Just the name of Crystal Beach brings back a flood of memories.
As a young girl growing up in Tonawanda, NY, going to Crystal Beach Amusement Park was always a red letter day. The anticipation started as you counted down the weeks and days until the day arrived and you got on the school bus.
The excitement grew as you arrived at the park and spotted the first high hill of the Comet. We got off the bus to hear the rumbling of the cars on its wooden tracks and the delighted screams of its riders in the distance.
Over everything wafted the scent of popcorn and cotton candy in the warm summer air as we stood impatiently in line to buy our tickets.
Which ride first? No question, for me, it was always the Comet.
We always tried to get as close to the front as possible. The clickity-clacking of the wooden rails mirrored our rising heartbeats as the car slowly climbed the big hill. The view over the park on one side and the blue waters of Crystal Beach on the other.
Up, up, up, until the car reached the top, a pause that seemed to last forever, and then the breathtaking plunge down the steep descent, the boys manfully holding their arms up in the air, the girls screaming. The gravitational pull as the cars went around the first big turn, pressing you into your seat, and then another plunge and a series of dizzying hills and turns, until the car rushed into the covered pavilion and stopped with a jerk. Laughing, we climbed out on shaky legs and tried to catch our breath.
And we got right back in line to do it again!
My next favorite was the Magic Carpet ride. I remember the end of that ride best, sitting down on the actual carpet and being bumped and “flown” down to the exit, where two muscular guys waited to ensure you landed safely.
And of course, the food! I tasted my first cotton candy at Crystal Beach. Oh, the wonder of watching that pink sugar spin out from the machine and around the cone. In those days, we didn’t have exotic flavors and colors. It was always pink and tasted the best.
And the famous suckers. Those flavors. Lemon, butterscotch, and cinnamon, my favorite.
But my all-time favorite was the sugar waffles.
Just thinking about them makes my mouth water. Those snowflake irons dipped into the batter right in front of you. The sizzle as the hot oil fried the batter to golden goodness. The careful way the vendor shook the fragile waffles loose from the iron and dusted them with powdered sugar. We always brought some home for my mom, but they never tasted as good as when they were fresh and hot from the oil. That rich, crackly,sweet, melt-in-your-mouth goodness—yum!
I have one distinct memory of returning home to Tonawanda at the end of a long glorious summer day at Crystal Beach.
All the bus windows were open. And a boy sitting at the front of the bus got sick to his stomach. He stuck his head out of the window and splattered vomit all along the side of the bus, and yes, you guessed it, all sorts of things blew back on the kids sitting on that side of the bus. Pieces of hot dogs and other assorted bits of undigested food stuck and flapped on the windows. Soon several other kids started vomiting. A memory to treasure. Thank goodness I sat on the other side of the aisle!
The sugar waffles are still being made by today by the Crystal Beach Candy Company.
But nothing beats the memory of eating them rich, warm, and meltingly sweet right out of that of that oil!