austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

And I'll bet the laughing lady

So that's the setup. But what did we do? A lot of walking around, for one: Knoebels is a beautiful spot, with rides set in the midst of so many trees that it feels a bit like a campground that just happens to have every amusement park ride imaginable in it. It doesn't, but it gives that impression. I believe our first ride was this flat ride called the Downdraft, which puts you in cars that spin around a central axle while being brought up and down pretty rapidly; I remember it striking me as odd for seating three people across a row. I think it's odder than that, with cars that seat three people in the front and two in back.

No matter. The first important, attraction, must-visit ride we went to was the Grand Carousel, an antique, a century old this season, although it's been owned by Knoebels only since 1941. It had been in Rahway, New Jersey, before then. It's in gorgeous shape, probably the best shape of any operating and open-to-the-public carousel we've been on. Besides the horses looking fantastic, it's got side panels that show off, on the outside, scenes of rural Pennsylvania splendor (maybe not literally, as in the scenes of dogs reading flyers which advertise Come To Knoebels); and on the inside, showing off the various kinds of mischievous sin that as worried small-town America early in the 20th century, like gossiping and annoying goats. Decorative shields around the top also show off things like, well, a squirrel rampant.

The carousel is run the way classic carousels used to be run, with the attendants taking your tickets only once the ride is in motion --- it's really a bother to do it that way, but, they want to be authentic --- and as mentioned, they have a brass ring dispenser. I've never that I remember ridden a carousel with an operating brass ring machine. bunny_hugger got a fine mount on the outer rim; the crowd was such that I couldn't get on the outside, though, and so couldn't reach for the rings what with my arms not being infinitely extensible.

The dispenser is a wooden arm, with a trough inside. An attendant drops a bag of rings into a funnel and, once the ride's up to speed, sticks the arm out to where riders on the outside can reach out and, if they're good, grab a ring. Most of the rings are steel, unremarkable, but there's a couple brass rings in the mix, good for a free ride on the carousel. The outer horses on the Grand Carousel here don't go up and down --- often the ones on the outer rim of any carousel don't, but that's not a fixed rule --- which makes it easier to aim for the rings, certainly. What I would learn when I did get a ride on the outside was that grabbing for the ring takes a deliberate decision to accept that you're probably going to smack your fingers into the wooden arm some, and that's all right because it just stings a little. Also you have to grab onto the ring and tug, because it doesn't just slip out; my best strategy turned out to be to aim to let my fingers hit the arm, then poke them as fast as I could into the rings and hold on, letting the carousel do the hard work of pulling the ring out of the machine. I just had to make it topologically impossible for the ring not to come with me.

bunny_hugger didn't get a brass ring her first ride, though she got a good collection of eight or so steel rings. Neither of us got a brass ring when we re-rode, either, but we did very well in steel. You're expected to return the steel rings as well as the brass when the ride is over, and the attendants warn about doing this. We wondered what the attrition rate of people sneaking souvenirs is, but there's no obvious indications at the ride, probably because they don't want to encourage people. The rings are to get returned to a tub which, for the sake of being entertaining, is put behind the mouth of a painted lion. I managed even to toss one steel ring into the lion's mouth while on the ride, at speed, which is probably the best pitching job I'll ever manage, but most sane people just waited till the ride was over and tossed the rings one at a time into the lion's mouth, or (if they felt they'd been around too long) just dumping them all at once in the lion.

The gift shop, we'd find, sells special commemorative brass rings, ones obviously made so as to be sold in the gift shop. It seems to us that selling actual used steel rings would be at least as desirable as souvenirs --- probably more so since they'd be actually useful pieces --- but we're not in charge of the gift shop.

The Grand Carousel has a band organ, and one in great condition, with a quartet of automatons playing along. It's beautifully painted, in soft whites and blues and greens that make it look almost like a wedding cake in delicacy, and beauty.

Speaking of beauty, the Grand Carousel is near a dining pavilion, where they make the act of just bringing whatever you had to eat all the more attractive by having the long picnic tables be underneath conical overhangs. But the overhangs rotate, slow and steadily, carrying their lights along with them. Why? Well, it's beautiful. Isn't that enough reason?

Sure it is, as you'd realize from looking at the birthday pavilion. They seemed to be setting up a party, presumably a birthday party, as we were there. We assume it to be a birthday party because the ceiling above this open-air space is a huge pink cylinder --- supported by candy-cane painted posts --- with ``Happy Birthday - Best Wishes'' written to look as if done in white frosting, with roses along the rim and candles up top. I thought it was pretty neat, as a kid, to have a birthday party in a bowling alley. But to have a birthday party in an amusement park, underneath a giant 50s birthday cake? Magnificent.

The candles, we learned in the evening, light up, so it completes the birthday-cake illusion.

Trivia: As early as 1739, and the start of the War of Jenkins's Ear, Robert Walpole had sent secret letters to James, Duke of Perth, to learn what Stuart intentions might be toward the Church of England and to the safety of the members of the House of Hanover, in case the Stuart dynasty should return to the British throne. Source: How The Scots Invented The Modern World, Arthur Herman.

Currently Reading: Naming Infinity: A True Story Of Religious Mysticism and Mathematical Creativity, Loren Graham, Jean-Michel Kantor. This is proving very interesting especially since Cantor's various eccentricities are actually backstory. I'd appreciate a little more detail on the various problems in set theory people were trying to patch up, but I understand where the average reader might curl up into a whimpering ball at many of those.

Tags: knoebels, pennsylvania parks trip

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