Monday, March 26, 2012
Talking with Joanna, a friend at work. She mentioned she once lived in the south end of New Bedford Mass, the city where I grew up. I asked her where, she said East Rodney French Boulevard, across from the beach, facing the Butler's Flats Lighthouse. As I pictured the location it reminded me of the 1954 hurricaine which caused major damage to the coast. With that thought came an image of a seaside restarant, Dan's Pavillion smashed and tilted onto the beach. This reminded me that, as a child of 4 or five years old my parents had stopped at a dilapidated amusement park across the road and bought tickets for my brother and me to go on the two functioning rides remaining, a merry-go-round and a ride with rusty antique looking cars. I tried to remember the name of the park, but couldn't dredge it up. I told Joanna about it but she said she had never heard of its existance.
There is an online slide show of old photographs posted by "Spinner Magazine"
The park began as a Trolley Park, built at the end of the line to entice people to ride the trolley on the weekends. The tracks extended from Clark's Point at the far south end of NB toward the city of Fall River, and midway between the two cities was another amusement park, Lincoln Park. Now in ruins, it was active all through my childhood and dating years. Acushnet Park, was built near the end of Clark's Point. A local history site says it opened about 1916. Back then the point was rural. At its tip was Fort Taber, a Civil War fort, still in use then by the Army, and the city Poor Farm (the former pest house, where people with contagious illness were confined.) The park was popular and added new attractions through the years. The restaurant I remember as Dan's Pavillion was built as the park's Shore Dinner Hall. There was a dance hall, roller rink, game booths, and several rides. It was heavily damaged in the terrible 1938 hurricaine but rebuilt. The 1954 hurricaine finally destroyed it. Into the mid 1960's the crumbling frame of the huge old roller coaster still stood, stretching across the entire point from beach to beach. The land was sold for development, and its 20 acres are now filled with streets of modest ranch houses, whose residents are probably unaware of the history of the place they live.