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Paragon Park, Nantasket Beach MA – A Cautionary Retro Roadtrip Down Memory Lane

Posted on: January 8, 2011


Not sure what the weather is like where you are, but we’ve got snow-a-fallin here outside of Retro Roadmap HQ, so instead of going out on the roads, I’m looking backward down memory lane via my own photo collection.I figured I’d go back as far as I could in my own collection and start with Paragon Park, circa 1984.

Growing up, Paragon Park, a small amusement park in Hull MA just across from Nantasket Beach was my idea of the ultimate place to go, and we’d hopefully go there once a summer if we were lucky.

Paragon Park 1984

While my mother caught up with her pal Betty, whom she hadn’t seen in years, and my sisters made new friends with Betty’s daughters I roamed around and snapped random photos with my new 35mm camera.

Paragon Park 1984 Snack A Rama

Still learning how to compose a photograph, I think back and realize that my penchant for photos without people in them was in force then, and I went as far as to scribble out the lady who was in the foreground of this photo of the Snack-a-rama. I’m so glad I caught the Art Deco lines and colors, as well as a bit of the ski lift ride as well!

Paragon Park 1984 Guess Your Weight

I have always been a fraidy cat about going on roller coasters, and I remember my mother telling me that when she was a kid she made my grandfather take her on the giant coaster, and it was the first and last coaster ride she’s been on! I thought it was pretty cool that the Paragon Giant Coaster was on the list of the Smithsonian’s Top Ten Coasters list.

Paragon Park 1985 - The Giant Coaster

I remember thinking that day that I would come back and photograph the place right, and get some good shots as there were rumors that the park would close after the next season.

Well friends, you never know what’s going to happen because the park never reopened the following season, and when I returned in the summer of 1985 I was greeted with this sad sign:

Paragon Park 1985 Public Auction
Not only had Paragon Park been permanently shuttered, but I had even missed the public auction of all of the goods from the place. I do recall later that year being able to pick up a trinket or two at Building #19, a local salvage and odd lot shop, but even now the sight of this sign makes me kick myself.

Paragon Park 1985 - Roller Coaster Giant Coaster Sign
I circled the site, which seemed so big when I was a kid, and realized how small it was, surrounded by chain link fencing now.
Paragon Park 1985 - Roller Coaster Cars

The Giant Coaster sat silent, and the undulating tracks looked like the skeleton of a dinosaur carcass, being slowly dismantled and eaten away at by the vultures that couldn’t wait to turn the site into a condominium complex.

Paragon Park 1985 - Demolition of Roller Coaster

All I was left with – besides a footprint on my backside for not taking more, better photos, when I did have the time, were my memories of having an all day pass – discounted by collecting match book covers – stapled to my shirt hem and spending the day riding the kiddie cars, the Congo Cruise, the merry go round and more, playing skee ball in the arcade and eating ice cream on a hot summer day.

Paragon Park 1985 - Exterior Arcade Sign

I still visit Nantasket when I can, thumbing my nose at the condos and visiting the carousel (PTC #85) that they saved and moved down the street. But it’s not the same. So folks, remember – tomorrow never knows – if there’s someplace or something you like – go there now, enjoy it, take photos, and do what you can to make sure it sticks around, because some day it might not be there anymore!

  • http://www.paragonparkmemories.com scott A

    Great story, the pictures are awesome!

  • http://dinerhotline.wordpress.com Larry Cultrera

    you do know the Giant Coaster exists, right? It was dismantled and completely rebuilt down in Maryland. See it here at…. http://themeparks.about.com/library/coasters/blwildone.htm
    they actually replaced a section that burned in the 1960′s so the coaster is the way it was originally designed. It is called the Wild One now.

    • http://www.RetroRoadmap.com Mod Betty / RetroRoadmap.com

      I did not know that, thanks Larry! I’m a big baby when it comes to riding roller coasters but I do love the look of an old fashioned white wood one curling around a park. I’ve been on the one at Canobie and maybe one other but that was enough for me! Glad to know that the Giant Coaster is still around and can be enjoyed by those who have the stomach for it :-)

  • http://thevintagetraveler.wordpress.com thevintagetraveler

    Well put. These old beach attractions are truly an endangered species. They tore down the Pavilion – the site of many a first kiss and more in the 50s and 60s – in Myrtle Beach a few years ago.

    • http://www.RetroRoadmap.com Mod Betty / RetroRoadmap.com

      Lizzie- Myrtle Beach is definitely in the air today as a pal just asked about retro roadmap worthy places to go around that area. So sad to hear about the pavillion! My sister and I roadtripped there in the early 90′s – we tried to make it from Massachusetts to Miami but found that the country is much bigger once you get out of the northeast, so we stopped in SC. I have fond memories of the Gay Dolphin Gift Cove, and asked her to check it out when she’s in the area.

