A Romance Struck In Playland

I met my husband, Brian, in the summer of 1980 when we worked together at Playland. I don’t willingly share that part of our story with a lot of people because it’s always seemed corny to me. But with talk of changes coming to the historic amusement park, I’m feeling a little nostalgic.

It was the summer before my freshman year at Syracuse University and my cousin—a sweet, older man with lots of energy—hired us. I sold souvenirs in a stand in Kiddyland. Brian, a year older than me, operated the Ferris wheel. Our introduction was simple: “Anne, this is Brian,” my cousin said. “He’ll take care of opening and closing the stand for you every day. He goes to Syracuse, too.” 

Brian didn’t look like the other guys I dated or was interested in. He was blond, skinny, and, at over six feet, a foot taller than me. But he was friendly, and, after a couple of weeks of him routinely folding and unfolding the metal shutters on my stand, we started taking our dinner breaks together. 

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The colonnade, near the park entrance, was our spot. After eating, we’d walk the grounds: down the left side of the main promenade, with its lush green grass and red geraniums coloring the center aisle, and on to Kiddyland, ripe with the sounds of ringing bells and beeping horns from the tot-sized rides. Next was the pop music blaring from the Derby Racer, then the click-clacking of the cars heading up the Dragon Coaster, followed by a series of screams from the riders as the cars dropped down the first hill. 

We’d cross over to the other side, passing the pizza fritta stand and the Flying Bobs before finally ending up at the arcade near the end of the promenade. Inside the open-air wood hut, we played a crude football video game where X’s and O’s represented players on a black-and-white screen. I’m not sure that I won more than a handful of games, but I remember laughing a lot while we played. 

At the end of August, we went on our first date, just before we both headed to Syracuse. We ate dinner at Victoria Station in White Plains, which is now gone, and later stopped for drinks at the Ground Round in Mamaroneck, which has also closed. 

Now it looks like the Playland of our youth may not be there much longer, either. A kids’ ride replaced my souvenir stand years ago, and a modern Ferris wheel has taken the place of the one Brian operated. From what I’ve read, Sustainable Playland hopes to make some valuable enhancements and upgrades to the park. I just hope Playland remains a place where two teenagers can start a summer romance and make memories to last a lifetime.

Anne Vaccaro Brady lives in Port Chester with her family and writes the blog, Parents’ Guide to the College Puzzle, to help parents navigate the college-admissions process and the freshman-year experience. A former magazine and newspaper editor, she also worked in public relations at Purchase College, SUNY, and is currently looking for an agent for her Young Adult novel. 

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