Rockaway Playland

Jan 26, 2024

When I grew up in Long Beach, NY summers were always something special. Of course, it was warm outside. So, I could fly out the door wearing just my shorts and tee shirt. I could ride my bike anywhere in the neighborhood. I could ride as fast as I wanted and let go of the handlebars to live a little dangerously. I could feel the wind in my hair. It was simply joyous. When I turned 11 or 12 I had a newspaper delivery route. And, while it sounded like work it was actually a lot of fun.

A pack of newspapers were delivered to my garage everyday. I snipped the metal wire that kept them together and started to individually roll them so I could add a rubber band to hold it Together. Then I stacked them into the front basket on my bike and I was
Ready to start the delivery process. To me, it was a game. I rode my bike
As fast as I could flinging newspapers to the left and flinging newspapers \
To the right. One landed on a front step. Another landed on the front
Walk. And, another landed on the wet grass. Oh, well. Better luck
Next time.

I had about 60 papers to deliver on my route. Everyday was a fun adventure.

Somewhere during that period of time of my of life my Dad decided he wanted to take
Me out to visit Rockaway Playland. Rockaway Playland? A kid’s dream
Come true. Rides, boardwalk games, cotton candy … what could be
Better. And, alone .. with just my Dad. This never happened. My Dad
Was an orphan. He had a very tough childhood. How he came out so kind
And loving is truly amazing. So, a trip to the Playland with just my Dad
Was wonderful in and of itself.

It was just a 20 minute drive to get there. Follow the road along the beach,
Go over the Atlantic Beach Bridge and drive a little bit farther. It seemed to
Be a quite afternoon at the Playland. I’d imagine this is the kind of place
That gets cracking when the sun goes down. Anyway, it was all good for me.
I can’t recall the games that I played first. The water pistol game .. the
Throw the ball in the hole game …skee ball .. who knows? I’m sure I
Was drunk with joy.

My very favorite ride was Bump a Car. You paid some money and entered
An enclosed arena filled with small metal cars that had big rubber bumpers.
You got into the car and the ride operator told you, “now be sure not to
Bump the cars”. Yeah sure. He started the ride and I was Parnelli Jones.
I banged this guy to the left and smashed into the girl on my right. I
Criss crossed the arena and banged into anyone who was driving along
Minding their own business. Man oh man, I couldn’t stop laughing. This
Ride was even more fun than flinging newspapers. I think I rode in a
Second session just to squeeze out more aggressive joy,

I remember getting off the ride with a huge smile on my face. My Dad
Seemed be happy that I was so happy. It was a great moment that we
Bonded. I would imagine he would have liked to ride in one of the bumper
Cars … if only he fit into one of them.

The next and last game I played was a simple coin toss. There was a
4x4l wooden block that was slickly painted white with colored circles all over it.
The objective was to stand behind a barrier and toss a coin onto the
Block. If your coin fully landed into a circle you won a prize. I watched a
Few people give it a try. They just tossed a quarter onto the block. Just
About all of them landed and slid off the slippery board and into a pit. Your
Quarter was gone forever. Anyway, I decided to take a different approach.
I threw the quarter high up in the air.. so when it landed it wouldn’t slide
Across the slippery board. My quarter went up and up and up and down
And down and down and landed on the board. And, it slid …just a bit ..
And landed inside a colored circle. I jumped up and down screaming.. 
I WON…I WON. And, it was true. The guy behind the counter grabbed
The biggest stuffed teddy bear you’ve ever seen. It had to be three feet
Tall! It was such a thrilling moment for a kid. To this day I’m not sure if
The big stuffed animal or the act of winning the game made my day.
In any case, my Dad was happy and so was I. Surely a day to remember.