Palisades Amusement Park: A Dream Denied (Jennifer Semple Siegel)

Palisades Park Comic Book Ad (1950's)

Remember those iconic comic book ads for Palisades Amusement Park
Even the name was cool.
Growing up in the Midwest, I thought that this park must have been heaven on earth.
I mean, how cool would it to be able to ride a Ferris wheel on the edge of a cliff?
Palisades Park Ferris Wheel

In fact, I was a bit aggrieved that I lived too far away.
The amusement park might as well have been on the moon.
Comic books filled with ads for free admission I could never use –
Even back in the early 1960’s, our culture was East- or West-coast centric, the Midwest a lonely outpost for farmers and hayseeds.
Boo, hoo.
Once, I sent away for a booklet that offered names, addresses, and photos of potential pen pals (I wasn’t in it – Hell, no!).
I flipped through it until I found a boy from New Jersey.
His name was Lawrence Miller; he lived over the border from Philly – Cherry Hill, I believe.
South Jersey.
Palisades Park was in North Jersey (even back then, my grasp of basic geography was sketchy).
In a nerdy way, Lawrence was kind of cute, like Richard Dreyfuss in American Graffiti. He even posed in a plaid shirt like the one Dreyfus wore in the movie.
Richard Dreyfuss as Curt in American Graffiti

Good enough! I thought.
Besides, I liked smart, goofy boys with a wry sense of humor –
I married one 20 years later.
My thinking: if Lawrence and I became pen pals, perhaps I could visit him some day, and we could go to Palisades Park together.
So I wrote Lawrence a long, rambling girly letter, declaring my great love for The Beatles, especially George Harrison, who I planned to marry some day (Spoiler alert: I didn’t).
I didn’t enclose a photo.
The Author's 1964-65 School Photo

I just knew if he saw my picture, he would flee in the opposite direction and not look back.
I wanted to get to know him better before springing my shocking school photo on him; he might be more accepting of a fat girl once he discovered how wonderful she was inside.
It had worked somewhat with my German pen pal, Hans, although he once wrote a letter, asking me to send better photos.
I also took great care not to mention my ulterior motive for writing him – and waited.
And waited.
And waited.
And waited.
In fact, I’m still waiting.
Lawrence Miller never wrote back.
Did he suss out the real motive of the girl from Sioux City and tossed her letter like a hot rock?
So, my dear Larry – I hope you don’t mind my using this diminutive – I’m so sorry that our correspondence ended before it began, that I was trying to use you for my own purposes.
Mostly, I’m sorry it didn’t work.
Because, dang, that amusement park looked soooooo damn cool.
Just think, we could have walked together, arm in arm, to the edge of Palisades Park, looking over the edge at –
I don’t know what. My geography is still sketchy.
Palisades Park -- Hudson River View

Okay, the Hudson River. I had to look it up, though.
(Thank, you, Wikipedia!)
By 1970, I was a young wife and mother, living in Central Pennsylvania.
The cruel irony: before it closed, I lived within driving distance of Palisades Park.
I might have cajoled Jeff, my first husband, to travel to North Jersey, but our Valiant station wagon could barely make it across town, let alone the 188-mile journey
(Thank you, Google Maps!)
And he was not inclined, anyway, to travel anywhere near New Jersey.
So I never made it to Palisades Park.
It closed on September 12, 1971.
Today, four high rise apartment buildings have arisen above its cliffs, overlooking the Hudson River.
The Cliffs of Palisades Amusement Park

Just another dream denied.


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