Happyland

They might not have agreed upon the name of the place, but for two decades, families on Long Island frequented a little amusement park in Bethpage officially called Happyland. You might know it as Nunley’s, Smiley’s, or by the name of the restaurant next door, Jolly Roger. One thing we can agree on is that it sure was a fun place for a 70s kid to visit.

William Nunley was an established Amusement Park entrepreneur on Long Island when he decided to open Nunley’s Happyland in 1951. His friends called him crazy, telling him that there wasn’t enough people in the area to support such a venue.

When postwar families started laying down roots in the surrounding neighborhoods by the thousands, the naysayers were proven wrong. Only, Nunley wasn’t around to see it, having passed away six months before the park opened to the public. His widow, Miriam, would run it for the next 27 years.

 

Unlike other local establishments, Happyland was designed to operate year-round, with many of the attractions enclosed. Nunley used large glass panels from the ’62 World’s Fair to build the wide doorways that could be opened in the summer or closed in the winter. A 400-car parking lot catered to the growing population of car owners in the area.

Visitors to Happyland could choose from attractions such as a Ferris wheel, roller coaster, bumper cars, a miniature train ride, carousel, boat ride and pony rides. The park also boasted a large arcade of pinball machines, Skee-ball, and other mechanical games to test your skills.

Jolly Roger restaurantA restaurant next door to Happyland led to much name confusion over the years. It wasn’t owned, nor had any connection to the amusement park. Perhaps its name, Jolly Roger, just sounded like an amusement park, because many families on Long Island still refer to the entire place as “Jolly Roger’s.”

In later years, the restaurant changed its name to Robin Hood’s, and closed in 1974. Sadly, Happyland didn’t last much longer, closing its doors for good in 1978.

Although Happyland has been closed for over three decades now, many happy memories remain for this quaint little amusement park that brought smiles to the faces of thousands of Long Island kids over the years. We might not all call it the same name, but that hasn’t diminished our fond memories.

 

Do you have any recollections of visiting Happyland that you would like to share? I’d love to hear your memories in our comments section below, as we pay fond tribute to this long-lost gem on Long Island.

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33 Responses

  1. John Marco says:

    Thanks for posting this. I remember going to this place when I was very young, and we did call it Jolly Rogers! I never knew what happened to it until I read your post. I love your site. Please keep it going.

    • Anonymous says:

      Gregory Falco

      That was a nice amusement park back in the day. I was very young at the time. Sadly only been there 3 times. Cool about the park, it had indoor rides so you can go there in the winter. I wish they could in time bring a park like that again. Today’s kids are missing out. I also knew it as Jolly Rogers.

    • Lisa Holmes says:

      Yes Jolly Rogers! Loved that place.

  2. MH says:

    Nunley’s! I never knew it as HappyLand. Why did it close?

    • Mike says:

      You probably went to the one in Baldwin on the Freeport border (right next to Freeport High School). Everyone I know used to just call it Nunley’s. The one in the article was from Bethpage. Admittedly, I’ve never been to the Bethpage one.

  3. Dan Martens says:

    WOW! went to this place all the time in the 60’s. really blew my mind seeing the clown on the bench. I still remember that and the bumper cars. this site brings back some great memories. L.I. was the BEST place in the world to grow up and I was lucky enough to experience it. thank you again for this site and I hope you can keep it going.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I went there as a kid in the 1980s and they still had a few rides working.

  5. Freddie says:

    This was the seventh heaven of my pres-school years in the early 60s. I remember my first “boat” ride in the little kiddie boat ride with real water. A little older I liked the helicopter ride out in the front – the helicopters were replaced by spaceships in the late 60s or early 70s. My family always called it Jolly Rogers.
    There is a site about lost amusement parks that has lots of old pictures.

  6. Cyndy says:

    How cool is this…I was just thinking of this place the other day and i stumble upon your cool blog and this story. I thought it was called Adventureland…but I definitely remember it being near Farmingdale, so this is the place.

    Did t ever reopen? We went there a lot back in the 60’s and 70’s….it was a very cool place to hang out and have tons of fun back in the day. I loved the bumper cars and the roller coaster.

    • Glenn says:

      Adventureland is in Farmingdale on rt. 110 and still operating more than 50 years later. This is Nunleys Happland/Smileys, and or Jolly Roger on Hempstead Turnpike and Hicksville Road in Bethpage. It was lost to us in 1978.

  7. frank says says:

    I remember going to jolly rogers when I was a little boy and I got lost and my dad & uncle found me sitting in the clowns lap and that was a great memory I had jolly rogers was #1

  8. nancy says:

    I remember ‘hanging’ at Jolly Rogers with friends of a friend. they were “Hoods” and I felt really badass being with them. Until one day, my brother came in and saw me, and threatened to tell on me. No more Jolly Roger for me 🙁
    I was 15 at the time, too old for rides;

  9. Rich Friedman says:

    I was at Jolly Roger as much as possible- I am trying to find my two favorite games- one was a baseball game with wood bats- the other was a shooting game where you had a thompson and shot at windows where gangsters and civilians were- does anyone know what they were?

  10. Marc says:

    Hi all,

    I think you’re confusing the 2 parks. Nunley’s was in Freeport. The one in Bethpage was called “SMILEY’S HAPPYLAND or JOLLY ROGER”. I know this because my family owned the one in Bethpage until there was a small fire and we sold it in 1978.

