Today is Part Two of "How I wrote The Roller Coaster Kid" our Teaching Author book giveaway.
Both Riverview and West View Parks were demolished and replaced by shopping centers and such. (Sigh). I eventually got to Disneyland, which, in my twelve-year-old eyes, wasn't nearly as exciting as West View.
After that, my encounters with park rides were reduced to the ones set up every fall at the Mississippi State Fair. By then (high school) it was more about who was at the Fair with whom than riding the Wild Mouse or, my favorite, the Double Ferris Wheel. The Fair never felt like a park.
I grew up (sort of). I got a degree, a job, and a husband. Amusement parks faded from both my life and the country. Mom-and-Pop parks were replaced by bigger and gaudier "theme" parks...the theme determined by whatever corporation owned the facility. These places became family vacation destinations. If there was any place my husband and I (in our childless state) did not want to spend our precious vacation time, it was a place where you paid an obscene amount of money to hang upside down at 60 miles an hour on a "roller coaster" or squish around in wet shoes, after sitting in the front of a log flume ride. Besides, my husband has a thing about heights.
My husband and his friends grew up in the Carolinas and had always vacationed along the Grand Strand. So married, and childless, we joined our unmarried (and childless friends) at the beach. On one of those group beach holidays, someone suggested a trip to the Myrtle Beach Pavilion. I soon discovered that "The Pavilion"was a cross between West View Park and the Mississippi State Fair,
set a block away from the ocean. There were my old friends: the Bumper Cars, the Tilt-a-Whirl, and a roller coaster that looked very much like the late, lamented Dips. Best of all, the Pavilion was an affordable cheap thrill...no outrageous admission fee, reasonably priced rides.
Even though I was much closer to 40 than I wanted to admit, I joined our friends on every ride. My acrophobic husband obligingly held our hats, purses, and sunglasses as the rest of us paid to be flung and flipped around. My inner eight-year-old was having a Big Time.
I was having such a great time that I didn't think twice about climbing on something called The Swings. Sounds pretty tame, hunh? It looked tame...from the ground. I settled myself into a metal chair, suspended by chains, not unlike a playground "baby swing." The ride operator came by and hooked a chain across the front of my seat and away we went.
Up, up, up the swings rose. OK, guys, I thought, as the Atlantic Ocean spread into panoramic view, that's high enough. The swings jerked to a stop. Good. What had seemed like a harmless little ride on the ground felt downright unsubstantial and...well...scary, however many hundred feet we were above the ground. (You can see from the picture that it wasn't that high up.) Suddenly, the swings spun around like a demented merry-go-round, shooting out to the side at a ninety degree angle. For the first
I screamed. I am not a screamer, so I had thirty plus years of screams to unload. I screamed from some place deep inside me, as if something had broken lose. I closed my eyes, pretended I wasn't suspended on playground chains flying sideways....and screamed. Never before and never since have I felt so terrified. Once The Swings of Death (as I had mentally re-named them) returned to earth, I slid out of my seat, and tottered over to my husband on jello-like legs.
"Have fun?" he asked as I reclaimed my belongings. Not exactly. More as if I had gone through some sort of rebirthing scream therapy. As if I had conquered a fear I didn't know I had. Weird.
The Pavilion was torn down in 2006 and turned into a parking lot for a giant Ferris Wheel. I never had another chance to experience that moment of total terror on The Swings again. Maybe once in a lifetime is enough.
So what happened to The Roller Coaster Kid? Well, that fear and catharsis forms the core of the book. I'll talk about the third and final "ingredient" of the story in Friday's post.
Don't forget to enter our Book Giveaway for an autographed copy of The Roller Coaster Kid (Viking). For contest details see Monday's post. The deadline is 11pm (CST) Wednesday, July 25 with the winner to be announced Thursday, July 26. I am looking forward to more entries and amusement park memories.
Posted by Mary Ann Rodman