COLUMN: Jack Binder, creator of roadside figures and signs in region

st usa front sign

February 08, 2013 11:45 pm • BOB CONDON

A question in the Sept. 22 column asked about the origin of the statue of a cowboy on a rearing horse and the accompanying sign at the entrance of Storytown U.S.A. decades ago. The inquiring reader also wondered about where the roadside icons ended up.

A check with local historians, officials at the amusement park (now Great Escape) and others in September resulted in few answers.

As noted in that column, the sign and statue were removed in 1983 when the park changed its name to Great Escape, and they remained in storage for several years. At some point, the sign and statue left the park, perhaps publicly auctioned or donated away, Great Escape officials said.

Now, more is known of the history of the statue and sign.

Edward Binder of Athol contacted The Post-Star to say it was his father, the late Jack Binder, who created the horse and rider statue and the park entrance sign.

He recalled that his father modeled the horse statue after a Palomino owned by Edward’s brother Ronald.

Jack Binder was living in Warrensburg when he created the statue and sign in the early 1950s.

Edward Binder said his father also created the gorilla statue in front of the Animal Land zoo that was across from Storytown, as well as dozens of signs and sculptures for tourist-related businesses in the Adirondacks.

The gorilla was created inside Jack Binder’s Warrensburg home, his son recalled, and the horse and rider statue may have been put together in a building in the town’s Paddock area, where Binder had a studio.

Jack Binder, who was trained in the fine arts, died in 1986 at age 83. His obituary in The Post-Star noted his work creating roadside figures and signs throughout the region, as well as his earlier career as a cartoonist.

He produced life-size figures for Gaslight Village and historical figures and dioramas for Fort William Henry, both in Lake George. Binder also designed and sculpted the figure of the Good Shepherd in front of the Lutheran Church in Glens Falls.

He was known for his work as a cartoonist during the golden age of comic books. The most famous character he drew was Mary Marvel, little sister to Captain Marvel.

Where the Storytown statue and sign ended up is still a mystery, however. Edward Binder doesn’t know, but said he would be interested in finding out, as would Robert Vorreyer, a resident of West Palm Beach, Fla., who worked in the Storytown art department for 30 years.

Vorreyer mailed a note to The Post-Star in January recalling his Storytown memories, including his involvement in repainting the horse and rider statue and other figures, such as Humpty Dumpty, at the park.

“Great time in my life,” he wrote.

Albany Co. officials, Great Escape meet about future of Hoffman’s Playland

Albany Co. officials, Great Escape meet about future of Hoffman’s Playland

Posted: Aug 27, 2013 6:19 PM EST

NEWTONVILLE, N.Y. – David Hoffman, owner of Hoffman’s Playland says Albany County leaders met this week with Great Escape officials about the possibility of Six Flags taking over the family-friendly playland on Route 9 in Latham.

In June, a rumor about plans to close Hoffman’s Playland ignited an online movement to “save Hoffman’s.”

At the time, Hoffman told NEWS10 that there were no concrete plans of selling the family-friendly park and no offers on the table.

“It’s the only job I’ve had in my entire life,” he said.

County Executive Dan Mccoy says he recognizes the importance of Hoffman’s to the Capital Region, and he wants the landmark to stay, but notes that the final decision ultimately lies with the Hoffman’s.

In an effort to find a solution, Mccoy went straight to the owners of Six Flags Great Escape, calling it a “perfect marriage.”

“Imagine if they’re together. Imagine a season can pass you get so many things at Hoffman’s and admission to six flags,” he proposed.

“We’re excited about it because they have infrastructure and expertise to run operation like ours,” said Hoffman about the talks.

For many who visit Hoffman’s, it’s all about people bringing their kids to ride on the same rides they enjoyed as children.

Tricia Cupp and her two boys are regulars at the playland, and her experiences date back to the early 80s.

“Great, then when I had kids and it was early enough, I had to bring them here,” she said.

Talks are still in the early stages, and no agreements have been reached.

But for the Hoffman’s and the lifetime they’ve put into the playland and the generations of people who now support them, they say is just simply overwhelming.

“We’re just thrilled people want to preserve the park and we’re still making generations happy right now,” said Hoffman.

Postcard Set

Postcard set

Rides pages

A quick word. I am giving each ride a page so have patience as I update the rides list. As of right now, only a handful of rides will be visible on the site. So if you’re a new visitor, check back within the week for the complete list.

Also, if you have any information on any of these rides that isn’t listed, or if the information I have is incorrect, please let me know. I do not have access to all the maps or books needed to gather every bit of accurate information. Your help is always welcomed and much appreciated.

Arabian Nights Flying Carpet Ride

The sky ride was added to Storytown in 1964. Now supposedly, the sky ride came from Palisades Park. However, the sky ride which originally operated at Palisades Park cannot be seen in any photos of Storytown USA. In fact, the only time I have seen the Palisades Park sky ride at Storytown USA is in the junk yard at The Great Escape.

The Skyride was purchased by Charlie Woods, former owner of The Great Escape (formerly Storytown, USA) in Lake George, NY. The ride was dismantled by O.D. Hopkins Associates, Inc., Contoocook, NH and shipped to Lake George where it was put in storage for over 25 years. I’m not sure where it is today.
(Source: Jerry Pendleton; former President & Owner of O.D. Hopkins Associates, Inc.)

original sky ride cabs in the Great Escape junk yard

original sky ride cabs in the Great Escape junk yard

So my question is, did the original sky ride from Palisades Park ever operate at Storytown USA or was it just kept in storage? Also, where did the sky ride that has been operating at Storytown/Great Escape all these years come from? If anyone has any answers to this mystery, please educate the rest of us.

From what I’ve been researching, the sky ride purchased from Palisades Park did not end up at Gaslight Village. Charley Wood often switched rides between Storytown and Gaslight Village. If anything turns up about this, I will update this page.


Chipper’s Magical Mystery Ride

Chipper’s Magical Mystery ride was an indoor scrambler, part of Storytown USA since (at least) the early seventies. It was one of the most popular rides up until it’s closure in the early 2000’s.

At some point, the bright cheerful yellow was painted a dark murky green. When the ride was closed down, the sign was removed and the inside gutted, but the dome remains to this day (as far as I know).

For whatever reason, Chipper’s scrambler was removed from it’s dome, repainted, re-themed, and given a new name. The Blizzard, the outdoor scrambler.

Someone on youtube posted a video combining both old and new footage from Storytown USA featuring the strobe lights and enchanting darkness of the indoor scrambler, Chipper’s Magical Mystery ride. Finally this popular ride can be revisited, if only in imagination.


Fantasy Land rides from 1996


You can also see photos of the park on his website:

Amazing video of riding Danny the Dragon. Although, I wish Mr. Ducharme had taken footage of the area surrounding the actual ride. Captured in what little footage he did take is some brief shots of the Thunder Bolt, the Carousel, and the Dumbo elephant ride.

Fantasy Land was one of the areas that kept The Great Escape grounded in it’s history. Once they removed everything to make room for the Boomerang, that was it. One of the worst mistakes ever made with the park.