For visitors to the Lake Hopatcong Historical Museum’s salute to Bertrand Island Amusement Park at The Growing Stage in Netcong Saturday night, a taste of the midway brought back strong memories of summer nights spent playing games, riding the rides and hanging out at the park.
This year marks the thirty-year anniversary of the park’s closing but for most who grew up in the area, the memories of playing and working at the park are fresh in their minds, and thanks to the efforts of LHHM president Marty Kane, Bertrand Island was once again brought to life.
An original silver rocket ship from the AeroJet ride greeted visitors on the sidewalk in front of the theater. Once inside, the theater was transformed into a midway, thanks to bright red food carts sheltered by red and white umbrellas, where visitors feasted on dogs, burgers and fries, and finished with cookies and candied apples.
Kane began the evening’s program with a brief but comprehensive history about Lake Hopatcong’s other amusement park, Nolan’s Point, which opened in one form or another in the late 1800’s. The park closed 80 years ago, in 1934, a victim of the Great Depression.
According to Kane, there is very little physical evidence of the park and not much was written about Nolan’s Point, but he did present a wide range of photos and newspaper clippings documenting the park’s history.
Before presenting the featured event, a video history of Bertand Island Park, Kane thanked Seth Katz, owner of two local marinas, for storing and transporting the AeroJet rocket, and he introduced Al Kuda and Joe Nazzaro, both of whom have family ties to the park.
Nazzaro’s uncle, Joe Delorenzo, owned and operated the carousel. Nazzaro, who lives in Randolph, remembered the “good times” he had working with his uncle and spending time at the park during his teenage years.
Kuda’s grandfather, Louis Kraus, was the original owner of the amusement park. He sold the park but Kuda’s parents kept control of the food concessions, which stayed in the family until 1976.
“From the time I could make change I would be there every day,” said Kuda. “The only time I didn’t work there was when I was in the army, from ’70 to ’73.”
When Kuda finished his stint in the army he returned to the park, where he met and fell in love with his wife, Carolyn (Zoncio), who was working at the food concessions for Kuda’s parents.
“I was already in love with his parents,” said Carolyn of meeting her husband. “They were the best people on earth.” The Kuda’s have been married 37 years and live in Succasunna.
“This is a great night for nostalgia,” said Nazzaro. “The park was a great part of my teenage years. I’m glad the museum keeps this going,” he said.
Virginia Van Der Meulen and her father, Frank, both from Budd Lake, were two of the 180 guests in the audience viewing the hour-long video history about Bertrand Island. On the screen in front of her was grainy, black and white footage filmed from the front car of the Wildcat roller coaster. Virginia could not help herself. She was a teenager again, raising her hands in the air, swaying left and right as the car made its way around the track, one last time.
Marty Kane takes the stage during his presentation on the Nolan's Point amusement park.