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 1957 - 1986 Intro
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 Olympic Bobs
 Orient Express
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 Edward Lange
 Charcoal Grill
 1986 - 1988

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Inside the game room. Photo courtesy of Sandy Berman.
On the left, as you walked from the Fun House toward the rotating wheel and the carousel, was a small room that came into being with the construction of the Orient Express. For a number of years, this space held Mai-Kai The Mystery Ride, an illusionary attraction, and later a game room featuring draw poker.

The Wild West Shooting Gallery in the mid-1970's. Photo courtesy of Ralph Lopez Jr. view larger image
What's known of Mai-Kai dates to the second generation of this ride done by Ralph Lopez Jr., during the late 1960s. Lopez created a grass shack, with interior benches where patrons sat facing one another. As the ride began, patrons experienced the sensation of spinning but it was the room itself, not the benches, in action. As the walls spun back and forth, flashing lights eventually gave way to black light fluorescents that cast shadows on spinning glow-in-the-dark walls.

Opposite Mai-Kai was the shooting gallery, upgraded in 1970 by an electronic shooting extravaganza called the Wild West Gallery, where a 36-foot by 16-foot layout gave shooters two angles from which to aim at a barroom full of moving images and characters.

Detail of the Wild West Shooting Gallery. Photo copyrighted by Peter Szikura. view larger image
The gallery was the joint creation of Ralph Lopez Jr., and mechanical electrician Bert Heightmueller, who, Lopez says, "was just brilliant. I used to say to him I want this thing to do this and this and this and this and he'd write it all down, and he'd go up to the shop, and he'd be there a couple of days, and come back with this box and say: 'plug this in here, plug this in here,' and he'd set the different times. It was great."

Together they produced an incredible series of targets: shoot the piano player, and he'd play, before slumping over the keyboard; shoot the bartender and he'd weave side to side, his beer glass slipping back and forth; shoot the nude in the barroom painting, and the painting would tilt, sliding the nude onto the floor, screaming, while a chamber pot slid out from behind the couch. Lopez created a Mae West figure, with boas and ostrich plums, sitting on top of a piano. He gave her two left legs, "just to see if anyone would notice." Shoot Mae West and she'd flip backwards as a cherub descended from the ceiling, playing a harp, and as Mae regained her balance, her, well, two of her prominent features bobbed up and down. Shoot the rabbit, and his ears spun as he began to fly.



In the mid-1980s, bumper boats were installed on the ground floor of the Crystal Maze building. Circular, with gasoline powered engines, these sleek little one- or two-passenger boats operated on a large, elevated pond and could be raced or bumped into one another.



For much of this period, the carousel and Ernest Schnitzler's rotating wheel retained their special hold on Palace patrons of all ages.

The Palace carousel in the early 1980s. Photos copyrighted by Peter Szikura.

Gerald Cohen, who was stationed at Ft. Monmouth with the U.S. Army in 1957, tells how "a bunch of us GIs would drive to Asbury Park in the early evening for a night of fun and partying. Our trip always started at the Palace Amusements. While riding the merry-go-round, there were small children also riding . My friends and I would grab as many brass rings as we could, then pass the rings to the little children - until the manager would catch on why so many children had free rides."

The Palace carousel in the early 1980s. Photos copyrighted by Peter Szikura.

Tracy Wardell of Brick "can still hear the music from the carousel in my mind. I loved to go there. I can still smell the hot dogs that they used to sell in the stand at the Palace. The wind would blow off the ocean and spread the aroma of hot dogs throughout the Palace. I can remember the food stand had red stripes on the poles, similar to a barber poll. When you were at the top of the Ferris wheel, you could see clear across to Bradley Beach. The higher you would go toward the top, the less you could hear all the noise from the people and the sound of the games. It would actually be silent for a moment, quiet enough that you would hear the waves hit the beach."

* * *

In July of 1970, Asbury Park experienced four days of rioting caused by deeply rooted frustrations in the black community over unemployment, inadequate housing and recreation, and government insensitivity toward black concerns. Disturbances on Springwood Avenue spilled over into the downtown business district and in coming months, triggered middle-class flight - black and white - from the community. It was, in the eyes of many, the start of Asbury's deepest decline. Edward Lange said later that after the riots, business at the Palace started sliding. "Little by little business went from bad to worse." It was, he said, a "slow sag," but a bad one.

Less than a year later, on Jan. 5, 1971, Zimel Resnick, Lange's long time business partner at the Palace, died of a heart attack at Jersey Shore Medical Center in Neptune. He was 74.

In November 1980, the Monmouth County Historical Association determined that the Palace was eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, if nominated. George Lange, who had by then taken over for his father, wasn't interested. A report on file at the Historical Association states: "The owner, though concerned with the site's future preservation, has stated that he has no interest in placing it on the National Register."

At around the same time, George Lange approached the Asbury Park City Council about creating an amusement area between, and linking, the Palace and the Casino. Ralph Lopez Jr., created a conceptual drawing of the plan, showing major changes to the exterior of the Palace. The City Council, however, rejected the plan.

Try as he did by changing rides and expanding hours, George Lange experienced such a serious decline in profits during the early 1980s that he finally did what no previous Palace owner had ever done: sold an original handcrafted Looff goat and an original handcrafted Looff lion off the carousel to a collector for an unannounced price.