island is/was in Grand Island, New York. I’ve been there! One of my high school friends played the sheriff in their Wild West show for a while, and another friend was a ringmaster in some kind of circus show I never got to see. One of my college friends was Miss Grand Island, but that has nothing to do with the park.

I’m quite taken with that eccentric-looking McKee parrot. I like the cut of his jib!

Stu29573 said...

I like the free ranging old timey cars! Those bumpers are massive, so you know "bumping" was a problem.

The boats, I like less. I usually love boat rides, but this one, with the little sidewheelers, just looks boring. They're also a pretty lame attempt at replicating a riverboat. And yellow? Yuck!

Thanks, Major!

Anonymous said...

That's definitely not Pleasure Island in Wakefield, they never had an attraction like that, so not sure where that is. I grew up in Wakefield, have great memories of Pleasure Island and hearing the train whistle blowing all summer long. My older brother worked there one summer too. There's an office park now where Pleasure Island once was, and I just took someone through there yesterday, pointing out where some of the various attractions (including the famous Moby Dick Hunt) were. The Friends of Pleasure Island web site has a complete listing with photos of all the attractions, history, and celebrities who performed there.

Chuck said...

McKee Botanical Gardens is a 12-minute drive from my in-laws’, and looking at the location I know I must have driven past it at least once, but it didn’t register at all. I’ll need to try to rectify that on my next visit.

I’m not sure that’s the C.V. Wood Pleasure Island. I can’t seem to find anything in descriptions of the park or old park maps that correspond to what we are seeing in that photo. There were other amusement parks named “Pleasure Island,” although the Wakefield park dominates the Interwebs and makes casual research tedious and time-consuming.

Jimmie and Bobby Tiger were apparently brothers in a family of 11 children. They both signed the Constitution of the Miccosukee Seminole Nation. Thy are both mentioned by another brother, Buffalo Tiger, in this 1998 oral history interview archived in the University of Florida Library’s digital archives. There are quite a few oral history interviews that mention members of this family if you do a search on them.

Interesting stuff this morning, Major. Thanks!

Chuck said...

Took me awhile to assemble my comment, and I see that as I was typing a Wakefield native has definitively confirmed that is not. The Wakefield Pleasure Island. Thanks, Anonymous!

Andrew said...

Never forget 9/11/01

I think Fantasy Island could have a bright future. Its water park just reopened, and it was announced that the amusement park will reopen with a new lineup of vintage rides next year.

Those boats are basically a kiddie hand-car ride, just on water. I'll be excited if anyone figures out where it was! Thanks, Major.

JG said...

A good topic for a somber day, Major.

These little parks appear to be plentiful in the East, not so much out here in the West. Fun little rides, for sure.

These remind me again how obviously different Disneyland was. I am continuously amazed at the level of detail and refinement of the Disney Park; built-seating everywhere worked into the theming, lots of restrooms and drinking fountains, focus on landscaping, ample food service opportunities including fine dining, and my favorite game of trash cans everywhere. Disneyland had deep design consideration from the very beginning, in spite of the stories about the almost-improvised Jungle Cruise, and even the simple rides were head and shoulders above the ones we see in today’s post.

But, I would have loved that little boat ride, and the Model T’s, not fancy, but a lot of fun. As Disney parks get up to a $1000/person/day, I wonder if there will be simpler competition spring up again?

Thanks Major.


JG said...

Chuck, thanks for the deep background on the Tiger brothers. More reading for the afternoon!


Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, I think it’s safe to say that camera boy is “Donnie” (rather than the kid in front of him). Alligator wresting… I still can’t help thinking of Buena Park’s old Alligator Farm, and the smell, and the… um… “waste” that was prevalent. Yuck.

TokyoMagic!, Florida monkeys like to stay fit and watch their figure, in case they might marry Ted Turner someday. The giant birthday cake was C.V. Woods’ house!

Melissa, very cool that you went to Fantasy Island. I think I might have more slides from that park, but I’m not 100% sure. The McKee parrot is patriotic, if nothing else!

Stu29573, yes, you just know that kids (boys mostly I’d guess) loved to ram the car in front of them. Notice… no center rail either! They could have jumped the curb and driven all the way home on the turnpike. And that boat ride fits the definition of a “baby ride”.

Anon, I found it hard to believe that the park pictured in that slide is Pleasure Island… and thought that perhaps there was another park with that name somewhere, though I couldn’t find one online. Somebody wrote the location on the slide, so I figured I should just “go with it”, but I have certainly found more than a few slides with erroneous notes.

Chuck, very cool if you are someday able to visit McKee Botanical Gardens. Seems like a good thing to do with in-laws! Like I said in my text, “Pleasure Island” looked too rinky dink to be a C.V. Woods park. He may not have been a Walt Disney-type visionary, but he still had bigger ideas than little boat rides. Wow, you sure found a lot of information about the Tiger Family! Thanks for doing the work and providing the links!

