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Pleasure Beach Rekindles Memories In Bridgeport

Davis Dunavin


For the first Memorial Day weekend in nearly 20 years, Pleasure Beach was open for business in Bridgeport, Connecticut. On Saturday, sightseers started taking the city-operated ferry boats to the peninsula. Some had their own memories of Pleasure Beach.

“It was the Disneyland in our days," said 85-year-old Sarah Vena Masso, who rode on one of the first ferries Saturday morning. She remembers buying peanuts at the penny arcade and riding the roller coaster at the amusement park as a girl.

"Most of us were from the depression," she said. "And we didn’t get much. But, every Wednesday, if we were good, mom would take us to Pleasure Beach. Because Wednesday was kiddie day, and all rides were five cents."

Starting in the 1950s, a series of fires burned down many of Pleasure Beach’s attractions one-by-one: the roller coaster, the midway, and the ballroom where Masso had seen the legends of big band play.

“Woody Herman, Tommy Dorsey...The ballroom was just the essence of life," she remembers. "When your parents said you could go to Saturday night to the ballroom, you knew you’d reached adulthood.”

Finally, in 1996, a fire took out the bridge that connected Pleasure Beach to Bridgeport. It opened for half a season last year. Masso came back for its first full season since that last fire.

“My prayer is that one day we can have this same kind of feeling with my grandchildren," she says. "I know we need a lot of prayers in this world, but I wish this would come back."

There are no plans for a new ballroom, or a new amusement park. The city says it hopes people will go to Pleasure Beach for the beach itself, along with its great fishing and its walking trails. The ferries run seven days a week, and they’re free.

Davis Dunavin loves telling stories, whether on the radio or around the campfire. He started in Missouri and ended up in Connecticut, which, he'd like to point out, is the same geographic trajectory taken by Mark Twain.