Thirty-two years ago yesterday, a love note was etched into a table at the Rocky Point Amusement Park.
“Jodie Maranda + Norm Tellier, May 16, 86. I love Norm,” read the message that was carved into the yellow tabletop. The note was encircled with a big heart.
For the next ten years, the table stood between the Rock and Roll and the Tempest, right in front of the House of Horrors, until the park closed for good in 1995.
Like a message in a bottle, the inscription remained encapsulated in the cordoned off and abandoned park. As time, vandals, and arsonists took their toll on the park’s structures during the next 20 years, the tabletop with its message of devotion remained behind.
Eventually, the table and its top were bulldozed into a large pile of wood, glass, shingles, and more as debris from the park was stacked together in an effort to manage the growing mess. And there it sat again, precariously placed near the top of the pile, until 2014, when the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) began a nearly $3 million cleanup of Rocky Point to remove nearly all traces of the former amusement park. It looked like an ignominious end for the message of love.
THE ROCKY POINT KID
This is where Sean McCarthy, who was 14 years old at the time, comes in to the story. Sean’s been featured multiple times in the paper as the “Rocky Point Kid” for his love of all things Rocky Point and his desire to collect and protect the park’s history. His huge Rocky Point collection is capped by a House of Horrors car that he recently acquired and painstakingly restored to its original condition.
As the DEM cleanup began, Sean made it a point to save as much as he could of the old park. From tickets to plates to trinkets, Sean searched for anything worth keeping. He worked with DEM and saved a Shore Dinner Hall picnic table, and thought he’d look for more. Sean then came across the pile of junk in the park, and noticed the table top near the peak of the pile.
“The tabletop was found in a pile of rubble next to the Flume across from the Skyliner, in the center part. There was just a pile of junk and it was just sticking out of the pile so I climbed up and grabbed it,” he said.
Sean then stored the table top in his backyard for the next four years. Now a senior in high school, and at 18 no longer a kid, he returned to the tabletop a few weeks ago and thought about restoring it.
“I went in my shed recently and saw the tabletops, usually I don’t touch the tabletops, and they’ve always stayed in my shed since I took them out of Rocky Point. But before school ended I wanted to do a small project, so I took one of the tops out and as I was sanding it down I noticed that there was an engraving on the bottom left hand corner that I didn’t notice before,” he said. “It was a big heart and it had names in it, and once I saw it my goal became to find out who these people were. I knew my chances were very slim, but I had to try.”
Using a pencil, Sean traced the carving to enhance and read the words to obtain the names. He then turned to Facebook, and with a quick search of the name “Jodie Maranda,” found a match almost immediately. He also found a shop that she owns in Pawtucket, so he sent multiple messages to those pages and hoped to find the right match. Lo and behold, on his first try, he found the right person.
“Sean contacted me through Facebook, but I get all kinds of weird contacts on Facebook, so I ignored them. Then he sent me a friend request first and I ignored it, then he sent me a private message and I ignored it,” said Jodie Maranda Tellier, who has left her maiden name on her Facebook profile in case old friends look for her. “He contacted my business and I at first ignored it, but then I saw the picture of this yellow table with my maiden name on it and I got curious and I opened the message.”
Tellier then saw the table and realized it was a blast from her past. Sean told her the story about his find, how he obtained it, and who he was. At first she just couldn’t believe what she was seeing. Her husband, Norm, was away at the time and received a text message with a picture of the carving from Jodie.
“What are the chances? And to me it’s amazing, because how many people have been to that park,” said Norm. “For Sean to find that table after all that Rocky Point has been through, it’s just incredible,”
Jodie and Norm met when she was 14 and he was 17. According to Jodie, when they were younger and didn’t know any better, she used to write or carve their names wherever they went.
“I used to joke with Norm all the time and say ‘Thirty years from now we’re going to find this and say remember the day we carved this.” I literally used to say 30 years, that was the number I always used,” said Jodie. “I used to do it all the time until I went to one place that said please don’t carve into our trees, and they had a log that we could carve on instead. After that I stopped, when I was about 16.”
One of the first real dates the couple took was to Rocky Point with some of their friends. It was then that she made the carving. Both remembered the day the carving was made. Jodie said that, unlike most people, she has to eat before going on a ride. She got a pizza and her friend, Alan, got a frozen lime dairy drink. They then went on the Tempest, where Alan’s drink unfortunately didn’t stay down. While Alan went to the bathroom to recover, Jodie and Norm sat down and she made the carving with a key.
In 1990, four years after the carving was made, Jodie and Norm-who were then 18 and 21, respectively-got married in Woonsocket where they lived. Three years later, they had their daughter, Sarah Mae who is now 25, followed by Kevin, who is now 22. Sarah Mae was fortunate enough to accompany her parents to the park before it closed. The couple has been together ever since.
LOVE NOTE RETURNED
After hearing from Sean, the Tellier’s made arrangements to visit his home in Warwick to see the table. Norm and Jodie were willing to pay Sean for the tabletop, but that’s not how Sean works.
“I don’t really like selling stuff, I’d rather give something away or trade for it. This table has their name on it, it’s their history, not mine. I’d much rather that they have it than me,” said Sean.
An arrangement between the trio was then agreed upon. Norm and Jodie had taken a trip to Rocky Point shortly after the main entranceway arch was torn down. Prompted by Jodie, Norm made a mad dash and recovered one of the archway bricks as a memento of their time, and the love they shared, at the park. Both considered the brick one of the most sentimental items they’ve ever owned. A trade was then set up--they’d give Sean the brick in exchange for the table top.
Now living in Warwick, the couple spent an hour with Sean last weekend at his home, sharing park stories, touring Sean’s collection, and taking a trip back in time by getting to sit in his Creature from The Black Lagoon House of Horrors car. They were then presented with Sean’s find.
“My hat goes off to Sean, because somebody at his age who has never even had the experience of being able to go to the amusement park, everything he knows about it is through research. For someone like that who went through all of these steps to learn about the park, and restore the House of Horror car and then find a piece of our past is just incredible and commendable,” said Norm.
“When I saw the carving I just started to cry,” said Jodie, who added that all of her other carvings from that time are long gone. “I never thought this would surface again, I just still can’t believe it.”
Norm said the secret to his success in love was “understanding and compromise,” while Jodie said it’s all about teamwork. If they were to compare their marriage to a Rocky Point Ride, they’d probably choose a roller coaster.
“I would say it’s the Corkscrew, because you go around the loops and go back to where you started. What a ride,” said Norm.
For Sean, this latest adventure was a chance to experience the living history of the park and to continue to tell the story of a place he loves as much as the Telliers.
“People when they’re 14 usually don’t marry the same crush that they had back then, so I thought that it was pretty cool to find out that they were still together. It’s just an amazing story, think about how many people went to Rocky Point. The fact that I was able to find them right away was just unbelievable, what are the chances,” said Sean. “I thought my chances of finding them were zero. It was like me picking up that table was meant to happen.”