AN EMPLOYEE’S PICNIC MEMORIES
Reprint of an article that appeared in The Arch, Euclid Beach Park Now’s quarterly newsletter: Volume 20, Issue 4, Summer 2008. Authored by: Jim Wise, former Euclid Beach Park employee and a member of Euclid Beach Park Now.
It has now been forty years since Euclid Beach Park closed its gates for the very last season. During this time, many of us have reflected upon and told stories of our memorable experiences at that great Cleveland landmark. For many of us, out visits to Euclid Beach may have been the annual school or community picnic, a parent’s company picnic, or maybe the annual picnic of a social, ethnic of fraternal group of which we were a part. Picnics were the life blood for most amusement parks.
As a twelve year (57-69) seasonal employee at Euclid Beach, I got to observe and experience many of these annual picnics. Those of us who worked at the park for several seasons could look at the picnic schedule and know what the work day was going to be like because these picnics had their own unique characteristics.
Let me share some of these experiences and perhaps they will spark some fond memories of yours: The school/community picnics were usually scheduled in late May and most of June. Communities from all over greater Cleveland had their day. In the afternoon, the park would be filled with excited, exuberant school aged children running from ride to ride.
Adults were in the minority as many children took public transportation to get there and safety in those days wasn’t a big issue. (For me as a kid in the early 1950’s it was Euclid Day.) I remember that local merchants would hand out strips of special tickets (provided by the Humphrey Co.) to their customers. Each strip contained tickets for some free rides such as the Dippy Whip, Rocket Ships, Aero Dips, Racing Derby, Racing Coaster, Carrousel and the Auto Train. The rest of the strip would contain coupons good toward a one or two ticket reduction on the rest of the park’s rides. Ride prices at that time were two park tickets (10 cents) to five tickets (25 cents). Most local merchants were generous when giving out those special Euclid Beach strips tickets. As a result, most kids arrived at the park with more special tickets than they could possibly use. By night-fall, they would be throwing their unused free tickets like confetti from the Rocket Ships or roof top turn of the Racing Coaster. (By the mid to late 60’s a badge offering a similar price break replaced the need for the long strips of tickets.)
The big company picnics that were scheduled for the Saturdays and Sundays of late June, July and August, these weekends were prime dates and these were huge events. That meant running at full capacity- -the Thriller with three trains running could average 800 rides per hour. The Dodgem (the largest in the United States at the time) could average 100 riders per ride. The Racing Coaster had a capacity of 72 passengers per ride. With two sets of trains running, we could nearly double that number. The Racing Derby had a capacity of 128 passengers per trip, while the Laff-in-the-Dark run had a capacity of 360 passengers per hour. Until Cedar Point began its great revival in the 1960’s there was not an amusement park in the region with the ride capacity of Euclid Beach Park.
As a result, Cleveland’s biggest companies booked their picnics at Euclid Beach: Addressograph – Multigraph, Cleveland Graphite, Richmond (sic) Brothers, Sohio, Thompson Products, the White Motor Co. and the Willard Battery Co. just to name a few. These names, too, are now just Cleveland memories.
Some of these companies, such as Cleveland Twist Drill, held their annual picnics at Euclid Beach for four decades.
Richmond (sic) Brothers had one of the most elaborate picnics complete with a Beauty Contest held on the stage in the Dance Pavilion. Jane Kramer, one of the park cashiers, told me how Mr. Richmond (sic) himself (Jane had worked at Richmond (sic) Brothers and knew him) came through the park on year placing (hiding) envelopes containing certificates for “Door Prizes” through-out the park – a scavenger hunt of sorts. He approached her ticket window. He said it would be found by a child looking up and seeing the underside of the shelf.
Goodyear Tire and Rubber picnic in August was another unique picnic complete with marching bands, and clowns parading through the park. Yellow flags with the Goodyear logo were flying throughout the park. For Goodyear, the park opened on a Monday (normally closed) and we added three hours to the day by opening at 10 in the morning, This early opening helped Goodyear employees who came up to Cleveland from Akron by car or by train as had B. F. Goodrich and Firestone Tire & Rubber in previous years.
