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.
A 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.