Souvenir

The French word for remembrance. Makes perfect sense. I have an amusement park souvenir to share today.

Mavis and I used to love it when the carnival came to town. Mave, remember the Zipper, the Rock-O-Plane, the Tilt-a-Whirl, the Paratrooper and the Scrambler (aka Vomit Comet)? And what about the Western Round-Up and the Rotor? Crazy memories. Remember when Missy hit her head while riding on the Zipper and barfed everywhere? We had no idea at the time that she had a concussion, poor thing. Good times, good times.

Anyway.

I laugh when I remember the ridiculous “safety” precautions of roller coasters at the Adventureland and Riverview amusement parks in suburban Chicago back in the mid-60s. I was scared to death of coasters — always had been. But somehow I was talked into riding one on one of our trips. It was the last time I did so for several years.

It was called the Comet, and I don’t even remember who rode with me. The cars were shaped like mini rocket ships, or some kind of streamlined contraption, and all I remember was being thrown by G-force clean out of the miserable excuse for a safety restraint and landing — screaming bloody murder — on the floor in the front “cone” section of the car. The shape of that conveyance was, I’m sure, the reason I didn’t fly completely out. I remember being slightly airborne, then shrieking MOMMY!! over and over for what seemed like an eternity. What was I, seven/eight years old? I think so. Riverview closed in 1967, so it had to be then or before.

I didn’t ride a roller coaster for some years afterwards. Having just moved to Ohio and finally making some friends (it might surprise you to know that I was extremely quiet and reserved in school until I discovered musical theater), I went to the Cedar Point amusement park for the first time as an eighth grader in 1973. Upon entering the park and seeing what looked like a snarl of serpentine wooden evil, I experienced a minor flashback to my horrific coaster ride years ago. Then my friends said, “Hey, let’s get in line for the Blue Streak before everyone else does!”

Yikes. It was do-or-die time. Was I supposed to tell my new friends I was askeered of a stupid roller coaster? No way. So I swallowed my fear (and its accompanying bile) and queued up for my rematch with wheels on metal.

We rounded the initial curve and the chain grabbed and yanked us up the first hill. The downward thrust was kind of thrilling, and I thought Hmmm…I might make it through this. Then, on the second hill, we’d gotten up a head of steam beforehand, and as the train crested the top and started the hard pull into the descent, I will be shot, stabbed, hanged, beat up and buried alive if my little 4-foot-11, 95-lb. body didn’t come clean up out of the seat and over the safety bar, nearly sprawling over top of the people in the car in front of me. I am not kidding you: I dang near fell out. The horror.

It took me a long time to conquer that fear. I finally did, but not until I was well into my 30s. Crazy, eh?

And I won’t even go into┬áthe “Ghost Train” nightmare at Riverview, where the train ride stalls in a pitch-black tunnel and all manner of scary creatures — played by real people — emerge from the walls, reaching and grabbing. All this at seven years old…no wonder I’m a flippin nutcake.

FO

Photo credit: Chicago Tribune

7 thoughts on “Souvenir

  1. Greg

    True story! I took a lady friend to Cedar Point about 12 years ago. She wanted a “red slushy” drink. Downed that. Then we went on the Schwabinchen–a sort of twirl-around-raise-’em-up kind of thing. The central point of the ride was a rather well-endowed figure of a serving girl at a Hofbrau fest. There was polka musak playing in the background. After the first trip, we went on it again. My date got off the second trip, made for the nearest trash can and hurled into it. I felt really bad about this and took her over to the nearest restroom. She didn’t quite make it there before hurling up the slushy stuff again. I felt even worse about it. Then six months later, I got a “Dear Greg” letter in the mail ending the relationship—needless to say, I didn’t feel too bad about the Schwabinchen experience after that–I smile (wickedly) about it even now!

    Reply
    1. Rat Fink Post author

      HAAA — I so remember the Schwabinchen. The only ride on which I ever got close to barfing! Funny story!

      Reply
  2. Mavis

    Wow! Great memories, indeed, Bird! We always had such fun going to the Carnival when it came to town. Missy was usually there with us.

    I will never, ever forget the ride on the parachutes at Riverview!!! I rode up with cousin Kathy. It was the highest ride I had ever been on. When you reached the top and heard that *click*, you knew it was time to go down. I was praying that the chute would open! :0) When it did, it was like you had actually jumped out of a plane. The chute opened and you slowly drifted back to earth. It was the most amazing feeling!

    I do remember you falling out of the safety harness of that roller coaster. Kathy was the one riding with you. She thought you would never stop screaming! :0) I had no idea about the Cedar Point incident, though. Thanks for the memories, Bird. I enjoyed going back!

    Love you!

    Reply
    1. Rat Fink Post author

      Yes! I remember the “Pair-O-Chutes” — I was afraid to ride it though. Check out this video — they’re there!

      Reply
      1. Rat Fink Post author

        PS – The Thriller used to go there all the time, too! He just said this morning that riding the Fireball was scary because he always thought he was going to smack his head on the tunnels. HA

        Reply
        1. Mavis

          Whoa!! I LOVED riding the “Pair-O-Chutes”!! It was like you were free falling out of a plane. It was the best. Thanks for the video! I remember SO many of those rides and attractions! Great part of history. Those were the days, I tell ya.

          Reply

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