austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,
austin_dern
austin_dern

Under their head and on their shoulders

I mentioned how Quassy Amusement Park had gotten a ``Kiddielands'' ride package, from the Alan Herschel Company in the early 1950s. It seems that many of the rides are still around, and together in a fairly compact section near the water's edge. They've been changed by how life has developed since 1952, but haven't we all?

The most eye-catching of these rides, to us anyway, is the Little Dipper. This is a junior steel roller coaster dating from 1952. They used to be everywhere --- the Roller Coaster Database is aware of at least 127 distinct ones --- and it's the same model, with a single oval and one major hill, that's at Conneaut Lake Park. We're not allowed onto Conneaut Lake Park's, but this one lets adults ride and we were able to get a ride to ourselves. Not in the same car, because as two adults we're far too wide to sit on the same bench, but we could ride one in front of the other. The ride gives you two circuits around the track, a common affair for a kiddie ride that small. It's a bit rough, and my knees smashed into the restraining bar because my legs are just that enormous. Can't help it. I'm glad we rode it, but am not sad to have ridden it just the once.

Also one of their 1952 rides is the Jet Fighters. You know the kind of ride, where the cars go in circles and the machine raises them off the ground a bit. This is called that even though the cars on the ride look more like Flash Gordon-serial-spaceships. They're painted all differently, one all red and black with a tiger head and labelled the USS Tigercat; one in bright blue and red with a Superman shield on it and labelled Superman; one tie-dyed and named Flower. You know, the usual. The important thing is they all have guns on swiveling mounts so that kids can go in circles and shoot down Superman or Betty Boop. They also have Snoopy as the Red Baron for one car, showing not just the boardwalk-amusement laxness in respecting trademark but also that they're not actually paying attention to the properties they're using.

They've also got a Boat Ride, another of the 1952 rides, and that's going around in circles in a water trough. There's no gun mounts on this, but there are bells to ring over and over and over and over and over and over again. Beside the boat ride is, thematically correctly, Popeye. He's presented in the midst of winding up to throw a punch, which is the right attitude for hanging out at an amusement park. The park also has Scooby-Doo, Dora the Explorer, and figures kids won't recognize like Yogi Bear and Boo-Boo.

I can't work out from their web site --- which by the way lists the year each ride opened at Quassy, a magnificent bit of information for people who take amusement park histories seriously --- what the rest of the 1952 package was. We were too big for them anyway, and we didn't have kids. The National Carousel Association Census suggests they had a steel kiddie carousel from that era, but I don't remember seeing it and don't have it photographed that I can make out. Anyway, the park's got a wonderful, low-key, comfortable feeling that makes me think it's about perfectly scaled for families with kids.

It's about perfectly scaled for the likes of me and bunny_hugger too. Yes, we like roller coasters, but that's not the only thing we like and we also really like parks that have a healthy, broad variety of interesting things.

Trivia: Following Britain's passage of the Roman Catholic Relief Act of 1778, which mostly allowed Catholics to openly serve in the Army, rumors spread that twenty thousand Jesuits were hidden in a network of underground tunnels on the Thames, waiting for orders from Rome to blow up the Surrey bank and flood London. Source: George III, Christopher Hibbert.

Currently Reading: Moon Bound: Choosing and Preparing NASA's Lunar Astronauts, Colin Burgess.

Tags: amusement parks, new england parks tour, quassy
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