Author shares memories of lost amusement parks


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Vashti Harris, Staff Writer
By VASHTI HARRIS, Staff Writer, TINTON FALLS–Shredding a light on a time period when roller coaster rides met the ocean side, co-author Rick Geffken discussed his latest book the “Lost Amusement Parks of the North Jersey Shore” at a  recently held talk and book signing event., The event, which was sponsored by the Friends of the Crawford House and the Tinton Falls Library, was held on April 26 at the Crawford House, which is located at 750 Tinton Ave., “[It] was the library that approached us and asked if we would be willing to host [Geffken]. We know of [Geffken’s] work from his earlier book about Shrewsbury, and are very happy to welcome him to the Crawford House. We felt that his new book would be of interest to local residents, and we are always looking for ways to promote local history,” Stacey Slowinski, the president of the Friends of the Crawford House said., The book brings together rarely seen images from the Library of Congress, local historical societies, and private collections to document how the Jersey Shore was regarded as the most famous vacation and recreational destination in the coastal United States, according to a prepared statement from the book’s publishing company, Arcadia Publishing and The History Press., The details in the pictures captured a simpler way of life in the United States, when families took their children to boardwalks to savor candy apples, salt water taffy, hot dogs and hamburgers, popcorn, and, of course, the rides, according to a prepared statement., Geffken worked on his latest book for about one year and decided to co-write it with George Severini. He explained that although he received many of the photos used in the book from the Library of Congress and local historical societies, he chose to collaborate with Severini because of wife’s family collection of pictures and photo editing expertise., “[Severini] is married to Kathy Dorn and her father and grandfather, both named Daniel Dorn, were filmmakers who also took photos. They had over 10,000 archives of photos taken of the shores and amusement parks. [Severini] was also the photo-shop expert, so he provide the photos,” Geffken said., Severini wife’s family photos are called Dorn’s Classic Images and can be viewed at their website, according to Geffken., Geffken is originally from Hudson County, but growing up, he spent summers in Highlands, which is located in Monmouth County., Geffken began his presentation when he explained about the photograph that he used on the cover of  his book. He revealed that the photo of the two male persons was taken in 1955 and that both were actually 15 year-old teenagers on their way to a dance., Monmouth County was the home to a total of 14 shore amusement parks that were all created roughly in the 1880s, accorrding to Geffken., During the event, Geffken showed the guests in attendance various vintage photographs of numerous amusement parks dating to the 1880s to the 1950s., Geffken showed amusement parks as well as recreation centers that were located in numerous shore sites such as in Asbury Park, Long Branch, Sandy Hook, Long Beach, Pleasure Bay and Bradley Beach., Throughout his presentation Geffken also named various figures, such as William Sandlass Jr. who owned and operated the Highland Beach Resort, which was located in what is now Sea Bright., Geffken capped his presentation when he touched on the reasons why the amusement parks closed down., He made a point to say that no one thing caused all of the amusement parks to close down, but a culmination of things that included the New Jersey Turnpike providing families with more access to travel to other places, the creation of televisions, riots from the 1960s causing many residents to not want leave their homes, changes in entertainment options, fires, floods, and many other causes., “The Garden State Parkway and the New Jersey Turnpike catered to the growing middle class with cars after World War II. These families and drivers could now more easily get to places south of Monmouth County. This was one factor in the decline of the Monmouth County resorts. Others include TVs in most homes, the racial turmoil, especially the Asbury Park disturbances, in the late 1960s, changing tastes, more entertainment choices, etc.,” Geffken said., Today all of the amusement parks discussed in the book are all gone now and only tiny remnants remain, according to Geffken.  , After publishing his first book in 2015 called “The Story of Shrewsbury Revisited” with co-author Don Burden, Geffken said that  he wanted to write a book about the  lost amusement parks in New Jersey., “I was lucky enough as a child, and along with my sister, to have been able to visit the few of the amusement parks in Highlands, Asbury Park and Long Branch,” Geffken said. “I had thought about writing the book for a few years now [and] after I had published my book on the history of Shrewsbury, I decided that it would be my next one.”, Geffken said that the difficulty the faced creating this book was being able to place the right information with the correct photo., “I did my research at local historical societies and libraries, which were very generous enough to let me go through their archives. The easy part was getting the photos, but the hard part was putting together the correct information for each photo and matching it together,” Geffken said., Hoping to revive a piece of New Jersey history that has been forgotten Geffken said  that there are a lot of memories people still have of amusement parks., There is a lot of nostalgia primarily because there all gone now, and for many people who got a chance to visit  these amusement parks, they have memories of being there.  So with my book I try to invoke for my readers that time and place,” Geffken said. , , To purchase  “Lost Amusement Parks of the North Jersey Shore” visit, For more information about the Friends of the Crawford House visit, Contact Vashti Harris at

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