A summer day that never ends.


Circa early 1960s postcard from the collection of Louis McGowan.
Photo by Kowal.

Rocky Point Amusement Park operated on the shore of Narragansett Bay in Warwick from the late 1840s until its closing in 1995. During those decades generations of Rhode Islanders swam in the salt water pool, screamed themselves hoarse on the Freefall, spun around on the circa 1915 Herschell-Spillman carousel, clung tightly to their dates inside the House of Horrors, bobbed their heads at their first Rock 'n' Roll concert, and threw clamcakes to the gulls from the pier outside the World's Largest Shore Dinner Hall. When the park went out of business we lost more than just a few creaky carnival rides, we lost a cultural touchpoint, a shared community experience that was a big part of the Ocean State's cultural identity.

What's your favorite Rocky Point memory? Drop us a line at stuffie@quahog.org and share.

Jeff, Woonsocket, Rhode Island

I remember spitting and dropping pennies on kid's heads from the "sky buckets."

Sigh... those were the days.

Kevin, Wakefield, Massachusetts

Wow, I had no idea they closed! I have some fond memories from my childhood in the mid-70s, eating clamcakes at Rocky Point Park at my Dad's company picnic there. Then later in the late 80s when I could drive, I went there with a buddy in the summer. I'm sorry to hear that they closed! I'm afraid the big corporate parks are really taking their toll...

Keith, South Kingstown, Rhode Island

When one grows up on Warwick Neck like I did, there is no choice but to have the backdrop of Rocky Point woven into your life. Warwick Neck Elementary School is off Rocky Point Avenue, the sounds of the concerts drifted in through the open bedroom windows on summer nights, the seasonal traffic stepped up a notch on Warwick Neck Avenue, and the cacophony of excited screams coming from the various thrill rides would be heard periodically with a waft of the smells from the Shore Dinner Hall as the wind shifted.

Rocky Point was the place where my cousin and I would go for our first merry-go-round rides. We graduated to the bumper cars when we were tall enough, and eventually maturity occurred when we could brave the House of Horrors. My friend next door and I rode the Flume over and over on the April weekend that it opened. We were so soaked that my friend's father brought us home to change our clothes so we would not catch our death of cold (and a mother's scolding).

As I grew, after my family had my high school graduation dinner at the Shore Dinner Hall, I became one of the Rocky Point fixtures. I worked on the Bay Queen and since I lived on "the neck" I would walk down to Rocky Point and catch the lines as she docked. Because the dock was gated, I had to walk up to the office of the legendary Conrad Ferla and obtain a key to open the gates to the dock. I had become a part of the park at that point (in my young mind).

However, I have to admit that my favorite part of Rocky Point was not necessarily the rides or even the clam cakes and chowder. I loved the off-season when I could walk down to the park and climb along the rocks. I loved viewing the bay from its heart, seeing the Warren River perceptible to the trained eye; the Providence River; two of the nicest lighthouses in New England; the islands of virtues, Prudence, Patience, and Hope; and all three of the bridges of Narragansett Bay. This was my sanctuary as I went through high school and on those periodic visits when I came home from college.

When Rocky Point closed in 1995 I was living out of state. I drove back to Rhode Island in hopes of a climb on the rocks and a look at the bay but the gates were closed, a sight I never dreamed that I would ever see.

Now, I look to the future and the area opening up to the public again. I have a five-month-old little boy, and while we live in South County now, I hope to take him to that place where I would go and to teach him about the virtues and the heart of the bay while we climb on the rocks. I cannot wait.

This article last edited July 6, 2010

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