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Long Point Park, Geneseo, NY, auctioned. September 8,1990

As many of you may know, for many years John and Alice LaGrou, my parents, owned and operated Long Point Park on Conesus Lake, back when Long Point was an amusement park.

Long Point last operated as an amusement park in the summer of 1990, around the time my parents sold the land to the Town of Geneseo. It is with a heavy heart that I now write to inform the local community that my father is terminally ill with a brain tumor.

As my father nears the end of his life, I thought it worthwhile to share some memories about him.

As the owner and operator of Long Point Park for so many years, my father has a unique place in the history of the local community. Through his work he touched and brought joy to many local people, and yet because he is a quiet and private man, relatively few people know him well.

And so I would like to take this opportunity to offer a bit more information about this quiet man who spent nearly his entire life bringing smiles to so many here in this community.

My father has a long history with Long Point Park. He first arrived there in the summer of 1949, when he was 18 years old. His parents, Stephen and Irene LaGrou, had operated speedboats, amusement park rides and an ice cream stand at Deauville Park on Owasco Lake in Auburn and had decided to relocate to Long Point.

They sold the speedboats and brought to Long Point one ride ... a small merry-go-round. Things went well and so they soon replaced the original merry-go-round with a larger one made by Allan Herschell, and it was that merry-go-round that became the familiar mainstay of the midway.

In the ensuing years they added the Tilt-A-Whirl, the Little Dipper, a Rocket Ride, the Ferris Wheel, the Skyfighter the Kiddie Ride and the Boat Ride.

Dad enlisted in the Navy and served from 1950 to 1954, assigned to a troop transport ship called the U.S.S Magoffin, which operated in the Pacific throughout the Korean War. After his enlistment was up, he returned home to work at Long Point. While working there in 1956, he met Alice Papapanu, a woman from Webster who was attending SUNY Geneseo. They were married in 1958.

Dad's father, after whom I am named, died in 1959, and soon afterwards his mother transferred the business to my parents.

Around that time the Rocket Ride was sold and around 1963, the Scrambler was added, completing the familiar collection of eight rides that many readers may remember.

My parents continued to operate the rides every summer while a fellow named Carl Johnston managed the rest of the park. Around 1968, my parents bought the park land from the Wadsworth family and began managing the entire park, operating parts of it themselves while leasing to others the skating rink, the penny arcade, the Five-O building and the hot dog stand.

As part of the deal, Mr. Johnston and his wife Charlotte stayed on for a few more years as operators of the Miniature Golf Course. Eventually, the Johnstons retired whereupon management of the Golf Course was transferred to my parents.

By the early 1980s, my parents were themselves directly operating the entire park, except for the Five-O game, which was operated by a fellow named Jim Meagher.

In the summer of 1988, the park suffered a devastating fire; all of the central buildings that housed the skating rink, penny arcade, hot dog stand, Skee Ball, Three-In-A-Line, Five-O, Kat Game and the old Nickel Toss, were completely destroyed.

My parents were heartbroken, as were many people in the community. With those buildings gone, Long Point Park was just not the same.

The park operated for the rest of 1988 and, if memory serves me, in the summers of 1989 and 1990. The rides and other equipment were sold at auction in, I believe, the fall of 1990.

It would be impossible to recount in this article all of the wonderful things that my father has done for me, many of which involved great sacrifice on his part.

One of my most poignant memories of him relates to a motorcycle accident that we had on Long Point Road when I was 15. I was unhurt, but my Dad suffered a broken back and a concussion.

As he lay in the ditch, unable to move or to assimilate anything, all he kept asking over and over was Steve, what happened? Are you okay? I was struck by the fact that while he was in terrible pain with a broken vertebra, and was incoherent due to a head injury, his one unshakable thought was to be worried about my safety.

He is the kindest man I have ever known, and although I would love him just as dearly no matter what he had done for a living, it just so happened that through his work he gave me a childhood that most children could only dream about.

Imagine growing up as the son of the owner of an amusement park. It was not until I was much older that I came to realize how incredibly fortunate I had been to have been born into my fathers unique family business.

Back when dance bands played at the skating rink, I met professional entertainers backstage as they prepped for their acts. I learned to roll a perfect game of Skee Ball on good old Alley 4. I rode Ferris Wheels, ate the worlds best French fries and roller skated at will, all for free. Dad and I fished in Conesus Lake, and I learned to scuba dive there as well.

I received my first kiss from a girl named Linda on the beach at Long Point in 1973, when I was 14, and later I met other women at Long Point who tugged at my heart.

I also met many lifelong friends at Long Point, and Long Point paid for my college education, a gift that has enriched my life in more ways than I can describe. And of course, since my parents met at Long Point, I literally owe my existence to that special place where Dad lived and worked for so long.

These days I often tell him how proud I am of his life and of the happiness that he brought to so many people. His work at Long Point Park was designed to do one simple thing: to deliver a smile.

Now, I am sure that I must sound overly nostalgic here, but I am equally sure that at least a few people who grew up in this area also have special stories or memories of Long Point Park, back when it was an amusement park.

If you are one of those people, and if you would like to share your stories or memories with us, our family would like to hear about them. We would especially like Dad to know just how much happiness he brought to so many people. And if your story about Long Point happens to be a little bit on the wild side, well, we are sure that Dad would get a charge out of that as well.

You can send cards, letters, copies of photographs (please do keep your originals), etc., directly to my father at Teresa House, 21 Highland Road, Geneseo, New York 14454. If you have any old home movies of Long Point Park that you think would be of interest to my father, and if you are willing to show those movies to him, we may be able to arrange for a viewing.

Thank you for taking this time to reflect on my father and his life's work. On behalf of our family, I wish everyone in the community a happy holiday season.

CREDITS: Stephen E. LaGrou