Chuck, that happens to me all the time… folks keep commenting while I’m trying to respond to everyone!

Andrew, oh I can’t forget that day, believe me. I’d like it if Fantasy Island reopened fully, as a place where families could go to have some fun! I was wondering if those “boats” had wheels rolling along the bottom of the trough. Like the Columbia!

JG, yeah, there were TONS of little parks, many with fairy tale or “western” themes, all over the east coast. And you’re right, Disneyland was several orders of magnitude more detailed and amazing than any other U.S. amusement park - including some venerable, wonderful places. Was the Jungle Cruise almost improvised? I assume you mean the spiel? The little boat ride would be fun if you had a three year-old to enjoy it with you, ha ha! In SoCal, I would almost be more inclined to go to Knott’s rather than Disneyland. It’s not that Disneyland doesn’t have things I want to see, but they keep making the experience more and more unpleasant.

JG, I am just sad that my name isn’t “Buffalo Tiger”.

Kathy! said...

I like that the sign at Tiger’s Indian Village says that they’re not responsible for accidents at the Danger Pit. Yikes! Reminds me of that Leave It to Beaver episode with Capn Jack the alligator. Nanook, I like Jr. Miss’s exceptionally frilly blouse. As a California native, I’m don’t have memories of small parks like this as JG said (does Santa’s Village count?), but they have their charm! Thank you Major.

JG said...

Major, by improvised, I meant that the JC has been described as being somewhat designed in situ, with fewer hard drawings than other attractions. Harper Goff tracing the outline of the River using sticks, placing the animatronic groups by how they looked from the Jeep etc.

I think that at least some of these are tall tales, since there is also footage of models of the boats and Schweitzer falls, etc. which argue for a traditional design visualization. It does make sense that adjusting the various scenes in response to real conditions would occur, but some stories make it sound like the whole thing was designed by hand-waving.

But Disneyland was highly refined on Opening Day, and these designs came from what had been a film production company. Not intending any slight to the imagineers we know and love, and even accounting that fewer documents were needed back then, there must have been voluminous architectural staff employed to crank out the sheer volume of work emplaced in that famous year before opening, and a lot of deep thought that was “right the first time.” A significant achievement.

Major, it’s not too late, you could change your name to Buffalo Tiger. I fully support this move, live life on your own terms!


Bu said...

I would like to take a trip to the REAL Fantasy Island...with Mr. Rourke, and Tattoo. Did Tattoo have tattoo's? Perhaps we will never know. My Fantasy Island would be Tomorrowland '67. Sandra Dee and Annette Funicello will co-star in my episode....perhaps Tommy Kirk in a cameo... CV Wood...well...that was a name never to be mentioned, and a little buried...lots of stories there...possibly a TV movie. I suspect he pissed off the boss in some way and got on "the list". Not sure Mr. Disney took feedback too well after he sunk so much of his soul, personal cash, and reputation into something- I wouldn't fact...I don't. In any case, to tag onto other comments- Disneyland was clearly something else no one had ever seen, experienced and could never even envision. The other rinky dink amusement parks have a certain charm. At the Queen Mary, we (yes, the Disney "we") did a rinky dink park called "Brighton Beach". It had the goofy boat ride, a carousel, etc. etc. It was a nightmare to run. I've never seen a single photo of it, but I am sure you may have a few in your collection Major! Disneyland took a lot of creative minds and a willingness to never ever ever give up on the dream. I'm not sure if it could be replicated today in the current landscape of economics. There's always a few hurt feelings when people are passionate. My take on CV Wood is had an ego and a strong point of view that was opposing to the Walt Disney's of the world. He has a weird statue too in Lake Havasu City. So...looks like he made out pretty well. Wrasslin' alligators...sounds like a PETA issue...although it looks like Tiger knows what he is doing.

"Lou and Sue" said...

Thanks, Major Tiger, for today’s fun adventures!

Nthsh01 said...

Not sure how that ended up "Anonymous," but I'm the Wakefield native who posted that, lol! I've seen a lot of photos over the years with "Pleasure Island" noted on them, and they weren't "our" PI, and then Disney went and build Pleasure Island in Orlando which further muddied the waters. Pleasure Island had great potential, but they never really invested in the place after the first year or two, and then after a bad summer weather-wise, the writing was on the wall. How it lasted 10 years I'll never know. But as kids growing up in Wakefield we loved that we had the "East Coast Disneyland," and some of the attractions were very unique. The train station was a real Victorian Boston and Maine station from the Greenwood stop in town, and they moved it down Main Street to Pleasure Island. My father was teaching at the junior high at that time and loved to tell the story of looking out his classroom window and seeing a train station rolling by the window.

Melissa said...

I want to say that by the time I got there, Fantasy Island’s “Autopia” type ride had installed a center rail, but I could be mixing it up with Darien Lake’s similar attraction. I always liked getting the Model T.