austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

My back is on the fringes

When the rain let up --- and it let up hard, sun coming out and practically boiling the place --- we got back to examining Kiddieland, which has many interesting features. One of them is the cartoon figures decorating the fence. They're hard-to-identify creatures of some kind, certainly, but, of what? They seem somehow off to be local folk-art creations, with little details like some kind of reptilian sea-monster with pink patches around his arms that clearly suggest from a front view he'd be showing off a valentine heart, or what look like maybe sea monkey-ish Fraggles with sitting on hills or the like. Or maybe they just attracted someone who's good at cute kiddie-character design who wanted to help the park. (Also I noticed that the Tubs Of Fun ride, as the park's sign identifies it, was labelled by the manufacturer, Hampton Amusement Co of Saint Louis 20, Missouri, as a Tubs-O-Fun ride.)

The Little Dipper --- which dates to 1950 and which Coasterpedia credits as the third-oldest steel roller coaster still operating, and the oldest in the United States --- hadn't been running, between the rain and the low attendance, but one of the ride operators called us over and told us where to stand to get good shots of it over the lift hill. He was running the train so as to bleed water out of the brakes. We were, alas, way too old and too big to ride it (and the cars were just too far past the fences for me to be able to touch them), but we could see the whole thing at least.

In other nature-in-the-amusement-park news, there was a frog sitting in the grass between the roller coaster and the ride next to it. There were also plainly a large number of frogs in the woods just past the end of the park.

They weren't doing horse rides that day, although they might have had trouble doing so anyway: a tree had fallen down from the woods, breaking the outer paddock fence and obstructing the wider loop. There was evidence of other storm damage --- the comic foregrounds showing Connie Otter and her son Conrad had been damaged a bit --- but I can't say when this happened or how long it's been like that. The station did have a sign dated the 7th of June that it was closed for the day, for a grandson's wedding. This would imply it'd been between the Saturday before and that Thursday. Given the heavy storms that ran through Idlewild, perhaps we saw the wreckage within a day of it happening.

By now we were pretty starved and we went to the midway snack stand for something to eat, which would be pierogies and French fries. The snack stand has new signs too, as opposed to the whiteboard with stuff scrawled on it as last year. The park really looks considerably improved, considering. We took our food and drinks down by the lakefront, and wandered around the performing area, and peeked into the houses that are actually on park property but are private homes. One of them's got a sign out that reads ``Midway Manor''. Some of them offer great views of the bowling alley that burned down days before The Road was filmed here.

And there I confessed: I had been afraid to revisit Conneaut Lake Park, as the first experience was so vivid, so substantive, so strange, so wondrous that it seemed like I could only be disappointed by seeing it again. The context would be different, not just from our sense that the park was even more doomed than usual, but because we wouldn't be discovering it, because the day might be worse, because any of the things that make an experience would be different and wrong. But it wasn't. The park was still surprising, if not as deeply unsettling, and if we didn't keep discovering the strange impossibility of it all, not in the same ways. It was still strange and romantic and just so wondrous. I hoped we could come back another time.

Near the snack stand, at the end of the park, is the old park office. It's still got flyers in the windows from when ACE gave the Blue Streak its accreditation as a Coaster Classic, with t-shirts from the event and posters advertising events of 2009. This office isn't used anymore. It's beside the remains of what had been the ballroom and the collapsed but lovely tile sidewalk around that building, lost to fire.

We went for another ride at the Devil's Den, but the ride operator was moving between that and two other rides, the Trabant and the Witch's Brew, keeping up with some other patrons. So we went on the Trabant instead, which was not just nice and fast but also spun backwards. One of the other riders was someone who works for the park, who'd come in by accident and wasn't actually scheduled, so she just hung around and rode stuff and chatted with the other employees instead of go home. There's worse things to do.

We'd see her a fair amount; she'd kind of serve as an auxiliary ride operator where one was convenient, such as helping a family onto the Witch's Brew. This was one of the most Conneaut Lake Park-ish moments we had at the park so let me describe it. The ride is a particularly disorienting one as it puts you in one of a pair of spinning cars, on the ends of a spinning bar, which is itself at the end of a larger spinning bar. That is, from above, the ride looks like a capital H, with spinning cars on each of the four points, and the vertical strokes can rotate while the whole letter spins around the center. bunny_hugger saw someone riding this at the Coney Island Amusement Park in Cincinnati, Ohio, and it made him so nauseous he threw up right over the edge of the car. (I mention that particularly because my brain insists on transposing this to her brother riding one at the Coney Island in Brooklyn, which note is not actually an amusement park named ``Coney Island Amusement Park'', and I keep getting this wrong again and again.)

There was a party of maybe five people wanting to ride and the operator pulled up one of the carts and counted how many seat belts were functional. The free employee got in the car and helped untangle seat belts and get everyone in. The on-duty operator told them to just sit where there were working belts. There weren't enough working belts in there for us, too, so the ride operator pulled the other car on that leg of the letter. He tried to pull the door open and he just couldn't get it unstuck. It was painted or rusted shut and he apologized. Apparently they just haven't had quite so many people riding the Witch's Brew at once lately. He swung the whole letter around and found another door to open, and we found a couple seat belts that were functional, and we were finally on our way.

The free employee was also there riding the Blue Streak later on when she pointed out that her seat had come loose and slid a couple inches out from under her. The roller coaster's operators explained that actually all the padded seats are loose, it's just that they don't slide out when someone's riding them. I grant that it's probably very convenient for maintenance to have roller coaster train seats that slide out easily. Just ... that slide out in the normal course of a ride? Oh, but that's so the kind of thing that makes a park legend.

Trivia: The Lyons Electronic Office computer was in use by the British catering firm J Lyons and Company before the American UNIVAC had its first customers. Source: A History of Modern Computing, Paul E Ceruzzi.

Currently Reading: Bob-Lo: An Island In Troubled Waters, Annessa Carlisle.


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