MUSHY'S MOOCHINGS: REMEMBERING THE SKYLINER

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

REMEMBERING THE SKYLINER

During the one summer we spent in Nashville my mom often dropped me off at Fair Park with change in my pocket. I was eleven years old with no fear of staying a few unsupervised hours in the park on my own. It was a day and time too that my mom had few worries about my safety.

The pocket change had to be rationed in order to do everything I wanted. I had to have a hotdog, later an ice cream cone, some cotton candy, and then take as many rides as I could get on the Skyliner. The Skyliner was a John Allen designed wooden roller coaster with steep climbs, bunny hops, and tight turns.

Sometimes, if I ran out of money, I would go over and search the area under the “Roll-O-Plane,” or as my dad called it, “the Bullet.” Riders were always losing their change or anything else from their pockets, as the ride sped and twisted around high above. You had to be quick though, and between rides, or the ride operator would yell at you!

Often times, I did nothing but ride the Skyliner. I loved the g-force in the turns and how it made my stomach seem to float during the downhill runs. I had always wanted to be a pilot and my heroes were super-human men like Chuck Yeager, or Scott Crossfield, Joe Walker, Bob Rushworth, Neil Armstrong, Bill Dana, or any of the fifteen pilots of the X-15. I read everything I could get my hands on about any of them.

I even loved and admired movie stars that played pilots, like John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart.

My strategy was always to get the front seat if possible. I was not one to sit in the back, raise my arms, and scream with all the girls. I wanted to be at the controls, to push her over into a steep strafing dive and them pull’er up at the last minute, release my bombs, and yank her into a hard right turn out of danger.

I loved to keep my forearms hard against my thighs, hands fast around the imaginary stick as the dive began, fighting to control my breathing, and then lean with the turn and look back over my right shoulder watching the ground come up fast. I was also alert for the enemy that might be on my six, ready to barrel roll in the opposite direction out of danger!

For those few minutes I was flying and the danger was real. I was Chuck, and I loved it!

The time to meet mom at the entrance came too fast and I was often tempted to take her down “the valley of the shadow of death” once more before leaving.

I loved being a boy and I loved being a kid – still do! I also miss the ol’ Skyliner.

18 comments:

Suldog said...

See, here's where my mind lives - I read "Bill Dana" and I immediately thought of the guy who used to play Jose Jimenez in sketches on the old Steve Allen show.

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0199049/

Guess I have to read up on my pilots a bit more...

Jose said...

"La Montaña Rusa" or Russina Mountain was the name of the wooden roller coaster in Mexico. When they first installed it, a long time ago it was supposed to be for riders over 21 years old. But Mexico being Mexico it was no problem for me to ride it at age 11. I got to ride it a few times before I came to the US. I like to seat in the front because of the feeling of beign the only riders. But I also love the very end because of the whipping effect. Now if I go to Magic Mountain or Knotts Berry Farm I am not as daring as I used to be.

Les Becker said...

You bring back a lot of memories with your stories, Mushy, but I think this one brought back the most vivid: "flying" in the chair swings during my hometown's Community Day celebrations - one whole day of amusement park rides and carnies hollering. No cars on Main Street, beer gardens, and later the Teen Dance to keep us out of trouble (with our own Beer Gardens down the Back Lane or behind the Odd Fellow's Hall). I want to go back...

Mushy said...

Ah...to go back and ride one more time!

Michele said...

Wasn't it great to be able to be a kid all day long without worry?? Now we could never leave an 11-year-old alone at a park all day for fear of what could/would happen! Those certainly were 'the good ole days'!

Rebecca said...

I don't remember the Roll O Plane at all. I had to check it out to see if it was a ride I knew by another name, but nope, don't recognize it. My favorite rides were "Crack the Whip" and the Tilt O'Whirl...ESPECIALLy the Tilt O Whirl.

Rebecca said...

