From the junkyard to the playground Amusement park ride gets third lease on life
by Tom Jennemann
Nov 23, 2004 | 2651 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
In the fall of 1982, Virginia Parrott was in Weehawken taking pictures of the New York Harbor. Midway through her expedition, the Hoboken resident stumbled upon a junkyard full of decommissioned amusement park rides.

"There were dozens of metal amusement ride cars that were being discarded," she remembers, "and I thought it might be fun to get one for my daughter's school."

According to Parrott, not only did the owner of the lot give the school its choice of vehicle, but it also helped deliver the firetruck to the school on Castle Point Terrace in Hoboken.

Ever since its arrival over two decades ago, the truck has been a permanent and popular plaything for the young students at the school.

"The fire engine has been a favorite in the nursery and has entertained the students for many years," noted Stevens Cooperative teacher Elsa McMullen, who has been at the school for over 20 years.

But over the past 22 years, the rust and wear have taken hold. Officials at the school began to realize that unless the former amusement park ride received some major repair and refurbishing, it would have to be removed.

That's when an anonymous Stevens Cooperative family jumped in to help. They contacted John Blehl of Joseph Cabala Autobody in Jersey City, who gave the fire truck a complete makeover.

"We only do restorations once in a while, and never on an amusement park ride," said Blehl. "But the parent told me it was for the kids, so I took on the project."

Blehl, with the help from his crew, including his then 5- and 7-year-old, took to welding, rebuilding, painting and sandblasting the truck. Nine months later, with a new body, some fresh paint, and the words "Hoboken Fire Truck" inscribed on its sides, the vehicle was ready to roll back into the nursery school just in time for this year's crop of students. "I'm so happy the kids still enjoy it," said Parrot.

Stevens Cooperative is the only nonsectarian private elementary school in Hoboken. Originally an informal playgroup for children of the faculty at Stevens Institute of Technology, the school has grown into a full progressive nursery and elementary school serving more than 200 students through the eighth grade. The school now occupies three separate facilities: a Nursery at 800 Castle Point Terrace, a pre-K/K facility on the corner of Bloomfield and Third Streets, and an Elementary School in the Rue Building at 301 Garden St.
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