America's Amusement Park Holocaust

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by Portfolio Armor
Monday, Mar 04, 2024 - 12:31
Race, riots, and roller coasters.

"Tell Me How This Gets Fixed"

On Sunday, a post on X sharing a TikTok video of a riot at the Atlanta Six Flags amusement park went viral, with over 1.5 million views as we type this. "Tell me how this gets fixed", asked the poster. 

This brought to mind two things. One is Chesterton's Fence. The other is the little-known history of America's independent amusement parks in the post-Civil Rights era. Like many aspects of America's history that touch on race, this history has been so well buried that you may not even be aware of how many local amusement parks America used to have, or why nearly all of them closed. Fortunately, there was a excellent thread on X last year that explains this. Following that, we'll close with a brief trading note. First though, Chesterton's fence. 

Chesterton's Fence

Chesterton's Fence comes from this quote by G.K. Chesterton: 

There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.”

.To put it in more general terms (in the words of Jash Dholani): 

If you don’t know what an old custom does, don’t touch it. It may be holding back problems you’re completely unaware of. You’ve not seen the wolves yet because of the very fence you’re about to demolish.

America's Amusement Park Holocaust

Victoria Walcott wrote a book titled "Race, Riots and Roller Coasters", about the struggle to integrate America's amusement parks. Helen Andrews, editor of The American Conservative, shared an eye-opening thread about it on X last fall, which we've shared below. 

Here's the full text of Helen's second post:

Olympic Park, Irvington, New Jersey (1903-1965): “Olympic Park remained segregated until the mid-1950s and Newark’s black community felt unwelcome even when they gained access to the park. By 1965, however, young blacks began to take buses to the park to enjoy daylong excursions. On opening day of 1965 a large group of Newark teenagers, numbering perhaps one thousand, arrived at the park. They expected to pay only ten cents per ride, a tradition on opening day that the park owner had eliminated that year. By the evening many had run out of money as a result. Fearing trouble, park officials tried to close early. Guards ushered the angry teenagers from the park, but there were no buses to take them back to Newark because of the early closing time. The crowds then descended on downtown Irvington, shattering some shop windows and frightening pedestrians…

Two weeks after the riot the town council met to discuss denying the park’s license renewal… By the end of the season the owners had sold Olympic Park to land developers, and Newark youth no longer had access to any major amusement parks.”

The full text of those posts: 

Glen Echo Amusement Park, Montgomery County, Maryland (1899-1968): “In Glen Echo amusement park outside Washington, D.C., another classic carousel was the site of a successful desegregation effort by civil rights activists in 1960. Six years later, on the Monday following Easter, large numbers of African American teenagers boarded buses in Washington and headed to Glen Echo… Alarmed by the crowds and fearing vandalism, park operators shut down their rides early, around 6:00pm. The youths had purchased ride tickets that they could not use and were frustrated and angry. At this point the bus company decided to suspend service back to the city because they could not be guaranteed police protection. Several hundred teenagers had to walk many miles to their urban homes. During this walk they threw bottles and stones, frightening nearby residents and smashing some windows on cars and houses…

Glen Echo reopened a week after the riot… Transportation to the park was limited to private cars when DC Transit ended its bus service from Washington. In addition, Glen Echo began to charge admission at the gate rather than allowing patrons to roam the park and pay for individual rides… These efforts failed to stem the park’s decreasing popularity. The final season for Glen Echo was 1968.”

Springlake Park, Oklahoma City (1922-1981): “On opening day, Easter Sunday, in 1971, a false rumor spread through the park that a white teenager had pushed an African American off the Big Dipper roller coaster. A dramatic fight broke out between blacks and whites inside the park. Park guards managed to throw most of the teenagers out of the park, but the teens confronted police in the surrounding parking area. Soon police fought with African American teenagers, who were joined by youth from nearby housing projects…

Springlake Park never recovered from the Easter riot in 1971… After years of decline the park closed in 1981.”

Full text of the Fontaine Ferry Park post: 

Fontaine Ferry Park, Louisville, Kentucky (1905-1969): “On opening day in 1969 nearly eight thousand people flooded into the park. Many were young black teenagers… By midafternoon a group of youths began to smash equipment and rob cashiers at rides and stands. Park management closed the gates two hours early, and the next day the owner announced Fontaine Ferry was closed for good. Fontaine Ferry had been fully desegregated for only four years before closing.”

Hat tip to our friend Paul Hundred, for reminding us of Helen Andrew's thread. 

Maybe someday, someone will write a post about why the Six Flags parks closed. Maybe they'll say they couldn't compete with virtual reality or something like that. Or maybe we'll figure out how to reverse the decline of our public spaces. Let's wrap this up on a more positive note, with a brief trading update. 

Another Packed Earnings Calendar This Week

We've got dozens of companies reporting earnings this week. Out of them, we've picked a handful that look promising for earnings trades, half of them bullish, and half of them bearish. 

If you've subscribed to our trading Substack/occasional email list, keep an eye out for our trade alert on this week's earnings calendar later today. If not, feel free to subscribe below. 

Monday Evening Update

Two of the four companies were were bearish on reported after the close, ThredUp (TDUP -19.28%↓) and SEMRush (SEMR -9.83%↓). Both down after hours. 


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