Lina Rehal

Carousel Kisses

They strolled the boulevard hand in hand,

stopping now and then to play a game of chance.

He won her a cupie doll that hung on a stick,

bought her salt water taffy and pink cotton candy.

They went on the Ferris wheel,

rode through the Tunnel of Love,

had their picture taken in the penny arcade.

Riding white horses on the merry-go-round

to the sound of calliope music,

they shared their first kiss.

She caught the brass ring.

The Boulevard

by Lina Rehal

Revere Beach, established in 1896, was America’s first public beach. I didn’t think about that when I was a child in the early 1950s. It was part of my world. I thought it would always be there. I never imagined that someday it would be part of the history of the North Shore and that all those wonderful amusements would be gone and replaced by condominiums.

For decades, people from all over the world flocked to Massachusetts to sunbathe on the sandy shores of Revere Beach, or to enjoy the variety of entertainment along the Boulevard that was our version of Coney Island. The attractions included restaurants, hotels, movie theaters, dance halls and rides such as roller coasters, Ferris wheels and carousels.

My family lived so close to the beach we could smell the ocean and see the infamous Cyclone roller coaster from our kitchen window. We ate dinner on hot summer nights watching the train of cars zoom down that first big hill at speeds of up to 50 miles an hour, its occupants screaming all the way to the bottom. I was eight years old and couldn’t imagine what would make a person get on that ride.

Revere Beach was a great place to be a kid. It had cotton candy, salt water taffy, rides, games, music, penny arcades, a funhouse and the best merry-go-round ever.

My mother loved the Boulevard as much as my three younger brothers and I did. At least once a week she took the four of us, two in a baby carriage and two walking beside her holding onto the handlebar, and off we’d go. Sometimes, our dog King tagged along uninvited. King was a lovable mutt, but they didn’t allow dogs in the arcades. When he strutted right in behind us, my mother would tell us to make believe we didn’t know him. If someone asked, she said innocently, “We don’t have a dog.”

On the short walk to the beach, my mother told us stories about what it was like when she was a teenager. She reminisced about roller-skating on Revere Beach, hanging out with her friends and how my grandfather always knew where to find her.

My mother’s best story was the one about the Virginia Reel, the scariest, most dangerous ride on the beach. She never missed an opportunity to tell us that one. It was a huge, ugly green monster with tunnels and steep hills. From the sidewalk, we could hear the passengers screaming and see the big round cars spinning almost out of control as they whizzed by teetering on the edge. The one and only time my mother rode the Virginia Reel, she made God a promise that she would never ride a roller coaster again if he let her get off alive. She kept her promise.

Nothing fascinated me more than the carousel in the Hippodrome. Merry-Go-Round music blared and the platform shook while parents lifted their young children up in the air onto a colorful horse and stood beside them. The older children scurried around trying to find their favorite horses before the ride began. I always picked one that went up and down. If a rider caught the brass ring that hung from a pole, it meant a free ride.

My dad sold jewelry on consignment at Bob’s Discount store. The man in the store gave us free tickets so we could go on more rides.

“Kiddie Day” was even more of a treat. They sold long strips of tickets for a dollar. Those tickets went a long way. We were able to drive tiny boats and cars for hours in a magical make-believe world.

I loved watching my mother play the games of chance. The men and women working the booths hollered to the people walking by. “Pitch till you win,” they would say. “A prize every time! Only five cents a game. Step this way!” She liked the number games. Picking her favorite number, she’d put a nickel on the board and we’d all watch the big wheel with light bulbs around it, hoping her number would light up. Once in a while, she won a prize.

Whenever they had fireworks, we went to the Boulevard at night. My mother bought us hot dogs for supper at Bill Ash’s. It cost too much to buy sodas for all of us, so she brought her own. No one minded that in those days. They even supplied her with paper cups.

I remember walking by the Frolics Nightclub and seeing the words “Now Appearing” over black and white glossy photographs of singing stars such as Patti Page or Jerry Vale. I wasn’t old enough to go there, but I knew it was a place that grown-ups enjoyed.

Baby-boomers share wonderful memories of the coastal playground. Their stories of Bluebeard’s Funhouse, the Double Ferris Wheel, the Bubble Bounce, Wild Mouse, Tilt-A-Whirl, Dodgems, batting cages, Joe and Nemo’s, Kelly’s Roast Beef, Bill Ash’s and Bianchi’s Pizza will be around for years to come.

Published on June 11, 2010 at 5:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

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