EHT’S Adventure Village: The Story & Never Before Seen Photos
Adventure Village was an iconic amusement park that was open (during the summer months) for 10 years (1959-1969) on The Black Horse Pike in Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey. It was located between Storybook Land and Zaberers Restaurant.
Before I go a moment further into this project, I want to thank Lynn Warner Wood, (the daughter of founders, developers, owners, and operators, Fred and Doris Warner) for her phenomenal cooperation and collaboration.
The photos you will see of Adventure Village, during its greatest heydays were provided by Lynn.
The 24 photos that you will see in the photo gallery, which begins right after this article ends, were taken by Don P. Hurley in 2009 about one day before the wrecking ball demolished all of the Adventure Village buildings forever.
The story begins with Fred G. Warner, affectionately known as The Mayor of Adventure Village, who moved his entire family from Gladwyn, Pennsylvania to McKee City, New Jersey.
This is Adventure Village “Mayor” Fred G. Warner:
Fred Warner was a builder by trade. He knew exactly what he was doing. He scoped out other amusement parks before developing his very own.
Adventure Village played such an important part in my earliest childhood days in the 1960s. I was the perfect age to enjoy it as a 5 to 9-year-old child.
Everything seemed real and this “town” had everything that a kid could ever want.
I was committed to locating Lynn Warner Wood and let her tell the real story of Adventure Village.
AN EXCLUSIVE NARRATIVE FROM ADVENTURE VILLAGE FIRST DAUGHTER LYNN WARNER WOOD:
"Adventure Village was a unique family fun spot featuring old Model T car rides, a diamond mine, old train ride through the woods (which occasionally got robbed), and free hourly entertainment of old-time movies like Laurel and Hardy in the Hippodrome Theater, or a skit out in the center of town."
Slippery Sam would talk to the boys and girls in the jail and occasionally escape while masses of children descended upon him to put him back in jail. Then the children would get “sworn in” by a keystone cop or the mayor of the village (my dad) and receive their tin badges.
The drink of the house in the Pink Garter Saloon was pink lemonade with a garter around the cup.
Maybe some of you remember the antique car shows, nighttime square dancing, horse and buggy rides through the woods back to “Rattlesnake Junction,” or having your birthday party celebrated in the treehouse. All these creative ideas came from our father.
It was a family business. My brother Scott, alias “Slippery Sam,” still carries scars from attacks from the boys and girls after escaping from jail.
[Dad brought] his ideas to life with his trusty 1959 John Deere bulldozer, he created a Gay 90’s amusement park on the Blackhorse Pike … that tourists driving by on their way to the shore could pull-in and visit.My three brothers and I worked at the park most summers helping my parents. It was in operation during the summer months from 1959 to 1969.The park offered free entertainment every hour, either an old-time movie in the Hippodrome Theater - showing Laurel and Hardy, Buster Keaton, WC Fields, with my Dad up in the project projection booth, laughing out loud even after watching them hundreds of times.There were live skits in the center of town. Those skits varied from pig races that the youngsters could participate in, washerwomen (actually guys dressed as washerwomen) entertaining the crowd with their shenanigans, [and] when the Mayor of Great Adventure would welcome everyone on the microphone, just as someone yelled from the second floor of Town Hall, FIRE!
Then, a goat-drawn fire pumper would come barreling around the corner and pump water up to the window, as smoke was coming out of the window and as one of the firemen pumped the water, his pants would fall down displaying clown-like bloomers.
The firemen would hold a net and a dummy lept out of the window. At the end of each skit, “Slippery Sam”...would escape from the jail and the boys and girls in attendance chased him as they, along with help from the Keystone cops, dragged him back to jail.
The Mayor, my Dad, would have a swearing-in ceremony as the kids raised their right hand and promise to eat all of their vegetables, mind their parents, etc., and then would each would receive a tin badge, that seems to be a collector's item today.
I wish I’d kept the boxes of them I remember seeing in the village hall.
There was a dummy in the jail, dressed as “Slippery Sam,” who spoke to the kids as they peeked inside. It was actually the man at the ticket counter across the way, who could see the kids and he used an intercom speaker to chat with them this caused a lot of head-scratching as to how “Slippery Sam” knew what they were wearing, etc. Everyone had so much fun.
We had a very nice train engineer who we called "Choo Choo.” He was one of the actual Munchkins in the Wizard of Oz movie. He also drove the Oscar Meyer Wiener Mobile and “called” for Phillip Morris cigarettes, among other jobs. He was from Egg Harbor Township, where he is also buried.
The Diamond Mine was popular since you could hunt for Cape May diamonds. Each summer Dad and I would replenish the mine with loads of pebbles from Sunset Beach in Cape May where the quartz rocks were found. Cape May diamonds are clear quartz stones that can be tumbled and polished and they resemble real diamonds.
Dad had a patty wagon, an old Tastykake wagon that Dad bought and he had it painted to look like a paddy wagon he took it to area parades such as the Ocean City Baby Parade on the boardwalk.
“Slippery Sam” occasionally pops out of the back of the patty wagon in the Keystone cops which shuffle him back in. I remember the Keystone cop would pass out free admission passes to the boys and girls in the crowd.
We had many little rides, A Merry Go Round, a nice one with horses with real tails, a sweet shop, two gift shops, a funhouse, an old fashion arcade, a shooting gallery, puppet rides, small paddle boat rides, miniature golf, an old fire engine they gave rides around the park, rides on the Model T, the popular train ride through the woods, sometimes a train robber was captured at Rattlesnake Junction and brought into town where he would run and get pretend “shot” by the engineer.
Then, a goat-drawn hearse would come to load him up and take him away and also the Tin Lizzie cars that the kids drove themselves along a track over a bridge … there was even a horse and wagon ride for one summer they gave rides out to the woods and back.
Tickets were sold for $.10 each.
Another Adventure Village fun fact … See it right here, if you came in a group of 20 or more, you entered Adventure Village for free.
My father even built a treehouse for birthday groups in the picnic area.
The drink of the house in the pink garter saloon was a pink lemonade with a pink garter around the cup that people kept for a souvenir.
After a decade, it got to be too much work for my father and mother and in 1969 they decided to sell the rides and turn the buildings into apartments to rent out, keeping the fronts as they were, as an old-time village.
Our train was sold to Magic forest in New York and is still in operation today.
We had a nickelodeon in the saloon that was bought by Wheaton village and continues to entertain folks in their general store today.
My parents sold the property in 1979 and in the years to follow, the park went into a state of decline. The Auto Lenders bought the property in 2008 and after the local fire companies were given the opportunity to conduct practice drills, the demolition began in 2009.
Interesting sidenote, the Great Egg Harbor Township Historical Society will be offering a presentation in the Spring, 2022 on the history of Storybook Land and Adventure Village.
It will be a slideshow, to be held at the EHT community center on English Creek Avenue. The exact date is not known yet keep an eye out in the Egg Harbor Township Historical Society Museum Facebook Page.
My sincere thanks to Lynn Warner Wood for her supreme cooperation in presenting the true history of Adventure Village.
To date, I believe that this is now the most comprehensive piece ever written about Adventure Village, along with the vintage photos in its heydays, along with Don P. Hurley’s photos taken right before demolition day in 2009.
The 2009 photo gallery begins now, directly below.
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