The town’s beachfront was teeming with tens of thousands of tourists on the evening of July 19, 1969.
The popular carousel with hand-carved horses spun its riders round and round. The brightly colored Noah’s Ark fun house, a fixture near the iconic wooden pier since 1929, rocked back and forth. Pairs of thrill seekers slid down the massive Jack and Jill slide, shrieking as they dropped 50 feet from the top.
The smell of fried dough and pizza and cotton candy hung in the air as 12-year-old Dionysus Lemos left his first job at Marrs Shoes and made his way down Old Orchard Street that Saturday night. He picked up a small pizza for dinner and headed to the arcade on the pier to play pinball. Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” was playing on the jukebox.
Then someone yelled out about a fire.