Mar 252014
 

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? We’d love to hear your memories in our comments section below, as we pay fond tribute to this long-lost gem on Long Island.

  20 Responses to “Happyland”

  1. 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.

    • 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.

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

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

  5. 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. 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.

    • 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. 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. 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. 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. 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

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

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

  13. 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. 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. 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!!

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