Racism, Riots, and Euclid Beach Park

Urban theme parks were often shuttered in part due to racist discrimination. This episode of The Abandoned Carousel talks about a broad overview of recreation riots and urban theme park closure, focusing on Euclid Beach Park in Cleveland OH as an example.

Originally, this episode was going to be an easing back into The Abandoned Carousel after an extended period of time off to attend to family matters during the covid19 quarantine. 

However, I’m sure you can see the state of the world around you. As I was researching my proposed next topic, a group of rides which moved together through three different theme parks, all now defunct, I couldn’t get past the reasons for the downfall of the original park. And of course, it’s July of 2020 – the world is awash in pandemic, police brutality, black lives matter, and the desperate need for people to confront their inner biases.

So instead of doing a light-hearted chat, I’m going to talk about some reading I’ve been doing to educate myself. What I’ve learned is a lot about how racism is responsible for quite a few of the urban theme park closures that occurred in the 1960s and 1970s. My episode today will draw heavily from the excellent book “Racism, Riots, and Roller Coasters” by Victoria Wolcott. This book can be found for free online through Project Muse at Johns Hopkins University: https://muse.jhu.edu/book/17151 

I am still learning. So let’s learn together about this topic. It might be uncomfortable and that’s okay. And I will probably make some mistakes and that’s okay too.

In the past on this show, I’m sure I’ve mentioned how a number of parks seemed to close in the late 60s and early 70s. Well, the unspoken reason, in many cases, was: because racism. I’m going to talk about this in the context of one park in particular, but racism was a factor in the decline and closure of many urban theme parks. 

A Brief Discussion of Civil Rights

We begin towards the beginning.

Early amusement parks at the turn of the century were often trumpeted by owners as being spaces for cleanliness and order, but they accomplished this by putting in place the exclusion of Blacks. 

It’s perhaps a thesis-level work to try and condense this into a small format. However, we do need to have a few landmarks. You may or may not remember landmark cases from your US history class. Here’s a few relevant points:

  • America was built on racialized slavery, from the very beginning. For more than you learned in school and less than you should know, please listen to or read the Pulitzer-prize winning 1619 Project
  • Slavery was abolished by the 13th Amendment, just after the Civil War, in 1865. This was only 155 years ago. (To really place this in context for the podcast, Charles Looff’s first carousel was built only 11 years later, in 1876, and his contemporary Charles Dare built a carousel around the same time that still operates to this day.)
  • The Civil Rights Act of 1875 was a federal law calling for equal rights for all people, particularly access to accommodations, transportation, and theaters, regardless of race. 
  • A group of Supreme Court cases collectively called Civil Rights Cases of 1883 dismantled the 1875 act, ruling that Congress could not outlaw racial discrimination by private individuals. 
  • As a result, Southern states began passing laws now called Jim Crow laws, codifying racial discrimination in public amenities.
  • 1896 saw a landmark Supreme Court case, legally establishing the principle of “separate but equal” in Plessy v. Ferguson. This applied to all public facilities.
  • As a result, individual states passed civil rights laws to ban racial discrimination in these public amusements and amenities. In the South, Jim Crow laws remained in place.
  • 1954 saw the desegregation of education (Brown v Board of Education).
  • 1964 and 1965 saw the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which broadly outlawed discrimination based on “color, religion, sex, or national origin”. 
  • Despite this, today in 2020, racial discrimination is still rampant in hiring practices, housing, healthcare, and police brutality, among every other aspect of life. 

Given this context, let’s focus on one urban amusement park in particular as we move to look at how racial discrimination affected urban amusements over the last century.  

Euclid Beach Park in Cleveland, OH

Our park is Euclid Beach Park, located on the shores of Lake Erie, in the Cleveland, OH area. Euclid Beach Park opened its doors for the first time in 1895. A group of businessmen wanted to capitalize on the booming popularity of Coney Island, so they purchased land outside of Cleveland, OH and opened an amusement park.

In the late 1800s, amusement parks and carnival midways were still often seen as hotbeds of sin and salaciousness, crime and immorality. The sexes were allowed to freely intermingle, to experience freedom from crowded housing conditions in devastating summer heat, and they were a place for the working class to experience leisure activities for the first time. 

