The Winter of Our Discontent: Bye Bye Miss Palisades Amusement Park

It's time to say goodbye to our exhibit at the Fort Lee Museum; "Greetings From Palisades Amusement Park - Our Last Summer in the Sun" exhibit closes Jan. 29.

Previous archive pieces noted that in 2011 we would celebrate, if that’s the right word, the 40th anniversary of the closing of Palisades Amusement Park. We did just that on September 12, 2011, the exact date it closed 40 years prior in 1971. 

We had an Irish wake for the park that night at the , and lots of stories and memories were shared with people who worked and played at the park in our own backyard.

Now it's time to say goodbye to our exhibit at the Fort Lee Museum, Greetings From Palisades Amusement Park - Our Last Summer in the Sun. The exhibit commemorated the 40th anniversary of the closing of our park. For those of you who haven’t yet seen it or would like to see it once again before it closes, come by the Fort Lee Museum at 1588 Palisade Avenue on weekends from Noon to 4 p.m. or Wednesday nights from 7 to 9 p.m. 

The exhibit runs through Jan. 29, and then it is no more. 

Members of the Fort Lee Historical Society will bring all those memories back upstairs to our archive. This has been without a doubt the most extensive exhibit dedicated to Palisades Amusement Park since the inception of the Fort Lee Museum in 1999.

We thank all those good folks who worked and played at the park for sharing their memories with us and also donating many important pieces of the park to our museum archive. We also thank Mr. Palisades Amusement Park himself, Vince Gargiulo, for loaning us so many items from his collection. Without the work of Vince, we would not have been able to mount this  fantastic exhibit.

The final season of the park was 1971. How ironic that a haunting classic rock tune was born that same year as our park was about to die, "American Pie" by Don McLean. McLean sings about the day the music died, but we can also interpret it in our own way as the day our park died because for many of us, the music in our souls did in a way die the day Palisades Amusement Park closed.

The final death knell for our park was in February 1972. The world famous wooden Cyclone rollercoaster  was demolished on Feb. 4, 1972. As a newsboy for The Record, I viewed the wreckage of the coaster as the story was covered in the next day’s paper. As a kid, I felt for the first time a sense of loss and nostalgia that is still with me today when I think of the park.  

To change the lyric of Don McLean’s classic just a bit, that February made me shiver with every paper I delivered, bad news on the doorstep, I couldn’t take one more step, and I know I cried when I read about the day Palisades Amusement Park died.

The responded to the last great fire at the park eight days later and the fire was a five-alarmer. The fire destroyed the wood frame bathhouse and the Circus Restaurant. We were off from school for winter break, and my mom drove a bunch of my friends and me down to Edgewater to look up at the flames and smoke that rose from the park, much like a Viking funeral.

For many of us, the park was like a family member, and we mourned when it died so many years ago. But we have the memories—a century’s worth—and the joy and happiness Palisades Amusement Park brought to Fort Lee will never fade as long as we are here to tell the story of that place and that time that shines bright in our hearts.

Tom January 08, 2012 at 12:16 PM
Tom, that was a very interesting and refreshing to hear. Your story stirred my own memories of Palisades Amusement Park. First as a kid working there until I was old enough to get a more paying job. My summers were filled with working or just hanging out in the Park which was a wonderful place just to enjoy the sounds and sights the Park had to offer. I worked at a number of places, Kiddieland, Harry's hamburger, guess your age and weight. At night we used to ride the Giant Coaster. I can still smell those french fries with vinegar.
William Mays January 08, 2012 at 06:36 PM
I'm sad that I missed it, I was born a few years after it closed.
Tom Meyers January 08, 2012 at 09:25 PM
Glad to bring back those great memories Tom - Billy - get to the Fort Lee Musuem before January 29th to see this exhibit if you haven't seen it yet because you will get as claose as you can to the old park by taking in this wonderful exhibit - museum hours noon - 4 weekends and 709pm Wedfnesdays or come on by this Tuesday from 7-8 as we have our monthly Historical Society meeting and the museum is open and the public welcome.
William Mays January 09, 2012 at 01:26 AM
I'll go next weekend.
Gary Zembow March 03, 2012 at 05:39 PM
I lived in Fort Lee and Cliffside Park from 1961 to 1966 (aged 4 to 9) and I can remember so many things about PAP. The most important was lucky to be tall for my age and passing that height line to be able to go on the scarier rides. Sorry I missed the exhibit.


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