    • Marc says:

      P.S. If you remember, there was a big life-sized colorful fiberglass clown that sat on a park bench at Smiley’s Happyland / Jolly Rogers. When we closed the park, we took lots of stuff home. That clown still sits in my parent’s backyard. He’s currently being restored and repainted to bring him back to all his 1970’s glamour.

      • Paul Matwiow says:

        Would love to see a photo of it restored. I remember so clear in my mind’s eye even though it is 55 years later.

      • DaisyPlainedgeClassOf 72 says:

        Marc
        What do you consider establishing a Facebook page for Smileys Happyland? I’d love to see some real pics of the place, in all its glory. My 60’s memories are so vague.
        What other attractions were salvaged? I’m sure there are a lot of collectors who would “give their eye teeth” for those penny arcade movie machines. not to mention the coin operated marionette clown machine. Lordy, did that thing give me nightmares!

    • Charlie Gronbach says:

      When Jolly Roger’s first opened in ’51 of ’52 the amusement park was definitely called “nunley’s”. I watched the building being built and worked at JR from ’52 through ’55.

    • Jeri says:

      Can you clear up whether it was on east or west corner of 107, please? Thank you

  11. Ken huneken says:

    I loved the double cheese burgers @wetsons after high school!

  12. Anonymous says:

    The glass panels they used were from the ’39 World’s Fair, not 63/64 as Happyland did not open until 1951

  13. Kristamuller says:

    Thank you for this memory. As a 70’s kid growing up on long island, I remember many a birthday party at ‘Jolly Rogers’ – I remember big glass windows everywhere concrete floors?, running all over the place
    And the little boats in the water.
    Everyone was happy – clown was a little scary

  14. Peter Rouvas says:

    It may have officially been called Happyland, but my friends and family always called this place Jolly Roger’s. The inside had an awesome carousel in the center, real bumper cars that you could actually get whiplash on, a water boat ride, skee ball, pinball, a fortune telling swami, and much more. It had that cool, somewhat scary, throwback amusement park feel. The outside had a small roller coaster, various rides and a train that went all around the park and right between the massive legs of a 20 ft Paul Bunyan statue…I remember having at least one birthday party at the restaurant. I will never forget this place, it was an awesome experience for a 70s kid like myself!

  15. Charlie Gronbach says:

    I am on-line looking for pictures of Jolly Roger. I would like to recreate parts of it (food stations) for my June, 2017 80th B’day Party. I worked there for 4-yrs (1952 -1955) while a student at Farmingdale High School. I interviewed for a busboy job while carrying my 12 guage shotgun. We were walking home from hunting in a nearby potato farm and I noticed a “Help Wanted” sign on the building and went in and applied. The Mgr. didn’t appreciate the shotgun but I got the job at $0.65/hr. Great working environment mostly HS & College students.

    The son of the nextdoor “Nunley’s manager was my best man at my wedding on Christmas Day 1955. Years later my oldest son worked at Jolly Rogers while a student at Bethpage HS. Great memories now onto finding some pictures for my 80th B’day Party!!

  16. Ernest says:

    My wife lenore Kurtz Pappas mother and father both work there

  17. Tom O'Keefe says:

    Thank you for those wonderful B&W memories… the roller coaster and those wonderful games: the swami, skee-ball, boxing robots, the bombardier – all played to accompaniment of the indoor carousel’s calliope oom-pah. Pure kid magic!

  18. Anita says:

    I remember my dad taking me & my sister there. I loved the boat rides and the carousel the best! I loved that place, we always knew it as Jolly Rogers. Fond memories!

  19. Anonymous says:

    I had my 2nd birthday at Jolly Rogers. I have pics of my cousin on the carousel riding a pink rabbit. also of the rockets that went around and up and down.
    I remember Nunley’s having miniature tracks and you could sit and hand peddle yourself around. does that ring a bell with anyone?
    thank you for the page.
    Kelly in AZ
    Wantagh summers.

  20. Kelly McCoy says:

    I had my 2nd birthday party at Jolly Rogers. I have pictures. One of my cousin on the carousel riding a big pink rabbit. Others of me in the rocketships that went around and up and down with the joy stick.
    I recall Nunley’s having a miniature track and you could sit and hand crank your self around the tracks. anyone remember that?

    In Arizona , but spent every summer of my childhood on Long Island with family. Both of my parents grew up on Long Island. My dad went to Division and mom went to MacArthur .

    thanks for the site. very cool.

  21. Marlene says:

    I loved Jolly Roger’s (as my family called it). I have fabulous memories going there with my family. I recall the merry-go-round (it was indoors) with the brass rings you could try to grab as you went around. If you got 3 rings, you could ride again for free. What a great place it was!

  22. Santo says:

    I remember Jolly Rogers, as a kid in 70s, growing up on Virginia Ave, off Boundry Ave, I used to ride my bike there, play the arcade machines. Great childhood memory, funny how stuff stays in your head. That was a great place to have around as a kid growing up.

  23. Glenn K. says:

    I used to work at Happyland (aka: Jolly Roger’s) back in 1972 running the Trabant ride. It was across the street from the batting cage and Gulf gas station. The place was run by a guy named John that I remember as an intimidating old guy who was probably younger than I am now. Jim Taylor was his assistant and good friend of mine. Great times looking back.

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