Where the forest once did stand
So after scouting out Conneaut Lake Park's grounds and seeing how generally better and more functional and more like a normal park things seemed to be we finally bought our wristbands and got to riding. The first ride was the carousel, an antique that --- we infer --- kept the park alive for many decades by selling off the original 1920s-vintage mounts. Many parks kept themselves going a few last years by selling their carousel in the big collectors-market boom of the 1980s. Conneaut Lake Park has, if I have the report right, five of the original mounts still on, all inner-row ones, smaller and less decorated (they're harder to see from the outside, so serve less role of drawing rider interest) than the outer-row horses. The rest have been replaced with modern carvings, mostly from Carousel Works, some of which are now thirty years old or so and becoming respectably old in their own right.
Then we walked about the Kiddieland. The kiddie carousel, old itself, and decorated by running boards apparently painted by someone working on fantasy art in 1978, was running under its own power, as the park had each but the first time we ever visited. The decorative cement water fountain was functioning, spraying water, although it's one of those mid-century modern things that's basically a concrete tub so the decorative function is less fully served than it might be. There was one actually missing ride and we were trying to think whether we knew what it was or if it had, in our experience, always been missing. It's not hard guessing what should be there. There's a roughly circular wooden base. Nearly all the Kiddieland's other rides are circular flat rides, going about in a circle in fire trucks or police cars or pony carts or 30s-styled streamlined cars. It's probably something like that.
One of the circular rides that was there, although we didn't see anyone on it, was the ``Jeeps'' ride. Again, a bunch of little cars going in a circle. But in this case the cars are held above the platform, and they look like they spin freely on a central pivot. They're painted in pink and yellow and purple, with blobby, faintly Laugh-In era dots of darker colors. And I understated the name. It's actually the ``Beetle Bailey Jeeps'', with ``Beetle Bailey'' drawn the way the comic strip logo is. This means something and I don't know what.
Looking in good shape: The Little Dipper. If we haven't missed something this is the oldest steel roller coaster still operating. It's been there since 1950. We didn't ride it. Their web site says only people under 54 inches may ride it. We didn't press our luck. We have ridden its twin, at Quassy Amusement Park in Connecticut. That one's a rough, knee-banger of a ride for adults who are, after all, rather bigger than the Allan Herschell company really designed the ride for. I have to imagine that given Conneaut Lake Park's history it's not as smooth a ride as Quassy's Little Dipper is.
And just interesting: the Junior Caterpillar. They don't have an adult Caterpillar ride; almost nobody does. I think Canobie Lake Park might be the only one, at least that runs with a canopy. The Junior Caterpillar is just a big, 120-degree arc of a car that runs in a circle on a non-centered wheel so it hops up and down on its own. Add to it respectably sharp-looking paint on its old metal body and there's definitely a ride to inexplicably captivate your three-to-six-year-old. More parks should have these.
And that's the kiddieland explored. We wanted to get back to the adult rides, particularly the Blue Streak roller coaster. There we discovered the sad fact of the seat belts, with the buckle posed exactly where it could best dig in to bunny_hugger's leg. On future rides we'd swap seats, weird as that might be. Here, too, there were signs of things gently improving. The ride starts with an S-turn through a tunnel that had finally got its holes patched up. No shafts of light through the wooden shell now. Also no gaps in the ceiling covered up with plastic. The station also had, hanging from the ceiling, a miniature segment of track and replica of the park's original 1037-vintage trains, with a couple plush monkeys riding the replicas. I believe the monkey trains are a new feature.
And the Music Express was running! I don't think it had in previous visits. It was not running fast, I admit, and I'm not sure there was music. But it was running, another ride that someone could be on. The trend is a good one.
Trivia: In 1860 Detroit's Capus Martius was used as a playing ground for the Early Risers baseball team. The team eventually started paying the nearby Russell Hotel a flat rate to replace broken windows.
Source: Level Playing Fields: How The Groundskeeping Murphy Brothers Shaped Baseball, Peter Morris.
Currently Reading: Faraday, Maxwell, and the Electromagnetic Field: How Two Men Revolutionized Physics, Nancy Forbes, Basil Mahon.
More of the back room at Fun! and its neat mixture of modern and solid-state and even electromechanical pinball games, plus some oddities like baseball simulators (far background on the right), almost none of which we could play, sad to say.
The competitions continue: National and World Women's matches going on far at the end of the row of tables.
Center: people gathered around the computer screens to watch what's happening in front of the people gathered around the pinball machines on the right.