'Back in the Day': remembering Boulder Park in Indian Falls
From my book "Back in the Day. Snapshots of Local History, the Way I see it."
It was a warm Sunday afternoon. My brothers and I were sitting in the backseat of our parents’ station wagon. We all were watching for the sign that said Boulder Park, Indian Falls, NY, on Route 77. We could not contain our excitement. We were clutching the coupon that said bring this coupon and 25 cents to Boulder Park and get 50 cents worth of ride tickets for children under the age of 12. All rides are a nickel.
We finally arrived at the park, and of course we could not agree on what ride to go on first. Would it be the merry-go-round, Ferris wheel, a kiddies’ automobile ride, the airplane ride, or the kiddie chair planes?
People from Genesee County and the surrounding areas shared this happy memory. If you were born in the late ‘40s into the ‘60s you probably would have memories to share. When we asked people for their memories, their responses were, “I remember going on picnics with my family. It was a big treat to go to Boulder Park”; “I remember getting sick on the Ferris wheel. It was the best time of the week because we went as a family,” and, “It was one of my happiest childhood memories. It was the only time I did not fight with my brothers, as long as I got to pick the first ride.”
The man responsible for those memories was Phil Morrot. He bought the Reynolds Farm and Feed Mill on Phelps Road. There, he and his sister Emily created Boulder Park. He selected the area because it was the heart of Indian Falls. It was located between two great hills in the narrow valley of the Tonnewanta, now called the Tonawanda Creek. It was the site where six Indian Trails met. It was sometimes described as a well-hidden fairy spot, blessed by God and nature.
The Morrots were not the first who wanted to utilize this beautiful area. In 1929, Ely S. Parker’s grandson, Arthur, a New York State archeologist, endorsed a proposal by Nathan Strauvis Jr., a member of the New York State Senate, to preserve its beauty as a state park. He was interested because at one time his famous grandfather owned the area. The owner at the time, knowing the land was in demand, raised the price to an amount the state was not able to afford. Another proposal was to tear down the mill and build steps leading to the gorge below connecting the Tonawanda Creek with Diver’s Lake. This would have made a horseshoe park. This was another failed dream.
In 1949 Morrot’s vision for Boulder Park was fulfilled. The area covered 14 acres, including Morrot’s home. Hundreds of automobiles from as far away as Buffalo, Rochester, and Olcott Beach made the pilgrimage to the Boulder Park.
The first rides to be constructed were the famous merry-go-round or as some call it, the carousel. It replaced the old apple processing building. Emily Morrot Bourgard, Phil’s sister, designed the carousel. Herschell Company built it and it was said that the carousel was the best product Herschell Company ever built.
The merry-go-round was one of a kind. It had thirty-two horses and seven unique animals that included a giraffe, an elephant, a camel, a reindeer with real horns, a lion, tiger, and a polar bear. This ride was the first in America to have both an elephant and polar bear. The horses had elongated heads, decorated with plumes and jewels. They were realistic, elaborately carved animals.
The merry-go-round’s first home was not Boulder Park. It was first delivered to Olcott Beach, NY. It was operating at Olcott Beach until 1947. That was the same year Phil Morrot began clearing the land for his Boulder Park.
Most people remember the merry go round. 1,200 electric light bulbs lighted it. The lights were reflected back from a double row of beveled mirrors, which were mounted on panels. The mirrors were alternated with original oil paintings of local landscapes. A Wurlitzer style military band organ provided the energizing music.
In 1930 Theo’s sister Emily died at the hand of the merry-go-round she designed. She stooped down to pick up a ticket and the knee of the Black Charger struck her.
The park employed at least a dozen workers. Mr. Morrot’s children also worked spinning pink cotton candy, taking tickets, serving hot dogs, and ice cream. It was truly a family owned business.
In 1960 a mile long train track was added to the park. It went through the woods on the opposite side of the creek and returned to the park.
Phil retired in 1964 and sold the park. The new owner let the park deteriorate. In 1970 Boulder Park was closed, never to reopen.
Today, the once magical Boulder Park is just a happy childhood memory to many of us. It was a time when parents could leave behind their jobs and go as a family to the wonderful world of Boulder Park to picnic and hop on any favorite ride for the cost of a nickel! Many thought of Boulder Park as our Disney World of Western New York.
The area is back to its natural state, with wildflowers, and home to water snakes, raccoons, possums, skunks, and woodchucks.
The famous carousel was dismantled and in dire need of restoration. The unique animals Emily created were sold individually at different auctions. In 1989 a collector purchased the polar bear for $121,000.
Below, kids in kiddie cars.
Below, "Refreshments anyone?"
Below, this restored elephant is from the famous merry-go-round from Boulder Park.
One of the most indelible memories of my life... I still ride by the former site real slow, often, and reminisce.
I do the same thing Brian. So what does that say, we are both old?
The last time I went there was to enjoy a "Gyp Picnic" in the mid 60's and I still think of all the fun we had that day every time I pass by there! Nobody in my family worked at the "Gyp" at the time but my best friend's father did and they slid me in as part of their family.
Much simpler times... I remember leaving a whopping 50 cents home that day trying to save up enough of my allowance money to buy a banana seat for my bike and I knew I'd blow every cent I took with me on the bumper cars!