Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Cockeyed Circus

Both images above from the website. Not sure if "Laughing Sal' will laugh once I publish.

My idea of heaven when I was a child would have been non-stop access to amusement parks. Here in Michigan, we had Edgewater Park, a mere 3 miles from home and Boblo, which technically was in Canada, an island in the Detroit River accessed by 2 multistoried river boats (The Columbia and the St. Clair) which were manned by Captain Boblo, an elderly, energetic midget who would dance for us as we left the downtown Detroit docks for our one hour cruise. Both places are long gone.

Back in New York, I often went to a small amusement park in Elmira, NY which was at least partially manned by my father's friend Ernie who was legless due to being in the Battle of the Bulge (couldn't forget that name). I think we had passes due to him. I watched in amazement as he climbed ladders as part of his job. There was a much bigger park in Canadaigua , NY, which had better rides that I went to at least twice before moving to Michigan.

However my all time favorite place (this included later visits to Disneyland, Cedar Point and Kennywood Park) was Palisades Park In Fort Lee, NJ. I was reminded of this recently when we drove over its former site as we exited NY on the George Washington Bridge. Right after that, someone posted its jingle heard all over the NYC metropolitan area in the 60s, on Facebook for Throwback Thursday.

During the summer of 1963 we visited NYC, a first for me. Convenient for my father, one of his best friends from high school (the other being this man's identical twin) recently moved to Englewood NJ where we stayed. He had a son my age, who was my companion for the duration. I remember taking a walk one morning with him to a large pond that was posted with an impressive amount of Toxic! skullbones signs. Also we were served reconstituted dry skimmed milk to which my father remarked I am cheap but not that cheap. He never understood the difference of being thrifty by necessity versus his strange compulsion. I remember a Circle Tour Ride, a trip to the UN building, and a lunch at an automat in which one selects ones food from refrigerated small compartments. As soon as you grab a plate, a carousel replaces it with another. So cool! But in return, he took his friend's kids to Palisades Park, a wonderland that I had dreams about long after. Fahrt zum Mars! (loved that name), my first Wild Mouse ride but the best of the best was the Cockeyed Circus Funhouse. After you climbed a stationary staircase, you had to negotiate going through a large rotating barrel. Of course I fell. Then on to constantly shifting walkways and staircases all lined with distorting mirrors, the cackling laughter of Sal, air holes which would blow your clothes in all directions, leading you to a darkened room where there was a lit-up red couch. An operator urged you to take a seat. As soon as you did, the seat collapsed and you found yourself on a long conveyor belt that ultimately dropped you to a mattress,. Ride over. So cool. I never saw anything like it anywhere. I heard shortly thereafter, the ride burned down and the park didn't last much longer. Sometimes I thought, maybe this ride was conjured up in my Dreamland because I never heard of anyone else having seen it. But after someone posted that blurb about Palisades Park, I found others that visited it. Steve never went there. Coney Island was right beneath his window and besides, they really didn't have the resources to go there. Also he was not a fan of amusement parks. On our first visit to NYC together, 14 years after I had gone there with my family, I was dazzled by the bright lights of Coney Island and insisted we go there immediately to go on some rides. He was much more accommodating in those days. We went on some whirling, twirling thing that got him sick.

Record colds again! Snow! When will winter end? Tomorrow it seems. I am holding off on my run until after I go to Maya's teachers' conference. And then a birthday dinner with a good friend.


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