Do You Remember These Historic New Jersey 80s Hotspots?
From Long Branch to West Orange and Passaic to North Wildwood, what do you remember about these New Jersey 80s landmarks?
The Haunted Mansion – Long Branch
The Haunted Mansion was advertised heavily in New York as the world’s largest haunted attraction. The heavy advertising lured crowds of up to 100,000 a week to the Long Branch boardwalk. In 1980, Pat Cicalese bought out Carmen and Thomas Ricci’s share of the Long Branch Pier and Haunted Mansion. Pat continued to develop and expand the pier and mansion. He contributes much of the mansion’s success to his excellent managers, Lil Grauman and Annie Rielley.
In 1985, Pat re-themed the Long Branch pier as “Kid’s World” after being inspired by Sesame Place in Langhorne, PA. He started a pay-once system which is now common at most amusement parks. Since the re-themed pier was geared toward younger children, the scare-factor of the mansion had to be scaled down. The mansion continued to employ live actors, but the scenes became more “family friendly.”
The Long Branch Pier met its demise on June 8th, 1987 when a fire destroyed most of the pier and the surrounding businesses. It was later determined that the fire was started by a gas leak and electrical arching under the boardwalk. Since there was a heavy west wind that day, the fire spread quickly across the entire pier. Unlike the Brigantine Castle, the Haunted Mansion was still in operation when the fire completely destroyed it. Because of this, no contents of the mansion were ever pillaged by souvenir seekers like at Brigantine Castle.
Turtle Back Zoo – West Orange
How many school field trips did you make to Turtleback Zoo?
Turtle Back Zoo, which took its name from a nearby rock formation, opened in 1963 with a collection of 140 animals representing 40 species. By 1973 the zoo was home to 850 animals representing 275 species.
Sure, the goat may have eaten the money your Mom gave you or a llama could’ve spit in your face, but that’s the beauty of the interactivity of the zoo.
And of course, you didn’t have the full zoo experience unless you rode the turtles!
Turtle Back Zoo fell into disrepair, and was almost shut down in 1995.
In 2000 the zoo created a master plan with the objective of improving the zoo enough to receive accreditation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). Between 2003 and 2006, Turtle Back received approximately $20 million in funding, which was used to improve the facilities, and in 2006 the zoo received its accreditation. New facilities included the Essex County Animal Hospital on zoo grounds, and a new 11,000 square foot entrance/administrative complex with a 4,000 square foot reptile center, classrooms, and an auditorium.
The Turtle Back Zoo is still in operation.
In 2010, zoo attendance exceeded 500,000 visitors for the first time in its history.
The Capitol Theatre – Passaic
The Capitol Theatre was an entertainment venue located at the intersection of Monroe Street and Central Avenue in Passaic. Built in 1926 as a vaudeville house, the Capitol later served as a movie theater. After John Scher bought the property, it turned into a venue for rock concerts.
Throughout the 1970s and into the mid 1980s, the 3,200 seat theatre was a popular stop on nearly every major rock artist’s tour. The venue was known for its in house video system which resulted in a number of good quality, black and white video bootlegs.
After it closed, the building fell into disrepair and it was demolished in April 1991. A shopping center known as Capitol Plaza occupies the site now.
Some of the superstars who have graced the stage of the Capitol includes The Stray Cats, Peter Gabriel in his very first solo appearance, The Grateful Dead, The Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, The Clash and Genesis.
Ed Zaberer’s – North Wildwood
Many roads, if not all of them, led to Zaberer’s Hollywood-like restaurant in the Anglesea section of North Wildwood as it grew in popularity from 1955 until its decline before a four alarm fire wiped it out in June of 1992.
Ed Zaberer, once among the poorest kids on the block, led the crowds on the roads to his self-named establishment on West Spruce Avenue in the oldest community on Five Mile Beach. It was here that he entertained future presidents (Reagan and Nixon) and movie stars (Jimmy Durante, June Allyson, Vince “Dr. Ben Casey” Edwards.)
Zaberer was prouder though, that he could provide family dining with his stars. Children under 12, for instance, were charged 25 cents for clam chowder, 60 cents for a serving of shrimp and $1.05 for baked flounder.
Eventually in its prime time the restaurant hired 350 employees, fed 1,000 diners at four dining rooms, had four lounges, playrooms for kids and bars and a kitchen that would have consumed four other kitchens on Five Mile Beach, plus fancy Tiffany lamp decorations that sent its guests back to another era.
Not bad for a man who started off his restaurant career by washing dishes at $5 an hour.
Were you ever Zaberized?
Action Park – Vernon
“There’s nothing in the world like Action Park!”
Action Park was an amusement park, open from 1978 to 1996 in Vernon Township at the former Vernon Valley / Great Gorge ski area, now known as Mountain Creek.
It featured three separate attraction areas: an alpine slide, Motorworld, and Waterworld. The lattermost was one of the first American water parks. Many of Action Park’s attractions were unique, attracting thrill-seekers from across the New York City metro area.
The park’s popularity went hand in hand with a reputation for poorly designed, unsafe rides; under aged, under trained, and often under the influence staff, intoxicated, unprepared visitors; and the consequently poor safety record.
At least six people are known to have died as a result of mishaps on rides at the park. It was given nicknames such as “Traction Park” and “Accident Park” by doctors at nearby hospitals due to the number of severely injured parkgoers they treated. In its later years personal-injury lawsuits forced the closure of more and more rides and finally the park itself in 1996.
“The Action never stops…at Action Park.”
The area is now Mountain Creek.