HERITAGE LIVES: Remembering Atlas Picnics

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Two Crystal Beach Amusement Park favourites for many. (Supplied photo)

By TERRY HUGHES

After WW2, several of our larger industries treated their working families to a day at an amusement park. For my dad who was employed by Stokes Thermoid Rubber Plant, the Pt. Dalhousie Park was our destination. Unfortunately, it did not offer the same kind of fun as its competitor, Crystal Beach.

For several years before the advent of the family car, the Atlas provided two 20-car trains to get us there. Thank goodness for my uncle who was working at the Atlas. He was able to get enough tickets for both of our families to enjoy the day.

Many of us will recall the treats and midway that excited us as we entered the park. Remember those special, tasty suckers? They were selling them at the Pt. Colborne Museum on Canal Days this year! The Arcade was a place where you could impress your girl friend by winning praise at the pin-ball machines or winning prizes. Roller skating in the dance hall where, at one time, the Big Bands would host the music of the day, was fun.

The rides were the most popular for one and all. The Cyclone and its successor, the Comet, the Wild Mouse, the wooden Big Roller Coaster and the venerable merry-go-round are just a few of the many midway attractions.

Two attractions that were popular with the younger crowd were the Magic Carpet and the Laugh in the Dark. By today’s standards, most kids would not be as surprised and/or frightened by the experiences these attractions offered. But in those days, our innocence allowed us to anticipate the unexpected as we walked through the “Carpet” or entered into the mystery of the “Dark.” You entered the “Carpet,” walking on those sloping floors and past the mirrors that distorted your figure. The next stunt was operated by some guy, perched in an unseen spot, blowing strong streams of air causing the ladies to have their skirts blown to an embarrassing level around their heads. To complete this ride, you sat on a bench made of rubberized rollers that suddenly collapsed and landed you on the red carpet carrying you, laughing all the way, to the exit. Due to insurance reasons, this portion of the ride was discontinued and its name was changed to the “Magic Palace.”

The “Laugh in the Dark” was intended to frighten you with deadly creatures, bats, spider webs and pop-up monsters with loud noises in a dark setting while you were being jerked around on a rail mounted cart.

The strongest attention getter, however, was the outside façade where a large figure of a woman jiggled about, laughing at us entering the ride. Her laugh was so infectious that you could not help starting to laugh yourself!

(Terry Hughes is a Wellander who is passionate about heritage, history and model railroading.)

Next time: Summertime Fun at the Cross St. Pool

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One thought on “HERITAGE LIVES: Remembering Atlas Picnics

  1. Frank Hracs

    Ours was the Page Hersey picnic to Crystal Beach. It all seemed so vast then. I live a few miles from Canada’s wonderland north of Toronto which no doubt hastened the demise of CB. Ironically, our neighbours have a unit at Sherkston Shores. I bought a piece of art some 20 yrs ago featuring CB by a Port Colborne artist Mary Pritti. I keep meaning to frame it but as time goes on it only has meaning to me, as in I am sure the kids will chuck it one day. I look forward to the Cross St pool comment ahead as I worked there in the late 60s as a maintenance man.

    Reply

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