by Tom Burhyte

Many people have e-mailed me to ask whatever happened to Jasper, the Dragon Boat. Maybe this will clear the air on Jasper, but first a little bit about Jasper's owner.

Ralph Randall, along with his wife, Ruth, owned Jasper and the cotton candy and custard stands. Ralph would come up to the park about the middle of March each year and get under Jasper and caulk the underside. This would take about four weeks or better, depending on the weather.

About two days before we opened for the summer we would roll old Jasper out of the building on pipe rollers, which were placed under the skids that Jasper sat on all winter. The last year Jasper was in the water Ralph noticed that the ribs that entered the main keel, which was 14" wide and about 30' long, had begun to rot and come apart. Sadly, that meant Jasper's days were growing short.

The Fall of that year (this was somewhere in the early Sixties) the boat was placed between the Shooting Gallery and the SpooksHouse, and Jasper sat there for a year. In that year's time Ralph, his brother Herb and I stripped Jasper, removing the motor and drive shaft and taking them to the junkyard.

Now for the sad part of this story. One Fall day at the end of the season that year, Herb Randall and I towed Jasper to the tennis court where we dumped some twenty gallons of gasoline and fuel oil all over Jasper. Herb told me to go get his brother and tell him that he wanted to see him right away.

I went to get Ralph, but he didn't want to come. But with a little arm help, I got him over there. I'm quite sure he knew what his brother wanted. As we rounded the corner of the Merry-Go-Round building he could see Herb at the tennis court, and there was no doubt what was about to happen.

Herb gave Ralph a twenty-minute railroad flare all lit and ready to throw. But Ralph just stood there. You could tell he was going back thru time with his beloved Jasper - all the days they'd had together on Eldridge Lake.

I didn't think he would ever throw the flare, and it was getting very short. Herb yelled, "Ralph! Throw it or you're going to set yourself on fire."

He finally tossed it onto the dragon boat. Old Jasper lifted about two feet up in the air and then came back to the ground. It just fell into pieces. The old dragon burned with it's head inside. Along with the rest of the boat, the dragon head was beyond repair, too.

Two hours later Jasper had completely burned up and Ralph was nowhere to be seen. I guess he just couldn't bear to watch old Jasper, a big part of his life, go up in flames. We never saw Ralph again until next March.

One good thing about this is that I got the radiator hose off Jasper and made myself a welding rod holder, which I still have to this day. I remember when I took the rod holder down to The Park to show Ralph what I had, his eyes got real watery and I know why.

This was one of my many memories of Eldridge Park and the great people that worked and ran this place. I guess if you've lost something that was so much a part of you, like old Jasper was to Ralph and his wife, Ruth, then maybe you know what I'm talking about!

How about you? Do you remember Eldridge Park?
What was it like for you? Any favorite memories?
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