Dancing, swimming, and of course the rides: Highlights of a trip to Crystal Beach

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

If you’re over 40 and grew up in Buffalo, chances are pretty good you didn’t need an ad in the newspaper to entice you to beg for a trip to Crystal Beach. Yet from Memorial Day to Labor Day, from the 1940s to the 1980s, those ads were there, almost every day.

Here’s a look back at a few of those ads.

1944:

The “100 thrilling midway amusements” were among the most highly touted aspects of a visit to Crystal Beach during the years of World War II, but even more than the rides– in bold letters, bathing and dancing were the kind of fun that must have spoke to the throngs of WNYers who’d make the regular trip to Canada.

Today, we make that trip across the Peace Bridge– and some did it that way in 1944, too. But the “extra special, grand” way to get to Crystal Beach was a 50¢ ride across the Lake aboard the Steamer Canadiana.

This was no mere boat ride. Hopping aboard the Crystal Beach boat at the foot of Main Street (in a spot behind Key Bank Center in today’s geography) was where the party started, lead by live music by such popular Buffalo bands as Harold Austin’s Orchestra (who was also very popular at The Dellwood Ballroom during Bob Wells’ Hi Teen dance program on WEBR Radio.)

When it came to dancing to live music on the rollicking waves of  Lake Erie, getting there (and back home) really was half the fun of going to Crystal Beach when you took the Canadiana.

1960:

The excitement of 5-cent rides at Crystal Beach was almost too much to bear. You paid per ride at Crystal Beach back then, and hearing that 24 rides cost only a nickel sounded like just about the most fabulous way anyone could think of to spend the last few days of summer.

That is, of course, until you read the small print — and realized your roll of nickels might not take you as far as you thought.

Nickel Day applied to 24 of the parks “riding devices.” The best rides were still cheaper than usual — but only half-price. The Comet, the Giant Coaster, the Wild Mouse, Magic Carpet, The Roto-Jet, Scrambler, Auto Scooter, The Old Mill, even roller skating — those more popular thrill-inducing rides were going to cost you more than just 5 cents.

But at least the bathhouse and beach equipment rates were also at half price, too.

1975:

Buffalo’s most fondly remembered amusement park broke down exactly what made the place great in this ad published July 1, 1975– likely prompting some last minute begging to do what came only naturally to generations of Buffalonians– spend our nation’s birthday in a foreign country eating sugar waffles and drinking loganberry.

The Comet Coaster— towering 105 feet– one of the top 10 in the world.

24 major adult rides— featuring the twirling TWISTER, the fantastic FLITZER, the mighty MONSTER, and the swinging CHAIR-O-PLANE.

12 rides for the kids— try the all new AUTO SKOOTER and GLASS HOUSE.

And… Dr. Miracles’ Wondercade, the Shootin’ Shack, Cafe International.

Swimming— 1/4 mile of clean, patrolled beach and sparkling water.

Free Picnic Grove— Covered sheltering for 3,500 people.

Games, Bingo & Souvenir Boutique

No admission charge— Ride what you like, like what you ride. 60 ways to be alive in ’75.

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Steve Cichon

Steve Cichon is a proud Buffalonian helping the world experience the city he loves. writing about the people, places, and ideas that make Buffalo unique and special. The storyteller and historian has written six books, worn bow ties since the 80s, and is the News Director at WECK Radio. A 25 year Buffalo media veteran, Steve's contributed more than 1400 Buffalo History stories to The Buffalo News, worked at WIVB-TV, Empire Sports Network, and spent ten years as a newsman and News Director at WBEN Radio. He's also put his communication skills to work as an adjunct professor, a producer of PBS documentaries, and even run for Erie County Clerk. Steve's Buffalo roots run deep: all eight of his great-grandparents called Buffalo home, with his first ancestors arriving here in 1827.