Memories of Fairyland - JuniperCivic.com
Serving Middle Village and Maspeth since 1938.

Memories of Fairyland

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Michael Gillman, age 4, on the Merry-Go-Round in 1953.

It should be noted that younger readers' interests, who were born too late to have experienced Fairyland, were peaked by the Fairyland article's reference to the birth of the Queens Center Mall and how that structure evolved into what it is today. It is hard to talk about Fairyland with all its magic of the day and not refer to the final structure at the site, the very successful Queens Center Mall.

Also interesting was the memory jog of the other structures nearby which are no longer at the site such as The Boulevard Night Club, whose slogan flashed in bright lights that I remember quite vividly from childhood, stated "Dine, Dance and be Merry," Howard Johnson's, and Alexander's Department Store. OK, I'll stop right there because, yes, I could go on and on talking about history but I will discipline my writing by sticking to Fairyland and the memories awakened by that small "Disneyworld" of yesterday.

My own daughter, Carol, (pictured with me below at Fairyland in 1959) told me just recently how she and her cousin, Anna, played hooky from school a couple of times to go to Fairyland! Who knew? Of course after hearing of the transgression I scolded her and emphasized the error of her ways! I'm sure she gave the same speech at some point to her four sons! Yes, definitely, back in the day! Carol and her two cousins, Anna and Amy, were with us on many trips to Fairyland. It was a way to spend an afternoon. Like everyone else, we were sad when it ended but we knew that everything has a shelf life and Fairyland was no exception.

Ralph DeSanto of Middle Village sent this memory – "Fairyland was the first amusement park I ever went to. Although, by Coney Island standards, it had a small roller coaster, I was only 7 years old, and it all seemed just huge! And it was really fast, lots of ups and downs and turns that were scary. I also remember the "Turtle" ride: three large metal turtles that everyone sat on top of as they traveled around slowly in a circle going up and down and up and down! The fun house was so cool because you sat into these two-seat cars that traveled on rail through all the dark tunnels inhabited by the ghosts and goblins -- nothing too gory like today. My brother and I had such fun in that park."

We heard from Maureen Sweeney who is the "Social Secretary" of the class of 1958 from St. Bartholomew's School in Elmhurst. This is what she told us, "My two best friends and I would go with my grandfather and grandmother. It was such a treat to go on the Tilt-a-World. Your article said there were many part-time workers. Many of them were cops and firemen with an easy second job."

Edward O'Neil wrote this to us, "My Mother, who recently passed, used to tell me about Fairyland and I could only ever find minimal information (and pictures) about it on the Internet. When I saw the wonderful cover of the Juniper Berry at Pioneer Supermarket I smiled, thinking of my Mom. I was born in 1970 and it was all gone by then." Thanks again for a wonderful memory fully realized and beautifully presented by Ms. Sciulli in your fantastic publication. (Read Edward's entire letter in Letters to the Editor)

To support the curiosity about the Queens Mall, Edward further wrote, "A related interest of mine is the Queens Center Mall and how it looked in the 70s and 80s when I grew up around there. It is another topic that I can't seem to find any pictures of." Perhaps the huge one million square foot mall could be a future article in the Juniper Berry!

This is what Maureen Ford of Perth Amboy, New Jersey sent us in her letter and I marvel at the detail of her recollection of Fairyland. The following are excerpts from her letter. "I used to love to play ski-ball in the Arcade. Does anyone recall the mosaic clown face on the floor? Sometimes we would run out of money and we would go over to The Stor (I think that was the name) and stand under it. When the people on the ride would make the bucket open and change would fall out of the pockets and come tumbling down to us. We'd scoop it up and continue playing in the Arcade. You have a picture of it in your issue (on page 38) behind the background of the roller coaster." You can read Maureen's letter in its entirety in our Letters to Editor section of the Juniper Berry.

Marty Machover wrote this to us ‒ "Thanks for the memories. I loved that place as a little boy and well into my teenage years. Now you have me thinking of the huge Howard Johnson's, The Boulevard night club and catering hall, The Lost Battalion Hall, and the early days of Alexander's all located on Queens Blvd. as well."

Claudia Dobelstein shared this story -

"You brought back such wonderful memories. I was born in 1947 and lived in neighboring Forest Hills. Fairyland was a thrill for me. I can picture it now. My father and I once got stuck on the ferries wheel, I was 6. It stopped working & we had to wait at the top. I was fine, but he was a wreck. I never knew the story behind Fairyland. Thanks for sharing."

