A LIFETIME OF ELDRIDGE
by Claire Rhodes
remember almost every aspect of the park. My earliest recollection
was the rides in Kiddieland.
I loved that little train. And I can still remember the day I realized
I wasn't really driving the boats!! I graduated to the bigger rides
after refusing to go back where the boats "cheated". I loved
the kiddie roller coaster and whip, and couldn't wait to be able to
go on the big versions of those, either. To this day I can still hear
the sound of the Speedway
Roller Coaster as it clunked its way up that first hill.
You didn't necessarily need money to go to the park. We would go watch
movies, talent shows, aerial acts, clowns with breakaway cars. What
fun (and free) ways to spend a sultry summer night. Life there could
be as fast or as slow as you wanted to take it. Plenty of folks pulled
their cars along the little creek and washed them on a Sunday afternoon.
We would take picnics up to the nob and sit there in the shade of
those big trees, sometimes followed by a ride around the lake on Jasper.
They had swings in the playground that you operated with your arms
- those were fun, but the monkey bars always drew the attention of
my brother and me. And the fireworks!! Several times a year we would
line Lackawanna Ave. to watch them. They were amazing.
Naturally, the rides were the big draw to us kids. The Spooks
House terrified me at first - at least the idea of going in there
did. I mean, did you hear those screams coming from in there?????
Once I'd actually been through there, though, it was almost a cult
like experience to go back and say all the jokes as you went ....Where's
Herman? Here Lies Herman.... and that train at the end - I can still
hear the whistle blow, see the train up ahead, feel that whoosh of
air, and then the sound of those double doors opening up!!!
cars were a great favorite. We would really get into it, lining
one up in our sights and broadsiding 'em. Of course, that was in the
early days, before they just became "scooter cars" that
you drove in circles. The merry-go-round
was a favorite, too. You could get cooled off by the breeze, and it
was relatively cheap compared to the other rides. Of course, we all
had our favorite animals, and we'd circle around until we found one
that we liked - always on the outside row. What a treat to get the
gold ring!! And I marveled how the "big" boys who worked
there could snap the rings back up with those long rods they used.
I never did like the lighted board that replaced the ring dispenser.
Just not the same.
When I was in my teens, both my parents worked there every summer.
Mom worked in the gift shop. I remember the little cards on the shelf
warning us to look but not to touch: "Pretty to look at, lovely
to hold. But if you break it, then it's sold." Mom worked some
of the indoor games - hoop toss, balloon darts and the like. Dad had
several areas he worked in over the years: Skee
Roll, the Shooting Gallery and my personal favorite, the French
Fries stand. To this day, I still judge french fries by that standard.
They were the best!! I also loved the cotton candy and candied apples,
where Mrs. Merrill would always call you by name and tease you before
you got your treat. You'd have to eat the cotton candy pretty fast
or it would melt.
We knew most of the workers there by name, and they knew us because
of Mom and Dad working there. On slow nights, we'd get free rides
on the merry go round and the roller coaster...they'd send us up and
we'd scream our fool heads off, attracting a few paying customers
in the process. It was definitely a mutually beneficial deal. Every
year we'd hear the rumors - the roller coaster has been condemned!!
After they tore down the "baby coaster" we thought there
might be some truth in it, but it never stopped us from riding on
it, because who knew if this might be the last opportunity we got?
But, we had plenty of opportunities, and the rumors just made it that
much more exciting.
I wish every kid could experience the fun we had at Eldridge. It was
a nice, family oriented and safe atmosphere, and I hated to see it
disappear. But, with the rebirth of the carousel, there's new hope
that we'll see Eldridge re-emerge as a family entertainment center
in some form.
about you? Do you remember Eldridge Park?
What was it like for you? Any favorite memories?
Please write to us.
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