Philadelphia, PA to Wildwood, NJ – 2009
I awakened in my apartment in Philadelphia with my girlfriend Allison. We had been together for over a year and had moved in together. Christmas was over and it was the end of January.
We got some breakfast, hopped in my car, and drove to Wildwood on that bitter cold January morning. January 30th to be exact.
After the hour and a half drive, we parked on Schellinger Avenue in Wildwood. We bundled up and headed for the boardwalk. Being from Delaware, I don’t think Michelle had ever gone to Wildwood in the summer growing up.
We trudged up the ramp that led to the boardwalk and a flood of memories came back to me. We stepped onto Hunt’s Pier. It no longer looked like it did back in its heyday. Granted, it was winter and the pier was shut down until summer, but it was a stark model of a once-thriving, living entity.
The angry cold sun shone brightly in the clear blue sky as we met up with my sister near the back of the pier near what was once a place I described as the greatest job I ever had. It was an emotional day. Nearly 2000 people had gathered to witness the event.
We had long lines of people waiting to get on the ride back in the day, but I wasn’t expecting this.
People gathered in front of, and on the old platform where I held so many rich memories. As I stood looking upon my paragon, I felt like an anachronism.
The proclamation from the City of Wildwood that officially declared January 30th “Golden Nugget Day” cited the estimated 1.7 million adventure-seekers who enjoyed the landmark over its nearly four decades of operation.
The iconic centerpiece of Hunt’s Pier, the Golden Nugget Mine Ride was a hybrid dark ride/steel roller coaster attraction that changed the landscape of the Jersey Shore’s amusement scene when it debuted in the Spring of 1960.
Designed by John C. Allen of the Philadelphia Toboggan Company and produced in conjunction with the renowned outfit and the skilled Hunt’s staff (led by general manager Vince Kostek), the Nugget evolved into a bona fide landmark over time.
It would thrive during the “Oceanic Wonderland” and Wildwood’s glory years of the 60s and 70s, then survive through several post-Hunt’s incarnations and a dinosaur-theme adoption, running for the final time in 1999.
Its impressive frame, built to resemble a western mountain with a mining outpost and shafts built-in, was hollowed out to accommodate a farewell ceremony hosted by the Morey Organization on Saturday, January 31, 2009.
A sad day indeed.
The weathered structure was demolished shortly after. Its track system and trains were acquired by Knoebels Amusement Resort in Elysburg, PA, where its legacy lives on in the form of the Black Diamond.
Things in this life come and go. Friends, family, and loved ones appear in our lives and eventually, our time here is scattered by the sad wings of destiny.
Twilight is upon it now.
Night will fall, and with it… The Golden Nugget Mine Ride.
It seems fitting…
Slipping into oblivion to the lilt of rippling waves.
All that remains are the memories of what once was. It’s really all we have as people. Memories we can wrap ourselves in for the rest of our lives.
But sometimes, you’ll hear that familiar cry of a lone seagull… and as those memories return…
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