Posted by: dinerhotline | April 5, 2009

How many people remember Pleasure Island of Wakefield, Mass.?

pleasure1
Post Card view, map showing how to get to Pleasure Island

I am excited to report that my friend Bob McLaughlin has authored an Images of America book on the legendary Pleasure Island, an early smaller version of a Disney-type theme park that operated under 4 different owners from 1959 to 1969 in Wakefield, Mass. The book is due out on the book stands in early June.

pleasure-isle-pennant
A new pennant commemorating the park (2002), Courtesy of the
Friends of Pleasure Island

Bob is the president of a small group of people (of which I am included) known as the Friends of Pleasure Island, a 501(c) nonprofit organization acting as an adhoc historical society. Since 2000, Bob with the help of many people has managed to collect a great amount of artifacts, items and memorabilia pertaining to the long-gone park including family snapshots and home movies. Also, the person who had the idea to build this unique theme park, the late Bill Hawkes (and his wife) have donated many items from their personal archives as well.

There were many reasons why Pleasure Island was short-lived, among them being the short spring, summer and fall operating seasons, mismanagement, etc. But for many people in the Boston area, just the mention of this place brings back a flood of memories! In fact I’m sure people who drive Interstate 95 south between Peabody, Mass. and Woburn, Mass. have seen the highway sign proclaiming “Pleasure Island Road exit 42 and wondered about it (see below).

pleasure-island-rd

Unfortunately, my family never went to Pleasure Island, possibly because it may have been cost-prohibitive for my parents with 5 children, I’m not sure. The closest we came was actually going a couple of times to “Cartland”, a go-cart track that was at one end of the large parking lot for the theme park. You could go to Cartland without paying the entrance fee to the park.

My other connection to the park was in around 1972, about 3 years after the park had closed. All the buildings were still there and I being a member of the Medford Auxiliary Fire Department at the time where we participated in a joint drill with the Wakefield Auxiliary Fire Department at the defunct park. We partially burned one of the buildings to practice putting out fires!

In the late 1970’s I started collecting postcards of things that interested me and I came across a handfull of Pleasure Island post cards that were still on a local store’s rack. I have since collected about 15 of the 23 or 24 known to exist.

pleasure4
Post Card view, artist’s conception of Pleasure Island

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Post Card view of Hawkes Point Lighthouse snack bar at
Pleasure Island

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Post Card view of “Old Smokey”, the Narrow Gauge train that
operated at Pleasure Island

For more info on Pleasure Island check out this great website…
http://friendsofpleasureisland.org/

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Responses

  1. Sounds like it was a fun place back in its heyday. Great post!

  2. I loved this place. I remember my brother and I riding our bikes there! Had a blast…what great memories of this place.

  3. I remember it. Although I never went there. Wish I could’ve…..

  4. I was one of the lucky ones to have gone to Pleasure Island as a kid. I wanted to take home one of the mini Cadilacs from the ride.
    I was an Auxiliary Fire Fighter in Wakefield and had many a drill in the park after it closed.

  5. Hi Rusty, I actually was at one of those drills at the park with you guys, I was a Member of the Medford Auxiliary Fire Dept. in the early 1970’s and our departments had a joint drill once. In fact that was the only time I was ever in the park when the buildings were still there. My family never went to PI although we did go to Cart Land, the Go-Cart track.

  6. I took my family to Pleasure Island, sometime between 1963 -69. I think 1965. I have grainy home movies of our day, including Clayton Moore, the Lone Ranger on stage at the Show Bowl.

  7. Lloyd, I know Bob McLaughlin from the Friends of Pleasure Island would love to see that home movie you mentioned.

  8. A friend just emailed me to ask if I ever went to a place called Pleasure Island back in the 60’s?…and that there is a new book just released.

    This brought back so many great memories. Now 50 yrs old, I grew up going to Pleasure Island in the 60’s. At Pleasure Island, I did see the Lone Ranger-Clayton Moore. The Riddler-Frank Gorshin. The Joker-Cesar Romero…and Lassie that I can remember. My cousin Louie and I climbed up and peeked over a fence after a show at the Showbowl and saw the Lone Ranger coming out of his trailer without his mask on! I will never forget that. Great memories.

    My mom, does have some old photos of us at the park. Moby Dick was so huger than life I remember.

    I recall being so sad when it closed (I was just 10) and asking my mom “Why did Pleasure Island have to close mom?” her response was that “The hippies took it over son”.

    I remember thinking “Those damn hippies ruining my childhood”. Only to find out several years later this was obviously not the truth. It has been a pretty funny story to tell over the years however, as I drive by the Pleasure Island Road exit on RT. 128.

    Long Live Pleasure Island!

  9. Sadly, I only remember riding my bike through what appeared to be a post appocalyptic Pleasure Island. I was about 10 years old in the late 1970s and the park was long since closed.

  10. My family went to Pleasure Island many times. I have the most wonderful warm memories of the place. My Dad worked for Western Electric and every summer his company outing would be there. Lucky for us! There were 5 kids in our family and I know that would not have been in the budget otherwise. I loved the Moby Dick ride! I will never forget the “natives” with the man cooking in the pot. The burro ride was a huge treat as well as the cars you could drive. I think my favorite was the crooked house. You walked through this house and everything was at an angle. It made you dizzy and I LOVED it. I know I have pictures that my father took at Pleasure Island. Thank you for all you are doing to keep the memory of Pleasure Island alive. It was truly a wonderful family adventure that has been long lost to the days of history.

  11. Our family had a sign on our property on Salem street for Pleasure Island and Mr Sherman gave us a free pass to the park and we loved it and still relive the memories often.

  12. When I was in High School, I babysat for 2 artists who worked at Pleasure Island. Everyday I would get to go there and be part of Pleasure Island everyday….so much fun!

  13. I Remember at Christmas time in the sixties We would go to see the park lit up with Christmas lights. There was always something going on there year around. It was lots of cheap fun. Unfortunately those days are long gone. Nice memories.

  14. Since we lived on the south shore Paragon Park was our hang out. But the few times our family visited Pleasure Island in the early sixties are the most memorable. The place kinda bumped up the learning curve for me as a kid..intriqued my imagination more I guess.

  15. Went to Pleasure Island in like 1966 or so. It was only 10 miles from My Parents House in Medford but it seemed like it took forever to get there. I was only 6 at the Time. I remember it like it was yesterday. I wish it was yesterday. That Place was the Balls. I have a Pic. Of Me and My Dad standing behind one of those Cut outs you could put your head on and it was the body of a Gorilla. Pretty Cool.


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