Archives for November 2012

Looff Carousel, Rhode Island – past meets present

In 1886, the shores of East Providence (i.e. Riverside), Rhode Island were fortunate to become the home of a very popular and luxurious waterfront destination. Along those shores, summer visitors were given an opportunity to enjoy numerous summer cottages, bath-houses, and a beautiful deluxe hotel. Labeled the “Coney Island of New England” visitors flocked to these shores and beaches to relax. Thus “Crescent Park Resort” was founded.

In effort to lure visitors off the beaches, and offer a different type of entertainment, the owner of the property at that time (Charles Boyden) came up with an interesting idea. He decided to build an amusement park on that Riverside waterfront section. A few years later, he hired a furniture maker/wood carver Charles I.D. Looff to build a carousel on the property. Looff’s carvings were different than most.  His animals and horse designs were creative, imaginative, unique, and stylish. Hence the Looff Carousel in Riverside was born.

During my youth in the 1960’s, I have strong memories of this very special place. It was one of my family’s and my favorite weekend destinations. During the summer months there was always something special happening there. The park catered to family members of all ages, young and old alike, On hand, was your typical theme park fair, awesome sea food, delicious all-you-can-eat clam cakes and chowder at the shore dinner hall, peanuts and cotton candy, among other usual amusement park snacks. There was even a special stand for popcorn and saltwater taffy-a seaside favorite.

Obviously one of the other major attractive features of the park were the notable rides and midway games. Many might remember, ‘Kiddy-land’,’Tumble Bug’, ‘the Flying Fish’ (a roller coaster style ride), ‘Go carts’, ‘The Fun House’, ‘The Showboat’, ‘The Whip’, ‘The Riverboat’, ‘Dodge Em’s’, “The Penny Arcade (with of course ‘Skeeball’), ‘Shooting Gallery’, and the “Ferris Wheel”. Many of these were riding-style attractions, while others were walk-through adventures.  Nonetheless, with the classic “in your face’ dayglow paint, their sights and sounds, offered us the fun times many of us remember.

Sundays were always a special day for me at the park.  On Sunday, they offered a lot of free entertainment. Many notable celebrities visited and performed for us.  Roy Rogers and Dale Evans (and Trigger of course), The Lone Ranger and Tonto, The Three Stooges, characters from TV’s Gunsmoke, were just a few of the entertainers that come to mind. When I think back, I still can’t believe I had the opportunity to see many of my TV idols (most of which I’d only seen in black and white!) appearing on that stage right in front of me in living color!  I remember what a thrill it was for me to actually shake hands and speak with “Festus” (Ken Curtis) from TV’s Gunsmoke. Those days, were happier days. People still had to deal with the challenges and strife of everyday life, but it seemed to be a lot easier to cope.

The park continued to thrive over the years, surviving tough economic times, as well as some pretty catastrophic weather, namely hurricanes. The Hurricane of 1938 caused significant damage, and Hurricane Carol, in 1954, which decimated a lot of the coast. Nonetheless, with a few repairs, and Crescent Park was back in business. Unfortunately, in the 1970’s, (along with many of its peers) the Crescent Park Amusement Park, ran into financial difficulty, and was forced into bankruptcy. A sad day for all of us who remembered the fun times we had experienced at their park over the years.

Luckily, the Looff Carousel has survived over time. A group of local citizens rescued the Carousel from being sold off. Shortly thereafter, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. In 1987, the United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service designated the carousel as a National Historic Landmark. The building is one of Looff’s classic circular buildings. From the exterior, the building appears to have three tiers.  The lower portion is the main entrance to the carousel ride itself.  The second tier provides additional interior lighting for the carousel. Finally, the topmost tier creates the “coppola or dome” shape that you can see.  The third tier, provides natural air circulation-a way to allow the heat to escape on those hot summer days.  Here are some photos that I’ve taken around the exterior of the carousel building.

In the summer of 2010, the Carousel was closed while they were conducting some major repairs. One of the main gears from the ride drive mechanism had to be replaced. It was not an easy job. The main center portion where the drive mechanism was located beneath the ride had to be exposed to gain access and replace the gear. There was no way of obtaining a replacement gear locally, so they had to have a company in some other area of the country, manufacturer and ship a replacement gear.

