by Paul Ruben
The 2008 season was full of disasters for coastal parks in the UK and on both coasts in America.
On April 7 an arsonist struck the 1920 Scenic Railway at Margate, England. A security fence has now been erected around the ride to prevent further attacks.
On May 11 and 12 an intense northeast storm did significant damage to Ocean Oasis, the waterpark and beach club at the end of Morey’s Surfside Pier in Wildwood, New Jersey, destroying about 15% of the park.
On June 2 a fire at Universal Studios Hollywood destroyed the King Kong attraction and a New York street scene. Damage was estimated in the tens of millions, but luckily the park tour resumed the next day.
An early morning fire on June 16 damaged the north side of Morey’s Mariners Landing Pier. The intense blaze was quickly brought under control and the damage was limited to the three rides and the damaged portion of the pier quickly closed off.
Finally (I hope) a fire on July 28 at the Grand Pier in Weston-Super-Mare in England destroyed the Pavilion – where most of the rides were housed. Pier owners Kerry and Michelle Michael had taken over just weeks before. Also in the UK, a blaze at the start of September almost completely destroyed Fleetwood Pier near Blackpool, although it had already closed down and was earmarked for non-amusement-related redevelopment.
My father used to tell me to fight fire with fire, but I think that’s why he was asked to leave the fire department. I did, however, travel to Wildwood to see for myself and get photo evidence of the damage at Morey’s. You can’t begin to imagine the rigors of this job, dear readers.
Upon meeting Jack Morey, he arranged a massage for me by masseuse Holly Jackson, pictured above. Holly was much nicer than one fellow I knew who was fired from a massage parlour because he rubbed everyone the wrong way. Holly’s soothing hands eased away the aches and pains of a demanding day at the beach riding coasters. A massage-by-the-sea is not in my job description, but I endured it. After that it was off to the Ocean Oasis hot tub for more therapy and adult beverages.
All these parks and attractions, however, missed a golden opportunity to capitalise on their misfortune. They should have charged an added admission to see the devastation. It is not without precedent. In Robert Cartmell’s book The Incredible Scream Machine, he recalls that in 1907 Steeplechase Park at New York’s Coney Island burned during an 18-hour fire. Owner George Tilyou, always the showman, erected a sign the next day that read:
I have troubles today
That I did not have yesterday,
I had troubles yesterday
That I have not today,
On this site will be erected shortly
Admission to the Burning Ruins —