In fall 1978, everything that once was inside and outside the Riverboat was placed on sale in the Shore Dinner Hall. This writer purchased the original gorilla figure for $10. As expected, its long extended right arm was damaged from disrespectful riders, but in three months I had restored it to its original glory.

Below left: The author in 1978 with restored Riverboat original gorilla stunt.  Right: The Riverboat-1980
On an unseasonably cold early April day in 1980, with permission from the ownership of then-closed park, this writer attempted to walk through the Riverboat. Flashlight and camera in hand, I was hoping to see something left behind – a small stunt and piece of Tracy scenery perhaps. The façade entrance and exit doors were boarded up and one of the large smokestacks had dropped from the roof perhaps as a forewarning to intruders.

Making my way around the back of the building, I found a partially open emergency door which would have been an exit near the Swamp scene. I opened the door ever so slowly to see that some florescent-green Tracy scenery was still intact. But my flashlight also caught the glow of objects on the floor – blood red eyes of several live, large rodents.

Before I could step out and slam the door shut, a noisy flock of pigeons flew out and over my head, forcing me to hit the pavement. As I slowly and cautiously got to my feet, I decided to cut my losses and call off my interior exploration. Maybe Tracy was having a laugh at my expense!

Leaving the back of the Riverboat, I followed the tracks of the Iron Horse train ride in search of a Tracy figure, a dragon in a cave. I find it, or what’s left of it, still in place but now bearing wounds inflicted by thoughtless vandals. Below: Remnants of dragon in cave.
I then made my way to the Hotel. Only closed for business for several years, the boarded-up Hotel resembled a flop house for squatters. Hoping to get inside to take some photos of the hallway illustrations, or maybe even find a remnant of Laff In The Dark, my attempts were futile. I quickly sprinted around the corner of the structure to the Grocery game stand that was once the Laff In The Dark façade with hopes of entering. No dice. It was so tightly boarded up, even the Pretzel car impressions in the wooden floor were concealed.
Walking back to the midway I found the remnants of a few classic rides, the decaying wood structure of the Comet Junior coaster which was Ed Leis’ last major contribution to the park in the mid-1960s. A short walk away is the rusted frame of the Turbo, now a cult classic manufactured by Chance Rides. Debuting in the early 1970s, dozens of riders lost their lunch on the Turbo. Suddenly I fear I’ll lose my head as the cold wind picks up and the Turbo transforms into a dangerous weapon with its whipping cables. So I headed up the midway to the pile of twisted rubble once known as the Flying Fish coaster.

The Fish was quite possibly the most durable Wild Mouse ride of its time, having operated from 1959 to 1977. And I’ve yet to ride a Wild Mouse coaster giving the same level of derailment illusion as did the Flying Fish. The cars’ tight wheel base allowed for the nose to fully extend over the track on hairpin turns. So if you were sitting in the front of your car, you were literally hanging out over the track. It breaks my heart to see this mighty beast reduced to scrap metal. So I head for the park’s signature attraction, the Looff carousel.

Above left: Remains of Comet Junior coaster
Above right: Rusted skeleton of Chance Turbo
Left: Flying Fish coaster lies in ruins.

As I approach this circa 1895 classic carousel, it looks like people have thrown everything but the kitchen sink at the pavilion. But wait, there is the kitchen sink lying nearby! Charles I.D. Looff, who carved the horses and used the carousel as his showpiece, must be turning over in his grave.

Little did I know at that time that the carousel would be restored and reopened to the public a few years later, nor that in 1998 I’d bring my three-year-old son there and hold him on the very same horse that my dad held me when I was three.

Crescent Park carousel
The carousel still spins today, owned by the City of East Providence, and operated under the supervision of Ed Serowik and his son Ed Serowik Jr. I still frequent the carousel and it amazes me to think that it began its operation long before Crescent Park installed its first dark attraction. As I watch the painted ponies whirl by and listen to the classic melodies played by the carousel’s A. Ruth & Sohn band organ, I wonder how many people took refuge inside the pavilion over the years after experiencing the scares generated by the likes of Laff In the Dark and the Riverboat.
And every so often I embark on an exploration, strolling the streets around the houses and apartments that occupy the site of the Crescent Park midway. There’s a house sitting on the plot of my beloved Laff In The Dark, but I haven’t been lingering there as of late because the home’s owner has been giving me a suspicious eye.

The former Riverboat site is now occupied by an access road to an apartment complex. But when I walk down that access road and stop, I swear I can still hear the Hi-Fi’s playing “When The Saints Go Marching In.”
The author would like to thank:
Bill Luca
Ed Serowik Sr.
Ed Serowik Jr.
John Caruthers
John Malone