NO PART OF THE FOLLOWING
ARTICLE MAY BE REPRODUCED WITHOUT
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Note that Ipperwash Beach is no longer included in
this article. After submissions from Dean Clark and historian
Lynda Hillman-Rapley of Grand Bend, it seems apparent that there
were no amusement rides at Ipperwash, only a casino. The confusion
may have come from the fact that both Ipperwash and Grand Bend
had casinos and that both burned - Ipperwash's in 1968, Grand
Bend's in 1981.
The first location of this park was at a beach just off Ravenswood Road in Grand Bend on Lake Huron. A casino was started in 1917 as a tent and then in 1919 a permanent two-story dance hall was built where acts such as Guy Lombardo, Rudee Vallee, Tommy Dorsey, and Louis Armstrong performed. The Casino building also likely housed a bathhouse.
Amusements at the beach location came to include a roller skating rink and go-kart track at least until the 1960s but sometime during that decade the park moved. This did not occur before 1958 because a picture shows a boardwalk with benches along the beach. A "Dogem" bumper car building abuts it. It's dated "1958". Additionally, Dean Clark's parents remember amusements there in the 1960s during their visits to the beach.
Lynda Hillman-Rapley believes the park was ordered off the beach to a new location. The casino remained but burned in June of 1981. Up until the fire, it was likely continuing to be used as a bathhouse and/or canteen for the beach. Old photos of it show it beset by swimmers and a sign reading "Surf Shop". One of these pictures, taken in later years, gives it the title "Lake View Casino", but it's unknown if it originally used that name.
The park's new spot was a small area not much larger than a baseball diamond on the corner of Main Street and Beach Shore Road in Grand Bend. The new location was still within sight of the beach. It was run by George Knapp for The E.G. and J. Knapp Company, which had rides and concessions at a number of Canadian parks. Three of the ride operators were Eugene Grenier, Toby Tyler, and A M. Orben.
According to Lynda Rapley, the first attraction built was "Dodgem Ball" (bumper cars). These must have been popular because Bob Tremain, curator of the Lambton Heritage Museum, says that the locals never referred to the amusement area as a park but rather as "Let's go down to the bumper cars". Perhaps this was moved from the former beach area but into a new building.
There was also a small carousel and an arcade. Near the carousel were "Swinging Gyms". These were a series of cages on a frame much like a playground swing. One could stand inside a cage and swing to a point where it would nearly go over the top and loop the loop.
Grand Bend's main street also included A theatre, bowling alley and a rollar rink. A picture of Main Street taken in the late 1950s shows Knapp's Arcade with the "Dogem" right next to it. The arcade building may have existed before the move. Since Knapp's had concessions at the beach, they may have simply moved what they had next to their own arcade. If the amusements were still located on the beach in 1958, this photo would have to have been taken in 1959 or later. Or it may be that one or the other dates is wrong. Research continues.
Above the arcade was a funhouse. It had a mirror room with distorted reflections, and a dark room with flashing red lights and scary sounds. Alarms also sounded when passing a certain point. One scene was of ghouls in a graveyard.
Lyndsey Redman of London, Ontario remembers an attendant hiding in the dark. He would tap you on the shoulder then disappear (into a hidden room?) before you could turn around and see he was there.
The arcade is still in Grand Bend, located in a permanent building a block away from the beach road. It's unclear if this is referring to the above building or a newer one, but it appears to be the same one.
Across from the arcade and up a few doors was an outdoor roller skating rink. Two large trees growing out of the middle of the concrete roller surface provided a reference around which skaters glided.
There was bingo, either right next door to the old arcade or inside what is now the new arcade. The police once actually raided and shut it down at some point in the late 1950s. Also available was a miniature golf course.
Lyndsey continues "On the west side of the bumper cars was a small roller coaster suitable for 4 or 5 year olds - provided a parent or older sibling accompanied him or her. The length of the ride was so short (possibly 5 dips), that the operator let you go around twice without stopping, and three times if he was in a really good mood. The speed was probably about 15 km/h and it was not very high at all."
"Across Main Street at the end of Beach Shore Road was a set of Giant Slides. I think there were four lanes but may have been five. They are very similar to the ones that were at Cedar Point in Ohio until the early 1990s. This was the kind where you had to put down that "prickly" mat and slide on the that. It went straight (no turns) and I believe there were six "drops" on the way down. Either these slides or the "Swinging Gyms" were the last attraction added to this park."
The Grand Bend amusements closed in the late 1970s and it is now just a cordoned-off empty lot looking for a lessee. A giant high-rise condo complex sits on the site of the slides, but the arcade and miniature golf are still there.
For some pictures of the beach area and Casino, see:
-Grand Bend Park
Park suggested by Frank Ryan of Hamilton, Ontario.
Thanks to Brendan Stewart of Oakville, Ontario for additional information and for helping to clear up this park's location.
Thanks to Lyndsey Redman of London, for sharing his memories and research information.
Thanks to Dean Clark of Ottawa for his recollections.
Thanks to Lynda Rapley of Grand Bend for clearing up the Grand Bend / Ipperwash Park confusion and for sharing additional information.
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