before a building he's known for most of his 91 years, Bill
Cassidy looks out onto South Avenue in Bridgeton, New Jersey.
Hes an elder statesman in the town these days, having
been its wartime civil defense director, chief of police for
a time in the fifties, tax assessor, and currently serving
as zoning officer.
Thats the old Pretzel
Amusement Ride factory in the background, where Mr. Cassidy
and his father manufactured the world's first and most well-known
line of dark rides. Now the site of a bustling textile distribution
company, the former trolley barn betrays no evidence of the
unique industry once housed within its walls nor of the more
than one thousand Pretzel rides that passed through its doors
over a half- century.
Three years after our last visit
with him, Laff In the Dark made a return pilgrimage to Bridgeton
in July of 2004 to enjoy the memories, legend and hospitality
of Mr. Bill Cassidy. To understand our feelings about Mr.
Cassidy, imagine a coaster buff being able to chat today with
Herb Schmeck, John Allen or Harry Traver, or a carousel afficionado
having the opportunity to listen to M.C. Illions or Daniel
Mueller expound on the fine points of carving a wooden horse.
For my colleague George LaCross
and myself, it was the culmination of a journey back to the
roots of our lifelong exploration of the traditional dark
ride, a devotion that has spanned over 40 years for each of
us. It began for George with the Pretzel Ride of his boyhood
at Crescent Park, Rhode Island. For me, it was the Treasure
Island ride at Revere Beach in Massachusetts. Both were classic
examples of the pre-war product of Pretzel Amusement, and
though they may be long gone, those rides stimulated a fascination
in us that endures to the present day.
We're pleased to present our
chronicle of Pretzel, literally the first name in dark
rides, and Mr. Cassidy's personal anecdotes of a wonderful
life spent building rides, giving pleasure to millions, and...