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Carousel House and rotating wheel, in winter (circa 1950). Photo courtesy of Ralph Lopez Jr. view larger image
Despite its remarkable survival through the Depression, the Palace suffered from a serious loss of revenue which hampered August Williams' ability during the late 1930s to replace the old familiar rides with newer thrills; obviously, something had to change soon if the Palace was to operate beyond its 50th season. That something arrived in 1938 in the form of a young Asbury resident who had spent the past 12 years working in oceanfront concessions and was now ready to step up to the big time.

Edward Lange, 1990. Photo courtesy of Carrie Papa. view larger image
His name was Edward H. Lange. Born in the Bronx and educated in France and Belgium, Lange was employed in a Mt. Vernon, N.Y. restaurant in 1926 when someone told him about Asbury Park. On his first visit to the shore, he fell in love with the place and stayed, working in a restaurant on Kingsley Street near 4th Avenue, running a hot dog stand on Ocean Avenue, and then operating an amusement center in Belmar. It was in Belmar that Lange formulated a philosophy that an amusements park needed ingeniously designed attractions, needed to be ever changing and always upgraded, and needed to always be meticulously cared for. Lange also developed enormous faith in the creative talents of painters, animators and designers, and once he and his business partner, the Russian-born Zimel Resnick, had bought the Palace, it was in them, the creative geniuses, that the partners met the future.

Zimel Resnick (circa 1960s). Photo courtesy of Deborah Wasserman.
From the beginning, the Lange-Resnick partnership was no greenhorn operation. Lange's experience and understanding of the political intricacies of the boardwalk meshed well with Resnick's personal finances, social status and connections. Whereas Lange grew up outside Asbury Park's social order, Resnick enjoyed prominence in the Jewish community, both locally and nationally. Whereas Resnick actively collected Jewish memorabilia and historic objects, Lange's interests ran toward things that spun and twisted and went "boo" in the dark. Together, they made a team, and with Resnick at his side for 33 years, Lange and members of his family shaped the Palace's destiny for the next 47 years.

No one seems to know who brought them together, but when Lange and Resnick hired Ralph Lopez Sr., they found an extraordinary painter and creator of amusements to help execute blockbuster changes at Palace. As the son of an Abernaki Indian basketweaver, and the stepson of a Mexican artist, both of whom had been performers in Bullalo Bill's Wild West Show, Lopez came to the Palace with a deep background in both amusements and paint. His stepfather was a prolific painter, and although the couple had children of their own, it was Lopez who somehow inherited the artistic abilities from his stepfather. As a young man, Lopez refined his talents in the amusements of Coney Island and along Asbury's boardwalk before signing on at the Palace, where he would leave his mark from the early 1940s through the early 1960s.


Their first big blockbuster change took place in the early 1940s, when Lange and Resnick acquired a 100-foot by 30-foot area in the middle of the block, north of the rotating wheel. This property connected the existing Palace to Cookman Avenue, and ran parallel to a pedestrian walkway that for years had served as the Cookman Avenue entry to the Palace and an exit for patrons of the Lyric Theatre.

Newspapers and radios at the time were forecasting global war, and by expanding when they did, the Palace owners showed considerable faith both in the future of their country, and their industry. Like the Depression, the World War II years would take a toll on amusement parks, especially during the blackouts and rationing. The Palace, however, had an edge. The war brought into town a captive infusion of potential customers: several thousand British seamen were being stationed in the Berkeley Carteret and other beachfront hotels, while Army personnel took over the Hotel Kingsley Arms and YMCA building.


In the first Palace expansion since 1903, Lange and Resnick installed 3,000-square feet of arcade games, but after several seasons, while Lange was serving in the U.S. Army, Resnick replaced the arcade with a Donkey Ride, one of the strangest attractions ever at the Palace. Passengers rode on a crude, sheet metal donkey, manufactured by the Pretzel Ride Company, that bucked and bounced clumsily along a long dark stretch of track until nearing the sidewalk at Cookman Avenue, where the ride burst outside, out of the darkness, rounded a curve, and plunged back into darkness to complete its round trip. After two seasons, the Donkey Ride was replaced for the next several seasons by a Wax Museum purchased in New York. In addition to beautifully sculpted figures of prominent Americans including Abraham Lincoln, and black-lit spook rooms complete with wax mummy cases, there were three images hung upside down, two of which depicted the Italian Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini and his mistress, who had been killed by hanging in 1945. For a touch of faint-inducing reality, Ralph Lopez Sr. created a pump-driven mechanism that oozed a blood-like fluid from the mouths and noses and down the hair of the hanging wax figures.