For Black people, it appears Cleveland was a good place to be, socially and economically, for most of the 19th century. By this, the subtext is: it was better here than most places, but probably still not as good as it should have been. Cleveland was a center for abolitionism prior to the Civil War, and local Black leaders in the community fought for integration rather than segregated, separate Black institutions. 

To really put a pin in it: slavery was abolished by the 13th Amendment, just after the Civil War, in 1865. This was only 155 years ago. (As I stated earlier, there are carousels contemporaneous to the abolition of slavery that still operate today in 2020.) On the surface of glossy history textbooks, things seemed to go swimmingly. The Civil Rights Act of 1875 was a federal law calling for equal rights for all people, particularly access to accommodations, transportation, and theaters, regardless of race. We of course all should know the undercurrents yet to come.

Euclid Beach Park: the Early Years

In its initial years of operation, managers William R. Ryan and Lee Holtzman modeled Euclid Beach after the best in the business at the time. The beach was obviously a large draw, along with other typical period amusements: vaudeville, sideshows, concerts, gambling, beer. High walls surrounded the property, blocking views of the rowdiness, and an entrance fee was charged. There were even some rides, like one of LaMarcus A. Thompson’s groundbreaking Switchback Railways (the tldr version – he’s called the Father of the American Rollercoaster, and Euclid Beach Park’s Switchback Railway was the sixth of his design ever). 

Unfortunately, despite the draws of the opposite sex, pleasures, and beer, the park didn’t do well in those early years – it was seen as a skeevy, sleezy place to be. And the city, formerly seen as well-integrated for most of the 19th century, had become more segregated. The Civil Rights Cases of 1883, ruling that Congress could not outlaw against discrimination by private individuals, and the 1896 Supreme Court Plessy v. Ferguson, meant that separate but equal was now legal, heralded from the highest court in the land. This applied to all facilities open to the public, including Euclid Beach Park, and meant that individual businesses could chose to exercise racial discrimination.  

It’s said that the earliest discrimination suits at Euclid Beach Park can be traced back to around this time. 

By late 1899, Euclid Beach Park had been open for a handful of years, but was reported in the newspapers as a failure, said to be losing over $20,000 a season (over half a million dollars a season in 2020 money). Investors were facing the loss of over half their investment funds if they sold the land for development, but they saw no other choice. In 1901, they put the land up for sale.

Euclid Beach Park’s Glory Days

In 1896, a year after Euclid Beach Park opened, a man named Dudley S. Humphrey II opened a popcorn stand at Euclid Beach Park. He’d built a name and a living for himself, having been popping popcorn in the greater Cleveland area since 1891, having patented a type of popcorn popper which seasoned the popcorn as it was popped (this sentence is a tongue twister). For three years, he and his family operated a stand at Euclid Beach Park, popping corn amidst the drunkenness and debauchery of the early park. In 1899, however, he closed his stand, unhappy with the atmosphere and park management.

However, in 1901, when the park went up for sale, Humphrey and six other members of his family got the funds together and purchased the park. They had in mind a new direction.

Immediately, changes were made. Gone were the high walls, gone was the admission fee. Money was charged at the attractions, with the goal of allowing anyone who wanted to visit the park, free of charge. 

Gone too was the rowdy behaviour. Humphrey wanted a family-friendly park and a family-friendly atmosphere. Gone was the beer garden, and patrons were strictly prohibited from entering the park if they consumed any alcohol, as well. Bathing garments had to be modest, and “definitely not gaudy in color”. 

This type of attitude was a contrast to the majority of amusement parks at the time, known for being rowdy, raucous places. But it was a strategy that worked for Humphrey. The slogan was “one fare, free gate and no beer”, since the average person only needed to pay a single streetcar fare to get to the park. 

It was a place suddenly very accessible to youths of all colors. Unfortunately, the park’s long history with banning Black admittance on certain days or on certain attractions is said to have begun around this time. This was done in direct violation of the standing 1894 Ohio state law barring discrimination in public facilites. 

