When I was a teen, every Friday night my best friend and I used to be dropped off at the local amusement park and ride the rides til late into the night; exciting thrill rides like the Tilt A Whirl, stomach churning rides like the Spider, high in the sky rides like the Ferris Wheel, and funny/scary rides like the House of Horror. I still can’t get the image of the evil man sawing the girl in half…tame by today’s standards because there really was no blood and guts showing, but scary enough to be etched in my memory none-the-less. (Without digressing, it would be interesting to know if today’s spate of horror movies leave the same indelible nightmare etched into children’s brains…)
Driving the little cars on the Turnpike ride was awesome, especially in my early teens. Keeping the car straight on the twisty “road”, over bridges and under tunnels, was a harbinger of the days when I would be able to get my real driver’s license. However, at that point I quickly learned that there are no bumpers on the side of the real roads in real life and one must keep the car centered or a pedestrian or telephone pole could be taken out. I also learned I had to drive faster than on the amusement park ride lest a line of cars pile up behind me, honking and gesturing…
Our favorite ride was the roller coaster the Wildcat. I can still remember the nervousness in my stomach, the dread, and the excitement as the car started up that first steep hill. It was probably only a few seconds, but the anticipation was interminable. Then the “whoosh” down that first hill which set the car in motion for the twists and turns to come. Because this was the age before seat belts were mandatory, flinging out of the car during an enormous turn on the tracks really did make the ride seem to be death defying. (Truth be known, people occasionally did fall out and die, but, as teens, we were immortal and nothing like that could happen to us.) By the time we reached that final hill on the Wildcat, the laughter and excitement falsely camouflaged any nervousness of what was to come…until it came! Going down that final steep hill, where gravity seemed optional and your stomach literally moved up into your throat, was the greatest feeling ever! It was such a “rush” in our innocent teen lives, that as the ride was over, we’d run over, get in line, and do it again and again and again until my cheeks were hurting so much from laughing that we’d stop to snack on some cotton candy or a snow cone.
Oh…..how the years have changed things. Recently I took my two youngest children to a “family” amusement park, (i.e. not Six Flags, from which my daughter is banned for life…buy my book for the details!) The park was quaint with its refurbished candy store and carousel. with antique horses. Even the popcorn stand that looked like a huge box of popcorn had been freshly painted, and the familiar smell of popcorn filled the air. Street lamps guided the way on the walkways, and beautifully colored flowers grew in abundance. A nice, comfortable, enjoyable family park. Until you looked at the rides….the roller coasters were HUGE, with the tracks going on forever and circling 360 degree upside down! With rider’s legs dangling loose! Gravity pulling at hair until riders looked like they were cartoon people afraid of a ghost! With shrieks so continuous and loud I had doubt that any rider would ever be able to speak again! And there rides named the Boomerang! The Wipeout! The Cannonball and the Corkscrew; each ride bigger and better and faster and turnier and more stomach churning than the next. I was excited to find a familiar ride, The Wildcat, and I ran towards it with longing and anticipation based on my childhood memories. But this Wildcat was the grandpappy of Wildcats, where the one I rode when I was younger could only compare now as the Wild Kitty.
I know times have changed in many, many ways, but I mourned the loss of the family amusement park the most, possibly because it was such a large, happy part of my childhood. I was happy on this date, however, to learn that they still served cotton candy and snow cones, which I ate in abundance while I watched my children happily, (and crazily) ride the rides, making their own childhood memories.
To read more about our life, here is a link to my book:
Link to the Readers Digest review of my book: http://www.rd.com/recommends/what-to-read-after-a-hurricane/