In the Good Old Summer Time
- There's a time in each year
- That we always hold dear,
- Good old summer time;
- With the birds and the trees-es,
- And sweet scented breezes,
- Good old summer time
- c. 1902 George Evans and lyrics by Ren Shields
Hi everyone! Here I am in the early 1900s in my very own home town. It's summer and that means hot cities and cool breezes off the Narragansett Bay, which means it's amusement park time! In the late 1800s and early 1900s, my city had four major amusement parks! There was even one in my own neighborhood. Steamboats and trains from Providence and other areas brought thousands of visitors to the shores of the Narragansett Bay for some summer fun.
I walked to the local historical society to learn more. (The president lady made a big fuss over me because my distant connections lived in the house). I learned all about the amusement park known as Vanity Fair. A newspaper ad claimed, "Vanity Fair is the most ambitious, grandiose amusement park north of Coney Island." It opened in 1907 and had all the popular attractions: Chute the Chute, roller coaster, carousel, Wild West Show, dance hall, circus, an Indian congress, wild animal area and sideshows, like the baby incubator.
When I visited the park, I discovered the most popular thing to see was the show "Fighting the Flames." "Fighting the Flames" featured a fake city caught on fire every day and actors portraying people in the city would call for help. More actors, dressed as firefighters, came out to put out the fire and rescue the people. Samantha and Rebecca say this kind of show is very very popular in Coney Island and at World's Fairs. Vanity Fair also had a boardwalk, hotel, dance hall, shore dinner hall, scenic railroad, and guess what else? A Japanese tea garden! Of course I had to visit there after hearing all about Samantha and Ruth's adventures at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition.
I'm going to leave you now to go play in the children's playground. Here's the path - no grown-ups allowed!
Bob Rodericks, "The Coney Island of the East Coast," East Providence Reporter, August 2013, http://reportertoday.com/eastprovidence/stories/The-Coney-Island-of-the-East-Coast,5466
J. Stanley Lemmons, "Summer Times : From Shore Resorts to Amusement Parks," Narragansett Bay Journal, Spring 2012 http://www.nbep.org/journals/22-2-12/Summer-Times-RI.pdf
"Vanity Fair", Art in Ruins, http://www.artinruins.com/arch/?id=historical&pr=vanityfair
Another park called Hunt's Mills was in my own neighborhood. It was built in 1900 by the city water supply company. Trolleys brought people to visit in open cars. The park had a carousel, vaudeville, shooting gallery, soda fountain and dance hall. The shady woods and cold river felt good on a hot day! The horseshoe waterfall was also a big attraction. By World War I, they held dance contests that attracted large crowds and popular vaudeville acts came here. In 1923 a fire burned the dance hall to the ground.The park could not survive without the main attraction.