Here are three of the many Euclid Beach staples making an encore appearance Sept. 27.
Humphrey’s Popcorn Balls
”It was not unusual for people to go to Euclid Beach just for the popcorn balls,” recalls Dudley Humphrey, adding that the exact origin of the tasty treat is a mystery, even to him. His family still makes them, though, and you can find them at Heinen’s, Giant Eagle, Dave’s and Zagara’s.
This creepy chuckler first appeared at Euclid Beach in 1935. Joe Tomaro, one of two self-proclaimed Euclid Beach Boys who collect park memorabilia, bought Sal from Ed Chukayne of Euclid. “Adults today still won’t go near her,” Tomaro says. “Now they are passing on the tradition of scaring the heck out of their kids.”
Tomaro also bought one of the stainless-steel cars from the park’s popular Rocket Ships ride to build his Rocket Ship Car (you can even ride in it for a small fee). “It has over 1,700 multicolored lights on it,” Tomaro says. “A cop told me that I couldn’t run the red and blue lights at night because it [looks too much] like a cop car.”Euclid Beach Park’s stainless steel Rocket Ships still live on today — just as a different kind of ride.
“It was clean and wholesome and safe,” says Dudley Humphrey, great-grandson of Dudley Sherman Humphrey II. He was the founder of the Humphrey Co., which owned the park from 1901 to 1969. “You could buy some popcorn and sit and watch the boats go by. It was a different culture and a different time back then.”
The park originally opened with booze and games of chance in 1895, but the Humphrey family turned it into an alcohol-free, family-oriented amusement park soon after taking over. The source of summer memories for generations of Clevelanders, Euclid Beach Park closed forever at the end of its 1969 summer season.
“We had been losing money for four or five years,” recalls Humphrey, who was 19 at the time. “Dad said we should get out while we still had something. It was gut-wrenching for them.”
Five years ago, Euclid Beach Park Now, a group dedicated to preserving the memory of the lakeside landmark, began hosting a Remembering the Sights and Sounds of Euclid Beach Park celebration on the park’s original site, which has since been set aside as a state park. This year’s installment, set for Sept. 27, will mark the 40th anniversary of the the park’s closing with tours, displays of Euclid Beach artifacts and memorabilia.
The big turnout for Euclid Beach Park memorabilia fairs at Euclid Square Mall in the 1990s convinced Euclid Beach Park Now president Elva Brodnick there was enough interest to create an annual event. For those who may wonder why people turn out to walk the empty grounds, Humphrey points out that for many Clevelanders, Euclid Beach was more than just a place to spend their summer days.
“You really got a warm, fuzzy feeling about the park,” he says. “Maybe it was an extension of home for most people.”