Mr Futrell estimates that there were more than 1,000 trolleybus parks in the United States in the decade before World War I, many of which were in small suburban towns. During these boom years, Clementon Park added one of the area’s first nickelodeon theaters and a new public bath. Vacation homes and restaurants have sprung up all over the city.
The war was bitter for the entertainment industry, but as trolley parks closed elsewhere, it grew. In 1919, the Gibbs family installed a Ferris wheel and a steam carousel. That same year, they spent $ 80,000 – over $ 1 million today – on the Jack Rabbit coaster, designed by famed driving engineer John A. Miller and built in wood by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company.
The depression and the growing popularity of the automobile led to a new wave of fleet closures. “You could survive if you had room to set up a parking lot,” Mr Futrell said, “and Clementon did.”
More modern thrill rides have been added. In the dance hall, Red Skelton and Dick Clark organized dance-till-you-drop marathons. There were daily diving shows and circus acts on the lake. Just outside the park gates, a downtown shopping district was bustling by the mid-century, and by 1960 Clementon’s population had grown to nearly 4,000 over just two square miles.
But the boom that followed World War II threatened the way of life in small towns.
“They built huge malls and malls just down the road,” said Danielle Burrows, “and there was a dramatic change to the inner city neighborhoods in the 1960s. Ms. Burrows, 41 years old , grew up in town and wrote about Clementon for the “Images of America” book series in 2009. When shops and apartments on Main Street were demolished in the name of “urban renewal” in the 1970s , Mrs. . Burrows said, “The city’s heyday was at least a decade in the rearview mirror.”
There are few shops and restaurants left today, and almost nothing is manufactured in Clementon today. When the amusement park did not open at all during the 2020 season, Marian Mumie, 82, who moved to Clementon in 1938, recalled that earlier demolition.