Special Collections of the ODU Libraries

Dudley Cooper and Ocean View Amusement Park Papers, 1923-1978, undated | Special Collections and University Archives

By Jay Gaidmore and Joseph Legaspi; Mel Frizzell

Collection Overview

Title: Dudley Cooper and Ocean View Amusement Park Papers, 1923-1978, undated

ID: 00/MG 31

Primary Creator: Cooper, Dudley (1899-1996)

Extent: 31.0 Linear Feet. More info below.


Series I: Correspondence. Arranged by subject and within each subject folder the papers are chronological. Some letters will refer to such things as bills or insurance policies, in which case the document referred to will be found in the box containing that type of document. Pictures of many of the rides and amusements mentioned in the letters can be found in the series on photography or the folders containing brochures.

Series II: Legal Documents. Contains several folders of material on accidents that occurred at Ocean View and suits brought about by the injured parties. In these cases all documents and correspondence relating to each case have been clipped together. This is to make research of the accident cases simpler. Legal documents also include contracts, insurance forms, and lease agreements.

Series III: Financial Papers. Contains all bills and receipts. In most cases they have simply been arranged in chronological order rather than subject. VEPCO and C & P bills are separated; as are automobile receipts. All bills are together preceding the receipts. In some cases it is difficult to determine whether a document should be termed "bill" or "receipt".

Series IV: Printed Materials. Includes brochures, flyers, advertisements, news releases, and news clippings, and schedules of events.

Series V: Photographs. Most of the photographs are of entertainment groups that performed at Ocean View, or who wished to perform at Ocean View and sent photos with their ads. Some are of special events at the park and one folder contains a group of color snapshots of the park.

Series VI: Miscellaneous. Includes items on the construction of the bathhouse, the movie "Roller Coaster" filmed at the amusement park, documents relating to the fire of November 8, 1964, sketches and architectural drawings, tickets, and articles relating to amusement parks, and Dudley Cooper.

Series VII: Scrapbooks. Scrapbooks of news paper clippings and mementos documenting the history of Ocean View Amusement Park, dating from 1948-1967.

Series VIII:  Framed Certificates and Photos.  Contains framed certificates, awards, and photos from 1946 to 1991. Not all items are dated.

Series IX: Maps, Arrchitectural Drawings and Blueprints. Consists of the Ocean View area and the Chesapeake Bay House, dating from 1924-1965.

Date Acquired: 08/24/1978. More info below under Accruals.

Subjects: Amusement park owners--Virginia--Norfolk, Amusement parks--Virginia--Norfolk--History, Cooper, Dudley, 1899-1996, Hampton Roads (Va.)--History--20th century, Norfolk (Va.)--History--20th century, Ocean View Amusement Park (Norfolk, Va.), Optometrists--Virginia--Norfolk

Languages: English


First college-trained optometrist to practice in Norfolk. Owner of Ocean View Amusement Park. Includes correspondence, photographs, legal documents, financial material, brochures, advertisements, news release, and newspaper clippings primarily relating to the operation of Ocean View Park.

Scope and Contents of the Materials

The papers of Dudley Cooper, dated from 1924 to 1978, are primarily concerned with the operation of Ocean View Park. This collection is divided into nine series: Correspondence, Legal Documents, Financial Papers, Printed Materials, Photographs, Miscellaneous, Scrapbooks, Framed Certificates and Photos, Maps and Architectural Drawings.

Collection Historical Note

Dudley Cooper was born in Tarboro, North Carolina in 1899. His family then moved to the Norfolk area in 1900. While a student at Maury High School, Dudley enlisted in the army when the United States entered World War I. He was trained in the Students Army Training Corps at Virginia Polytechnic Institute. At the end of the war, Dudley was discharged with the rank of sergeant and returned to complete his high school education in 1919. Dudley then attended the American Institute of Optometry, which later became an extension of Columbia University. He earned an optometry degree and returned to Norfolk.

Though he was the first college-trained optometrist to practice in Norfolk, Dudley Cooper became well known in this city chiefly through his ownership and operation of Ocean View Amusement Park. This came about in 1944 when he purchased land along the beach of Chesapeake Bay in the area now known as Ocean View. During World War II, Dudley set aside part of the land for the U.S. Army Coastal Installation, the Navy Relief Fund Raising, Naval Reserve Recruiting and various civic affair groups.

By studying the papers in the collection he donated to the Old Dominion University Archives, researchers can get an idea of the details involved in owning and operating a large amusement park. While still setting up Ocean View Park, Dudley Cooper was approached by three Black professional men: a dentist, a lawyer, and a high school principal. They wanted his help in establishing a special amusement park for the Black community. Dudley helped these men establish Seaview Beach Amusement Park, also on the Chesapeake Bay, which operated until 1966.

