"'Teenage idol' Ricky Nelson was just 22 years old when he made his first New England appearance at Pleasure Island when it opened its fourth season on Friday, June 22, 1962. According to regional news reports, an estimated 10,000 parents and children attended the park's opening day festivities which included two shows by Nelson, at 2:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. at the outdoor Showbowl. Nelson also performed two shows on Saturday and Sunday. Because of Pleasure Island's popular Showbowl, Nelson was the first celebrity to stay at the Lord Wakefield Hotel which opened for business six months earlier on December 15, 1961. Local newspapers reported that the star's stay at the hotel was a 'fairly well-kept secret,' with Police Chief Merritt Wenzel and 'his men keeping a close watch over the hotel during the weekend to prevent any teenage uprising.' In addition to Ricky Nelson, the Showbowl attracted national and international performers. Pleasure Island's second season, in 1960, opened with the Three Stooges who brought in nearly 20,000 guests during its first week. The park opened with Chuck Connors in 1961, with 57,000 guests during his six-day appearance. Pleasure Island hosted many local personalities such as Rex Trailer, Major Mudd and Wakefield's own Gene Jones with Community Audition shows, as well as national stars including Duke Ellington, Dinah Washington, Dave Brubeck, Gene Krupa, The Four Freshmen, Troy Donahue, Robert Horton, Jimmy Dean, Don Ameche, Joe Ross, Fred Gwynne, Clayton Moore, Lassie, Frank Gorsham, Cesar Romero, Michael Landon, Jerry Mathers, Johnny Crawford, Fess Parker, Dion, and many more. Beyond the Showbowl was the former Greenwood Station, which was dedicated on July 6, 1885 and relocated, restored and renamed the Goldpan Gulch Station for the park's narrow-gauge Pleasure Island and Western Railroad which was owned and operated by Edaville Railroad.
Image from the Wakefield Municipal Gas and Light Department annual calendar, 2017
Photo courtesy of Bob McLaughlin - Friends of Pleasure Island, Inc.