Saturday, January 20, 2007

A Saturday Night Date

It’s Saturday night in old Belleville, April 29, 1925. You are a hard-working young fellow who just got paid. Your pocket is full of money, maybe as much as $10.00 if you have a really good job. You have a date with one of the cutest girls in town and you want to make a good impression on her. You pick her up at her house and help her into your Model-T roadster then head over to the malt shop where you treat her to an ice cream sundae, an extravagant expenditure that will cost you 25¢ each. While there, you convince her that it’s a great night to go to the Alpha Theater on Washington Avenue near Williams Street. A lot of your friends will be there, it’s a popular place. There is a great movie playing called “Romance and Rustlers” with none other than World Champion cowboy Yakima Canutt in the starring role.

The movie sounds pretty exciting. “Bud Kane, a young cowboy, saves his employer's daughter, Ruth Larrabee from a bolting horse. The two fall in love, and Ruth is heartbroken when Bud's hat band is found near the hideout of a gang of rustlers. Assumed to be a member of the gang, Bud is ordered off the spread by his boss. In an attempt to catch the real rustler, Bud is picked up by ranch foreman and held prisoner until the arrival of the sheriff. Ruth, meanwhile, has discovered that the foreman is actually the real gang leader. Confronted with the truth, the foreman attempts an escape, but the freed Bud catches up with him, and the crooked foreman is handed over to the sheriff. “ ... Wow, sensational !

There will also be several on-stage vaudeville acts, usually consisting of a stand-up comic, a song-and-dance routine, perhaps a dramatic performance or maybe a musician or perhaps even a hypnotist to mystify the ladies. Admission will be 10¢ each and worth it because it will please your date.

Afterwards, a quiet dinner for two at one of the local restaurants, there’s a nice one at the corner of Main and Rutgers right across from the Dutch church. A three course meal will cost you around a dollar apiece which is not so bad as it will give you some time to talk about the movie, laugh again at the comic’s jokes and re-hash the gossip you heard from the friends you met at the Alpha.

By now it is getting close to your date’s curfew hour but you figure that your speedy roadster, at a racy 25 miles per hour, will get you up to Riviera Park at the north end of town in time for a couple of dances in the ballroom, maybe a ride on the carousel and a soda before you take her home. It was an expensive night. When you add in 10¢ each for the park admission, another 10¢ each for the carousel and 30¢ for two sodas plus 10¢ a gallon for gas for your roadster, you probably spent $3.50 on the evening. But, it’s o.k. because she thinks you’re as rich as Rockefeller and she let you kiss her good-night. Hey, you can always earn another $10.00 next week.


Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Lost In The Woods

Here is an interesting article I found in a sixty-eight year old newspaper about a young child who had become lost in the “woods” in the derelict remains of old Hillside Pleasure Park. The amusement park, one of the largest to have ever been built in New Jersey, had closed in 1927. By 1939 most traces of it were raised leaving only untended undergrowth on the site; the “woods”. In this article the reporter appears to be magnifying a minor incident into a great adventure, never-the-less, what we see is that feelings of nostalgia and fond memories of the old park were not far below the surface of the public’s collective memory.

Dateline - Thursday, September 21, 1939


Once Was The Time Hillside Park Caused Chills

It has been years since Riviera Park held any terror for most folks who are willing to say they remember that far back to the days when it was old Hillside Park.
In those halcyon days of yore the Indians and cowboys and girls engaged in some hectic battles while a stage coach robbery helped add the thrills that made the youngsters’ hair stand on end. There was a nickelodeon “way out west in Belleville” and canoes on the “lake,” with wild animals in cages up in the woods. There the balloon tugged at it’s ropes eager to be aloft with its daredevil parachute jumpers, as a climax to the show.
And, shucks, come to think of it, boys were scared as youngsters in “them thar hills” as they shinnied over the fences into the woods.
All this came back this morning as a reporter glanced over the police blotter to see how the bluecoats had been earning their pay during the week.
Here is what appeared: “Mrs. O’Brian, 143 Linden Avenue, reported her three-year-old daughter, Patricia, lost in the woods in Riviera Park. She was found in Bremond Street.”
Golly, they were hair raising days when the lads jumped over the fence, and they, too, got lost in the woods --- real woods, then.