Another picnic fondly remembered by many of the park employees was the annual (since 1905) Orphan Day Picnic. As with Goodyear, the park opened at 10 in the morning. All rides were free from 10 a.m. to 4 in the afternoon- -a donation of the Humphrey family. We employees donated the first three hours of our time and the Cleveland AAA who sponsored the event provided free box lunches for everyone including the park employees. All rides would shut down about 11:30 and remain closed for about 35 minutes during this lunch break. Then all rides would shut down, again, at 4:00 for 10 minutes. During this time, the Sisters from the Parmadale Children’s Home would walk through the park ringing a brass school bell and gathering up the children. At about 4:10 park would then reopen for business as usual.
Throughout the season, there were numerous Masonic Lodge picnics – Al Koran Temple, Al Sirat Grotto, Shriners, Order of the Eastern Star, DeMolay, Rainbow Girls just to name a few. These picnics always struck me as being a bit more refined and reserved, a very easy group to work with. I think a favorite for us ride operators (all male in those days) was the Rainbow Girls. The park was filled with pretty, young ladies and we younger guys were internally motivated to be helpful and try to make a good impression. It was never hard to find guys willing to work overtime that day!
The ethnic and nationality picnics like the Irish, Italians, Polish, Scottish, Slovenians, and the Welsh all had their day. Ethnic costumes would be worn, dances performed, and Scots, dressed in kilts playing bagpipes, would parade through the park. This all added interest and variety to our work-week and made Euclid Beach such an enjoyable place to work. For this reason, many of us seasonal workers returned year after year.
Probably the grandest day of the year was the 4thof July. The rides were decorated with American flags and by 2:00, the crowds were big enough that we would by running at full capacity. For me working on the Over the Falls, that meant running nine boats for the rest of the day and looking toward 5200 riders for the day. As a school teacher I looked forward to my summer job at Euclid Beach.
My buddies on the Racing Coaster (I also worked the Racing Coaster) would be running two sets of trains and striving to reach a count of 13,000 to 14,00 riders for the day. But we could never catch out neighbor to the east, the Thriller. With three trains running all day, they could serve 17,000 riders. (Turn-stile readings were taken each morning and we knew the count for our rides.) Most of us longtime employees really took pride in those record or near record numbers. This pride in “moving as many people as possible” was found throughout the park. This was especially true on the 4thof July. All rides were at the regular price- -no free rides, no discounts. Ticket sales for the day (barring bad weather) would be the highest for the season.
When the day turned to evening, the crowds grew even larger as people gathered for the 10:30 Fireworks display. This 1st Class, 20 minute fireworks show took place down on the beach. People would be seated on the beach (which extended from 156 St. to 169 St.) and standing along the promenade (the walkway above the beach). If conditions were right the lake would be dotted with boats as families watched the fireworks from there. The multi-stage rockets were fired from the end of the pier. The ground displays such as the pin wheels, Niagara Falls, the American flag, and others lined the pier. As each was fired of its framework would be toppled so the next display would be ready to view. Finally the Grand Finale. What a great display! At this point the park was filled with people eager to catch a few more rides before heading home. The park would close at midnight. One year, there were still so many people in the park when it closed at midnight that it took me until ager one in the morning to get out of the parking lot.
Wow! What a day. What memories, What a Park.
THE ARCH Editor: John Marn
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AN EMPLOYEE'S PICNIC MEMORIES
Appendix D in the book, Euclid Beach Park is closed for the season lists 244 "Annual Picnics and Outings" held at Euclid Beach Park. "A representative list, not complete."
Jim Wise, a former Euclid Beach Park employee and a member of Euclid Beach Park Now shares his memories of some of the annual picnics in this article.
This article appeared in The Arch, Euclid Beach Park Now's Quarterly Newsletter Volume 20, Issue 4, Summer 2009