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Edward Lange, in his own words

In 1998, New Jersey author Carrie Papa published "The Carousel Keepers, An Oral History of American Carousels" which included extensive comments by the Palace's long-time owner, Edward Lange. The following excerpts are used, with grateful appreciation, by permission of Carrie Papa and her publisher, The McDonald & Woodward Publishing Company, Blacksburg, VA.


"Of course, I always felt that the merry-go-round -- it was a beautiful merry-go-round -- was the heart of the business. Other rides come and go, but the merry-go-round with the band organ music of course was the heart. When something went wrong with the merry-go-round or the band organ, the place goes dead. The merry-go-round always moves. Even if there were no people, I always told the operator, 'If there's nobody on it, move it.' And the music. You always had motion, life, the heart. It was the heart of the business."


"We always had the rings. That was one of our features. We were one of the last ones to have brass rings. Naturally, every ride, you put the brass ring in so that somebody gets a free ride. Sometimes, we would put it in twice. On weekends. The thing goes around anyway, and somebody gets a brass ring, they're happy. Oh, that was a big thing to get the brass ring.

"The trouble is, they used to steal them. They wouldn't want the free ride. They kept the brass ring for a souvenir. So, we had to buy a lot of rings. Every year, it was two thousand or three thousand dollars worth of rings we had to buy. Even the steel ones they used to take. And they became more and more expensive. Five thousand and six thousand dollars. But we still kept it because the people came for the rings. The adults. It was a child's ride, but when it came to grabbing rings, then it was a challenge. It was quite an expensive thing, but we always had rings. Always."


Edward Lange (left) and unidentified Palace employee, during repairs to Ferris wheel benches (circa 1940). From the Christopher Flynn Collection. Photo by Samuel Spizzuco. view larger image
"If the weather was good, we had a good season. If you had four or five rainy weekends, it hurt in the pocketbook. We made less, we didn't lose. But if you had a good season, not too hot, not too cold, and not too much rain, it was fine. Some people used to say when we had a real hot summer, 'Boy, you must have had tremendous business.' No. Too hot is no good. The people are on the beach all day. You can't compete with the sea. That's the main attraction. That's what people come here for, the sea. For the beach mainly. That's the main thing. The boardwalk and the beach. If you're on the beach all day in terrible heat, at night you don't have any energy. So the worst thing for us was extreme heat. When it would go up to ninety-five, forget it. You're dead."


"I stress cleanliness. To have everything running properly. To have the place as clean as possible. Always stress cleanliness. Of course, the rides you have to maintain, paint them and fix them up so they look fresh. Which, more or less, is what Disney does. Of course, we're a little peanut compared to Disney. You know when you go to Disney, or you've heard probably, cleanliness, cleanliness. Do you know at Disney, every night they have crews of people to touch up, paint. They clean and they paint, every night. That's the stress, cleanliness. You see people picking up all the time. We always did. Very important. We had one man, that's all he did every day. Pick up.

"We paid great attention to adding different gadgets. New things used to come out so we would always try to upgrade everything. Trying to improve. Every year you had to improve. You had to find something new. We sold rides. We bought rides. We changed rides. We added machines every year. Bought new equipment. Arcade machines. They came out with more sophisticated machines every year. The arcade machines. You had to constantly upgrade. Always. Always. Always. You never could stand still. And move things around a little to make the place look different. The same as stores do it. They move things around, you know. So, you can never stand still. You have to keep changing."


"The amusement business became more acceptable, I think, because of the parks and the Disneys. Great Adventure was built. It became more recognized. In the beginning, when you said amusement, right away people thought carnival. Right away it was carnival. But, I would tell them, 'No, this isn't a carnival. This is a permanent place.' A carnival moves from one town to another like Gypsies."


"It was great. We had nice people. Nice crowds. It was a very popular resort. We did capacity business. Year after year, we improved. We doubled the size of the Palace. We bought properties adjacent and we made it twice as big."


"We didn't have any policemen or anything. Until 1970. The riots. That was the peak. From there on, it was a slide. The thing is Asbury Park deteriorated. Very much. When I first came here, Asbury Park was a prime resort. First there was Atlantic City, number one, and Asbury Park, number two. I'm talking about fifty, sixty years ago.

"Vandalism became a problem. 1970. We hired off-duty policemen. This was also another big expense. But you had to do it. We had burglar alarms, but we had one problem. The Ferris wheel went through the roof. Of course the ceiling was quite high. It was twenty feet. But the Ferris wheel was sixty feet. And of course there's a hole in the roof. You can't close the hole in the roof. They used to climb up on the roof, and then climb down the Ferris wheel, the framework and get inside. We installed all kinds of burglar alarms. Even radar. The movement of a person would set it off. But they learned after awhile, to not move fast and to get around the alarms. They could see the cameras. They used to break into my office. Of course the safe was wired so they didn't get to the safe. But there was always change around and they took out bags of quarters. Oh, about three thousand or four thousand dollars.

"Sometimes the alarm would sound. If they made one false move, then the alarm would ring. One time the sound didn't ring. It rang in the police station. We were hooked up to the police station. So, they didn't know it. The police came. The burglars saw the police trying to get in, and they got away because they climbed up the Ferris wheel over the roof. By the time the police called me up, and by the time we got down there and opened the doors, they were gone. But one was caught because, very stupidly, he went down two or three weeks later to a used car lot and bought a car with a lot of change. Stupid. So he was caught. He got put in jail for a couple years. Then one day, I was on the floor in the Palace and a young man came up to me and said, 'Mr. Lange, how are you?' I said, 'Fine, who are you?' 'Oh,' he said, 'I'm the guy that robbed you two years ago.' We became friends. Why not? Better be friends than enemies."


"The decline started in 1970, when we had the racial riots. You remember when Newark and Detroit and Los Angeles had all these racial riots. Well, we had it in 1970 and from there on, it started sliding. Little by little business went from bad to worse. The clientele became lesser quality. More of the rough elements came in. Many parks had problems. Some parks dosed up. When the people were better dressed, they were better mannered also. There was much less dirt. People put things in receptacles. Now they go and put it on the floor.

"The nicer people stopped coming, little by little. The clientele became lesser quality. From 1970, well, it didn't go down radically, just a slow sag. Asbury Park went down the drain. Complete disaster. Asbury Park is in very bad shape. It's down in the dumps. There's only half a dozen concessionaires on the boardwalk. It's completely dead. No people. Asbury Park is dead. It's an era that's gone."


"In the early days, [social status] might have been a problem. I didn't have too much time to socialize anyway, so I wouldn't recognize if there was a little opposition or no acceptance. I know a lot of people in the beginning tied it up with carnival, which wasn't so. Later on, I became involved in activities, in civic affairs, and in the Presbyterian church. I became a trustee. I wasn't only a follower, I became president of the United Fund. In the Lion's Club, I was president. When I was man of the year, everybody thought very highly of me. To me, Asbury Park was my life and my future. I was a business owner. I was happy. We were the main amusement attraction in Asbury Park. The Palace. And, of course, the Casino was next. Between the Palace and the Casino, that was it."