(Aug. 16, 2019) As the sun set on a warm summer evening in 1980, families wander around the Playland Amusement Park with vendor snacks in their hands and children running ahead to the next ride.
Workers dole out tickets for those trying to catch one more ride before closing time. Little did anyone know, the park would be closing that year for good.
Playland Amusement Park opened in 1965 on a narrow strip of land on 65th Street, featuring a variety of rides and exhibits. Playland closed for unknown reasons on Labor Day in 1980.
Earl Shores, who was 20 years old at the time, was living in Ocean City for his second summer to work while he was enrolled at the University of Delaware. He worked at Playland in 1980 as a ride operator.
Shores, now living outside of Philadelphia, remembers that last summer fondly as he recalls his year working at the amusement park in his new book, “Playland; Greetings from Ocean City, Maryland.”
The book takes a trip back in time to tell the story of the amusement park and considered one of Ocean City’s great oddities through Shores’ own experiences.
It is no wonder why he calls this book his “love letter to Ocean City.”
The 330-page book has at least one chapter dedicated to each of the many rides he operated. He wanted to make sure that readers felt like they were at the park.
Some of the rides he writes in length about are the Rotor, which was nicknamed “Hell Hole,” the Monorail, Sky Ride and the Spider.
Shores also shares his knowledge about the Hurricane roller coaster, which was the biggest ride in the park and the only traditional wooden coaster in Ocean City.
He even shares about the rides that were not so much fun to deal with, like the go-carts that were harder to control at the time and made being in charge of them more difficult. But in the end, Shores remembers Playland as being a “very special place.”
Many of the rides were sold to different amusement parks around the country after the park closed.
The Monorail, Sky Rail and Spider were sold to a park in Ohio and the mascot that stood at the entrance of the park went to the Magic Forest Park in Glen Falls, New York. The mascot is still standing at the Magic Forest Park for visitors to see.
One of Shores’ favorite parts about working at Playland, besides the roller coasters, was watching the sun set over the bay.
“It was one of the most unique and beautiful settings in all of Ocean City…. It was a thrill to watch the lights of all the rides come on as the sun set over the bay,” he said.
He also remembers how his coworkers were always super nice. It helped that the hours he worked were great for Ocean City life during the summer. Shores rarely worked more than 40 hours a week, so it gave him a chance to surf and hang out on the beach.
Shores spent two years writing the book. He used his large collection of photographs and spoke with other people who worked at Playland at the time to help him put together the piece.
“In short, it was the best job I ever had,” Shores said.
The experiences Shores had at the park will stick with him forever.
Shores never got the chance to work another summer like he wanted to after the park’s sudden closure. He realized that, “the things you love can go away unexpectedly.”
When he visited Ocean City years later he was hit by the memories of Playland and wanted the chance to share the place he loved with everyone.
“Playland; Greetings from Ocean City, Maryland” can be found in stores such as Trimper’s Gift Shop on Atlantic Ave., Bethany Beach Books, and the Ocean City Life-Saving Station Museum. or online wherever books are sold for $15.99. For more information visit www.earlshores.com.