A “band organ” that was manufactured in Germany provides the “calliope” style music for the carousel. It utilizes a Wurlitzer 165 music roll system, to provide the music. [The Wurlitzer 165 replaced the original German cardboard book music system that was installed]. The carousel manager Ed, was nice enough to allow me to take some photos during its repair. I was fortunate enough to be able to see some of this equipment that normally is concealed while the ride is in operation. The music system, the drive mechanisms, the gears, etc. One note, the photos of the gear that needed to be replaced doesn’t really do justice to its size.  In person, its size is impressive.

During the repairs, I was fortunate to be able to get close and photograph many of the horses and animals in the carousel. Some of which were even mythical. The colors and designs were extremely vibrant, and they looked amazing. Many of the horses themselves were adorned with beautifully colored saddles. On some the harnesses and saddles they were decorated with gold and jewels. Some of the horses had smaller creatures and animals clinging to them. Rabbits, dragons, and serpents are just a few of the creature’s inhabiting the carousels domain. The following are some photos I took of the horses and animals in the structure.

In the building there are numerous other signs and artifacts from the original park.  There are vintage photos, original park game kiosks, sign’s, etc.  Many of which will bring back vivid memories of bygone era – an era that has not been forgotten.  Here are just a few of these images.

I’m very fortunate to live close to the carousel in Riverside.  I visit there numerous times in the summer. When I walk thru the carousel doors, I feel as though I’m stepping back in time. When you see the ride, hear the music, smell the popcorn, you are transported, to a different time and place. It really conveys a true vision of the past. Also, in today’s day age of video games, IPods, and computers, its’ really nice to see adults, children, and families spending quality time together enjoying each other’s company. I would strongly recommend to anyone, if you have an opportunity to see and experience the Looff Carousel, do it. It’s a fun filled afternoon with family and friends, both young and old.


Carousel motion video click to view















Twilight Zone On Location – Part 1

Many of us can remember back in 1959, one of the more famous television series that came onto our black and white televisions sets.  It began with one of the most notable music introduction themes, that to this day is still used in many television commercials and video clips.  The penetrating background music, a gripping narration guiding us toward a vision of space…followed by a door careening towards us…a window which shatters into pieces…a creepy eyeball…e=mc2 …a flying spaceman…a crazy clock with its hand spinning uncontrollably…we just crossed over into…“The Twilight Zone”.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been over 50 years since we first heard those words, from the show’s extremely talented creator Rod Serling.  Rod’s genius, created a show that had been televised for 5 seasons, and had a generous following.   Over time, many shows have tried mimicking the shows vision and creativity, but many would agree, none were ever able to do so.

Over those 5 seasons, the show was mainly filmed on the studio lots in California, but occasionally, specific locations were required to accommodate explicit landscapes and backdrops for those various episodes.   Combining both the studio lot with these off-lot locations really gave some of these episodes a more realistic look and feel.

In 2010, a close friend of mine, Paul Giammarco, and I chose to take on the challenge of attempting to seek out these various off-lot locations.  With Paul’s passion, love, and extreme familiarity of the show, we felt that we might be able to create a “then-and-now” photo log of our journey to these somewhat forgotten locations.  With that, Paul began work on the project.  Utilizing DVD video stills to capture specific screen shots, along with various maps, and extensive Internet research, he and I were able to identify what we felt were some of these remote locations.   We booked our flights and our rooms and thus our journey began.

So as began our sojourn in the Death Valley area.  Our first region to visit was Zabriskie Point.   Zabriskie Point is a part of Amargosa Range located in east of Death Valley, in Death Valley National Park.  Named after Christian Brevoort Zabriskie, its composition is made up of sediments from Furnace Creek Lake, which dried up 5 million years ago, long before Death Valley came into existence.

Two episodes from the Twilight Zone series, “I Shot an Arrow Into the Air” (1960), and “The Lonely” (1959), were both filmed at Zabriskie point and at Desolation Canyon as well.  We eventually visited Desolation Canyon to obtain additional stills, and attempt to find those other filming locations and backdrops as they appear today.  Both episodes did involve space ships and asteroids, which made Zabriskie and Desolation Canyon perfect filming locations offering great backdrops, to create an un-earthly feel.  One interesting note I’d like to point out, is several of the “Star Wars” films were shot in and around Desolation Canyon, areas appropriately named “Banta Canyon” and “Jawa Canyon”, were home to many familiar scenes from those films.  These following photos depict screenshots from the original Twilight Zone episodes “I Shot an Arrow..” and “The Lonely”, comparing them to present day, from both Zabriskie and Desolation Canyon.