Dudley Cooper was active in civic and service organizations on both a local and national level. He was instrumental in bringing the 1937 National Conference of Christians and Jews to Norfolk, a meeting that led to the establishment of the annual Brotherhood Week. He was selected by the Armed Services Committee to serve as chairman of the Jewish USO in Norfolk and continued thus for the duration of the War.

After the war, Dudley served as chairman of the Norfolk United Jewish Appeal, and in 1947 was responsible for doubling the previous highest contribution ever received. Dudley and his wife, Mary, were also among the many American Jews who aided the European Jewish refugees of the steamboat Exodus by signing affidavits that allowed their entry into this country. Other activities include a local campaign begun by Dudley in the late forties known as "Cooper's Crusade" which eventually replaced Norfolk's antiquated street car system with a publicly-owned bus system. He also aided the journalistic education of young newspaper reporters with the foundation of the Norfolk Newspaper Guild Scholarship Fund. Dudley's civic and charitable activities continued throughout his life. At the same time he operated an optometrist's practice and successful amusement parks. In 1975 Dudley received the Distinguished Service Award from the Arnold Basmey Lodge No. 1195 of B'nai B'rith in recognition for his past leadership in Norfolk business and community affairs.

Dudley Cooper passed away on July 15, 1996.

Subject/Index Terms

Amusement park owners--Virginia--Norfolk
Amusement parks--Virginia--Norfolk--History
Cooper, Dudley, 1899-1996
Hampton Roads (Va.)--History--20th century
Norfolk (Va.)--History--20th century
Ocean View Amusement Park (Norfolk, Va.)

Administrative Information

Repository: Special Collections and University Archives

Accruals: An additional accession was made in November 2005

Alternate Extent Statement: 14 Hollinger document cases, 8 oversized boxes, 2 map drawers, 1 archival tube

Access Restrictions: Open to researchers without restrictions.

Use Restrictions: Before publishing quotations or excerpts from any materials, permission must be obtained from Special Collections and University Archives, and the holder of the copyright, if not Old Dominion University Libraries.

Acquisition Source: Dr. Dudley Cooper; Minette Cooper

Acquisition Method: Gift. Accession #78-57

Related Materials: Oral Histories in the Perry Library: Dr. Dudley Cooper

Preferred Citation: [Identification of item], Box [insert number], Folder [insert number and title], Dudley Cooper and Ocean View Amusement Park Papers, Special Collections and University Archives, Old Dominion University Libraries.

Box and Folder Listing

Browse by Series:

[Series I: Correspondence],
[Series II: Legal Documents],
[Series III: Financial Documents],
[Series IV: Printed Material],
[Series V: Photographs],
[Series VI: Miscellaneous],
[Series VII: Scrapbooks],
[Series VIII: Oversize Certificates, Photographs and Plaques, circa 1923-1979],
[Series IX: Maps and Architectural Drawings],

Series IV: Printed Material
Box 9
Folder 3: Advertising Copy - Radio and TV, 1952-1957
Folder 4: Brochures - Acts
Folder 5: Brochures - Norfolk
Folder 6: Brochures - Ocean View
Folder 7: Brochures - Rides and Equipment
Folder 8: Brochures - Tidewater Virginia
Folder 9: Flyers (I)
Folder 10: Flyers (II)
Folder 11: Newsclippings re. Nov 1964 Fire at Ocean View Amusement Park, Nov 1964
Folder 12: Newsclippings re. Closing of the Park, 1978
Folder 13: Newsclippings, 1943-1963
Folder 14: Newsclippings, 1968
Folder 15: Newsclippings, 1969
Folder 16: News Releases, 1970
Folder 17: Newsletters-Virginia Transit Company; National Ballroom Operators Association
Folder 18: Newsletters - Virginia Transit Company; National Ballroom Operators Association, undated
Folder 19: Bus Transportation Articles, 1945-1946
Box 10
Folder 1: News Releases, 1952-1954
Folder 2: News Releases, 1955
Folder 3: News Releases, 1956
Folder 4: News Releases, 1957
Folder 5: News Releases, 1958
Folder 6: News Releases, 1968
Folder 7: News Releases, 1969
Folder 8: News Releases, 1970
Folder 9: News Releases, 1976
Folder 10: Postcards (I)
Folder 11: Postcards (II)
Folder 12: Posters and Handbills
Folder 13: Schedules of Events, 1952-1970
Folder 14: Schedules of Events, 1971-1976

Browse by Series:

[Series I: Correspondence],
[Series II: Legal Documents],
[Series III: Financial Documents],
[Series IV: Printed Material],
[Series V: Photographs],
[Series VI: Miscellaneous],
[Series VII: Scrapbooks],
[Series VIII: Oversize Certificates, Photographs and Plaques, circa 1923-1979],
[Series IX: Maps and Architectural Drawings],

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