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NJ Amusement Business Bids Farewell To First Ride

(Photo Credit: moreyspiers.com)

(Photo Credit: moreyspiers.com)

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NORTH WILDWOOD, N.J. (AP) – Jack Morey and his wife, Karen, took their last trip down the Giant Slide about a week ago. Next to them was a group of children eager to take their very first ride.

“There were these cute little kids. They were so excited,” Morey said. “I said, ‘What are we doing? How could we get rid of this?”‘

But Morey had to remember that progress sometimes means getting rid of the old. In this case, the old is the Giant Slide, best known as the Wipe Out, the ride that started the Morey family’s several decades-long history in the amusement business.

“It was a final reminder that we have to create attractions for the entire family,” Morey said while standing just steps away from the blue and white slide on the Surfside Pier at 25th Avenue.

His father and uncle, Will and Bill Morey, opened the slide to the public in 1969 under Will and Bill Morey Enterprises. But summer 2010 marked its last season as Morey’s Piers prepares to take down the ride to make way for new attractions.

A farewell celebration was being held Sunday, during which 200 randomly selected guests got to take one last slide.

Visitors also will have the chance to buy a piece of the slide once it’s dismantled, with the proceeds going to the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions archive preservation fund.

The slide, which is about 40 feet tall and 200 feet long, looks much as it did in 1969. Back then, Jack Morey, now 49, was a little boy and helped sell balloons on opening day.

His father and uncle had taken a trip the year before to Florida and spotted a giant fiberglass slide in a shopping center parking lot in Fort Lauderdale. They decided to bring the attraction to New Jersey and searched for a place to put it along the coast, eventually purchasing two plots of land in North Wildwood that would become home to Surfside Pier.

The venture was a new one for the brothers, who, as builders, developed dozens of the now famous “doo-wop” motels, such as the Caribbean, that still line the island.

The slide was an instant success, and soon the family brought other rides to the pier, including the Moon Bounce and the Haunted House.

Those rides are long gone, but the Wipe Out managed to hang on.

“There’s nothing left from the monster attractions, the very specialized rides,” Morey said, noting that the pier operator’s newest attraction, the Ghost Ship, which opened this summer, was a new “monster” attraction.

“We’ve been looking for ways not to have to (dismantle it) for I guess the last five years,” Morey said, standing not far from the base of the 15-lane slide. But he and his brother, Will, found it simply was not practical as the pier operator looks to the future.

“It reached the end of its useful physical life,” Morey said.

Morey’s Piers has a master plan for the development of new attractions, including a not-yet-public replacement for the slide, he said. The plan also includes construction of a new roller coaster that will link two of the company’s piers. That coaster could open in 2013.

Sunday’s farewell celebration gave fans one last chance to say goodbye to the slide, complete with photo opportunities. Company officials said about 700 people signed up for an opportunity to take one last slide, but only 200 will get the chance.

Lindsey Young, the company’s marketing supervisor, remembered her first trip down the slide alone — when she was about 5 or 6 — as being “more intense” than it was when she was accompanied by a parent.

“There’s been a mixed reaction,” she said. “People are sad to see it go and excited about the new ride. There’s a lot of memories.”

Morey said he didn’t know how many people would come out Sunday to say goodbye to the ride. He said the farewell to the Golden Nugget ride in January 2009 drew about 1,000 people, something he had not expected.

“For the community, the Golden Nugget was probably harder (to lose). To me, (the Giant Slide) is a little harder. It’s the first thing my parents had, my family had,” Morey said.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)