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Rides and More Rides

Okay, last time I was nattering on about Revere Beach, and how it had been a great tourist attraction in the late nineteenth and early to middle twentieth century. Let me pick up there now.


So, I said that a narrow gauge railway brought thousands...millions!...of Bostonians and others to the beach over the years. But it wasn’t just the sea and the sand and the odd seagull that brought these people. They were also interested in other types of fun.


Fun...which entrepreneurs were more than happy to provide. All along the beach, attractions appeared, particularly after 1900. I gather it wasn’t like Disneyland/world or other of today’s theme parks. That is, they weren’t owned by a single corporation. Rather, they were owned and operated by separate individuals or companies, or even families.



About the images: three today. First, another shot of Martha and Linda at the beach, but I’ve tried to make it look like an impressionistic painting.


What was on offer? All sorts of things. According to at least one source I’ve seen, the biggest draw was dance pavilions--that is, places where couples would come for a night out with dinner, music, and a waltz. The Revere Beach webpage notes that the pavilions included “...the Ocean Pier Ballroom, The Beachcroft, Nautical Gardens, The Frolic, Wonderland and The Oceanview Ballroom. Many people will also remember the Crescent Gardens Ballroom, Spanish Gables and Moorish Castle.”(1) And the bands that provided the music were often surprisingly famous, some are even known today; for example, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey and Guy Lombardo.


Or, if you were more hungry than musical, there were restaurants of all sorts. You could get hotdogs and orange juice and sandwiches at various places along the beach. And pizza was available in a million different places, large and small, or so I learn from the Revere Beach webpage.


That’s more interesting than you might think. Today, of course, pizza is ubiquitous. According to Wikipedia, on any given day 13% of the American population will have it for a meal or at least a snack.(2) But, remember, pizza was an import to these shores. New York City only got its first pizzeria in 1905. And, elsewhere, pizza was extremely uncommon in many, many places for long into the twentieth century. To give you an idea, I’m in my mid-sixties. I’m no creaking ancient of days (at least not yet. Give me time). But I can very clearly remember the first time I ate pizza. I was in grade school and it was (surprise!) the lunch one day. I can remember my schoolmates tossing it away as unappealing and strange. And I can remember their parents complaining to the authorities about the food being “filthy and foreign.”


But, here, on the Beach, people were consuming pizza in almost modern quantities -- that is to say, large.


Finished eating? No longer a mite peckish? Well, then...there’s the rides. If you’re still digesting that pizza, or have small children in tow, or you’re on a date and are looking for something a bit quieter, then there’s the carousels. That is, the merry-go-rounds, with their wooden horses and great organs producing music with each revolution. There were several of these, it seems. Again quoting the Revere Beach webpage, they included “Hurley’s Hurdlers, the Rough Riders, The Teddy Bear Merry Go Round, and of course, The Hippodrome Carousel...”




Second, a screen shot of a newspaper article in the Boston Globe, dated June 2, 1912, about a visit to Revere Beach. And, third, a close-up of the cartoon that accompanied the article. (Apologies for the offensive racial and gender stereotypes in the newspaper material, but it would be dishonest of me to say such attitudes didn’t exist at the time.)


What’s that you say? The pizza no longer weighs upon your tummy or you’re on your own or just with your pals? You want something a little more thrilling. Ah...have we got an adventure for you. We have The Rollercoasters...of which they are many to select from. There was the Cyclone, at the time of its construction (1925) the largest rollercoaster ever built.(4) Then there was The Lightning, said to be one of the most uncomfortable ‘coasters ever built, but which guaranteed to thrill, even if (on occasion) its riders suffered fatalities.(5)


Though the real chiller was the Derby Racer, of which two were built, one in 1911 and then, when that was torn down, another in 1937. It was a “racing rollercoaster,” meaning that it had a double track with one car on one track and another on the other. The two would then “race” to the end of the ride. Again, safety was an afterthought. At least five people were killed or seriously injured on the first Derby before the end of its operation.(6)


Still, scary as these rides might be...and as dangerous as they might be (no OSHA in those days)...the overall feel of Revere Beach was much more serene. It was a pleasant place to go with one’s family to enjoy the ocean breeze and get way from work and struggle for a time.


Except...except...


For the Riot.


But that is for next time.


More to come.





1. Revere Beach webpage, history and heritage section, https://www.reverebeach.com/our-history-and-heritage/

2. See here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pizza#United_States

3. https://www.reverebeach.com/our-history-and-heritage/

4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyclone_(Revere_Beach)

5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lightning_(Revere_Beach)

6. See the “Ride experience and safety” section of this webpage: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lightning_(Revere_Beach)







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~mjt



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Copyright©2023 Michael Jay Tucker

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