So Much Fun

The past two weekends, I have had the luck to spend time with our kids at some of the theme parks of our state.  Last week, we went to Emerald Point, a large water park in Greensboro.  This weekend, we went to Marbles Kids Museum in Raleigh.

These are nice places.  Fun for breaking a sweat, or pretending to be a fire fighter.

Yet I can’t help but compare these experiences, though they are now experienced through my own rational adult frame, with the memories I have of my child hood theme park visits.

Those days are a long-ago memory, but I can recite some details: I would have been wearing a pair of jean shorts and a white tank top with red piping.  It was an era when elementary children supported patriotic themes.  1976, the bicentennial.  Oh, and Evel Knievel.  Even my year book that year had a picture of a color guard from the Revolutionary War.  I would have been wearing that because I perceived those to be my most comfortable, and thus fastest, items of clothing.  Also, I would have had my sneakers with the gripless surface soles.

For speed.  Because we were going to Worlds of Fun.  For that, I needed to be fast.  Fast to get in line, fast to ride the barrels, fast to cut through the wind on the Zam-be-zi-Zinger.

Getting there was not easy.  I remember how the land intersected by the interstate was both flat and straight.  The sky filled the horizon, weighing on the undifferentiated light industrial buildings hewing to the Kansas earth.  I suppose some held chemicals, others are warehouses, but they all looked the same.  Even at 70 miles per hour in our Pinto, the ride was endless.  I think it was a 400-mile journey from our home to the park, located on the outskirts of Northern Kansas City in Clay County.  (Actually, it was 19.1 miles).

The straightness thwarted even the most basic ploys to redeem our building energy.  Since this was the 1970s, my brother and I were untethered from car seats.  Yes, I believe our car did have seat belts, but they were sort of a new idea.  Kind of something with limited adoption.  A civic virtue, but not catholic. Were it to be that my dad banked the Pinto on a sharp left, I’d be thrown from the right rear seat almost into the glass on the left side of the car.  Along the way, I have to upend my brother his seat.  His sweaty thighs would have to skid across the vinyl upholstrey.  (See below)

A right turn, and he’d would return the favor.  But no, this was North Kansas City, with a ribbon of asphalt cutting across miles of prairie.

You can appreciate the Zambezi Zinger here.  I suggest you put it on full screen mode.  It was a scary ride.  There was a bar over your arms, but you were sitting up high.  Your knees could stick out of the side of the car.  There was no door.  The rails were narrow and I often wondered if the top-weighted nature of the car would cause an accident.  That was part of the horror.

– –

Shift to 2008

Now, Emerald Pointe has some fast water slides.  And, Marbles has a different mission.  Yet it really does feel like things have changed.  Just as John and Rosie traveled in car seats, a new sense of safety seems to have taken over the regime of childhood.

Its a different time.  What can you say.  I loved Worlds of Fun.  It left Kansas City in 1997.  I didn’t say goodbye.  I was in a “serious” stage, where things like rollercoasters of my youth were pushed aside for centerpiece photographs and Quark Express layouts.  But, I never stopped remembering those times.  I have to wonder what will stick in my children’s minds when they are older and look back.


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