Michael Gillman from Seaford NY shared these thoughts ‒ "an old friend e-mailed me your article about Fairyland...Oh how I loved the Sunday afternoons I spent there with my family. My favorite childhood picture is one of me on my 4th birthday March 9, 1953 on the Merry Go Round at Fairyland. (Note: This picture is included on these pages) Thanks for the memories."

PS -I tried moving back to the old neighborhood in 1981 after my family had left but everything was Co-op and out of my reach, no more of those $150 a month 3 bedroom apartments!"

We received the following note from Joyce Beaudoin, "The December 2009 issue of the Juniper Berry brought back memories of Fairyland and prompted me to look back. Enclosed is a picture of myself and friend taken around 1956. (Note the Clown in the background) The Juniper Berry appeals to every part of the life of our wonderful community. It makes me proud to be a member of this caring and informative civic association." We sure give it the old Herculean effort, Joyce, and thanks for your memories and kind words.

A reader, Rosemary Connerton, who recognized her sister's picture in the Fairyland article, wrote this to us in an e-mail. I think it also shows what "legs" the Fairyland article had, reaching out all over America!

"When I saw the cover of the Juniper Berry in December 2009 had a article about Fairyland I was excited to read the story and look at the pictures. I was reading the article and reliving my childhood days of going there with my family on Sunday afternoons when all of a sudden I saw my sister, Sharon Collins McCabe, in the first car of the roller coaster! I could not wait to call her and tell her about the article and how her picture was in the magazine. She kept saying "are you sure it's me" I said, "I'm your sister of course it's you, but I want to know where I am." I mailed the article to her, and her kids loved seeing the picture of her on the roller coaster. Would love to get a copy of the picture if possible. I want to see if I was sitting next to her and was cropped out of the picture!" We sent her a copy.

This memory just in from Laraine Donohue: "Loved your article about Fairyland. There also was an Arcade attached to the park with all types of games to play. Depending on how high you scored with a game, you were given tickets which could be traded in for a prize of your choice. Also on this lot there was a store called Billie Blakes. As a teenager the girls' basketball parish team I played for all purchased matching Bermuda shorts and blouses. "

I don't know when but the store eventually changed to selling food. It was like S & S only much, much bigger. I know it was still selling food in latter part of '68 because I was shopping there (pregnant with my daughter) and passed out. That's something I couldn't forget." Laraine's letter shows how vivid our memories are of Fairyland right down to how they played the games in the Arcade!

I think the following letter we received sums it all up beautifully because it involves the JPCA welcoming a new resident as a JPCA member. Her name is Jean Bosze and she lives in Maspeth, this is what she writes; "As a new member I am looking forward to receiving the Juniper Berry magazine. I would greatly appreciate it if you could send me a copy of the December 2009 issue as there is an article on Fairyland which brings back many fond memories that I would like to share with my family and grandchildren."

Interesting to note that when I approached some neighborhood residents who I knew were around at the time of Fairyland, some of them responded with "Who had the money to go to Fairyland?" So you see that even with the 14 cents price, there were those in our neighborhood who couldn't take the ride!

I have totally enjoyed this return trip to that magical place called Fairyland. It permitted me to reconnect with old friends and make new ones. Thanks everyone for taking the time to share your memories. You, in effect, wrote this follow-up Memories of Fairyland article and you have made others happy with your recollections. Take a bow! I'm sure you enjoyed your own return trip to our little Disneyworld of yesterday!

Like all magical moments Fairyland lives on in our hearts and minds and pictures we took at the time serve as the memory bank for future generations when they start their own "Back in the Day" curiosity.

While I wrote the article I wondered if entrepreneurs, Bernard Berkely and Al McKee realized what they created with their Fairyland amusement park. Making a whopping $250,000 a year must have been a mind-boggling number to them. I doubt they realized that they were the trailblazers of yesterday, paving the way for future generations of entrepreneurs who will follow their example and take their dreams to the marketplace.

One final note, our website, junipercivic.com, has all the Juniper Berrys posted for the past ten years. Take a trip on that site, click on the toolbar, The Juniper Berry, and read the articles. Always remember that most of those articles are written by local residents in our own community, educated at our neighborhood schools. With all the criticism and nitpicking about education nowadays you have to conclude that "back in the day" the schools must have been doing something right! If you have an article hanging out in your brain, sit down at the computer and get a good opening sentence and magically, you will find as I do that the rest of the article will write itself! I like to think there's a Fairyland-type article in everyone.