RIDES OF 1960

What rides were popular on the fairgrounds and in the parks of 1960?

Novelty was (and still is) the order of the day in the outdoor amusement industry. Parks such as Palisades actively disposed of their old rides when their popularity began to wane, so that they could replace them with new ones. However, many other parks and carnivals kept the older rides running, or could only afford to acquire them as used rides. Some rides, such as carousels and Ferris Wheels, could be considered standard rides whose popularity endures to this day.

I will begin with the hot new rides of 1960 and the preceding few years.

NEW RIDES

A version of the Sky Wheel (double Ferris Wheel) was invented by Courtney around 1939 (US patent 2249076). Five semi-portable models were built by the Velares. As these took about 10 days to erect, they were generally installed in parks. One of these began operating at Silver Spray Pier, Long Beach, CA in 1942 under the name "Sky Ride." A truly portable version was built in 1949, and sold to Don Dowis (Dowis Sky Wheels Inc.) late in 1952. A double Sky Wheel version, the Space Wheels was developed by the Velares and began touring with them in 1958 (US patent 2907568). At the beginning of 1960, the Velare Brothers sold the Space Wheels to Al Kunz and the rights to manufacture the rides to Herschell. Herschell took at least seven orders by April, but was not able to begin shipping until the end of the year. The first unit sold by Herschell went to Ed McCrary and operated at the Arizona State Fair in November, 1960. This unit carried no serial number, and was actually built by the Farnham Manufacturing Division of Herschell's parent company, Wisner-Rapp. Numerous portable Sky Wheels were sold in the next several years.

The Rotor was invented by Ernst W. Hoffmeister of Hamburg, Germany around 1948 (see Rotor page). By 1960, there were at least five English-built Rotors in amusement parks in the United State and at least two portable Rotors built by the Velare Brothers.

Hrubetz introduced the Round-Up in 1954, in 24- and 30-passenger versions. 22 were in operation by the end of 1955. 1956 installations included Palisades and Edgewater. Palisades retired their ride after the 1960 season, although Coney Island (Ohio) installed one that year. By 1960, 12 had been sold in Europe (built by Gunnar Mansson of Malmo, Sweden). Hrubetz introduced the Meteor for the 1961 season. This ride had seats mounted on three rotating platforms that lifted up using the Round-Up mechanism (US patent 3140092). This ride seems not to have been particularly successful, although there is still an operating model on the fair circuit, owned by PBJ Happee Day Shows.

Although Hrubetz applied for a patent for the Round-Up in 1954, no U.S. patent was issued. However, patents were issued in Germany (DE 1051177), Belgium, and the United Kingdom (GB 838961), with the latter assigned to Gunnar Mansson.

The Scrambler was introduced around 1955. Although it is a standard ride today, its popularity greatly outstripped Eli Bridge's production capacity for at least the first few years. Many parks first added Scramblers in 1960, although that year was the last for the Palisades ride. More details can be found on the Scrambler page.

Herschell's Twister was introduced about 1955 (with 9 rides in operation that year), and a new version was produced for 1960. A 1960 ad proclaimed that "Twister grosses are even better today than when the ride was introduced four years ago."

Importation of Roto-Jets began in 1954 and Satellite Jets in 1958. These expensive rides were still popular in 1960. More details are found on the Roto-Jet page. Hampton introduced a Super Jet Plane ride for the 1960 season, and several other makers also offered kiddie jets. However, it is possible that some of these were simply jet-themed roundabouts. Herschell's somewhat similar Helicopter ride (hydraulic rather than pneumatic) was a popular kiddieland ride. This ride was invented by David Bradley (US patent 2922648), and production rights were acquired by Herschell in 1956.

The Paratrooper was introduced by Hrubetz during the 1957 season. The ads in early 1958 proclaimed it to be "entirely new and different," although it used the hub of the Spitfire with a novel seating arrangement. Many Spitfires were subsequently converted to Paratroopers. I am not sure how many were produced in the first couple of years, but early installations included Wonderland Park (Coney Island, NY), Edgewater, and Palisades. Palisades removed their ride at the end of 1960. For the 1960 season, Hrubetz sold 7 conversion kits (including one to Arnold's Park) and 19 new rides (to Riverview, Dorney, and numerous carnivals). Also in 1960, Hrubetz was making deals with Gunnar Mansson to produce Paratroopers for the European market. A lifting version was introduced around 1962. The prototype lifting Paratrooper may have been a ride built in the Netherlands by Nijmeegs Lasbedrijf and installed at Linnanmaki Park in Finland.