The episode titled “The Little People” was filmed was filmed at MGM; the process-shot with the landed rocket used Desolation Canyon as a backdrop.   Its premise, a spaceman finds tiny inhabitants on a planet and forces them to recognize him as a God.  Again, the backdrops of Desolation Canyon, do give it the look and feel of being on another planet.  The following are our photos from “The Little People” filming locations.

One of our final destinations was the town of Olancha, California.  Olancha is located in the higher elevations (3650 feet above sea level), just at the foothills on the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada mountain range.  The episodes, “The Rip Van Winkle Caper” (1961) and “A Hundred Yards over the Rim” (1961).

“The Rip Van Winkle Caper”, an episode that involved four thieves, that in an effort to escape the police, create a plot to live in suspended animation for 100 years along with their stolen gold bars.   The foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountain range offered a great backdrop for this episode.  The barren and rugged terrain really conveys to the viewer the desolation and desert feel.  It drives home, what it must have been like for these individuals to fight for their lives.  The following are the photos from “The Rip Van Winkle Caper”.

And finally, we come to one of my favorite Twilight Zone episodes.  “A Hundred Yards over the Rim”, tells the story of 19th-century western settler, portrayed by Academy Award winner Cliff Robertson, who sets off on his own to search for water to help his dying son, but instead finds he had stepped into the modern era.  Part of this “modern era” is a diner that we were fortunate to locate.  However, it was in a bad state of disrepair.  The gentleman that owned the property, was living behind the building, and structure did have a for sale sign in the window.   At first, it didn’t look at all like the original diner from episode, but with a little imagination, and after looking at it for a while you can see the similarity.   There were other scenes from the episode, where again, the director tries to convey the desolation and isolation that Cliff’s character was experiencing through the desert area.   Ironically, Paul and I experienced those same feelings of desolation and isolation when we first arrived.  Wondering how these earlier settlers could have managed with the extreme temperatures variations, lack of water, and isolation.   Death Valley temperatures have reached as high as 134 degrees, and virtually having no rainfall.  With that, photos from the “A Hundred Yards Over the Rim” episode.

In closing, Paul and I really enjoyed our experiences in visiting those vintage locations.  This trip helped us develop a deeper appreciation, for the area, and for what the cast and crew must have dealt with on a day to day basis working in Death Valley.  On one occasion, Paul did make a comment to me during one of our photo shoots, “they call it Death Valley, this place is anything but death…”.   I really thought about his comment, and I couldn’t agree more.  Despite all its potential harshness, we discovered that Death Valley does have an abundance of natural beauty, making it truly come alive.   Artist Palette, The Devils Golf Course, Furnace Creek, Mesquite Dunes, are just a few of the other areas we visited, all of which offer life to this beautiful landscape.  As stated at the beginning of this post, this is “part one” of our journey.  Paul and I hope to return some day to visit several other Twilight Zone locations.  Please visit the following link to view Paul’s short video clip, “Twilight Zone On Location”.


Fantasyland – Newer and more fantasy than ever

Last week, my wife and I visited Walt Disney World with some friends.  We were fortunate to be able to stay on the Disney property, which gave us easy and quick access to the Magic Kingdom and Epcot.

Since my wife and I have been Vacation Club Members for a number of years, Disney (and DVC) was gracious enough to invite us to see and tour the New Fantasyland area prior to its opening.  This new area is opening in phases, and is scheduled for its grand opening for guests on December 6th of this year.  The nice thing about having the DVC member access, is that we could take our time walking through, since there were only a few other folks in the area.  It’s not often that you have the opportunity to photograph at a Disney park, with virtually no one else in front of you.

As we began our journey I was amazed at the level of detail that this new area offered.   The waterfalls, rocks and boulders, all leading the way up to the ‘Beast’s’ castle which was modeled after the Disney animated classic Beauty and the Beast.   Before proceeding to the castle, we stopped by Gaston’s Tavern, which will soon become familiar to everyone for the great sticky buns that they serve there.

Next we entered the Beast’s castle to view the interactive show titled, “Enchanted Tales with Belle”, previewing some incredible special effects along the way; a mirror that disappears and turns into a secret doorway to the library for one.  We continued into the library where the show resumes to give guests a great opportunity to visit and interact with Lumiere, Cogsworth, and eventually Belle during this lively re-enactment of the story.  There are plenty of photo opportunities with Belle during the finale.

