Dee FitzGerald and my cousin, Cookie emailed that my blog on The Beach brought back memories of their own summer experiences. And last week, at a super bowl party, Judy Sparanese and I traded beach stories (in between rooting for opposite teams–hers won, darn it) So, I am encouraged in more reminiscences about my halcyon days at the shore.
Back to Nantasket Beach, the place my family enjoyed for many summers: Most days, we hung at the beach, but it was Paragon Park that provided a special treat. The amusement park, which opened in 1905, was created by George Dodge, a whaling mogul; it finally closed in 1985 (sigh!). It featured lagoon rides, a jungle ride, a carousel, a Ferris Wheel, bumper cars, and much more. But the most thrilling of all, was a giant wood roller coaster that attracted young and old.
It’s difficult to recapture the excitement of a visit to Paragon Park, at a time when recreational activities were simple: Trips to the beach or a lake, a Sunday drive, going for ice cream, the movies, Jack Benny and The Shadow on the radio, children’s concerts at the Auditorium.
The Carousel is now located next to the old train station and clock tower at Nantasket; The rest of the site is devoted to condominium development. But the park’s “Giant Coaster” lives and breathes as “The Wild One” at Six Flags America in Baltimore/Washington DC.
Believe it or not, this summer, the world premiere of “Paragon Park the Musical,” opens on the Company Theatre stage in Norwell, MA. It is co-authored by actor/director Michael Hammond, a lifelong Holbrook resident, and Company Theatre co-founder and artistic director Zoe Bradford.
When I was planning to write about Paragon Park, how lucky I was to find an article, published only yesterday, in the periodical, Wicked Local Norwell, written by correspondent Jeanne M. Rideout.
Jeanne Rideout writes the following:
Hammond and Bradford never left the magic of Paragon Park behind.
Hammond recalls trips to Paragon Park with his sister and brother.
“When we approached the park in the car, my brother, sister and I had a contest to see who could see the roller coaster first. When we saw the roller coaster, we started screaming. The whole place was magical and fun for me,” Hammond said.
Paragon Park stood out for Bradford as well.
“Where Zoe used to live in Weymouth, she could see Paragon Park across the water and see the roller coaster. Paragon Park was in the back of her mind all the time,” Hammond said.
The inspiration for a musical that would bring the rich history of the park to life sparked when Hammond designed a Paragon Park poster.
“I sent Zoe an email with the poster with text and graphics and that email reignited her interest and kicked off the idea again,” Hammond said.
Bradford and Hammond conducted hundreds of interviews, viewed countless historical photos and visited historical societies, libraries, and cemeteries while piecing together the 80-year history of Paragon Park.
“Once we started, everywhere we went, we would write. We wrote in a restaurant in Hull. People kept coming up to us and telling us their stories about Paragon Park. There was real interest,” Hammond said.
One little-known fact shared by Hammond is that if there had never been a Paragon Park, there might never have been a Disney World. Paragon Park was the inspiration for the first Epcot Center.
Dodge had created areas in the park that were Asian, African and Italian, surely inspired by his travels around the world. Although Walt Disney never visited Paragon Park, he visited a park in another state that was a copy of Paragon.
As for me: who could have imagined my Paragon Park being the inspiration for a Walt Disney theme park. No wonder I thought it was special.