The quote from the park’s leadership was that everything at Euclid Beach Park should be “of a highly moral and elevating character”. And as many sources describe, advertising for the park at one time included promises that Euclid Beach Park would “present nothing that would demoralize or depress,” and that visitors would “never be exposed to undesirable people”. Saying the quiet part out loud, the management, in a not uncommon opinion at the time, wanted to keep Black people out. 

Racial Discrimination in Theme Parks Before World War II

Commercial recreation (theme parks, swimming pools, etc; distinguished from non-commercial recreation such as public parks and picnic grounds) arose at the same time as the Jim Crow laws, which codified racial discrimination in public places both before and after the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson case. While the South saw “whites only” signs and policies quickly enacted, the Northern states, such as Ohio, were slower to enact any sweeping measure prior to World War II. However, there was little public taste for “mixing” in the shiny new arena of a theme park. 

Forrester B. Washington, a Black social worker and activist, is quoted as saying that the young Black migrants “found the wholesome agencies of recreation either closed or closing to him”. Between Northern states and Southern states, the difference was one of degree. While a Southern swimming pool might be whites only, exclusively, a swimming pool in the North might have Blacks allowed only on a single day, with a more subtle “Members Only” policy. 

Theme parks did the same thing. Wolcott’s book lists the policies off: Lakewood Park and Idora Park allowed Blacks in only at the beginning or end of the season – once a year. Bob-Lo Island in Detroit allowed Blacks every other week.

And by 1915, Euclid Beach Park followed suit, as did local competition Luna Park: Blacks were only admitted on certain days of the week, and were strictly prohibited from interacting with white people while they were at the park. On the other days, the park’s private police force ensured that no Black person was admitted. 

More to the point, it’s noted in Wolcott’s book that once admitted to the park, a Black patron was not allowed to enter the restaurants, the bathhouse, the dance hall, or the roller rink except in rare circumstances. Again, it was all about keeping that family-friendly image. Popular culture had wrongly painted Blacks as harbingers of disease and violence, so in the eyes of management, the park was perfectly justified in admitting only people who would uphold that “high moral character”. 

Again, this was a common tactic for many theme parks in the early 20th century: racial discrimination was their way of establishing their business as a safe space, a twisted marketing tactic. Over in nearby Cincinnatti’s Coney Island, and in Youngstown’s Idora Park, similar policies were in place. Blacks were admitted on very few days, and private park police were used to eject anyone management deemed inappropriate. And even on the days Idora Park was open to Blacks, days when the popular Homestead Grays Negro League baseball team played there, many of the park’s more popular attractions were inexplicably closed or under repairs.

Resistance to Recreational Discrimination

Justice John Marshall Harlan wrote the lone dissent in the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson case, apparently quite often quoted. In his opinion, segregation “can have no other result than to render permanent peace impossible, and to keep alive a conflict of races, the continuance of which must do harm to all concerned.”

Harlan’s view was that segregation caused violence, not that violence required segregation. Again and again throughout history, we have seen this born out. 

In the arena of public amusements, this violence was most often seen at the swimming pool. With women and children present, the specter of not only males and females gathered in less clothing than usual, but also miscegenation, interracial relations. It was seen as taboo and often illegal. With emotions of one sort already high, it’s unsurprising that emotions of another sort also exploded. 

The early 20th century is littered with violence and murder tied to racial discrimination at swimming pools and beaches. Spontaneous protests regularly arose in small groups, given the increasing segregation of public recreation. Public policy, especially in large urban cities like Chicago, was that racial segregation would lead to racial peace. However, this was not the case – from minor antagonism like angry words, to unsafe recreation conditions, to actual bloodshed, violence, and death – there was no peace.

Back to Euclid Beach Park

Back at Euclid Beach Park, similar policies were still in effect. The park banned Black schoolchildren from using the dance hall in the 1930s. After pushing from the NAACP, the Cleveland School Board resolved that no schools would visit the park until all children were “accorded the full and equal enjoyment of the accommodations”.

