JIM RICE
MODELING HIS MEMORIES OF ELDRIDGE
by BILL COOK

photos courtesy of Jim Rice

please note: You can click on any photo for an enlargement

is memories of Eldridge Park include helping Ralph Randall wash and hose down Jasper, the Dragon Boat. And he worked for Bob Long, who brought the first Merry-Go-Round to Eldridge and he helped Bob operate and maintain it as an amusement ride for kids who came to Eldridge Park during its heyday.

click here for an enlargementJim Rice has many creative talents and he credits his years at Eldridge and his career at Hardinge Brothers for many of them. His Eldridge years go back to his high school days when he worked the Merry-Go-Round with his good friend, Tom Burhyte, painting and repairing horses. Jim remembers when Bob Long experimented with alumninum horses. "They came in halves," he recalls. "And Bob taught us how to weld the halves together, polish them up and get them ready for painting. Once we were finished with them, you couldn't tell the difference from the wooden ones."

"Bob Long taught us everything," he says. "We were just kids when we learned how to do it all at the park. We stripped paint. We got the park ready for Winter. We opened it up in the Spring." The Merry-Go-Round, Bumper Cars and SpooksHouse were click here for an enlargementowned by Bob Long and so, from 1958, when he started his career at Hardinge Brothers, Jim continued learning how to do it all at Eldridge part-time through the summers until 1970.

"Working at Eldridge Park for Bob Long was the best job I ever had," says Jim.

In 1992 Jim underwent surgery for a kidney transplant after being on dialysis. "While I was on the mend from that, I needed something to do. And so I put some of the skills to use that I had learned at Hardinge and during my years at Eldridge and made a model of the Merry-Go-Round as it was back in the 1960s."

His completed Merry-Go-Round is so realistic, you'd be hard pressed not to imagine you're looking down at it from one of those tight-rope high wire acts that used to appear above the Eldridge Midway. "It is 1/25th scale and is 2 feet in diameter," he explains. "The little horses are made of pewter."

And his model of Jasper takes you back there, too.

click here for an enlargementAlmost as if Jim knew someday he'd be doing his merry-go-round project, he bought the miniature horses many years ago from a man who had set up a small stand on the Midway at Eldridge and was selling them. "I bought a whole bunch of them," says Jim.

The music that plays on his model Merry-Go-Round is the original music that used to play on the real Eldridge Merry-Go-Round. He made a 90-minute tape from Bob Long's original collection of organ music.

Jim's memories of Eldridge are still vivid for him. "When I think of how much I learned as just a young boy at the park, it overwhelms me," he recalls with a gleam in his voice. "Bob Long did so much for us kids who worked there. And he trusted us with any job, once we learned it. How many guys do you know that would let kids handle that much responsibility? He was something else."

Jim is now retired and living in Horseheads, NY. He says there are few days that go by when he doesn't think of the good old days at Eldridge Park. That could be hard to avoid with his wonderfully creative models of Jasper and the Merry-Go-Round sitting so close by.

Jim, thanks for sharing your photos and your memories of Eldridge Park with us.

How about you? Do you remember Eldridge Park?
What was it like when you went there? Any favorite memories?
Please write to us.

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