Lagoon has long been one of my favorite places to visit. It’s not the fanciest amusement park in the world, but it’s ours – and the owners have done their best to make it a good place for young and old to have fun for as long as I can remember, which dates back to around 1957 or so.
This mural appeared as the backdrop for the loading area to the Terroride, one of the oldest park attractions and still a favorite. I remember I posted about it at a forum dedicated to Lagoon about three years ago, so I’ll just steal my own comment from there:
“The Terroride mural is a holdover from an age gone by. Many traveling carnivals had dark-rides or dark walkthroughs, and they appealed to people from a rural environment who, “b’gosh I’ll jest swan to Guinea, I never done see’d nothin’ like that in all my born days!” The mural was designed as the visual representation of a nightmare. Apes, skeletons, octopi, spiders, mummies… and Negroes! Hey, back then, “Negroes” were scary! We’re talking 1940’s and before… this is an old mural. Even though it’s not terribly frightening now, or even politically correct, I hope they preserve it – it’s a beautiful piece of history. I recall visiting Lagoon in around 1957 or so, for the first time, and that picture gave me the heebie-jeebies. “
Now that I think about it, the dancing African was probably supposed to represent a juju-man, or witch doctor – which back in more provincial days may have been frightening enough indeed.
[Edit:] Lest anyone think there was even a hint of racism in the minds of management, Lagoon’s owner and general manager Robert E. Freed was fiercely dedicated to the causes of equality; when the Freed family and their partner, Ranch Kimball, took over the lease of Lagoon, the terms forbade blacks in the swimming pool and the ballroom in accordance with a Farmington town ordinance. By the late 1940s, Freed had succeeded in fully opening Lagoon to the black community; when his company acquired the Rainbow Gardens, later known as the Terrace Ballroom, the same policy was adopted.
Posted on a Flickr picture was this description:
“The mural was painted by William M. Tracy, who is probably dead now. He lived in New Jersey. It is believed to have been painted in the 1940’s. William Tracy used to display stunts for dark rides at the industry trade shows. The mural was most likely purchased at the trade show along with some stunts. Bill Tracy also did many of the gags that were in the original Dracula’s Castle, many of which remain in place today. Sadly, he was an alcoholic.”
Others have disputed parts of this, but it’s the only bit of history I’ve been able to find.
If it’s indeed gone, that would be a sadness – I’ll be curious to find out if it was preserved anywhere.
[Update:] I called Lagoon today – apparently the mural has indeed been replaced by some trees, but it has been preserved in the offices at the Lagoon annex. That’s good – a piece of history like this deserves to be saved. Thumbs up!
The Old Wolf has spoken.