austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,
austin_dern
austin_dern

Lost between tomorrow and yesterday

We spent long enough in the Story Book Forest that most of the park opened, including, the food stands. And it was lunchtime after all. That day --- which I must note was in early September --- Idlewild park was celebrating Oktoberfest, with a giant inflatable German kid in stockings and holding a pretzel; in the food pavilion behind, the Root Beer Garden, were various German foods and root beers as well as a small band leading kids in dances and attempted theme song quizzes. Have you heard the theme to Rescue Rangers played as an oom-pah piece? We hadn't either, until then. I believe they also tried some James Bond themes.

Unfortunately, being German food, the closest they had to vegetarian food was ``slightly smaller chunks of meat'', so we went to the regular park services and got a couple slices of pizza. This took us also close to what the historical plaque said was the smallest full-service depot in the United States, a onetime regular stop on the Ligonier Valley Railroad connecting to the main lane from 1878 to 1952. It's about the size of those portable offices brought out to construction sites --- maybe smaller --- and it's used as a conference room now that it's no longer featured regularly in Ripley's.

We took rides, of course, on Rollo Coaster --- this time trying to look over the side where we might find the stone shack which was at one time the park's bear pit (!); we could find the tiny building but not the open roof it supposedly had for dropping in food when it was in jaw-dropping animal ``care'' service, and it's apparently in use as a storage shed anymore --- which had one of the few substantial lines of the day. We also got to the antique carousel with its surplus of shield horses, and found that the outer ring horses are numbered. This would seem to suggest that they have designated a lead horse, number 1, that isn't any of the horses which feature the Philadelphia Toboggan Company shields, which doesn't make any sense, overall.

Amazingly to us the wild mouse didn't have any line. Considering that last time we visited it was an hour just to get onto the platform we couldn't resist jumping in line now. It's a fun roller coaster and a lot more fun when you haven't spent half the visit waiting there. Now, too, we knew to hold on to the red paint stripes when the train is about to brake, and we warned the people we rode with. They didn't believe us. They learned. And even better than a walk-on ride, we got to re-ride as a pair of kids wanted to go after us, and there wasn't anyone behind them, and they needed more weight in the car to make sure it rode safely. So the ride operators asked us if we'd want to go again. Certainly.

After this (and after admiring Lake Bouquet, named for Henry Bouquet, hero of the French and Indian War and Pontiac's Rebellion and whom I don't remember hearing about either, but they have a historical plaque for him; past the lake was Idlewild's water park, already then closed for the season), we went over the footbridge into the Raccoon Lagoon, not for the obvious reason. This is because of the influence of a celebrity from the Ligonier area, Fred Rogers. In the late 80s Idlewild, with the assistance of Fred Rogers, built an animatronic version of the Neighborhood of Make-Believe, as a trolley ride (of course) through all the major characters from that part of the show.

The trolley ride takes a good while, so there's a wait which, when we were there, was a couple ride cycles long. To help keep folks a bit occupied there's signs with trivia questions posted around, like, ``Who is the telephone operator at the castle?'' (answer: the castle has a telephone operator?) or ``Who is the Mayor of Westwood?'' (answer: the Neighborhood of Make-Believe is in the municipality of Westwood? [ No, Westwood is adjacent to the Neighborhood; don't be silly ]) or ``What does Ana Platypuss's father do?'' (answer: who's Ana Platypuss?). We worried some that the Neighborhood of Make-Believe had added a lot of stuff since we last watched the show regularly and couldn't think of any platypus who was in the show.

Our trolley ride, lead by a guide who looked and sounded distractingly like Kenneth the Page, entered through a tunnel --- marked with signs proclaiming welcome in many languages --- and then stopped in front of King Friday's castle, where King Friday came out and chatted with Kenneth the Page to explain there was going to be a Castle Hugandsong, and everyone in the land was invited, and would we in the trolley please go around and invite everyone we saw to the Hugandsong. And that was the routine: we'd go up to a replica of one of the Neighborhood characters --- well-remembered ones like X the Owl and Henrietta Pussycat or, of course, Daniel Striped Tiger; less-remembered ones like Cornflake ``Corny'' S Pecially, the rocking-chair magnate; or ones we'd just forgotten until we saw and heard them again, like the Platypuss family. There's also animatronic versions of some of the human characters like Lady Amberlin. And then everything comes back around to the rear of the castle, a set that I always loved seeing when it was on television, almost as much as I loved the extended track the Neighborhood Trolley occasionally ran on.

After the ride we walked around the park some more, including (I believe) getting another ride on Rollo Coaster, as well as one on the Ferris wheel --- it almost goes up high enough to peek above the tree line --- and watch the Oktoberfest band wandering around the park and playing some more, including a repeat of the music-trivia questions they'd been asking in the Root Beer Garden.

We had cheated Idlewild earlier this summer (and bunny_hugger had cut out on it, back in 2004, in favor of more time in Kennywood), and that wasn't fair back then. The Rain Check Trip did give us the chance to make right about that, and to enjoy the park on its own terms. It's not a large park, and it's more oriented toward families with pre-teens, but we could've spent longer there easily, and happily.

Nevertheless, we did intend to get to Kennywood for the evening.

Trivia: The original (1816) constitution of the American Bible Society required that 24 of its 36 managers live in Manhattan or the vicinity. (The city had the best printing industry in the country, including the first stereotyping facilities in the nation.) Source: Gotham: A History Of New York City To 1898, Edwin G Burrows, Mike Wallace.

Currently Reading: Images Of America: Conneaut Lake Park, Michael E Costello.

Tags: amusement parks, idlewild, kennywood, rain check trip
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