austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

Lakeside Park, so many memories

In the early evening we took the miniature train ride. It putters along the perimeter of Lake Rhonda. Wikipedia says its locomotives ``Puffing Billy'' and ``Whistling Tom'' were from the 1904 St Louis World's Fair, which would be quite the historic touch to enjoy about the park. It also speaks of the park having the ``world's first miniature gauge diesel locomotive'', leaving completely unclear just what was pulling our train. I have a picture with an engine labelled ``Silver Speed'' and that's got a shiny metallic covering. With a name like that it's got to be the miniature diesel, which Wikipedia says was inspired by the California Zephyr.

The park looks grand from across the lake. Across the lake looks less grand from the park; it's mostly a Walmart. Apparently Ben Krasner, father of the current owner, sold the land on that side. It became a shopping mall for decades, and then a deserted mall, and then was reborn as box stores. So there isn't the deserted wilderness or campgrounds that might be nice to see from afar. But then this is a city park, and that city nature gives it much of its identity. And we could see the whole of the park huddled up, it seemed, beside the expanse of water on the far side of the loop.

To our regret, we failed to take another ride on the train when it was night. The park may not have all the lights it should. But it has many of them, and our failure to see that fully spread is one of our handful of outright mistakes that come from oversights, rather than from things turning out other than how we planned.

They've got a fine Matterhorn, upstaged by the beauty of its sign. And a Flying Dutchman swing ride that was weird. Its cars were shaped like Dutch privateers. And the swing drops low enough that the boats actually rest on the concrete base, without the threat of skidding or rocking as you load or unload. Haven't seen its like before, and the ride gives off the air of being relatively new. This was among the things that encouraged us to think the park was doing well, and that it was even expanding.

While exploring this side of the park we found greenhouses, filled with plants. It's a reminder that the park, for all that it might be poor, is not badly decorated. It's got good flowers and shrubs and bushes, and well-kept lawns. It's got statues and fountains that look plausibly a century old, and if they seem worn out, that's all right. A century-old fountain should look like it's had a lot of water pass through it. The park's also got odder little bits of decor, like statues of an elephant stretched out on a tree trunk or things like that.

As night settled in the park started to light up. And maybe the park has only half the illumination it should. It had illumination to spare. All amusement parks are beautiful at night, I suppose, but such a gorgeous park --- the 1930s buildings were designed by architect Richard L Crowther, later renowned for building the first Cinerama theaters and pioneering residential solar technology. Add the emotion-heightening powers of night and a playful crowd, and decorate it with neon and LED, and you have a powerfully beautiful thing. Much of what we would do was to just delight in being where we were, seeing what we saw, and we almost barely needed to ride anything.

And still, riding what we could while the park stayed open. Which started to be mysterious. Apparently the park has no set closing time; like Kennywood or Idlewild, it closes when the night has gone on long enough. I had fully expected the day to be done by 9 pm, and it wasn't. Well, or then 10 pm. But the park was still quite crowded then and showed no signs of closing. We would go back to the Wild Chipmunk and to the baffling carousel, and we came over to rides like the Satellite aware that anything might be the final moments of the park's night.

And they kept not being. We thought for sure, given how the crowd was thinning out and redemption games were closing down, that the park might close at 11 pm, and that still wasn't happening. A couple of the rides shut down after that, and the restaurant --- featuring, Wikipedia says, a backbar salvaged from the Denver Union Station --- closed. But we didn't see any sign that the biggest stuff was done, or about done, for the night.

Well, the park outlasted us. We were tired enough after two days of heavy park-going that finding the last minute of the park that night wasn't interesting us. Not as long as the Cyclone was closed and showed no signs of opening. (I thought, once, that I saw a test train running on it. But if it did, the test didn't pass, or they decided the night was too advanced to reopen the ride.) So after a last circuit of all the beauty of the park, and attempt to understand the carousel, we said our goodbyes to the park. But with the plan in mind that we might just pop in the next day and get some more Cyclone time in. We wouldn't, but we could not know that when we did exit.

The Tower of Jewels may have few of its blanket of lights working. But those which make up its 'REDIT' commanding invite are among those that work.

It's a good thought to have for a sweet and lovely place like this.

Trivia: Something like ten to twelve calves would need to be skinned to produce enough vellum for a 150-page book, before the widespread use of paper. Source: Ideas: A History from Fire to Freud, Peter Watson.

Currently Reading: The Complete Peanuts, 1950 - 2000, Charles Schulz. Editor Gary Groth. Miscellaneous side things from the whole run of the strip, like the comic book stories that Schulz actually wrote and drew, or advertising material, or little books that're long out of print.

PS: And now the last pictures of Storybook Land, great as the place was; it closed at 5 pm, a family-friendly hour. (I was surprised to have a last-minutes-of-the-park main essay and photo auxiliary. How often does that happen? At least as how I had got stuff prepared before everything went wrong.)


Birdception! Sparrow we caught sitting up on the Mother Goose with Goose statue out near the front of the park.


Pair of sparrows nesting within the 'clothing' of Mother Goose.


And, to close: a panoramic shot, because I just do not learn, of Storybook Land as seen from the front. Mother Goose and her sparrows are center-left; the Lil Red Schoolhouse is center-right. Gingerbread House Snack Bar on the way left.

Tags: denver dash, fifth anniversary trip, lakeside park, story book land

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