  • Michael

    My grandparents lived in Nantasket so I had the pleasure of going to Paragon Park many times during the summer months.

    The carousel was always a favorite ride no matter how young or old I was.

  • Rick

    Does ANYONE remember the giant blue slide that was down next to the clock where they moved the Carousel too? This thing was the greatest. about three woopdie doos If I remember it correctly and about 10 lanes wide. STILL one of my fave attractions there and it wasnt even part of the park REALLY. I Never see ANY photos of it either. How Id love to take one more slide ride.

    • http://www.RetroRoadmap.com Mod Betty / RetroRoadmap.com

      Rick- that vaguely rings a bell with me but I don’t have any photos. I can almost picture it. There’s a Facebook page called Paragon Park Memories- maybe if you post it there someone else may remember it as well – good luck!

      http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/pages/Paragon-Park-Memories/103289636409972

    • peter

      I remember the blue slide – my grandfather had the restaurant under the clock I worked there for many years with my whole family,Gee what a great time to live.

      • http://retroroadmap.com Mod Betty

        Peter – that’s so cool that your grandad had the restaurant under the clock! Have you seen the website http://www.paragonparkmemories.com/Index.html ? They’ve got a Facebook page too – a great place for everyone to gather and share their memories of the park and fun times there. So glad you shared yours here too :-)

  • Rich

    I used to go to Paragon park/Nantasket beach with my family a lot during the sixties. We would drive to Hull from our house in Boston. I can always remember when we were getting close to the the beach and we would pick-up the scent of the ocean and we could hear the screams coming from the riders on the coaster.

    • http://www.RetroRoadmap.com Mod Betty / RetroRoadmap.com

      Oh Rich, I know EXACTLY what you mean about smelling the beach before you even got there. I remember barely being able to wait until the park opened – at 12?1? And I can still hear the excited screams of the daring roller coaster riders now.

  • Danielle

    Thank you so much for posting these pictures, I have been looking for photos of the last year of Paragon for years now and I am so happy to finally have found them!!!

  • Jim

    From 1971-78, I spent my entire summers at Paragon Park.
    We had a cottage nearby, until the great blizzard of 1978.
    I was a lonely kid wandering the park every night, until I
    saw this little blond girl my age (10) all alone. In short, we
    spent hours running around the park and laughing! Next,
    we went on the Congo Cruise, which I think briefly had a
    different name. I had my first kiss on that ride, and a night
    that I will always remember. I never saw that girl again.

    • http://www.RetroRoadmap.com Mod Betty / RetroRoadmap.com

      Jim- thanks so much for sharing your fond memories of Paragon Park with the RetroRoadmap readers! What a great story. I know the Congo Cruise was called the Red Mill at one point but I think that was in my mother’s generation, I always remember it as the Congo Cruise. I’m so glad that these cool old places- even when they’re unfortunately gone, hold a special place in folks’ lives.

  • Ronald Lazisky

    My best memories of my being a teenager is my time being at Paragon Park. My family had the summer home on the hill directly behind Hurley’s Bathhouse (for those who remember). I worked for Paragon Park as a ride operator for three consecitives summers from the age 14-17. I am looking for a picture of the flying scooters on the roof accross from the admin bldg. I spent most of my working time working this ride; and I meet Judy Garland and Liza when she was a teenager as they went on this ride. If anyone has a picture of this ride please let me know.

    Ron Lazisky

  • Alyse

    Thank you for the wonderful memories. As I have spent all my 51 summers at Pemberton point at my grandparents cottage, I will never forget spending my summers enjoying the park especially my favorite the roller coaster. For one that could never do twirly rides I loved the roller coaster the best. Just as I started a family of my own in 1983 I was heart broken when the park closed. Everytime I drive into town via George Washington Blvd I think back on when me and my siblings would try to be the first to see the roller coaster.

  • elizabeth rogers

    I have a 24″ doll won by my aunt at the Nantasket beach, the doll has no markings, but has the tag still stapled on the voil dress she has on, the tag said won at Lucky’s Nantasket beach park . The doll has to be from the fiftys because my aunt died, and she was 81 when she died in 1992.

    Thank you,Betty R.

  • Eric West

    Not only did I grow up in Hull, I worked at Paragon Park from 15 to 19 (1965 to 1969). I graduated from Hull High School and lived at the very end of Sunset Point. My favorite memories were watching all the people and traffic on Nantasket Boulevard on Friday and Saturday nights, it was better than watching the movie “American Graffiti.” During really hot days, the guys running the giant roller coaster let me ride for free during my breaks just to cool off. The same unwritten rule applied to the “Jungle Safari” ride (tunnel of love). I would show up at the ride with a girl and they would give me a boat all to ourselves. Lots and lots of great memories.

