17. The Wesley Lake Section, Part 8

The Palace Amusements, Part 4


The Palace Ferris Wheel was pure elegance. Each car could seat about six people, three facing in one direction and three in the other on two back-to-back benches. The floors were wood, the doors were caged metal. A striped canvas canopy covered each car. The canopies, as well as each car, were of a different color. A plaque on the front of each car bore the name of a different New Jersey city.

Image 1.17.1. The Palace Ferris Wheel, looking north.

The day sparkles. As slowly we rise through the slot in the roof our colored canopy tints us. The blue stripe of Wesley Lake is below, at our feet, and Ocean Grove's Victorians are like chessmen waiting for a game. Fully now we see the great Grove Auditorium among them. With its plumpish antique turrets, it looks like an assemblage of alien beehives. To our left, we glimpse what we have seen before - Casino, Boardwalk, Beach and Ocean. To our right the ornate campanile of the Mayfair Theater has now become our neighbor. Backwards down now go we out of the daylight, descending near the pop-pop-pop of the firing range, then smoothly sailing forward through the gravelly ally a little beneath the Palace floor.

Image 2.17.1. The Palace Ferris Wheel (without the canopies), looking northeast.

The Ferris Wheel may well have been the oldest in the United States. It was made by the Phoenix Iron and Steel Company in 1895 (it clearly predated the one made by W.G. Ferris for the 1893 Chicago World's Fair). The Asbury Park Ferris Wheel originally had an observation deck. The wheel would stop and people could step out onto a kind of crow's nest to study the view. Ernest Schnitzler (who established and first owned the Palace, remember?) patented this model as the "Roundabout and Observatory," in 1895. Originally the cars were named after American admirals of the Spanish-American War.

Image 3.17.1 This view of Wesley Lake and Ocean Grove is similar to the sight from the Ferris wheel as you started to go up. (This view is actually a block or so west, just past the Mayfair Theater.)

That's it. Ride done. We will have to dream the rest.

Between the Palace's major attractions we find games and other small diversions: The Test-Your-Strength Grip; vending machines that dispensed Mutoscope cards and funny bogus licenses; photo booths; a fortune-telling machine...

Image 4.17.1. "I see ... I see ... No ... No ... Never mind ... Never mind. Thank you ...No charge! No charge! Have a nice day!"

From deep in my childhood I recall a Test-Your-Driving machine. It was just opposite Hell-and-Back, near the pinball machines. You got into a booth and sat behind a steering wheel. In front of you was a screen that showed a black-and-white movie of a busy thoroughfare (a film taken from the windshield of a car). You would meet up with various obstacles and have to turn or brake to avoid them. I think a recorded voice egged you on. I'm not sure if the machine actually kept score or if it was just a joke.

Now the moment we've been waiting for ... the Funhouse!



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