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When the 'Funtown' of Your Youth Disappears

The tragic fire in New Jersey brings to mind other bygone family destinations.

Funtown fire. Video by Daniel Nee
Funtown fire. Video by Daniel Nee

Thursday night brought the heartbreaking news that Seaside Heights, the Jersey shore town that’s worked heroically to come back from Superstorm Sandy, was again suffering. A 10-alarm fire broke on the boardwalk, taking out dozens of businesses, the Funtown Park & Arcade and a beloved carousel that locals are already mourning.

Americans across the country know the feeling. Residents of Berkeley, Calif. could only watch as an angry fire destroyed 91-year-old Tuolumne Family Camp in the Sierras last month. The famous image from last year in Seaside Heights, of an entire roller coaster sitting in the ocean, has a parallel in the water-wrecked rides at Six Flags New Orleans.

The march of progress and the demands of the market have always threatened the cotton candy and marshmallow-flavored destinations many of us remember. But now those that can survive as businesses often have to contend with increasingly erratic weather systems bringing floods, fires, or worse to their doors.

When a childhood fantasyland is gone, memories will have to suffice. As a commenter on their New Jersey Patch recalls: “I grew up on that boardwalk! My family owned most of Funtown in the 1950's ... Funtown pier, the Red Top Bar ... the concessionaires they rented to ... lost everything. Let’s remember tonight that there are people who will lose a lot, if not everything. Say a prayer for them and Seaside, a place of wonderful childhood memories.”

If you have a memory of a bygone family destination, whether it’s down the block or across the country, we’d love to hear about it in the comments.

(To help with Seaside relief efforts, check out Helping Hands of New Jersey.)

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