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A Time to Reflect, The History of Whalom Park

Distributed by Documentary Educational Resources, 101 Morse Street, Watertown, MA 02472; 617-926-0491
Produced by Aaron Cadieux
Directed by Aaron Cadieux
DVD, color, 35 min.
History, Popular Culture

Reviewed by Mary Northrup, Metropolitan Community College-Maple Woods, Kansas City, Missouri

Date Entered: 7/14/2006

Taking that big curve on the roller coaster. Getting dizzy in the Tilt-a-Whirl. Munching on popcorn and cotton candy. Most people have fond memories of good times at an amusement park. This documentary takes a look at one particular site Whalom Park in Massachusetts and examines its history from beginning to end, its closing reflecting that of many amusement parks.

A nice mixture of stills and film, both black-and-white and color, provide the history of this park which had been in operation for over 100 years. Interviews with park employees and park managers give immediacy to the narration of this story. The beginnings, growth, new buildings and attractions, and setbacks (including several fires and even a tornado and a hurricane) are examined.

Roller coaster fans will find information about their favorite ride, including film footage taken on a moving coaster. Other rides such as Tumble Bugs, Flying Scooters, the Whip, and Tilt-a-Whirl will bring back memories. The Play House, which attracted actors and big bands, is mentioned, as well as large company picnics held at the park.

The demise of the park is dissected, including what happened to the rides and footage of the dismantling of the water slide. The ending asks viewers to support efforts to stop the destruction of cherished landmarks.

The video quality is good, with smooth editing and unobtrusive background music. It flows nicely in chronological order, with a good mix of historical visuals, talking heads, and current footage of the abandoned park.

The story of Whalom Park can be put into the context of the closing of many independent or small amusement parks around the country. The director, producer, writer, and editor, Aaron Cadieux, makes this a personal quest as he begins this film with memories of the two amusement parks that were special to him as a child and then tells the story of how he found Whalom Park.

This DVD would be most appropriate for public library collections in New England, especially Massachusetts, although people in other parts of the country may enjoy a nostalgic look at an amusement park probably very similar to one that they frequented. Those interested in or researching the history of leisure, or amusement parks in particular, will appreciate the research that went into this film, including the old photos and film.