However, the private park police force and the constant threats of violence were wielded most commonly against Black patrons whose only “crime” was to attempt to enjoy the recreations. 

Rides of Euclid Beach Park

Here we’ll take a quick diversion, for what wonderful recreations they were. My original discussion about Euclid Beach Park, before I learned more about it, was going to be about the enduring rides, a group of which passed from Euclid Beach Park to Shady Lakes Park to Old Indiana Theme Park over several decades. There were some really fantastic rides. Groundbreaking coasters:  1913’s Derby Racer, aka Racing Coaster, a John Miller-designed moebius style coaster which gave the effect of  racing cars when multiple trains ran on the track. 1924’s Thriller coaster, at the time the tallest and fastest coaster in the world, designed by Philadelphia Toboggan Company and Herbert Paul Schmeck. (If you’re a long time The Abandoned Carousel listener/reader, you might remember him as the designer of Joyland’s iconic Roller Coaster, as well as Little Amerricka’s classic Meteor coaster.) 

Derby Racer Coaster at Euclid Beach Park, c 1915. Source: Braun Post Card Co., Cleveland, Ohio. Ryecatcher773 at en.wikipedia / Public domain.

1930 saw a unique one, the Flying Turns, a trackless coaster, more like a wooden bobsled course than a traditional “coaster”. Designed in partnership between (yet again) John Miller and British WWI ace John Norman Bartlett, Euclid Beach Park’s Flying Turns was the second ever built, and the tallest. Two-person sleds, designed to look like airplanes, were chained together in three-car trains, winched up to the top, and then let go, much like a waterless waterslide. There are some videos of this ride on YouTube, and it looks very fun indeed. In fact, the Flying Turns made it into a Beach Boys song. Euclid Beach Park is one out of five parks mentioned in Amusement Parks USA: “At Euclid Beach on the Flying Turns I’ll bet you can’t keep her smilin’” the lyrics go.

And of course, the carousels: 1904 saw the installation of Philadelphia Toboggan Company #9. This carousel was a work of art, a three-row menagerie with a magnificent lion, dancing horses, a giraffe with a snake draped around its neck, and my favorite, a proud golden retriever. In 1909, the original PTC carousel #9 was sold to Laurel Springs Amusement Park in Hartford, CT. The next year, 1910, PTC installed a new carousel at Euclid Beach Park: PTC #19, a 58 horse carousel with two chariots. The horses were replicas of famous horses ridden by characters such as Sitting Bull and Lady Godiva. Along with the carousel came an beautiful band organ from North Tonawanda Musical Instruments, all to the tune of $7,734. 

There were dozens of other popular rides and attractions. Things like the Rocket Ship stood out. Designed and built by the park’s welder, this classic swinging car ride was built with classic futuristic Buck Rogers-style lines. Riders boarded the cars at the platform, and were swung high enough to touch the trees when the ride was at its peak. The shiny silver steel cars were some of the park’s most memorable, even made into a two-rider Kiddie version at one point. Of course, the ride was the subject of urban legend. Rumors say that one car broke off its cables and landed in Lake Erie. (This is not physically possible and never happened. Rumors, however, persist.)

The iconic arched entryway was built in 1921. With stone pillars on either side of the roadway, beautifully styled letters spell out “Euclid Beach Park” to entice patrons in. 

Only the right kind of patrons, of course.

Racial Conflicts at Euclid Beach Park

As discussed, recreation riots were a huge part of the early 20th century. Constant activism began to pay dividends by the 1930s. Also in effect was the Great Depression – with nothing but time on their hands, there was plenty of additional time for leisure and protesting. 

(In a time before our modern era of June 2020, this fact was probably counterintuitive. Now, I think it is probably quite clear how even in lean financial times, a lack of work means time can be spent on recreational and leisure activities.)

Government-sanctioned segregation, including New Deal-era segregated housing and hundreds of segregated swimming pools, led to a rising tide of anger. Black youth continued to protest racist policies at local swimming pools across the United States. White people, in turn, fought the rightful access of Black people to recreational spaces, among others, at every turn. “Mild” violence, including hateful words and harmful pranks, up to life-threatening violence, including rocks, fists, and more, were what faced Black people trying to access the theme park or swimming pool in their neighborhoods, paid for by their own taxpayer dollars in many cases. 