Although I have not found a U.S. patent for the Paratrooper, Mansson was issued a patent in Germany (DE 1206338). Suprisingly, this patent does not mention Hrubetz. In a subsequent development, Klaus patented the All-Round (DE 1288494). Like many of the European versions of the Paratrooper (often called Twisters), this ride carried the passenger tubs at the ends of the sweeps rather than between them. In the All-Round, the double-acting hub-lifting mechanism was subjected to an additional rotation about a vertical axis.

Hrubetz still offered the Spitfire in 1960, but its popularity was clearly much less than the Paratrooper. The Spitfire was introduced before 1950. Riders were able to control the inclination of the planes mounted between the sweeps, putting this ride in competition with Eyerly's Fly-o-Plane.

The Cuddle Up had not been particularly popular since before 1950, although it was advertised sporadically. (In fact, it is still listed on PTC's web page.) In 1958, PTC introduced a two-table version called the Crazy Cups, advertising it as having a "new mechanical design." The 1960 version was called the Crazy Dazy.

Calypso rides (made by Mack in Germany) were advertised by Wedemeyer in the spring of 1959, but by fall, Mickey Hughes had acquired exclusive rights to import the ride. This did not stop Export Sales Corporation from also advertising this ride in 1960. 1960 installations included Meyers Lake, Elitch Gardens, and Playland (San Antonio), while Palisades, Kennywood, Riverview, and Hunt's Pier received rides for the 1961 season. The Playland ride traveled to the State Fair of Texas in 1960, requiring four trailers. Several units of a more-portable version of the ride were imported in 1961 for use by carnivals.

The Flying Coaster, invented by Norman Bartlett, was very popular for at least a few years beginning in 1959. More details are found on the Flying Coaster page.

The Himalaya ride is standard today, but it was new in 1960. One unit was imported and operated by Edy and Walter Meier at the Canadian National Exhibition in 1959. Paragon Park acquired one in 1960. One or two of these were on the fair circuit in 1960, playing major venues such as the State Fair of Texas. Like the modern ride, these were roofed and incorporated music.

The Himalaya appears to have displaced an older Himalaya-like ride, the Caterpillar. This ride was invented in the 1920s by Maynes (US patent 1439478). Initially, Traver Engineering had the rights to build park models and Spillman Engineering had the rights to build portable models. The ride was made in the 1950s by Herschell, which introduced a new model as late as 1968. Although common in the 1960s, Caterpillars are extremely rare today.

OTHER RIDES

There are a number of other rides that were available in 1960 about which I have very little information. These include:

Jolly Caterpillar (Herschell). Introduced about 1954, this kid roundabout was designed by Norman Bartlett.

Rodeo (Herschell). This interactive carousel-like ride (in which riders shoot at targets) was designed by Norman Bartlett (US patent 2822173 ). About 13 of the Bartlett rides were sold. Herschell redesigned this as a kid ride about 1956. Production ended in the early 1960s, perhaps because the Rodeo was found to be in competion with Herschell's smaller carousels.

Frolic (King). Introduced in 1960, this low cost, high grossing ride was described by Billboard as a "teenage grind ride." This is essentially a high-speed circular swing with ride compartments which can be spun by the occupants.

Star Flyer Rocketship. This ride was manufactured by U. S. Amusements, a subsidiary of Champion Industries. Units went to Royal American Shows and to Palisades and Riverside Parks in 1960. This was a combination ride/theater, possibly similar to the later Astroliner.

Flying Saucer (Garbrick Manufacturing).

Satellite (Albany Machine & Supply).

Bowers Satellite Globe (K. Max Smith).

Spinaroo (King).

Oarco Ride (Oarco). Initially marketed as the Orbit Ride at the end of 1959, the name appears to have been changed to avoid conflict with Orbit Manufacturing's ride of the same name. The prototype was introduced at the Florida State Fair in 1960. Early rides went to Idora Park, Shreveport, Louisiana, and Indian Lake Park, Russells Point, Ohio, in 1960. One survived to the late 1960s at Astroland Park, Coney Island, NY. This ride is described by US patent 3072399.

Orbit (Orbit Manufacturing). This appears to have been introduced before 1950. A 1960 ad proclaimed this "The Sensational Ride of 1960. Tomorrow’s Ride--Today. 45-ft. Aerial Ride with four orbiting movements rotating in all planes of a sphere." The mechanism is described by US patent 3015488.

