Friday, June 7, 2013

Looking Back on a Century of Screams

For generations, summers in Western New York were highlighted by visits to Crystal Beach.

As part of our continuing effort to share with readers insights into the origins of our growing line of regional books, we chat with author William E. Kae about "Crystal Beach Park: A Century of Screams."



Q: Why did you decide to write Crystal Beach Park – A Century of Screams?
A:
I didn’t intend to write any books. I was living in Tampa, Florida during the 1990s and I was passing through a town called Crystal Beach on the Gulf Coast just north of St. Petersburg. For the hell of it, I stopped in at their small library to find out of there was any information about the town c started or got its name. Turned out it was also founded by John Rebstock who founded Crystal Beach, Ontario. On subsequent vacations back to Buffalo I began combing through 1880s newspapers on microfilm at the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library to learn more about Rebstock and the early years of Crystal Beach Park just to satisfy my own curiosity. Then it just snowballed.

Q: How did you go about researching your topic (make you sure mention any interesting avenues that you pursued).
A: First, I began combing through newspapers on microfilm, then census records. Once I realized that I was amassing so much information I began considering writing a book. There was just too much information for a comprehensive history on Crystal Beach in one volume, so it became three volumes… Steamers of the Crystal Beach Line, Crystal Beach Live, and Crystal Beach Park - – Century of Screams.

Since each book is on a different aspect of Crystal Beach History, the research was complicated and ranged from searching through archival records of Great Lakes Maritime institutions, patent office records, archives of ride manufacturers, interviews with surviving members of the musicians that entertained at the park, amusement industry trade journals… its endless.

Q: What were a couple of the most interesting facts or "nuggets" that you unearthed that surprised you?
A: I was expecting to find information about the religious retreat that is considered to be the start of Crystal Beach in 1888. But there was nothing about this retreat or any activity on Point Abino Bay until Crystal Beach opened in 1890. All the elements of the 1888-1889 retreat perpetuated as the start of Crystal Beach are in fact elements of the Crystal Beach International Assembly that began five years after Crystal Beach was established.

Q: What chapter/section of the book would you label your personal favorite? Why?
A: I do not have a particular favorite chapter, however, I think I found development of the sites plans that illustrate how the park physically evolved with the positioning of the rides interesting. In a transcendental way, they capture the century of Crystal Beach Park history
without words.
Check out "Crystal Beach Park: A Century of Screams" at www.buffalobooks.com .

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