Demanding access to recreation was seen as central to an assertion of citizenship and consumer rights, so the fight went on. 

In the 1940s, race relations was increasingly a hot topic in a way it hadn’t been since post-Civil War Reconstruction era. Before and after the war, discrimination in housing and employment were huge areas of focus, and so was recreation. Recreation segregation was a huge focus if only because it was so visible, whereas discrimination in jobs and housing could be hidden away. Activists began to focus on nonviolent protests in recreational spaces. A 1944 book of essays by Roy Wilkins entitled “What the Negro Wants” laid it out, stating that what Blacks wanted was “to be able to go to parks, playgrounds, beaches, pools, theatres, restaurants, hotels, taverns, tourist camps, and other places of public amusement and accommodation without proscription and insult.” Seems perfectly reasonable, but we’re still fighting this fight here in 2020, so…?

In the 1940s, organized “nonviolent direct action” was the innovation, defined by Greg Houser as “group action against injustice by challenging directly the right of that discrimination to exist” in contrast to the reliance on states or courts. There were two movements that came out of this: A. Philip Randolph’s March on Washington Movement (MOWM), which led to the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE).  

CORE’s first use of the nonviolent direction action came in response to an Illinois skating rink in 1946 that used a fictitious “club” to keep Blacks out and circumvent the Illinois civil rights laws. Physical pickets blocked and slowed access to the club, and picketers touted their military veteran status, with signs reading “The draft boards did not exclude Negroes”. Larger crowds joined the picket each weekend, and from January to March, the aptly named “White City” skating rink lost 50% of their business. Ultimately, White City began allowing Blacks entrance to the skating rink, else they go out of business entirely. A local paper wrote “The fight against White City is considered to be the opening gun in a campaign to smash discrimination in all skating rinks and amusement centers in Chicago.”

The fight for equality was then taken to further North to other so called “civil rights states”, where there were discrimination statutes on the books that were not enforced. Ohio was one of these states, and the place most heavily-targeted by activists was Euclid Beach Park. 

The Euclid Beach Park “Riots”

By this time, Euclid Beach Park was solidly established as a popular, family-friendly amusement park with many exciting rides, roller coasters, shows, and of course, the beach and pier. All of these were still only open to white visitors; Blacks could visit only on the designated days, and were kept under tight watch from the park’s private police force. 

In 1946, a young woman named Juanita Morrow established a new chapter of CORE. She began spearheading nonviolent protests to challenge Euclid Beach Park’s discriminatory policies. July 21, 1946 saw a protest where a young group of activists were harassed by the park police and then roughly evicted from the park when they tried to enter the dance hall. The activists subsequently filed lawsuits and began picketing the park. 

A month later on August 23, 1946, twelve activists again visited the park to nonviolently protest by playing Skeeball in an integrated group. Park police didn’t allow the activists to attempt rollerskating or dancing, and roughly evicted them from the park. Albert T. Luster was separated from the group and violently beaten. 

The summer of activism at Euclid Beach Park was not over, however. The dance pavilion was the most carefully guarded (read: discriminatory) space at the park. Two off-duty Black police officers escorted two couples to the pavilion, one white and one Black. When the Black couple were prevented from entering by park guards, the police officers attempted to arrest the guards for violating state civil rights laws. The resulting brawl caused an accidental gun misfire, with an officer badly injured as a result.

Subsequently, the mayor shut down the dance hall a week earlier than the season closure. Activists pushed in city council meetings for a change to public accommodation laws in include antidiscrimination language. After months of debate, the mayor publicly expressed his unease but signed the law. 

Unfortunately, his unease paved the way out for Euclid Beach Park.

The 1947 season opened with the dance hall, skating rink, and bathhouse closed. They would later reopen under private management as “private clubs”, no longer part of the park and therefore circumventing the public licensing laws. 

