Saturday, August 01, 2009

With Apologies to Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury published a novel in 1962 called Something Wicked This Way Comes, that was turned into a movie at some point in the '80s. It involves a traveling carnival that is, well, wicked. And what does this have to do with amusement parks? Take a look at the picture at the top of this post and I'll give you three guesses!

I grew up in Chicago and still live close by. We are the land of disappearing amusement parks. There used to be a place called Santa's Village. There used to be a place called Old Chicago, one of the first indoor amusement parks ever. There is still a place called Kiddieland, but not for long. And last but not least, there was once a place called Riverview, and the picture above is from that particular park.

I loved the place as a kid. It had rollercoasters with names like The Wild Mouse, The Bobs, and especially The Fireball. It had an Aladdin's Castle, as can be seen in the picture, and it also had something called The Rotor, where riders entered a space not unlike an angel food cake tube pan (although the walls didn't curve in) and enjoyed the dubious privelege of being stuck to the wall by centrifugal force as the entire room spun faster and faster while the floor dropped from under your feet. Great stuff! There had even been an old-time freak show there. As a kid, I thought the park was magical.

As I got older, I began to understand words like "seamy" and "tawdry" and "tired" and even "unkempt." Maybe things were changing as I was growing up, and the litter along the walks, the cigarette butts, the beer bottles stashed away behind the benches had been there all along and were just becoming more obvious. I really don't know. But the last time I went there, I realized it would be the last time I went there because the feel of the place was becoming somewhat uncomfortable, like a pair of shabby and gravel-worn shoes, tired enough to be cast away, finally. Riverview became that kind of place for me.

I suppose, being a writer and afficionado of the supernatural, it would figure that Ray Bradbury's traveling nightmare of a carnival, run by Mr. Dark, would make me think of an amusement park from my own childhood. To be fair, I do remember some fun times at that place. They had a great merry-go-round (that went to Six Flags in Georgia) and featured a ferris wheel that offered a great view of the city from the top of it. Still, I sometimes wonder if having a Riverview Park in my past is one reason that to this day, amusement parks are not among my favorite ways to amuse myself.

"By the pricking of my thumbs..."

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Chris V. said...

Yes how true! Riverview was neat but I remember an instance going there with the family that was very uncomfortable and kind of scary with some riff-raff that seemed to be following us in the place with the funny mirrors. It did get rather "seamy." Old Chicago was real cool!

Chris Verstraete
Searching For A Starry Night, A Miniature Art Mystery

Pam Ripling said...

I think the "seaminess" and tired/tawdry appearance also speaks to safety. As kids, we don't see anything as particularly unsafe if it's fun. As we grow older and wiser, we equate cleanliness with maintenance, maintenance with safety. Every now and then you hear about some rundown neighborhood amusement park losing a roller coaster car or something equally terrifying.

We had several of those neighborhood parks as well, all gone now. There are traveling ones that turn up for special events at shopping centers, however, to remind us of those good ol' days.


Regan Black said...

I loved that movie!