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Entrance to Riverview Beach Amusement Park

Entrance to Riverview Beach Amusement Park

Long gone, now, is that amusement park which provided so much entertainment for so many people both young and old. Standing close by the ferry terminal in Pennsville, New Jersey, Riverview Beach Park was open each year from Memorial Day through Labor Day. There were many wonders in the park, including a wickedly-rickety wooden roller-coaster, a bouncy Tilt-a-Whirl, a magical Merry-Go-Round, a lake with row boats for hire, a fun House with crazy mirrors and sound machine producing a maniacal laugh which could be heard for about a mile, and an olympic-size outdoor swimming pool. There were also many other rides in the park. including some just for children. A season pass to the pool was a childhood dream come true. My sister, two brothers and I spent many active days splashing in those cooling waters. As a teen, I spent many hours lounging on pool-side wooden chairs with friends, lathered in baby oil mixed with iodine, trying to get a tan. That was before fear of getting skin cancer came along. Our biggest fear then was that we wouldn’t be attractive, and that meant not looking like a pale fish. Shade trees, picnic tables and barbecue grills abounded on the grounds of the park, as they still do today. Unlike in the present time, there were always vendors offering Sno-cones, boardwalk fries, hot-dogs and sticky, pink cotton-candy for sale. Booths were in constant operation along the paths in the park, with furtive-looking men offering to guess your age or weight, let you shoot at revolving wooden ducks, toss rings or balls into various containers, or flip coins into glass bowls containing live goldfish; all for a fee, of course. There were always racks of various stuffed animals and small shiny gimcracks, set up as inducement to spend your money on a gamble at the games, but it was never intended that you should win. The rides and vendors are all but a memory now. Gone, too, is the ornate gateway that beckoned one to enter the park. Now the municipal park is a mecca for area residents who wish to take a breather from indoor life and enjoy a day along the river under the welcoming shade of lovely trees. Paths abound, with exercise stations set up for those who wish to experience a more lively enterprise than a leisurely stroll. The skating rink, the swimming pool and the historical Merry-Go-Round are all gone too, and are but treasured memories of a childhood full of freedom. The venerable, delightfully-crafted Merry-Go-Round which offered a real brass ring to the daring was sold and put in use somewhere far away. I can almost hear the thumping drums and caliope music that accompanied the up-and-down, spin slowly-around ride. Riding a make-believe horse in a safe world of fun, what a way to spend a childhood!

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