And Euclid Beach Park wasn’t alone. Wolcott’s book cites at least two more incidents of theme parks closing in order to avoid desegregation. Nonviolent protesting worked, though, as the 1949 Freeman Civil Rights Act in New Jersey proved – laws surrounding all commercial amusements were rewritten following increased public support for desegregation after highly visible nonviolent protests at places like Palisades Park. This was the first civil rights statute for public accommodations since 1931. Public actions by CORE forced Palisades Park to desegregate officially by 1952, although discriminatory policies were reportedly upheld throughout the 1960s. 

Closure of Euclid Beach Park

While officially, Euclid Beach Park was required to comply with public anidiscrimination laws after the 1947 season, “private clubs” for the bathhouse, dance hall, and skating rink were used to skirt that law, and discriminatory policies continued.

The park ultimately closed 22 years later, in 1969.

Discrimination persisted for the rest of Euclid Park’s operation, despite nominal desegregation. Chroniclers of the park’s history cite “racial tensions” and “gangs and undesirables” that were attracted to the park because of the open-gate policies, thereby “[scaring] off the patrons with money to spend.” Other descriptions of the park from different sources, however, tell a different story, with facilities were continually being closed to Black people in the years prior to the park’s 1969 closure. A native Clevelander wrote of the park’s closure, saying that society “treat[s] the park’s financial failure in 1969 as an unfathomable mystery. It’s no secret in this town that it was due, in large measure, to racial bigotry.” 

Taxes continued to increase on the park’s land, making the land almost more profitable than the business. At the same time, profits began to decrease; a familiar theme park story, now with additional context. 

1963 saw the city cutting public transportation, with bus routes no longer running to Euclid Beach Park. In 1964, the park began to operate in the red, losing money. 

Reportedly, management began to abandon the park little by little, apparently a common practice for small urban parks in this time period. One author writes “The vacant, darkened spaces on the countenance of Euclid Beach Park were like teeth absent from an aging face.” Rides were shuttered and sold off, exhibits were closed. Rides were demolished, like the Aero Dips coaster which was destroyed in 1964 or 1965. 

The guests who could, largely the middle-class white patrons, went in increasing numbers to Cedar Point (an hour west) or the Geauga Lake (40 minutes south). Mass suburbanization meant both were increasingly accessible from the highway, by car. Cedar Point, indeed, implemented a massive improvements campaign beginning in 1959, billing itself as the Disneyland of the Midwest, with single-price admission instituted on certain days beginning in 1964. This policy kept out lower-class patrons who visited to bring their own picnics, gather and people watch, and otherwise spend little money, riding few rides. Reality or perception, the idea that urban parks were “dangerous” and suburban/remote parks were safer was an idea, rooted in racism, that ultimately spelled the downfall for many central urban amusement parks.

Finally, in 1969, Euclid Beach Park was an unprofitable shadow of herself, and closed.

Remnants of Euclid Beach Park

I originally chose this park because I was fascinated by its rides. A large bulk of the Euclid Beach Park rides moved to the Humphrey family’s second take on Euclid Beach, called Shady Lake Park down in Streetsboro OH. This short-lived park operated for only a few years, from 1978-1982. After Shady Lake Park, the same bulk of rides moved to Old Indiana Fun Park, down in Thorntown, IN. The rides operated there until 1996, when two guests were killed after the miniature train derailed. The park quickly shuttered and the rides were liquidated; additionally, the incident forced changes in the state safety and inspection laws for amusement park rides. 

From here, rides were quite dispersed – the Giant wheel is notable for heading to Geauga Lake, where it had to be completely rebuilt. (Most of the rides were said to be in quite poor shape at this point.) Still operating today are the Turnpike Cars, which operate at Idlewild Park today. These are notable for being the same limited-run model as Disneyland’s first Autopia, and there’s an excellent article about them. The Great American Racing Derby, sold early from Euclid Beach Park in 1967 to Cedar Point, where it still operates today as the Cedar Downs. 

After the closure of Old Indiana, Six Flags parent company Premier Parks purchased the property, storing several dismantled coasters onsite as late as 2006 (for images of these coasters, visit the park page at the incredible RCDB). No new theme park ever operated there, and today the land is a hops farm.

