Etta Pendleton was at Rocky Point Sunday afternoon. She was leaning on the wall overlooking the remnants of the pier, her walker beside her. It was in the 90s, but the heat didn’t bother Etta. The Bay breeze blew her hair and the memories were coming back like it was yesterday.
Etta is 85, a resident of North Scituate, and this was the first time she’s visited the park since she and her family rode the rides and enjoyed clamcakes and chowder from the Shore Diner Hall takeout window not all that far away from where she was standing with her daughter and son-in law, Nick Leporacci.
Nick recalled working at the park in 1975 and 1976, first as the guy who took the tickets a stone’s throw from the booth where they were sold. The entrance fee was 50 cents. The second summer he ran the Sky Diver.
What Etta, Nick and others randomly interviewed for this story share is a connection of a place, a place that not only evokes memories but has also become their place. They have ideas of how the park should evolve and what they would like to see, and just as important, what they don’t want to see.
Etta misses the old park, the rides, the excited shouts, the smell of clamcakes and the gulls hovering to snatch a scrap from those willing to toss them a morsel.
“Why did they take these parks away?” she asks naming Rocky Point, Crescent Park and Lincoln Park.
Nick reminds her it was finances that eventually drove the parks out of business. She sighs.
But she likes what the park has become and prefers it to the condos that developers proposed for the 124-acre site. She doesn’t want to see that.
“I hope they keep it like this,” she said. Then looking around, she adds, “Put a lawn chair under the trees, listen to the waves and go to sleep.”
Joe and Linda Alves of Cranston were taking in the same scene from a bench further down the path. They had a view across the bay to Bristol where Joe grew up, of Patience Island and of Warwick Neck where a sailboat with a giant blue spinnaker stood out from a flotilla of smaller craft. Joe worked at Electric Boat and fondly remembers the two-day outings held by the company where fellow workers got to know each other’s families. Today he likes walking the grounds and recalling where everything was.
He and Linda also like the fact that they can access the water without having to face a mob. “It’s harder and harder to get to the water…it’s nice to get some sand between your toes; breath the salt air.”
Joe would like to see “family” activities at the park. He knew of the movie nights sponsored by the Central Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce. He thought something like a concert by the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra would be good and events that bring families together.
There’s’ still a longing for what the park once was.
“The fact that everything is a memory is what I don’t like,” said April Young, who was walking the trail with the husband Mike and their rescue dog, Maise.
She remembers her parents’ 25th wedding anniversary party at the Windjammer on June 21, 1994, a year before the park closed. “I can still visualize everything,” she said mimicking the rickety click of Skyliner seats as they rode over the stanchions.
April grew up in Highland Beach and remembers when the Corkscrew was introduced.
She said she and a neighbor, David, spent every penny of their allowances riding the Corkscrew over and over again. “We must have paid for that thing.” On summer nights she fell asleep to the music of park concerts.
“I think of today’s youth and they have no clue [of what the park was like],” she said. Like the others interviewed, April thinks of the park as a family spot.
“It was a good spot to see the girls,” he says.
He also remembers the concerts and how the park was a venue to hear some bands like the Quiet Riot that he otherwise wouldn’t have heard. The pair started naming all the park rides and venues, no question devoted members of the Rocky Point fan club. They’re excited about DEM plans for a new pier. For the time it’s about taking in the views, the bay breeze and memories as fresh as if happened yesterday.
Ask Etta. Her distant look had her riding a time machine.