"I can take a bite of a 'Humphrey Popcorn Ball,' and I'm back there: I'm back at Euclid Beach Park in its best times."
Lee O. Bush knows his popcorn balls.
And he certainly knows Euclid Beach Park. Literally, he "wrote the book" on EBP...two of them, in fact, with some help from Edward Chukayne, Russell Allon Hehr, and Richard F. Hershey.
Hershey and Bush now are partners in Amusement Park Books, Inc., in Fairview Park. (http://www.apbooks.com)
The whole purpose of AP Books is to honor the memory of amusement parks that once were and are no more, while at the same time, celebrating some parks that still are going, and, in some cases, going strong. (Well, yeah; they'd like to make a little money, too.)
Parks that have closed, like Euclid Beach, "...are classic examples," Bush says, "of a disappearing part of Americana, and it is a big deal to preserve some memory of personal expression in an impersonal world."
A heady quote like that sort of gives you an idea of where Bush and Hershey are coming from in all this. They were boyhood friends who came to love Euclid Beach and now s
hare a love affair with amusement parks, past and present. Publications on their list include, "Euclid Beach Park is closed for the season," and a follow-up book, "Euclid Beach Park--a second look."
(After "...closed for the season..." was written, they still had so many good photographs and stories left over that they brought out "a second look.")
It's all there in those two books: the Thriller, the Mill Chute, Flying Turns, Laughing Sal, Dance Pavilion and Ballroom, Racing Coaster and Swinging Gym and Sleepy Hollow Village...and, of course, the frozen custard and candy kisses and the popcorn!
It was all brought to you by "The Humphrey Company, Purveyors of Amusement to the People of Cleveland." That's the way an advertising flyer read in 1924 (pg. 20; "Euclid Beach Park...a second look." )
After 74 years, Euclid Beach Park closed down its 75 and 93/100ths acres at the extreme northeast corner of Cleveland. The year was 1969.
Now, 28 years later, the big area amusement parks--Cedar Point, Geauga Lake, Sea World--and some others that are not so big are again "Open for the Season."
Nothin' wrong with that, of course. But, the big theme parks of today can be quite expensive travel destinations, not just drop-in-as-a-family-for-a-little-fun places. Bush and Hershey clearly favor the latter.
"One Fare, Free Gate, No Beer," a Euclid Beach Park slogan said, and the owning Humphrey family stood by it, even though some called it a financial disaster plan. Dudley Humphrey was quoted as saying that the old park management (with beer and some games) had "...90,000 gate admissions during the previous season. We had that many people visit the park in a single day."
And among the many visitors to Euclid Beach Park:
Louie "the Dip" Finklestein.
Louie liked the Humphrey popcorn, too...but for a different reason than that of Lee Bush.
Louie was said to be Cleveland's premier pickpocket during the late 30s and into the 40s, and he regularly would "work the crowds" at Euclid Beach.
David Talbott used to live in Cleveland, and is a former UPI reporter. He heard about Louie's exploits, and talked extensively with Louie's widow and others who knew Louie well.
Louie, he learned, would mingle with the folks at "The Beach" and lift their wallets.
The routine, Mrs. F reported, was that she would hold a big popcorn box and Louie would stuff the lifted leather into the box.
Well, it seems that one day, the popcorn box was just about filled, but for "The Dip," things were going well, so well that he tried to jam another wallet into the cardboard container.
It was too much for the popcorn box: the bottom broke open, and out spilled the lifted loot. And, it so happens, that a detective was watching Louie that day ("The Dip" frequently had police types watching him). So, Louie went off to jail....again.
Louie was good at "dipping" but somehow managed to frequently end up in the can.
Such it was for "The Dip" and his "enjoyment" of the famous Humphrey popcorn.
Oh, yes: you can still get "Humphrey Popcorn Balls." They come with a picture of the entryway to Euclid Beach Park on the cellophane wrapper.
The balled forms of 49 grams of popcorn, salt, sunflower oil, sugar, vinegar and lecithin each has 180 calories, 30 of them fat calories...but hey: it's amusement park time!
And those popcorn balls have "...a flavor like no other popcorn product," according to Lee Bush and other lovers of the popped kernels of pleasure.
OTHER STORIES by John Herrington
RETURN TO Cleveland, The New American City