are, if you rode the Merry-Go-Round at Eldridge, you heard
Tom Burhyte working there. "Heard" is the operative
word here, because he was the person who rang the bell.
Two quick dings and then a pause and then another ding
to get the thing started. And then about three or four
minutes later, just before it stopped, another ding, just
to let everybody know the ride was about to end. Remember
is a wonderful story about a young boy learning the amusement
ride business. It's about the years he spent at Eldridge
working for the proprietors of some of the Park's rides
and midway attractions, a story about dedication and loyalty.
And it's a story of how the Park got "into his blood."
In all, he worked over 20 years at Eldridge - well into
his adult years - and he spent many of his youthful and
formative moments with the "Eldridge Greats"
like Bob Long and Herb Randall.
is how he tells that story:
day at the park started at about seven in the morning
and went a lot of times past midnight seven days a week
in the summer. I remember when I first started working
there we would sweep the whole park with just brooms.
Twenty people and some times more. We finally got power
vacs in the late Fifties, and, boy, what a break that
work was the big thing at the park: fixing broken Scooter
Cars, changing motors in them, replacing the bands around
their bottoms, sanding the rust off the metal floor once
a week. Fixing broken Spooks House cars, fixing the scary
things, cleaning the grease off the track so it could
make good contact, welding broken parts if they could
be welded at all."
has fond memories of Bob Long and Herb Randall:
for Bob Long was the best thing that ever happened to
me. I started when I was fourteen. Got the job thru Herb
Randall, another park employee that I worked for, who
lived just up the street from me and was just like a father
to me. We did everything together and for some reason
he thought I had Park Blood in me, which I found out later
far as Bob Long goes, you couldn't ask for a better person
to work for. He would give you the shirt off his back
if you needed it and then more. He was always there for
his helpers and was concerned about them 100 percent.
If you had a problem, he would stop what he was doing,
and sit down right there with you and give you his insight
on what was wrong and how to solve it. I saw people who
lost their driver's license, and he would make a phone
call. They'd have their license back within a week's time
and Herb taught me how to paint the horses in the winter,
take motors apart, weld, carpenter work, carving, rigging,
electric. I left the park in 1970 and told Bob that if
he needed anything from me to just give me a call."
was the Flood of 72, a disaster that devasted Elmira and
the Park, that brought Tom back to Eldridge.
day Bob Long took me up on my offer. When the 1972 flood
hit I was working in Syracuse. He called me and told me
we were going to get flooded real bad at the park. That's
was all I had to hear and I was on my way home to help
out. We got all the horses up so the water couldn't get
to them (we thought). We had to do that just about every
spring anyway because of flooding. I went home to eat
supper and got to thinking maybe I ought to go back down
and check things out one last time. I called Walt Kowalski,
a friend and also a Merry-Go-Round employee, and took
my eleven-year-old son with me. We met over on Grand Central
Ave. and walked in from there.
waded through water up to our knees and went straight
to the Merry-Go-Round to get the stereo and amplifiers
up just another foot or so to save them. Then we then
went next door to the Spooks House and made sure it was
all right over there. We had the cars up on picnic tables
and the water wasn't there yet so we thought it was pretty
there we went to the scooter car ride and all of a sudden
we had a cloud burst and you couldn't see past the outside
overhang. It was just like being underneath Niagara Falls.
It couldn't have been ten minutes and the water started
coming in like a dam broke. We tried to get the scooter
cars up on the railing. Walt and I could pick the front
end up but my son Tommy couldn't push it up so we put
the motor end up on the bumper cars to try to save them.
never saw water come so fast in all my life like it did
that night. We pretty nearly had to swim to get out of
there. The very next day Walt and I were back down there
at six o'clock in the morning hosing things down as the
water receded. We had everything cleaned up by noon.
"But the Merry-Go-Round horses were doomed - some
had two inch gaps where they came unglued. Bob said to
me, "Tommy we got to get this place up and going,'
and that's what we did. 1973 was the last time i worked
there and that was the last time the Merry-Go-Round was
painted as far as I know. I had twenty years there full
and part time and was the time of my life, and, to this
day, I still have Park Blood in me. You either do or you
don't and you might say I was one of the lucky ones to
have worked at Eldridge Park."
Burhyte has been involved in the recent restoration of
the Carousel at Eldridge. The original bell that Tom used
to ring was located but wasn't available and so Bob Lyon,
Eldridge Park Carousel Preservation Society founder and
President, found one almost like it on E-Bay. It's 10
inches where the original was a 14-inch bell. Tom built
a stand for it to make it look as close to the original
Lyon asked Tom to build the stand for the new bell. He
completed and painted it and decided to take it down to
the park and install it when no one was around. Tom's
memories of the bell and his many years at the park had
welled up inside of him and he wasn't sure if he'd be
able to keep his composure. He tells it this way:
really glad I went to the park alone, because when I put
the bell in position where the old one used to be I got
a chill. Surprised, I just sat there for twenty minutes
or so. I closed my eyes, rang the bell and it just seemed
as though I could hear the sound that the jumper horses
used to make. And that's when I got really teary eyed.
I sat there with my eyes still closed, I could just about
see the people I worked with those many years ago. There
was Herb Randall. I could see his wife Gerry selling tickets
and all the people riding the Merry-Go Round. No one in
this world could imagine what went thru my mind when I
was down there with that new bell at Eldridge Park doing
my thing, so to speak.
Merry-Go Round will be restored to mint condition if I
have anything to do with this project. And the bell is
part of that! My special thanks to Bob Lyon for letting
me relive a part of my life all over again, working at
Eldridge Park! "
read more memories of Eldridge Park,
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