    • http://www.RetroRoadmap.com Mod Betty / RetroRoadmap.com

      Eric- what cool memories! Thanks for addding your history to the thread of Paragon Park. Now folks who have never been there will get an inkling of how important the park was to so many people!

  • Rebecca

    Thank you for putting these wonderful pictures together. I grew up in Hull and I was in fifth grade when closed the park. I went for a visit recently and got inspired for a novel I’m working on, but I was looking for some photographic inspiration. This was perfect!

    • http://www.RetroRoadmap.com Mod Betty / RetroRoadmap.com

      Rebecca – thanks for visiting Retro Roadmap, and best of luck with your novel. Wish I had more photos from back then, but had no idea the park would be closed. Keep us posted on your book and have a great weekend!

  • Jack Foran

    Wow spent every summer thare as a kid into my teenage yrs. Thank you for the flashbacks! good memories. Remember the himalaya ?

    • http://retroroadmap.com Mod Betty

      Jack! We were just in Hull last week and reliving fond memories of Paragon- totally remember the Himalaya!

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  • Rickk

    Boy, do the pictures bring back memories, coldest water you ever swam in but Pargon Park was so much fun on a hot summer day.

    • http://retroroadmap.com Mod Betty

      Rick – glad you have fond (or freezing?!) memories of Nantasket! The place I remember having the coldest water and almost cramping my toes is Old Orchard Beach in Maine. Makes the Delaware beaches we now frequent seem downright tropical!

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  • John

    i lived in hull for 7 yrs between 1971 and 1978 best years of my life were spent there at paragon park and was sorry when the big developers came in and tore it down what a shame. remember the steamboat that was just before the park coming into hull?? ive been in that too by the vfw building on the hill, was so glad to see this site !!!!!!!!!!! i miss those days i was took by the state for i was a foster child and never got to say goodbye to my friends schoolmates in hull high or even katie averill my girlfriend at the time, a sad moment for me but as a kid a great way to spend a childhood, delivering the newspapers and even raised the flag at the monument by cumberland farms every morn for the veterans , i was a boy scout in troop 21. oh so many fond memories . well i will stop babbling tc and bs all!!

    • http://retroroadmap.com Mod Betty

      John- what great evocative memories you have of Hull! Thanks so much for adding them to the thread here on Retro Roadmap. I too have fond memories of the place, and even though it’s a shell of its former self, I can’t help but hope it returns to it’s former glory.

      If you’re on Facebook you might enjoy this page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Paragon-Park-Memories/103289636409972?sk=wall

      Or its sister website: http://www.paragonparkmemories.com/

      Who knows, maybe you’ll reconnect with some of your HS pals! Best wishes, and thanks for stopping by.

  • John

    mod i remeber the blizzard of 78 that was freezing and 27ft snow drift i know i shoveled them to make money as a kid froze my butt of lmao, and delivering newspapers in the winter took it’s toll on me as well , i agree i foze my arse off. but still good memories

  • peter

    Oh just one more comment,thanks to Larry Stone who put me to work every summer running the flying scooter, flying cages, or the rocket swing,then the lindyloop,
    Does anyone remember Funland Park worked there too.

    • Chuck

      peter;
      I worked for Larry Stone nights running the red mill and the carousel; and days at funland taking photos at a faux “bar” Singapore Sams. A great first job!
      Chuck Lawrence

  • Mike

    I lived at Nantasket from 75 – 79. Paragon Park is where I spent almost every summer night. It was always fun to hang on the beach side with the arcades. I loved the Giant Coaster and the Congo Cruise. The atmosphere was always great! We used to park before we got to the park, because there were so many pretty girls we couldn’t keep our eyes on the road. When I heard they were getting rid of the park it broke my heart. Thank you so much for this page!

  • Les B

    My family lived at Hulll
    village from 54-56. My older brother worked at Paragon for two summers running rides. I was in 5th grade so spent much of the summer watching the fishing boats come and leave from Pemberton Pier. There was a coast guard station at lands end and a rather exquisite abandoned nightclub also at lands end. We used to ice skate at the pond by the fire station and enjoyed swimming at the jetty. We were bused to school at Hingham. I really did enjoy Paragon Park. My first job was parking cars in the lot across the street.
    Good memories!

    • http://retroroadmap.com Mod Betty

      Aw, Les – that sounds like a lot of good times! Makes me a bit homesick for Mass, summer, the beach and childhood.

      Not sure if you’re on Facebook, but you might enjoy the Paragon Park Memories page there: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Paragon-Park-Memories/103289636409972 and who knows, it may spark some additional good ones!

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