- Historic Sites
An Art Deco masterpiece struggles to survive
July/August 1992 | Volume 43, Issue 4
Still, running an amusement park is no easy job. Rhoda Krasner mentions the Tumble Bug. “That was a grand old ride. It had a moderate degree of thrill and was the kind of ride where the grandparents and their seven-year-old grandchild could both enjoy it. It was old, and the insurance company asked, ‘How’s the center shaft?’ It was built so sturdily that we had to dynamite the concrete to get the center shaft out, and when we pulled it, it was fine. But we had destroyed the ride.”
Out where the public doesn’t go, the sharpfinned Buck Rogers cars of the Rocket Ship lie in the grass. The ride suffered the same fate as the Tumble Bug. “Once again, the shaft was fine. But once you take a ride down, it never goes up again.”
Rhoda Krasner’s ties to the park run deep. “As a youngster I worked at whatever needed to be done. I sacked peanuts in a room behind the popcorn stand and helped with the games.” She remembers her father as a man “fascinated by watching people enjoying themselves- especially children. When I went looking for him in the park, I always found him on a bench near Kiddieland.”
Today times are nearly as tough as when Ben Krasner took over. In the early 1900s there were more than two thousand amusement parks In America. Now there are fewer than four hundred, only seventy of them family-owned traditional parks. And although Lakeside is a wonderfully complete vision of late 1930s luxe, it may appear archaic to an audience accustomed to the big theme parks.
Nevertheless, Rhoda Krasner is working to keep her park open. “My family has logged an awful lot of years here. We want to promote the past with the new. But we can’t let it get to a point where it’s just a dream. The park has to operate as a contemporary business, and we have to keep it entertainine.”
She continues. “We work with many organizations that hold their company picnics at the park. The people who make those decisions learned to swim here, met their wives in the ballroom. They have very personal attachments. But these people are nearing retirement age. We can only hope that our visitors today will have their first roller-coaster ride on the Cyclone or their first train ride on the miniature railroad. We have to continue those attachments.”
The ghosts of eighty-four summers ride the Cyclone, the Satellite, the Rock-O-Plane. Puffing Billy and Whistling Tom still head up the trains that circle Lake Rhoda—Ben Krasner renamed it when his daughter was born —and the lights of the Tower of Jewels shimmer, reflected in the placid water. And the verve and confidence of Richard Crowther’s Deco buildings have a power to charm that increases with every passing season.