Palace Skee Ball games (circa 1940). From the Christopher Flynn Collection. Photo by Samuel Spizzuco.
From the early 1940s on, every nook, cranny and open area of the Palace was filled with skee ball machines, pinball machines and other popular games, especially around the rotating wheel and throughout the Carousel House. Over in the southeast corner of Kingsley Street and Lake Avenue, long before it became The Charcoal Pit, was a snack bar where Mrs. D, the wife of the Palace carpenter, Mr. D, sold hamburgers, hotdogs and cotton candy. For a time, there was even a giant L-shaped slide, which started near the Fun House and ended near the entry to the rotating wheel. Patrons sat on small pieces of carpet, but since anyone who inadvertently came into contact with the slide while traveling at high speeds risked being burned, and because there was insufficient time to slow down before reaching the end of the slide, the attraction was short lived.


Through all the changes, the Palace carousel remained the premier attraction, the most famous and popular ride. In an oral history given to Carrie Papa for "The Carousel Keepers" (The McDonald & Woodward Publishing Company, Blacksburg, VA.) Lange said that while other rides came and went, "the merry-go-round with the band organ music of course was the heart." With the carousel, he said, "you always had motion, life, the heart. It was the heart of the business."

Which is why nearly everyone involved with the Palace carousel was devastated by the events of one day in 1942 during an extensive restoration of the carousel. As Lange later told Papa:

"We were removing the paint, as we were going to do a real top notch job. Remove the paint and start all fresh. And of course, we were using paint remover, and somebody lit a cigarette. Whshoosh! Thank God, the fire department came very quickly so only one section got burned. But fourteen horses were burned beyond redemption. So, we bought some [replacement] horses up in New England. In Revere Beach, I believe."

Another carousel incident almost claimed the life of Joe Travers, the Palace mechanic. Travers was making repairs on top of the carousel when an unsuspecting ride operator turned the machine on, putting the carousel in motion and starting the band organs. "I was yelling 'shut it off, shut it off,'" Travers said, but because of the organ music, his pleas went unheeded. "I was going around, and these two big gears -- if I get caught in the gears I'd be all ground up, so I jumped off the side, a 15-foot drop, hit the turnstile, and tore the muscles in my leg." Following three operations, Travers' doctor advised amputation, but Travers refused. He missed six months of work, his leg healed, and Travers later served in the military during the Korean War.

A totally different problem was caused by – of all things – music from the carousel’s band organ. Directly south of the Palace, across Wesley Lake, was the staunchly religious community of Ocean Grove, where outward signs of frivolity were frowned upon (some would say banned) during religious observations on weekends. However wonderful the Wurlitzer 153 band organ sounded to Palace patrons, the serenade drifting across the narrow lake was not appreciated by worshipers in Ocean Grove. According to Gary Bovee, a Long Island resident who made multiple trips to the Palace each year, Edward Lange avoided further trouble with his religious neighbors by installing a 78-rpm jukebox near the carousel, which became the exclusive source of music on Saturday nights in the early 1950s.


During the early 1940s, Ralph Lopez Sr., was put in charge of an updating of the Ghost Town in the Crystal Maze building. Within a few years, however, Lange wanted a bigger change. Lange lived by the philosophy of "always, always, always" changing and upgrading Palace attractions, and he demonstrated this by removing the Ghost Town and reinstalling it with a new theme in the Carousel House. The timing of relocation was most likely influenced by the sale of the Wax Museum to Nichols, then living in Florida, which gave Lange the opportunity to considerably expand the dark ride into the large space formerly occupied by wax figures.

Sadie Blunt casket scene, from The Haunted Caves. Photo courtesy Ralph Lopez Jr.
Completely reconstructed, The Haunted Caves dark ride started from a raised platform near the entrance to the Fun House and raced at a high speed toward Kingsley Street, then turned back underneath the elevated portion of the Fun House and lurched into a long series of looping turns out toward Cookman Avenue. Cars and track were of Pretzel origin, but the ambience, the spine-tingling scenes and haunting animations that confronted passengers as they flew through the darkness came directly and singularly from the imagination and creative talent of Ralph Lopez Sr.