STANDARD RIDES

Merry-Go-Rounds or Carousels were being sold in 1960 by the Allan Herschell Company, Amusement Rides Company, Arrow Development Company, King Amusement Company, Harry Prince, and Theel Manufacturing Company.

Ferris Wheels were offered by Eli Bridge, Garbrick Manufacturing, King, National Amusement Device, Smith & Smith, Theel, and Vernon H. Garbrick Welding & Machine Works. I am not completely clear on the relationship between Garbrick Manufacturing (Lewis H. and Lewis A. Garbrick) and Vernon Garbrick, all from in or around Centre Hall, Pennsylvania. Vernon Garbrick was offering a newly invented collapsible model wheel in 1960, for which a patent was issued in 1961 (US patent 3002753). Vernon Garbrick's company was renamed Nittany Rides in 1963.

Sky Wheels are discussed separately above.

Automobile Rides continued to be popular. These ranged from track-confined rides to freely-steerable miniature cars. Several suppliers in 1960 are listed below:

Trains and Trolleys

Many of these are discussed in more detail at the Park Trains website.

Numerous small companies offered trains at various times in the 1950s. In 1960, steam trains were available from Crown Metal Products and Ottaway Amusement Company. Ottaway became Chance Rides in mid 1960. An attempt was made in 1959 to re-introduce Cagney Steam Trains (last produced in the 1930s) by a group calling itself Eagle Locomotive Works. Although they sold a gas-powered train in 1960, I do not know if they sold any steam trains. Electric or Gasoline-powered trains or trolleys were available in 1960 from Ottaway, Herschell, Arrow, King, Lynco Industries, Gennaro Industries, K. Max Smith, National Amusement Device, and Railmaster.

Trackless Trains were advertised by Herschell, Arrow, National, and Penn Ridge Products.

Dark Rides were advertised by Arrow, National, Pretzel Amusement Ride Company, and Outdoor Dimensional Display (Bill Tracy) as well as by the importers Eric Wedemeyer and Hot Rods Inc. However, much dark ride work was done in-house, and existing dark rides were frequently re-worked. Carll & Ramagosa had offered dark rides a few years earlier. Stacy Johnson provided a dark ride to Amusements of America in 1960, and Alan Hawes furnished a dark ride for Glen Echo in 1960. More information on dark rides can be found at the Laff-in-the-Dark website.

Only National Amusement Devices was advertising Old Mills and Mill Chutes in 1960.

Alan Hawes supplied themed jungle boat rides to Hunt's Pier and Riverside in 1959, and to Palisades and Storyland USA in 1960. A Schiff subsidiary reportedly acquired the Alan Hawes molds later in 1960.

Bumper Cars could be obtained from Dodgem Corporation, Lusse Brothers (Auto Skooter), or B. A. Schiff & Associates. Several other sources sold structures for bumper cars.

The Tilt-A-Whirl was invented in 1926 (US patent 1745719). With about 500 units sold by 1960, nearly every park or carnival had one. These are still available from their sole source, Sellner Manufacturing.

Roller Coasters

Although permanently installed roller coasters were typically the rides with the highest ridership at those parks and fairgrounds that had them, few full-size roller coasters were being built around 1960. Herbert Schmeck had died in 1956. Joe McKee of Palisades, Ed Vettel, and Vernon Keenan were still alive, but not young. PTC built a new roller coaster for Roseland Park in 1960, which survives as the Skyliner at Lakemont Park. National Amusement Devices advertised roller coasters, but most of their business was in replacement trains.

Sales of portable coasters and wild mouse rides were very good around 1960. Separate pages are devoted to kiddie coasters and Wild Mouse rides.

OLD RIDES

Advertised as the Queen of the Flying Rides in 1948, Flying Scooters were still available in 1960.

The Whip was still available from the W. F. Mangels Company in 1960. However, the firm was concentrating on kiddie rides, having introduced a new kiddie whip model around 1955. I am not sure when the last full-size Mangels Whip ride was installed in an amusement park.

Eyerly Aircraft Company products in 1960 included the Octopus, Loop-O-Plane, Roll-O-Plane, Fly-O-Plane, and Rock-O-Plane. All of these (with the possible exception of the Fly-O-Plane) were good sellers in 1960. A new model portable Dual Loop-O-Plane was introduced at the end of 1959. The Monster and Spider would not be introduced until 1962 and 1967, respectively.

Custer was still producing the Bubble Bounce ride in 1960, and even introduced a new Kid Bouncer for 1960.

I welcome corrections and additions. Comments may be sent to Victor Canfield

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