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.
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.
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.
Yes Jolly Rogers! Loved that place.
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.
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.
Thanks so much for posting this fascinating history. I remember with fondness (what we knew as) Jolly Roger from the late ’50s and early ’60s. Such a fun place for kids!
I went there as a kid in the 1980s and they still had a few rides working.
I think you’re a few years off, as Happyland closed 1978 and was torn down in 1979.
It was probably not long before closing in ’78. The place was pretty sad then compared to what it used to be. I ended up working at the Foodtown that was built there around ’80.
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.
Awesome place wish any of the videos had the clown on the bench inside! I remember the funny mirror too that made you look distorted but that clown used to freak me out none of us gsve many photos as we had no cell phones back then but I have find memories I remember bring there like it was yesterday
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.
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
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;
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?
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.
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.
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!
do you know if any of the outdoor electric cars are still around?
love a photo
Hey do you have any photos
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.
Can you clear up whether it was on east or west corner of 107, please? Thank you
It was called nunleys Happyland. Think they were affiliated with Baldwin
It was on the south/west corner of Hempstead Turnpike & Hicksville Road.
I loved the double cheese burgers @wetsons after high school!
The glass panels they used were from the ’39 World’s Fair, not 63/64 as Happyland did not open until 1951
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
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!
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!!
My Dad had a second job working at “Jolly Roger’s”. His name was John Braband and I remember him operation the Roller Coaster on the weekends. It’s great to see these old pictures and movies. It brings back many memories of happy times. I recall the “Orchestra” playing music as we spun around on the Carou
My wife lenore Kurtz Pappas mother and father both work there
Ernie, I am going to talk to Lenore about this next time I am in the shop.
Spent my childhood there, I lived right down the block.
Do you remember the Monkey Band that played the instruments?
My Aunt and Uncle had neighbors with the last name Pappas on Sheep Pasture Ln in Massapequa. Any relation?
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!
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!
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
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.
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!
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.
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.
I remember this place both Nunley’s Happyland and as Jolly Roger’s. I rode that carousel and got the ring too. Very exciting for a child. I loved this place. I was shocked when I drove by there, years later only to see it was gone.
Does anyone know what happened to the carousel and the clown?
Photo-set of pictures of Nunley’s/Smiley’s Happyland & Jolly Rogers Restaurant just prior to it being torn down:
Such a fond memory! Church @ St. Brigids and then, if well behaved…Jolly Roger’s! Thank you for sharing the fondest of memories, 1964- 1966
Yup, we called it Jolly Roger’s. I remember the swami in the glass booth, the boat rides and the clown on the bench. And all the glass and bright colors. We drove past it often. Funny how some things stay with you all these years.
Farmers Market first, then the promise of JOLLY ROGERS later or on Sunday…My dad would have me on weekends and you can bet we were going there…Batting cage and pony rides next door and across the street..
I remember going there and riding the merry go round always trying to grab the gold ring. Also use to buy airplane trading cars there. I also remember eating good corned beef sandwiches there. This all took place in the middle 50’s.
Growing up as a kid in the 70s, I remember there were only 4 amusement parks left on LI at that time. Adventureland on 110 is the only survivor. Nunley’s Carousel with the hand-propelled trains seen in the movie image above and miniature golf and carousel that you could actually grab for the brass ring. They had a lot of games there too like she ball and that marionette clown puppet thing, the fire engine game and more. Then there was the small amusement park across the street from Nathan’s Famous in Long Beach that had a lion and elephant water fountain that I saw in a shop in Manhattan that was selling it. They also have it still being used at Rye Playland. Finally there was my favorite one–Happyland which we all knew as Jolly Rogers. I’m surprised the restaurant close in ’74 as I was only three then but clearly remember the sign. Driving into the parking lot, I remember the side of the building and the tunnel from the train had these creepy animated characters on it–from fairytales maybe but it was kind of psychedelic. I used to be afraid of the train but only because it went near the rollercoaster. Remember they had a car driving game that had a wooden car that drove on a rotating cylinder and there were obstacles you had to avoid. The clown on the bench was eventually moved atop the ticket booth, I guess because it was getting vandalized. I remember the “bumpy boats” and regular boats. Only other amusement park nearby I remember was also confused with it’s next-door restaurant and that was Buddy’s in Brooklyn that was actually named Happyland as well. Maybe Nunley opened all three, but only Nunley’s Carousel on Sunrise Hwy kept it’s name. I beleive the batting cages next to Jolly Rogers are still there. I think it’s a Food Town now or something. And Nunley’s is or at least was an A-1 Transmission place. Hopefully Adventureland can stay open since I was there with my kids a few times and it’s still a great little amusement park! It used to have a sky ride before my time, but I remember seeing the support poles as a kid, and pictures in old HS yearbooks. We used to go to Jolly rogers and then pick up Zorn’s on the way home and my brother and I would walk by the turkey cages. i think Nunley’s Carousel stayed open until the 1990s as i remember taking several dates there. They had good miniature golf with a moving ferris wheel that was cool. They may have had a water jump too or maybe that was Putter’s World that we called Putt Putt for some reason. Lot of fun things today too, but definitely love seeing old pics! Thanks for posting!
I remember Happyland well! Big glass doors, indoor rides, roller coaster, ferris wheel, boat rides — what’s not to love!! My biggest memory is going on my Grandmother’s birthday. Yup, her favorite thing and what she always wanted most was watching her grandchildren have fun. So many years later, I am now a Grandma and my favorite thing and what I want most is watching my grandchildren smile, laugh and have fun. I wish I had a Happyland I could take them to.
What happened to the carousel from the Bethpage smileys?
Ahh good old Happyland, or as we also called it, Jolly Rogers. I remember loving the car ride on the track and the bumper type cars. But I was terrified of the carousel, which had pictures of clowns, which haunted my dreams. Now I take my grandkids to Adventureland on Rte 110.
I have pictures of myself and my little brother on the car ride at “Jolly Rogers” circa 1967 or so… fun place for a kid!
My favorite place to go when I was young! Great memories.
Ah, great reading all of these memories – amazing how the when some of these were mentioned the light goes on as if it were yesterday. Especially the monkeys that played instruments. Wonderful childhood memories.
I worked at Happyland 1970-72 while in High School, it was a fun place to work. I ran all of the rides except the train and the Tribant. I sometimes got to work the miniature golf. There was also a batting cage across the street operated by Happyland. John Tarnow was the manager, I believe his wife was the owner.
Sad that it was torn down around ’79 and replaced with a bunch of stores. I ended up working at the Foodtown in that spot in the early 80’s. Does anyone know what happened to the carousel? My kid memory remembers it was pretty nice and it would be a shame if it ended up in a landfill.
I lived in Bethpage as a kid and my family went there a lot in the 1970s. We always knew it as Jolly Roger”s. I remember playing my first mini-golf games there, with my favorite rides being the bumper cars (after I became big enough to ride them myself) and the Tubs of Fun, spinning them so fast I’d get dizzy. I liked the pinball arcade, too. The burgers in the adjacent restaurant were greasy but good.