austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

I know you are thinking of childhood

Rye Playland has got a healthy number of rides that might not have particular historic significance but that are still pretty important to having an amusement park, and they can still be pretty interesting. For example they've got a Himalaya ride (that circular thing with a rise and a fall, where you sit in a car that swings out on a pivot, while incredibly loud music plays, and sometimes you spend half the ride cycle going backwards) dubbed the Thunder Bolt. The ride is decorated with what, initially, fairground-style art that stays pretty clearly on focus: pictures of Zeus, pictures of Thor, all clear thunder- and lightning-related gods. Then in what we guess are later expansions they stuffed in a couple of somewhat related pictures like Mount Olympus or goddesses throwing lightning bolts around or an old wizard summoning lightning. And then there's just, like, Pegasus, or a goddess with a cheetah lounging about. That suggests they felt like the ride needed some more decoration but they couldn't keep the theme going.

It's got several great dark rides, though, lavish and fun and a little overdone. One of them, the Flying Witch, has a facade that seems to just go on forever, featuring a three-dimensional prop dragon head poking out from the castle, a large demon with rotating gear teeth, windmill vanes with demons clung to the riggings, everything you might hope for. The facade goes on and wraps around to the upper level of the only souvenir shop the park has, one with an unfortunately slight selection of actual, you know, Playland-branded merchandise. I'd been hoping for an ``I Tamed The Dragon'' T-shirt in medium, since I bought the small one at a local minimum in my body weight and it's probably not a good idea for me to wear that casually.

There's also the Zombie Castle, which credits as being the last classic Laff In The Dark-style ride operating in the United States. The ride dates to the mid-to-late 30s, though the various props have been renovated and the ride re-themed in the interim; it hasn't called itself ``Laff in The Dark'' in a long while. ( also identifies a couple of stunts as having been formerly at Clementon Lake, for that extra bit of thematic unity to this whole trip.) The ride's path takes it within the footprint of the Dragon Coaster, so besides the normal routine of stunts and noises there'll also be a bit of rattling and roaring as the coaster goes by.

Beside the Zombie Castle, which is well-worth the ride, is also a House of Mirrors that, I must admit, isn't. At least not during the day. It's too easy to see the plastic partitions in daylight so the maze isn't any kind of challenge. It's probably better at night (Rye Playland's web site promises it also includes strobe lights), but we didn't go to it at the right hour for it.

Ye Old Mill is, well, an old mill ride, one of those Tunnel Of Love-type rides that really did used to exist in amusement parks and not just in cartoons about amusement parks. The original dates to 1929, though it was extensively renovated by the Sally Corporation in 2001 and 2002. It runs underneath the Dragon Coaster, too, for an extra claustrophobic touch. The modern theme is wonderful, and honestly puts to shame the Garfield's Nightmare theme of the old mill ride at Kennywood (sorry, Kennywood): the theme is that you're boating through the mines of the gnomes, puttering past trolls and dragons and their various attempts to catch you the intruder. On the way out I happened to have a pretty good view of a track layout map, though that doesn't identify all the props and such. It's more a guide of how to get to where a boat might be stuck and how to guide people to safety from there.

Also huddling under the wings of the Dragon Coaster is the Whip, another of the original rides dating to the late 1920s, although reports, citing the Images of America: Playland book, that the Whip's cars were replaced in the 1940s. Allow this to serve as an example in your ``problems of identity'' paper. It runs very fast and a little rough, a mix that makes the part where it seriously whips fantastic.

But if I were to mention any ride at Playland, besides the Dragon Coaster, it'd be the Derby Racer. We've been on all three of the survivors of this carousel-type ride, at Blackpool Pleasure Beach, at Cedar Point (where the front-and-back mechanism that makes horses in a single row move relative to each other is still operating), and at Rye. Rye's is the fastest of them. It's surely the fastest carousel-type ride I've ever ridden. It's still running fast. As you board it they warn you to sit with your left foot on the lowest post you can reach, and your right foot on the highest, and they warn you over and over and over: lean to the left. They don't get it up to full speed in one go; they spin it up to the point of inspiring nervousness, and give a fresh round of warnings (though this time they didn't have someone jump on to make everyone lean to the left), and then let it really go. If you ever think carousels are inherently boring rides, go to Rye Playland and ride the Cedar Downs; they can be thrill rides if they are run as thrill rides.

Trivia: Mitch Miller (of ``Sing Along With'' fame) got United Artists to put up $500,000 to produce a musical version of Steinbeck's East of Eden, named Here's Where I Belong. In its Philadelphia opening a fire broke out in the spotlights. It would open at the Billy Rose Theater on Broadway, on the 3rd of March, 1968, and close after one performance. Source: Not Since Carrie: 40 Years Of Broadway Musical Flops, Ken Mandelbaum.

Currently Reading: I Gotta Go: The Commentary Of Ian Shoales, Merle Kessler. Mid-80s compendium of the writings that were so aptly described on the overnight World News Now as composed by ``the amphetamined prince of darkness''.

Tags: amusement parks, casino pier farewell tour, rye playland

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