Summer Memories of Playland and Other Seasonal Fun

A word from Hudson Valley Editor in Chief, Olivia J. Abel

For many years when I was a kid growing up in southern Westchester, part of my birthday celebration each June involved taking a few friends to Rye Playland amusement park. This was always one of the highlights of the summer season.

I don’t remember all the details, but I know that for some reason we always warmed up on “The Whip,” before moving on to the House of Mirrors, and then the ride-through haunted house (I recall being glad that I could “secretly” close my eyes on this one, and nobody had to know). Then, we’d usually make our way over to the Monster Mouse — one of the park’s smaller roller coasters. This red, rickety-looking contraption towered over the parking lot; customers rode in individual cars (with up to three riders) and it was known for the sharp, jerky turns the cars made. In fact, people often claimed they got whiplash from their ride on the Mouse; I just thought it was fun.

But nothing compared to my excitement when I was finally tall enough to ride the Dragon Coaster. This iconic 1929 wooden coaster rises up 80 feet, and no matter where you were in the park, you could always hear the clickety-clack of the cars roaring along the wooden tracks.

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Playland loomed large in other parts of my life, too. I learned to ice skate at the rink, and I would often go there to cheer on my high school’s excellent hockey team. At that time, the New York Rangers also practiced there; trying to get a glimpse of one of the players was a sport unto itself.

But the pinnacle of my Playland experiences was, without a doubt, the two summers I spent working there as a teenager. It’s hard to capture what was so intoxicating about those days: hundreds of kids your own age to hang out with, a late night ride on the Dragon, and the feeling that you were at the center of everything, I suppose. 

Two years ago I took my daughter (above) and some friends to Playland for her third birthday. I was not prepared for the wave of nostalgia that swept over me. As an adult, I can now appreciate such things as the gorgeous Art Deco architecture and the beautiful Long Island Sound vistas. We all had a ball, so we returned the following year. Plans for this year’s birthday celebration are already underway.  

Of course Playland has been in the headlines for the last couple of years, as Westchester County gets ready to turn control of the park over to a private enterprise. I’d like to give a quick shout-out to my old childhood friend and neighbor Deirdre Curran, now a Port Chester resident, who has emerged as a community leader in the fight to make sure that Playland’s best parts are protected. Deirdre is a passionate sort of gal, and a force to be reckoned with (as county legislators and others are quickly learning). I’m grateful that she’s there fighting the good fight.

Playland is just one of the many wonderful ways to while away a summer day in our neck of the woods; we fill you in on tons more in our cover story that begins here. I hope you make some great summer memories of your own.

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Enjoy the issue.

Olivia J. Abel
Editor In Chief

lily at playland

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