Sadie Blunt casket scene, from The Haunted Caves. Photo courtesy of Ralph Lopez Jr.
In earlier years, Lopez and Nick Nichols worked together on major projects, but with Nichols now in Florida, The Haunted Caves was pure Lopez. At both ends of the cave-like facade, he built giant animated ghosts with moving eyes and arms. He transformed a huge papier-marché head from the Fun House into the God of the Winds and placed it over the entryway, rigged with a sound system that howled as a hurricane. As passengers sped through the darkness, they encountered a mind-bending series of creepy scenes, including a devil using his pitch fork to push a man into a fire; devilish figures representing several of the deadly sins; a Sadie Blunt burial scene reused from the Ghost Town; a giant Buddha head (a recycled New York stage prop); a Hanging Man (from the Wax Museum); and a witch made by the animation firm Messmore and Damon.

Hanging Man, from the Wax Museum and Haunted Caves. Photo courtesy Ralph Lopez Jr.
Seasons later, when The Haunted Caves had wrung its fair share of frights out of Palace patrons, the ride was recreated at the same location as Hell 'N' Back.
Hell 'N' Back devil, reworked from a 1930s original. Photo courtesy Peter Szikura.
By some accounts, this was a less than successful reconstruction, owing in part to Zimel Resnick's decision to turn the project over a New York artist, whose concepts were deemed by some to be too artsy, too obscure for young Palace patrons (such as a hand, emerging from a pool of blood, clutching a rose), too New York! Gone was most of the animation, the devil had lost his pitchfork in favor of a violin, and Olive Oly had been removed from the Fun House and given a new look. More popular was a Messmore and Damon laughing man, a standing figure with a mouth like a puppet that made people laugh. For all its problems, Hell 'N' Back lasted until 1955, when the Palace underwent its most dramatic transformation.

Entry to the Hell 'N' Back dark ride, and dark ride props from The Haunted Caves and Hell 'N' Back. Photos courtesy of Ralph Lopez Jr. view larger image


A furious two-hour onslaught of hurricane-force winds and tidal waves lashed the Jersey Shore, ripping buildings to shreds, collapsing piers, and causing millions of dollars worth of damage. Asbury Park's entire boardwalk was destroyed, parts of it pushed by tidal waves as far back as Kingsley Street. Within three days, however, The Evening Press reported that in the rush to return life to normal, amusements in the Wesley Lake area, saved from the worst of the storm by "the big bulk of the Casino, were also made ready, becoming the first playlands to reopen after the hurricane." Thanks to the buffering by the Casino, Palace damage was limited to scattered areas of the roof.



When Ghost Town was moved from the Crystal Maze building, the space formerly occupied by the dark ride became home to the first generation of Palace bumper cars in the mid-1940s. From somewhere, Lange and Resnick bought a number of antique Dodgem cars and had them repainted by Ralph Lopez Sr. Among the first bumper cars made in the U.S., Dodgems were big and bulky with rounded bumpers. They also had a rear-steering mechanism that made driving highly unmanageable. The unpredictability of the steering contributed to Dodgems' popularity, but it also led to a problem: three support legs for the rotating wheel dissected a portion of the Dodgem room, so if two drivers tried to wedge Dodgems between the support legs simultaneously, they got stuck. Since Dodgems operated on an electrical contact system, starting up when a rider sat in a car, passengers had to be removed from the jammed cars before the cars could be disentangled and returned to service.

The fleet of Dodgems was retired in the late 1940s in favor of newer, sleeker, and easier- to-maneuver Auto-Skooters, manufactured in Philadelphia by Joseph and Robert Lusse. These remained in operation at this location until moving into a new Skooter room following the expansion of 1955-56.


Sharing space in the Crystal Maze building with the bumper cars was the first in a series of three Palace shooting galleries. This one, and an updated version in 1955, were both manufactured by companies whose identities are unknown. Shooters fired .22 shorts from pump guns at a range of moving targets backed by heavy steel plates which absorbed the force of the shots.



Less than two years before the end of its days, the Fun House received unwanted attention from a Monmouth County grand jury sitting in Freehold. Morals complaints filed by several girls against two young boys prompted the grand jury to call for a series of new Fun House rules, including the exclusion of drunks and "unsavory characters," a ban on smoking in the Fun House, and a ban on adults unless accompanied by children.


Palace from Wesley Lake (early 1950s). Photo courtesy of Ralph Lopez Jr.
At about the same time, Bob Pressnitz would ride the carousel, but was too small to reach the ring machine on his own. "So my dad would grab three or four at a time and I would throw most of them in that large wooden crate in the corner." Pressnitz also saved a "small pocket full" of rings to take with him to the top of the rotating wheel, and "as the wheel went through the roof opening, I pitched them onto the roof. The rings then bounced on the street and plopped into the lake. I always seemed to have one left over to take home for a souvenir, and I still have them!"