It was 1971, and Gene Wilder introduced Willy Wonka and his chocolate factory to what would one day become a cult following of fans. Archie Bunker was rapidly becoming a household name as All in the Family began its run as one of television's most irreverent sitcoms. The Rolling Stones were rocking out to "Brown Sugar," Three Dog Night gave us "Joy to the World," Carole King released her signature album, Tapestry, and Michael Jackson and Donny Osmond were budding teen sensations.
Despite all the wonderful new things that were happening that spring and summer, a cherished era – the era of Palisades Amusement Park – was coming to an end. Before there was Disneyland, there was Palisades Park. People flocked from Bergen and beyond to this wonderland atop the Palisades. Chuck Barris of The Gong Show fame wrote the song "Palisades Park" about it. The song was recorded by Freddie "Boom Boom" Cannon and it became an instant classic.
I remember standing in line to ride the Cyclone with my sister, Paula, and my dad. Just as it was time to board the roller coaster, my father stepped away and motioned us to get on. Never ones to disobey, we climbed in – the last row, I might add – and braced ourselves for the fear and excitement that was about to begin. We were so scared as the coaster climbed the rickety track to the summit before the first drop. Some people say the front seat is the scariest, but try the last one some time! As the coaster began to plunge down the first slope, I felt myself scream, but no sound came out.
High rises stand in place of the park today, but there is still a nostalgic sparkle that whirls around the memories. The great sand pool with man-made waves, the Tunnel of Love, the beauty pageants and concerts are all embedded in the cherished childhood memories of Bergen's baby boomers.
"I remember so many wonderful things about Palisades Park – especially the saltwater pool. We couldn't believe it!" –Pat Koterba, Paramus
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