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Issue Date: August 2005 Issue


Fastlane

Laughing Sal, Greeter, Euclid Beach Park's Surprise House

Sept. 28, 1969, Euclid Beach Park closed for the season — and forever. And while the archway entrance is all that's left at the site, the First Lady of the Park will never go away. "Remember how I gave you nightmares every summer?" asks Laughing Sal. "I'm baaaaaaaack."

How many children did you make cry over the years?

Let's see. I'd probably have to say ... all of them! Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!

Sicko.

Look, when the boss says, "Here's your job, Sal: Stand in front of the Surprise House and scare the crap out of little kids," what are you supposed to do? Act like a big purple dinosaur and hug them all?

So, no job satisfaction?

Are you kidding? All those terrorized faces? It's as much fun as a hollow motorized woman could have.

The best rides at the park.

The older kids always seemed to love the Racing Coasters, Over the Falls and the Flying Turns. And the little ones always seemed to smile after the Sleepy Hollow Railroad and the Kiddie Whip. I took care of that, though. Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!

The defining moment in your life?

When I realized my fat ankles could be an asset.

Talk to me about the food.

Where do I start? The hotdogs, the taffy, the frozen whip, and those popcorn balls: the best.

What sort of surprises did the Surprise House hold?

It was like a giant funhouse — heavy doors that would slam behind you, moving floors, random blasts of air ... total darkness. Trust me. Nothing was better than hearing those screams.

There's something seriously wrong with you.

You have no idea. I haven't moved my right arm in 36 years. Plus, I spend a lot of time cooped up in a Highland Heights garage.

What made Euclid Beach such an icon?

It was our Coney Is-land. A trip to Euclid Beach was like your official kickoff to summer: families with their picnic baskets heading to the beach, kids hanging out with their friends and tons of young couples, too.

You never met Mr. Right?

Ah, I thought I met the perfect guy once. But after a couple of dates he told me he hated my laugh.

Any regrets in your life?

A chair would've been nice.


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