We then crossed the bridge to tour the’ Be Our Guest Restaurant’, which houses 3 magnificent dining rooms, right out of the animated classic.  Complete with its west wing, the major and minor dining rooms, the ballroom, frost on the windows, the famous red rose in its glass case – petals and all.

After our visit with Beauty and the Beast we moved on to Ariel’s Grotto.  Our next attraction was the ‘Under the Sea -Journey of the Little Mermaid’.   As you walk through the entrance, Disney created numerous vignettes along the way featuring the various cast members of The Little Mermaid classic.  These mini-shows are a great idea for entertaining guests as they wait to enter the main attraction.  Finally, you enter Prince Eric’s castle, and board a giant clamshell.  The clamshell takes you through a re-telling of the animated classic, first on land and then you travel under the sea to enter Ariel’s underwater world.  As with Enchanted Tales with Belle, the attention to detail and special effects were astounding.

Unfortunately, we did not have time to visit ‘Storybook Circus’, the new replacement area to Mickey’s Toon-Town.  Visible everywhere, we observed many barricaded areas which enclosed regions under construction, and will eventually be home to many more attraction for this newly designed area.

As we exited, we were informed that after its completion this new area will nearly double Fantasyland’s size.  However, as I’m somewhat of an old-fashioned Disney fan, I do hope that they do retain some of the older attractions.  Granted, many may need some refurbishing and updating, but they are, and always will be part of my fondest memories of the Fantasyland attractions.

Fall Foliage – New England

The crisp air, apple picking time, pumpkins sold everywhere…a true indication that fall has arrived in New England.

This year seemed to be an extraordinary year to check out the changing leaves.  I’ve always felt so fortunate, living in New England to be able to see the leaves change almost every day.  As the temperatures dropped, more and more leaf colors continued to emerge.  I did utilize a great Android app called “Foliage Leaf Peepr”, which helped me find and report on the best and brightest colors this year.

Our New England cruise gave us a great opportunity to see the diverse range of color change from green, turning, moderate, etc.  The several photos that I’ve included with this post, were taken at Roger Williams Park, in Providence, Rhode Island.  Fortunately for me, I was able to take these shots the week prior to hurricane Sandy’s arrival.

Bay of Fundy – St. Johns, New Brunswick

Location of the Bay of Fundy

A number of years ago on one of our trips out west while visiting our glorious national parks, my wife and I were fortunate enough to meet some very nice folks.  Since that time we’ve traveled with them on numerous occasions.  On the week of Oct 14, 2012, we all decided to take a cruise out of Boston, Massachusetts.  Its ports of call included Portland and Bar Harbor Maine, St. Johns New Brunswick, and Halifax Nova Scotia.  Since we were very close to peak foliage, these stops did make for a great backdrop for photographing.

During the stop in St. Johns, my wife had surprised me and had planned a photo excursion for me with a professional photographer.  He brought us to photograph numerous areas in St. John’s, one of which included the Bay of Fundy.  The Bay of Fundy is a bay on the Atlantic coast, on the northeast end of the Gulf of Maine between the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.  The Bay of Fundy is noted for having the highest tidal ranges in the world.  Tides can rise up to, and surpass, 40-50 feet.  Living in Rhode Island, we do experience tide changes daily, and even moon tide changes, which offer higher than normal tides; however, nothing like what occurs in the Bay of Fundy.  As a matter fact, I noted numerous areas where lobstering and fishing boats were lying on their sides because the docks that they were fastened to were not high (or tall) enough to accommodate the tide change.  When the tide went out, the boats would be leaning or lying on their side on the sea floor.  As the tide came in, the boats would begin to right themselves and float upright against the dock, ready to go to work.

The interesting thing is there are various areas throughout this coast where this bay touches, and where you can experience this tidal phenomenon.  Obviously, it would require a return visit during the same day to truly appreciate the differences between the tide levels.  Areas like Hopewell Rocks (the location of the famous formation “flower pot rocks”) or an area on the St. Johns River where you can visit the famous “reversing tides”.  On this excursion we were fortunate enough to visit these reversing falls.  We arrived early to observe the falls in action.  They were churning, cascading, rapidly rushing in the direction of the Bay as the tide was outgoing.  When we returned later that morning, the tide was beginning to change direction and we witnessed the water had almost stopped.  Unfortunately, we didn’t get a chance to see it reverse its direction fully, but I’m told that when it does, it can impact the river and its inlets 78 miles upstream.  A real tribute to the power of nature.

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