The idea of renting out space to concessionaires at Bertrand Island Park for rides, games, and refreshments was developed by Mr. Kraus. Almost from the time the park opened in 1922, one of the concessionaires was my grandfather, Lorenzo D'Agostino. He ran the Fun House, Skee Ball, and The Live Mouse Game, a game where players would try to guess which hole a live mouse would run into after being released from it's box.
As a young boy, my father would go to work at the park every summer. He recalled working at the Live Mouse Game, "People would always think that we put cheese in one of the holes. They'd ask us that all the time. But, we didn't. We never did!" My father also remembered the fun he had working at The Fun House with my Uncle Joe. The Fun House, located in the spot where Kiddieland later stood, was a walk-thru attraction where visitors would encounter a number of tricks and obstacles. There were mazes, slides, trick mirrors, air blasts and more.
In 1947, feeling the effects of the Depression and World War II, Mr. Kraus and Mr. Schleicher decided to sell the park. It was at this time, my grandfather and my father, along with their good friend, Larry Donofrio, all became the new owners. Up until this point, Larry Donofrio was in charge of running the parking lot. Taking on this new business, they all three decided to put the focus more on amusements and games, and less on special events. They quickly got to work, and no time was wasted!
Under the ownership of my father, my grandfather, and Mr. Donofrio, the park immediately underwent a lot of major renovations. The upper boardwalk area was quickly redeveloped. New rides were added, including the Moon Rocket, Tilt A Whirl, and, Tubs 'O Fun. A new miniature golf course was put in, and batting cages were built. The Ballroom was renamed The Villa, and it was decided that it would be used more as a restaurant rather than a dance hall.
The Fun House was replaced by the very popular Kiddieland. This area consisted of 12 rides designed especially for children. There were pony carts, fire engines, a mini ferris wheel, and even little boats that went around a big water enclosure.
The renovations continued into the late 50's - early 60's, with the Boomerang and Scrambler being added near the front entrance of the park. The Aeroplane Swing had its six biplanes replaced with three huge silver rocket ships and was renamed The Aerojet. Many people still remember the Aerojet as one of their favorite rides!
Sadly, in 1969, my grandfather passed away. Shortly thereafter, Larry Donofrio decided it was time to sell his share of the park to my father. Taking on sole ownership, my father was completely dedicated to making sure the park continued to run smoothly by always staying right on top of everything.
Bertrand Island Amusement Park
1922 - 1983
"When I ran this park, I was here in the morning, at seven o'clock, and I use to stay until twelve o'clock at night. I had my fingers on everything - the operation. And the operation was going very nicely. I watched everything going on."
-- Ray D'Agostino
Part of the enjoyment of the old time amusement park was that you could spend just a few dollars for an entire day of fun. Who could ever forget the excitement of Nickle Night!! "On those nights we attracted thousands and thousands of people," my father recalled. "We found that the fathers and mothers, oh by the hundreds, use to come to the park, drop their kids off right at the entrance to the park. They would have loads of kids in the car. Sometimes they weren't even all theirs. Sometimes, I'd be standing out in the front and I'd hear them say, 'Now don't forget, ten o'clock, we're going to pick you up right here.' And they'd give the kid two dollars or five dollars, and that kid with that two dollars or five dollars or whatever he had, he'd run on the rides, and, as soon as he got finished with whatever rides, then the rest of the money he would spend on the stands. The parking lots were packed and people use to park all over the streets."
As the 70's wore on, it seemed as though many of the small family-owned amusement parks were beginning to disappear. People were losing interest in the carnival-like atmosphere that these smaller parks offered. The world was starting to change as was the amusement park business, and theme parks owned by large corporations were becoming more prominent.