By: Ian K. Seppala
Hirsch, Rose Ann. Western New York Amusement Parks (Images of America). 2011 Arcadia Publishing 9781439639283.
Rose Hirsch is an expert of Western New York Amusement and is a carrousel restoration specialist. Her book is a collection of wonderful photographs supplemented by well researched chapter's to help us remember the amusement parks of today and of yesteryear. This book appeals to an audience of all ages and even those who have never been to any of these parks.
The book is broken into seven chapters. The chapters are loosely organized on a timeline. The first two chapters discuss early parks, and are split by region. Chapter three is on Crystal Beach. Rose did an excellent job of giving enough information without overwhelming the casual reader. If you are interested in a more in-depth look at Crystal Beach, Find a copy of Rose's book Crystal Memories: 101 Years of Fun at Crystal Beach Park. Chapter four highlights the era of neighborhood Kiddieland parks. These include Paige's and Dealing's whose history are both preserved at the Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum. The museum still operates three rides from Paige's Whistle Pig in their Kiddieland Testing Park.
The last three chapters focus on parks that were still operational when the book was published in 2011. Chapter five is on the original and reborn Olcott Beach Park. She does an excellent job of detailing the difficulties of reopening the park. The use of photographs from both eras permits the reader a visual as well as mental contrast between old and new. Chapter six is on Fantasy Island. It details the struggles of the park since its inception, and foreshadows its recent closing. Arguably what this chapter does better it explain the importance of the park on its community and the many transformations it occurred to serve that public. The use of the author's own photos (more on this later), captures the important effects this park has had on Western New York. Chapter seven is of Darien Lake Amusement Park. As my childhood park, I was particularly delighted with this chapter. Rose is able to explain how a simple campground in the middle of nowhere became one of the most cutting-edge parks in the United States.
This book uses a variety of resources to bring together a class selection of photographs. Sources vary from private collections (like Dan Wilke's), historical organizations (The Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum), to the parks themselves (Darien Lake and Martin's Fantasy Island). However I believe Rose's personal collection is the most important addition to this book. She is able to find a wonderful balance of historical documentation and human emotion. Chapter five shows this blend perfectly. She uses photographs like the formal groundbreaking of Fantasy Island, along with the photo of her riding the Silver Comet with on her wedding day (with the wedding party tagging along for the ride). The usage of a variety of sources is one of the reasons it is so approachable.
I recommend this book to everyone. If you're interested in Western New York history, amusement or have visited one of these parks. Even though I only have visited two of the mentioned parks, I still found myself pouring over each photograph. The author provides fun little tidbits of information for history lovers. I never knew that The Viper roller coaster (at Darien Lake) was the first to have five corkscrew rotations. Most importantly, this book recalls better times. It allows everyone of us to find those special times we had on an amusement ride with a love one. During these times, we all need to remember those good times and that they will be back again soon.