Even though Revere Beach wasn’t a self contained park, and there were quite a few roller coasters situated up and down Revere Beach Boulevard, it was an amusement area, and there was no paucity of familiar and unfamiliar ride options vying for the patrons coins. No great amusement park is complete without a carousel, and here is a prime example. This ride, while called just Merry Go Round on the card, was actually Hurley’s Hurdlers. The Hurley family owned many amusements along the beach from the early days until the bitter end in the late 1960′s. This carousel may seem familiar to some, as it was purchased and moved to Cedar Point Amusement Park in Sandusky, Ohio, in 1946.
I can find no exact information on what this next ride, The Whirlpool, did, but it seems like some sort of motorized bumper car ride. The cars are obviously built for collisions! Did the cars move randomly on their own power? Were they steered by the riders at all? Did the floor move to allow for movement of the cars? So many questions.
Next are two views of another popular ride of the time called The Virginia Reel. Though one prominent online roller coaster resource considers the Virginia Reel a roller coaster, I’m not sure I do. It does have a lift hill, where a wooden tub on wheels is pulled by a chain up to the top of the ride. Note the somewhat evil looking smiling faces on the front of the ride where the cars enter the tunnels. They are very evocative of Tilly, the smiling face used to advertise amusement parks in both New Jersey, and Coney Island.
After the car is released on top, it makes it’s way downwards through switchbacks, all the time spinning. Sometimes gently, sometimes wildly depending on the weight distribution in the car. Towards the end, the switchbacks become swooping downward turns that end in a series of tunnels as you make your way back to the loading platform. Revere Beach had two reels, as a second was built after the fiery demise of the first. It thrilled riders until the mid sixties, before succumbing to fire itself. Is it a roller coaster? I guess you can make the argument that it is, especially if you consider modern spinning mad mouse type coasters, but I still don’t consider it a roller coaster.
In my estimation, no classic amusement park is complete without a fun house. Unfortunately, the walk through fun house , with it’s moving staircases, rolling barrels, drop seats, and other attractions are sadly a thing of the past. Now, one has to be content with the dark ride, another great attraction, but nothing like the walk through funhouse. Another common theme was to have a figural frontage for the ride. This 1940’s era linen card shows the amazing facade of the Bluebeard’s Castle walk through funhouse.
Amusement ride owners were too smart to let any amount of spare room go unused. Here is a card of Neptune’s Frolic, a dark ride located underneath the Virginia Reel. You can see the faux stalactites lining the ceiling of the ride’s loading platform. Theming the area to make it more attractive and enticing is not a new phenomenon. It was actually more important at the time this ride existed as patrons paid for each ride they took. You had to look/be spectacular to separate the patron from their cash, and to stand out from the other attractions.
This next card is an advertising card, and it is one of my favorites. Why the devil don’t you come and see me? The devil in fact was an attraction in the Darkness and Dawn attraction. By the ingenious use of still photos, flashing lights, smoke and mirrors effects and darkness, riders were transported to hell to witness what would be in store for them should they take the path of sin. According to one reference I have, riders entered the attraction and first entered the Cabaret Du Mort where refreshments were served. Next they took elevators to the depths of Hades, and were accosted by demons, and visions of hell, before riding a boat across the river Styx to meet the Devil himself! My only wish is that there would be no ink bleed on this great image, but I’ve never found another copy to upgrade to.
In talking to some folks in their 20’s recently I discovered that many of them had never heard of The Round-Up, a popular ride throughout the early 80’s, but most prevalent in the 60’s and 70’s. Much like the smaller vertical Rotor rides, this starts at parallel to the ground, but tilts up to almost 90 degrees before releasing you from it’s grip. The type of thing I could barely ever ride in my youth, forget about now.
This next chrome card shows the famous Hot Rod Cars at Hurley’s Kiddie Park. We’ve all ridden those cars on track that can only go side to side a few inches, so how much fun must these have been, with the wide open track, and multiple cars? Also note the Ferris Wheel in back, and Bump A Cars on right.
This next card is one of three I have on the particular subject of Diving Horse shows. This card shows either King or Queen diving from the raised platform into a pool from the Revere Beach Carnival of 1906. This was a popular attraction at the turn of the century. I have separate cards for both King and Queen as well. Since this was right on the beach apparently, I’m not 100% sure how a fee was collected from the abundant crowd. I do know that this is a fairly common card, so perhaps they survived on postcard sales.
Though there were many amusements on Revere Beach, it is important to remember it’s history as the first public beach in America. Incorporated as a public beach in 1895, Revere Beach is a crescent shaped beach nearly three miles long. At first the beach was used for walking and entertainment, as public bathing didn’t come into vogue until after the turn of the 20th century.
While there are many views of the beach and bathers from the early days through the 1960’s available, my favorites are the older views depicting the changing of beach wear, especially women’s beach wear. As mores and attitudes towards the public exhibition of one’s body changed over time, bathing suits became more and more revealing. One example is this hilarious view showing, as it states on the card, “One of the Beef Trust”, showing a somewhat manly looking young lass in her one piece bathing dress enjoying the cool Atlantic waters.
Making fun of women’s weight is not a modern phenomena, unfortunately, as this card showing a rather rotund woman in a full length bathing outfit attests. I have seen this same card used for several different beaches, only the name of the beach on the top of the card changes from place to place. Given her getup, one could see that this particular woman would never worry about getting a sunburn. She would, however need a dip in the ocean to cool off, since bathing suits of this vintage were often made from wool!
This next view shows several comely lasses frolicking on the beach. Though this card is from the 1920’s, it’s obvious that the standards of what was acceptable beach wear had changed to allow shorter bathing suits with bare arms. I do like how the woman on the right has scandalously abandoned her hat, unlike the other ladies. Even in their enlightened day, these young women would be appalled to see the mini bikinis, thongs, and other revealing bathing suits of the modern age. I also love the comment printed on the card about skimming cash from the out of town visitors, a common theme on turn of the century beachfront postcards from all over the world.
This last bathing card is my favorite one, because it perfectly illustrates the difference in morals from the time this card was posted in 1916 until today. It shows a police officer (or some other civil servant) actually measuring the length of the young ladies bathing outfit to ensure that it was long enough to comply with local obscenity laws. As the card states, this young woman’s suit was “Within The Law”.
The final card from Revere Beach is another of my favorites. It echoes a common theme in cards from the turn of the century. This card was posted in 1909, and it shows “Revere Beach In The Future”. As almost every forward looking card from this period, it shows personal flying machines, but since it was sent only 6 years after the Wright Brothers flight, it doesn’t show a plane or flying car, but rather a personal blimp. There are also two hot air balloons and another, larger dirigible. I also love the elevated subway train hanging below the tracks, the trolley car (which was contemporary to the time), and the automobile which looks exactly like cars did then. I also find it funny that the artist was forward thinking enough to include flying machines, but not enough to show fashion changing at all in the foreseeable future.
This concludes the four part series on Revere Beach, Massachusetts. Next time, I will return to presenting ten cards from different parks, and two sideshow performer cards. I hope that I’ve given you an adequate overview of the beauty and majesty of Revere Beach, MA what was known at the time as the Coney Island of New England, and the first public beach in America.