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Crystal Beach Gone But Not Forgotten

Just one of the many stories from the book “Crystal Beach:The Good Old Days” by Erno Rossi

My memories of Crystal Beach Amusement Park can best be described as bittersweet. That which gives the most joy may also give the most sorrow. This was the case of my family’s relationship with the Park. Our story spans most of the 20th century.

I was born in 1926 in Crystal Beach just after the completion of the famous Crystal Ballroom and the infamous Cyclone roller coaster. My American mother Helen and Canadian father Charles had a home within walking distance of the Park. Here they raised sister Ruth, brother Fred and me.

Growing up in Crystal Beach during the first half of century could be compared to a vacation in Disney World for three months of the year. Excitement filled the air. From 11 a.m. until midnight, the clang of the riders, the screams of the riders and the shriek from the whistle of the S.S. Canadiana echoed throughout the village.

For the handful of permanent residents of the Village of Crystal Beach, the Amusement Park was a great source of summer employment. For our family, the Park was a great source of summer employment. For our family, the Park was our only means of support. My family trained under his father and grandfather and was in charge of all the painting and decoration for the entire park. His office was in the basement of the ballroom and served as his laboratory for creating the multitude of colors that adorned every structure in the midway. Pre-mixed paints were not available at that time. The cars for the rides were painted during the fall and winter in the ballroom. All 20,000 square feet of that beautiful dance floor had to be covered with canvas tarps before the painting began.

My family’s link to the Park was unique because all five of us worked there in one capacity or another. My brother Fred worked at the three main attractions in the Park, the sand beach, the Crystal Ballroom and the S.S. Canadiana. he started his day at 5 a.m. with a pick and rake cleaning the bathing beach. From there he moved to the dance hall to clean, wax and polish the exquisite floor. At 11 a.m. and every two hours there after, he acted as a linesman for the mooring of the Canadiana. In the evenings, except on Sunday, he acted as an usher and ticket-taker in the dance hall. All this in one day!

In the 1930’s, my sister Ruth sold Park tickets locked inside one of the distinctive booths. In the 1940’s I got the higher status job of selling tickets inside the dace hall. Tickets were 10 cents each or 3 for 25 cents and were dispensed automatically by a push button – if you knew how to load the machine. While earning money I enjoyed the big band music of Bert Niosi, Harold Austin and Maynard Ferguson, the succession of local bands who played nightly.

After my father’s death in 1952, my mother sold tickets for many years. She loved to talk about the variety of incidents she witnessed every day. She helped many families find lost children and became an information center for the Park as she sidestepped male admirers.

Those of us who lived in Crystal Beach during the first half of the 20th century were the privileged people. We experienced the golden years of the Park’s history. Plus, American summer visitors and Canadian permanent residents became life long friends. Time cannot erase the sound of the bog band music. Nothing can dull the thrill of the Cycolne, the Comet, the Caterpillar, the Tumblebug, the Ferris Wheel, the Wild Mouse or the surprises of the Fun House, the Laff in the Dark and the Magic Carpet. We will never forget swimming in the crystal clear waters of Lake Erie and tanning our bodies on the best sand beaches in Canada. Plus, it was sheer heaven aboard the Crystal Beach Boat as it sailed to exciting ports.

How ironic that these wonderful memories ended in tragedy for me in 1966. At the end of a family outing, my seven-year-old daughter wanted just one more ride with her cousin as they were leaving the Park. The Airborne was a new ride, not properly tested for children and was the scene of this tragedy. She was thrown from the bottom of a “car” from a height of forty feet. She suffered life threatening injuries, brain damage and total amnesia. Those doctors along with much prayer saved her life. It was the most serious accident in Park history other than the deaths that occurred on the Cyclone and Backety Back roller coasters. None of our family visited the Park for the next twenty years.

When the Park closed in 1989, we were left with bittersweet memories.

~ Story by Janet Truckenbrodt

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