Coney Island icon faces secure future
Carol Hill Albert, co-owner of Astroland at Coney Island in New York, has donated the park’s most famous icon, the 71ft Astroland Rocket, to the City of New York.
“This one-of-a-kind Rocket simulator was the very first ride to arrive at Astroland Park when it was founded by my late father inlaw Dewey Albert in 1962,” notes Hill Albert. “My husband Jerome and myself are donating this in his honour and on behalf the Coney Island History Project. It is especially fitting that this Rocket, which was the first to arrive, will be the last item to leave Astroland Park.”
The Astroland Rocket Ship is one of the first and only surviving early amusement park simulators. It debuted in 1962 at Astroland, showing simulator films of rocket rides while the chassis rocked its viewers to “outer space.”
The ride eventually sat atop Gregory and Paul’s hamburger/hotdog stand, and was one of the early victims of Coney Island’s redevelopment. While the City and Thor Equities continue to negotiate over ownership of Coney Island, Astroland Park must move off the property and either sell or take everything with it.
Space Age entrepreneurs
The Star Flyer rocket ride was invented by John Taggart and Sam Daugherty, former police officers turned space age amusement entrepreneurs. In 1958, the year Explorer 1, the first US satellite, lifted off at Cape Canaveral and NASA was founded, Taggart and Daugherty formed the US Amusement Corporation.
The rockets were built at Todd Shipyards in California. The prototype was installed at Peralta Park in Oakland in June 1958. Star Flyer II was a sensation at the 1959 State Fair of Texas in Dallas, riding approximately 40,000 children and adults during the 17-day fair.
By 1960 three rockets had been built. One travelled with Royal American Shows, the largest carnival of its day, and the other two were in Palisades Park in Fort Lee, New Jersey, and Riverside Park in Chicago. Dewey and Jerry Albert, who had rides at Palisades Park, first saw the rocket there and were inspired to buy one for their new space-age theme park.