Shit. Forgot the rest of what I wanted to say. Do you remember how the carnivals used to have the side shows, like the two headed baby and all that weird stuff? My mother never let us go inside one of those, even though I was *dying* to see at least one attraction. I remember when we went to Atlantic City they were announcing one over and over and they said pregnant women shouldn't go because they'd be too terrified....lol. Carnival barking at it's best;)

BRUNO said...

Here is one thing that I DON'T miss---Carnival rides! Never did like 'em! Didn't trust the equipment! Only way I could enjoy somethin' like this is if I put it together! Just never did trust the carnies' "experience" in the assembly! Somethin' about the pocket-flask, and ONE eye of the "operator".......

Mushy said...

Side Shows...yeah...always wanted to sneak in and did peep under a tent once but got caught.

I didn't like Carnival rides either, but these rides were permanently set up at a city park. Still, probably unsafe, but better than a "carney" ride.

Fathairybastard said...

Never forget going to 6 flaggs as a kid and riding the runnaway mine train. My favorite rollercoaster ever. Back in the late 70s or early 80s they put up a double loop thing called the Shock Wave. It always had a rediculoisly long line, but it was well worth the wait. Then, in the 80s, they put in a huge wooden thing called the Texas Giant that has a long steep fall. Very exciting. At the state fair in Dallas they always have a ricketty old wooden thing called the Zyclone. Scares the hell outs ya, shaking and acting like your car is gonna roll off the edge. Love it. It's been about 25 years since I went to 6 flaggs. Need to go back.

Fathairybastard said...

Damn, wait up, I remembered another one. 6 Flags used to have a thing called the Spinnaker. It was a circular thing with cars for people to sit in, hanging down around it, like a ferris wheel laying on it's side. It starts spinning fast and the cars are extended out by centrifugal force, and then the thing lifted up vertically so that you are spinning fast as hell, up and down, over and over, till it slows down and lowers itself to the ground. A REAL puke machine. That one isn't there any more, but I think they're bringin' it back. We used to ride it over and over. God, I could go on and on. That place was magical.

phlegmfatale said...

That was grand of you to always pilot your fellow Skyliner passengers to safety every time. Great story!

Suldog said...

I spent a summer working the carnival circuit in New England - I was a barker on a walking charlie; a game that involved throwing baseballs at coffee mugs hanging off of motorized manequins' ears - honestly - and I can tell you that you had a right to fear those rides. They were always a mickey mouse job; jury-rigged as quickly as possible. I never saw an accident, but I'm continually amazed that you don't hear of more.

BRUNO said...

See? I ain't as stupid as I look!(I'm WORSE!) I knew I couldn't trust that one-eyed jack that ran the ferris wheel!!!

Crap! I plumb forgot about the "peek-shows"! Amazing how stuff like that was taboo when we were kids! Hell, now I'd bet they teach a vocational class on such things, it wouldn't surprise me!

Alex said...

I always thought rollercoasters would be more fun if you could drive them. I never found anything on tracks, from whose path you cannot deviate, that exciting.

Water rides were different, though. I don't care how boring something is - add water and it becomes exciting. Going blouse shopping with your female friends? Boring! Seeing your female friends in wet blouses? Thrilling!

And that's but one example.

Suldog said...

Bruno:

At one stop, in Barton, Vermont, we had to set up our shop directly across the midway from the girlie show. Do you remember the song "Rock And Roll, Part Two" by Gary Glitter? It's used at lots of sporting events. Anyway, I kind of dug that song then and they played it from their loudspeaker to get attention. The girls would do a little bump and grind out front to draw in the customers.

By the end of that week, I had heard that freakin' song close to 1,000 times. If was packing, I would have shot their speakers dead :-)

BRUNO said...

Yes, Suldog---but you DID get your own "semi-private" peek show, of sorts, anyway! And you're right, too much of a good thing WILL wear thin after awhile!

David Sullivan said...

My grandmother was a soft touch, so when she used to take me to Paragon Park at Nantasket Beach just south of Boston there were no limits.
I usually ate popcorn and candy until I puked (usually right after going on the "Tempest".
Nice memory.