Tuesday, June 30, 2009
The Freeman Pier Fire- 1955- Seaside
By the 1940s Freeman's Amusements, an early and major competitor of Casino Pier, was acquired by J. Stanley Tunney. a former pier maintenance man who had worked his way to mayor of Seaside Heights. He often said his luck changed when just before the small concession he owned with his wife ran out of money he was walking along the beachfront -during Prohibition - and found a large barrel that had washed ashore. He managed to get it home, bore a hole in it and discovered he had a barrel of "Grade A" Irish whiskey. To his delight he sold the barrel of liquid gold for $300 ( depression era money ) and that seagoing barrel kept his business afloat.
By 1955 Tunney was preparing his successful enterprise - Freeman's Amusements - and his beloved hand-carved carousel for the new season when on June 9th, fire, the scourge of wooden walkways everywhere - paid a visit and in a little more than two hours reduced his carousel and busy pier to memories.
A faulty neon sign is believed to have started the fire. Fifty-mile-per-hour ocean winds encourage the blaze to claim three blocks of boardwalk from Dupont Avenue in Seaside Heights to Stockton Avenue in Seaside Park. The blaze was a crushing blow to the community, but J. Stanley Tunny and his associates began immediately to clear the rubble and rebuild for the next season. They managed to open and eventually created Funtown U.S.A. ( now Funtown Pier ) on the border of Seaside Heights and Seaside Park.