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Aero Memories

March 2023
1min read

What a flood of almost forgotten memories ‘The Aero View” (December 1984) brought back on the VCR of my mind! The overhead photography of the Atlantic City shoreline shows Heinz Pier, scene of my first job out of high school. I was probably in the attic projection booth showing Seeds of Service , the company film, when the picture was taken.

Then, next from the top (and unmentioned), Garden Pier Theater, which one June afternoon prompted a buddy and myself to play hooky and attend our first burlesque show. That was before sex education in the schools.

Next came Steel Pier with its “fifty attractions for the price of one”—and if you arrived before 11:00 A.M. they threw in a free steamboat ride down the coast for the fifty-cent admission.

Finally, Young’s Million Dollar Pier, with its gigantic ballroom located just off the Boardwalk and the thousands of electric light bulbs in the ceiling adding to its pre-air-conditioning glory. So what if your prized white suit was dripping with perspiration? Dancing to the music of Paul Whiteman and his orchestra and the incredible banjo wizardry of Al Pingatore made me almost oblivious to the rivulets of sweat running down my spine.

Of even more interest is the aerial view of Willow Grove Park, which I visited as a child, about 1930. Apparently there were four, not three, coasters. One was hidden in the grove of trees running left-center from the big white racing coaster that was called, in illuminated letters, “A Chase through the Clouds.” We all decided that the simple little out-and-back coaster was the best of the lot. It probably never got more than forty or fifty feet off the ground, but every dip went to ground level, creating that tingling sensation in the pit of the stomach, while the branches and tree trunks rushing past created the illusion of great speed.

In “The Canals of Venice” one rode majestically in gondolas through a waterway that twisted and turned and doubled back upon itself, at gradually lower elevations. We glided silently, except for the gurgle of water against the gondola, through the splendors of Venice as interpreted on canvas hangings and backdrops. A bewitching journey!

I remember Mother done in by the Swiss Alps mountain ride. She was deathly afraid of roller coasters in any form, and in all innocence we persuaded her to join us on this “gentle scenic ride.” We loved the animated scenes inside the mountain. There were miners at work, shuttling ore cars, and waterfalls. Mother was as ecstatic as we were until we suddenly burst out of the top of the mountain into daylight and into the first drop of a horrendous roller coaster. At the end of the ride Dad and I had to support a mother whose legs had turned to jelly.

Today everything is gone, and even the beautiful merry-go-round has been broken up and scattered to the four winds. Only a few fiberglass replicas of the horses, going nowhere, now decorate the huge shopping mall that, alas, has replaced this fairyland of our childhood.

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