1957 - 1986 Intro
1986 - 1988
Makers & Shakers
Museum Honor Roll
THE COOKMAN AVENUE EXPANSION
THE WHIP, THE FLYING COASTER, THE TEMPEST, THE OLYMPIC BOBS, THE ROCK-O-PLANE
The food concession installed at the corner of Cookman Avenue and Kingsley Street in 1956 flopped, and gave way to a succession of rides in the same location. Installed first, perhaps as early as 1957, was a Whip, invented by the same William Mangels who oversaw the carousel reconstruction after the 1910 fire. The Whip was later replaced by The Flying Coaster and The Tempest and finally by The Olympic Bobs.
To George Siessel, who made his first visit to the Palace in 1959, the Whip is indelibly sketched in his memory. "My Grandmother told me the story (probably an urban legend) of the two women who rode a Whip and the car broke off from the chain sending it across a busy intersection of road dodging cars until hitting a curb. Since the Palace Whip was located at the edge of the building with those garage type doors and with the road just outside, I had imagined that I was riding that very one."
The Whip was calculated to leave that kind of impression. When passenger cars reached either end of an oblong platform, they were swung out on a flexible arm and snapped suddenly back by a cable, giving riders the sensation of being on the end of a snapped whip.
When The Flying Coaster and The Tempest replaced The Whip, space demands required George Lange to take several overhead doors facing Cookman Avenue out of service; Lopez Jr., made four large wooded cutouts, of a bow-tied clown, a roller coaster and jumping carousel horse, a ferris wheel paired with a clown, and a bobsled together with a coaster and horse, to add a festive exterior look to the doors.
|The Tempest, a long-time feature in the Cookman Avenue building (circa early 1960s). Photos courtesy of Sandy Berman.
The Flying Coaster was a fast, six-car ride which combined the action of a ski-jump with a centrifuge. Invented by Norman Bartlett of Miami, the ride took passengers along a circular track until suddenly speeding up a hill and "flying" off the end of the track, until lowered safely by hydraulics. The Tempest, manufactured by Grover Watkins of Paducha, KY., spun like crazy. Two circular platforms with bench seating were located on revolving arms. While the platforms spun, the arm revolved.
Finally, into the same space, came The Olympic Bobs, a move closely timed to the removal of the nearby Bubble Bounce. In retrospect, it seems like an unwise exchange. Even after a long residency and disappointing maintenance records, the Bubble Bounce remained popular ("the best I ever rode," says George Siessel.) Olympic Bobs had become the hot craze by the early '70s, but the best Bobs were electric Bobs from Europe. The Palace Bobs was American made, driven by hydraulics, and just not special enough to win friends and influence enthusiasts. From the beginning, serious patrons found it unappealing, just a bunch of cars rounding a hub that rose and fell.
|The Olympic Bobs, a tame version of the European classic. Photo copyrighted by Peter Szikura. view larger image
||Olympic Bobs riders, showing their courage. Undated photo courtesy of Sam Vaccaro. view larger image
Through all the changes, the Rock-O-Plane remained one of the Palace's most popular attractions. Recalling it now, Jobonanno, who fronts The Godsons of Soul band, tells of tagging along to the Palace with his mother when he was too small to meet the Rock-O-Plane's height requirements. "I still can hear my mother and her friends scream as they shot through the roof on the Rock O Plane ride," he said in early 2005. "I thought they would never come back!!"