Shady Lake Park entrance, taken in June 2003. Image via Wikipedia: photographer DangApricot / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) / https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:ShadyLake20030621.JPG

Shady Lake Park had an entrance modeled after Euclid Beach Park’s, which remained until 2004. Today, the area is apartments and a bank.

And Euclid Beach Park? The famous arched gateway was made a Cleveland landmark, and still stands. Apartment buildings occupy much of the former amusement park site. The remainder is park land, including the Euclid Beach Park Pier, which was recently rebuilt and rededicated. You can still purchase Humphrey family popcorn today. 

Euclid Beach Park arch, c. 2000. Source: Stuart Spivack / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0) via Wikipedia: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Euclid_Beach_Arch.jpg

And of course, the beautiful PTC Carousel. When Euclid Beach Park closed, the carousel went to Palace Playland in Maine, where it operated for several decades, until 1996. Subsequently, the Trust for Public Land repurchased the theme park at $715,000. A quote on the matter said, “they don’t normally bid on carousels, but they realized how important it was to Cleveland history.” By 2014, Philadelphia Toboggan Company carousel #19 was fully restored, and opened to the public under the operation of the Western Reserve Historical Society.


Although I focused on the story of Euclid Beach Park here, it’s important to remember that they were in no way unique or out of step with other theme parks at the time. While Euclid Beach Park of the past made their own decisions, similar stories can be told in both the North and the South. 

“We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God given rights,” Martin Luther King Jr wrote in his 1963 Letter from a Birmingham Jail, speaking of racial injustice. Among them, he spoke of his daughter. “[W]hen you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six year old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children,” he wrote, “then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait.”

This is a podcast about theme park history and theme park nostalgia. We also need to acknowledge the implicit perspectives we bring to the table: some bring nostalgia for glimmering childhood experiences and joys long-gone, and others remember sad longing for something that was closed for too long. The memories are as segregated as the parks were.

Thanks for listening to this week’s episode of The Abandoned Carousel, where I talked with you about Euclid Beach Park and the history of discrimination at urban theme parks. Much of this episode relies on the book Race, Riots, and Roller Coasters by Victoria Wolcott. You can read the entire book for free on Project Muse at Johns Hopkins University’s site: https://muse.jhu.edu/book/17151. As always, my theme music comes from Aerobatics in Slow Motion by TeknoAXE

I hope you all are taking covid19 precautions, and wearing a mask. A mask is not political, it is a common sense piece of science that shows respect for the people around you. Masks decrease your risk of covid by something like 5-fold. Wear a mask, stay at home. 

I’ll be back with another episode of The Abandoned Carousel as soon as time allows. In the meantime, stay safe. Remember what Lucy Maud Montgomery once said: nothing is ever really lost to us as long as we remember it.


The resources used when researching the topic are included below.

  1. Civil Rights Cases. In: Wikipedia. ; 2020. Accessed June 3, 2020. https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Civil_Rights_Cases&oldid=944066989
  2. Plessy v. Ferguson. In: Wikipedia. ; 2020. Accessed June 7, 2020. https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Plessy_v._Ferguson&oldid=960997924
  3. Pounce-Matics Amuse-Matics Page – Photos. Accessed May 13, 2020. https://www.facebook.com/pg/Pounce-Matics-Amuse-Matics-Page-255013401192815/photos/?tab=album&album_id=1559917020702440
  4. 9 Sep 1933, Page 4 – The Evening Independent at Newspapers.com. World Collection. Accessed June 9, 2020. http://newscomwc.newspapers.com/image/4116455/?terms=%22euclid%2Bbeach%2Bpark%22%2Briot&pqsid=bvv1_4kZIYPgii3XmHImIg%3A923000%3A531208327
  5. 10 Sep 1917, Page 11 – The Akron Beacon Journal at Newspapers.com. World Collection. Accessed June 9, 2020. http://newscomwc.newspapers.com/image/228104538/?terms=%22euclid%2Bbeach%2Bpark%22&pqsid=bvv1_4kZIYPgii3XmHImIg%3A207000%3A1285248979
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