is the article we didn't want to write.
about a very dear friend who's left us - Bill
Cassidy, who was born into and later ran Pretzel,
the first dark ride manufacturer. He was a
friend to all devoted fans of dark rides and
amusement parks. He probably couldn't have
counted the number of friends he had, all
over Bridgeton, NJ and far beyond.
In 1946, he
assumed ownership of Pretzel from his father,
Leon Cassidy, who along with Marvin Rempfer
had pioneered the concept of the single-rail
dark ride in 1928 and developed it into a
highly successful enterprise. Bill advanced
the company into the postwar era, expanding
production with a line of kiddie rides including
the popular Thunderbird Jr. and Toonerville
Trolley. Pretzel ended business in 1979, even
if Mr. Cassidy never quite got the hang of
retirement. He sold the Pretzel name to Joe
Davis of Shiloh, NJ, then liquidated the company's
factory, manufacturing equipment and tooling,
save for one golden Pretzel car decoration
that he hung on the garage door behind his
Bridgeton home. The story of Pretzel and Mr.
Cassidy's experiences as its president is
told in our article "Send
'Em Out Laffing".
Cassidy was born in Ocean City, NJ and eventually
settled in Bridgeton. He was the longest serving
public official in Hopewell Township history.
In 1943, during World War II, he was named
the township's Civil Defense director. He
served as the township¹s tax assessor for
more than 25 years, and almost 35 years as
the registrar of vital statistics. Mr. Cassidy
spent 37 years as the Hopewell Township zoning
officer, and also served on the planning board.
He also was the township health officer, secretary
to the Board of Health, a volunteer with the
former Mary Elmer Fire Department, and the
township constable. He was also responsible
for the naming of most of the streets and
roads in the township. He was honored many
times by Cumberland County and Hopewell Township
for his dedication as a public servant. To
those numerous awards, we added our own -
the first to bear the name of his father,
Leon S. Cassidy, founder of Pretzel.
in our years of researching dark rides and
operating Laff In The Dark will hold so much
depth and affection for us as the memories
of our times spent visiting with Mr. Cassidy,
chatting about the early days of the dark
ride business at his home and office and strolling
with him around the old Pretzel factory grounds.
He was our historian and tour guide as we
cruised through Bridgeton and walked the lake
shore as he pointed out the spot where Tumbling
Dam Park - home of the very first Pretzel
ride - once stood.
seemed never to tire of regaling us with lore
and anecdotes, dredged from his uncanny memory,
about his many decades with Pretzel in the
halcyon days of American amusement parks -
about the way things were, and how times had
changed. Every question would lead to another
story, to another chapter of a rich and rewarding
career. The mornings of reminiscences would
stretch into the afternoon, then the evening
until he would finally send us out - "laffing".
He would be modestly bemused at our reverence
toward the Pretzel Company and its rides,
and how inspired we were by the legacy of
a life well-lived, of strong values, integrity
and dedication to community. None of this
was of monumental significance to him. It
was just who he was.
Cassidy always welcomed us graciously, always
finding time to fit us into his still-busy
schedule, sharing his vast store of recollections
and allowing us to be an anxious and grateful
audience to one of the last, great figures
of the golden age of the American amusement
Good-bye, Bill. You will remain forever in
our minds and hearts, for your lifetime association
with the company that originated our favorite
category of amusement ride, and as a person
who loved people, his family and his community.