austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

How life goes on the way it does

We did some pure sightseeing too, naturally, which was mostly wandering around the Kiddieland area. Kennywood was among the first parks to have a distinct organized Kiddieland section with small rides, four of which (I believe) are still there today. Also we could get pictures by a statue of Kenny Kangaroo. The actual mascot was never out and about that we saw that day and bunny_hugger and I have a perfect record of missing him. I think the Kennywood Arrow walkabout suit was going, but we weren't close enough for that slightly odd encounter.

It was a busier day than would have been ideal for us. We went for a ride in the Racer, the Möbius-strip wooden roller coaster that again is a survivor from the 1920s. And we could explain the problem of its station. It has a gorgeously restored 1920s-style station. The trouble is the station had been renovated in the 1950s and why wasn't that, which was more in the living memory of patrons, selected as the target to renovate to? The 1950s station was, from pictures, no less gorgeous a piece of Mid-Century Modern architecture. But that is always the problem; there's no preserving everything but Kennywood seems to try very hard.

Racer's a good ride, a racing coaster, and we were able to sit in matched seats after all, one in the left and one the right train. Kennywood hasn't adopted the Cedar Point racing coaster tradition of reaching out to slap hands with the rivals in the other cars, even though their cars come much closer. We could hand-slap anyway. Not sure what anyone else made of that.

Jack Rabbit, the other wooden coaster --- the one that dates to 1920, before there were the ``upstop wheels'' that make it impossible for a car to fly off the tracks --- had too long a line for our tastes. I did suggest the old mill ride, since this sort of tunnel-of-love attraction is very rare. But Kennywood's tunnel-of-love ride was, for the 12th year running, still the Garfield's Nightmare ride. Your boat takes you into a room with the setup of a Garfield strip like, oh, Garfield is thinking of eating. The boat reaches the next room. Oh no, the food is eating Garfield! Repeat eight times. There's a couple moving pieces, most of which don't anymore. Despite the rarity of this kind of ride we would have to admit to MWS and K that it wasn't that good, and we would spend the day without riding it after all.

So we rode the carousel again, while we were nearby. And rode the Kangaroo. That's another ride extinct except at Kennywood, although the Zamperla corporation is trying to breed a similar one they call a Kang-A-Bounce. The Kangaroo is a set of cars on a central axis. The cars go on a track, and part of the track is a steep climb that drops suddenly. On occasion the ride operator plays a cartoony ``boing-oing-oing'' noise. It's a simple ride but a great experience. K's hat flew off one of the bounces and fortunately it missed the track so it was not run over by Kangaroo cars again and again. K's hat flying off was funny, but made funnier in that MWS's hat also flew off during another ride and I forget which one.

Also we spent some time in the arcade. It's got your modern redemption games, of course. And some classic arcade games, plus Nintendo's 1983 Popeye. Also a bunch of old coin-op attractions on display for atmosphere, on shelves far away from grubby hands. Your Magic Chair Vibra-Massage chair, for example, or what look like old carousel horses, or nickelodeon movies like Johnny Comes Marching Home or Little Old New York, Movie Queen or Whipping The Huns. No pinball, which seems like such a weird oversight. MWS played a couple games, and I think he won a stuffed doll out of the crane machine, which he gave to a kid who was nearby. I think he gave some redemption tickets to a kid, too.

Jack Rabbit seemed to have a not-quite-so-bad line by this point and we were anxious we might not get the chance to ride at all if we kept waiting. After all, Kennywood doesn't have any proper formal closing time, although there are expectations. An unfortunate rain storm, as happened the first time I went there, could send us home early. So we took this chance and the wait wasn't as bad as we feared. Kennywood's older rides just don't have queue space, and have to make do with what they can squeeze out between buildings. This makes even something modest like a six-train queue look worse than it maybe is.

At some point in the day we got a square ice cream. That's another Kennywood specialty, from the Golden Nugget stand they have. Square bricks of ice cream, served on a double-headed cone, covered in chocolate and covered with nuts or sprinkles or, it turns out, both. These we had been talking up and we were sure they were worth the experience. We had them while listening to the end of one of the live shows, 80s Music Played By Amusement Park Performers. I think we joined them at the end of a Kiss number, since Kiss followed us to amusement parks all summer. The show ended pretty soon in our ice cream and we just sat there as a comfortable place to be.

And we took a circuit on the Miniature Railroad which I noticed for the first time says its trains come from the New York World's Fair, the one of 1938-39. This makes yet another piece of that World's Fair I've experienced. We'd get to see a bunch of the park from the 'far' side, and get fantastic views down the ravine. Also theoretically we might hear the train guide history of Kennywood, as we chugged past billboards showing vintage pictures, but the train was too loud and the speaker too soft to make out more than the occasional prepositional phrase, existing free and untouched in space.

Nagging at me all through the ride was thinking how my first visit to Kennywood the Miniature Railroad had been the last ride we'd been on before getting something to eat and discovering the park was about to close. There wasn't any sign of rain, though, and the Voice of Kennywood was already reassuring us they planned to close for the night at 10:00, a normal hour for that time of year.

We had the one more roller coaster to get to. Two, if you counted The Exterminator, although by then we were giving up on it ever opening. We paused a while watching and recording the Laffin' Sal, an animatronic figure that is just ... this homely woman that keeps shaking around and laughing. It's hard to explain the appeal. But Kennywood has one from the golden days of slightly creepy animatronic figures and dark-ride houses and whatnot. We didn't figure we'd ever see another one. We were wrong about this, and in a most surprising way.

Trivia: By 1908 the New York City subway system carried 800,000 people per day, a third above the maximum planned capacity. Source: 722 Miles: The Building of the Subways and How They Transformed New York, Clifton Hood.

Currently Reading: Classics Illustrated: A Cultural History, William B Jones Jr.

Tags: amusement parks, kennywood

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