You Are Now Entering a Storybook World
Sister and I felt much the same way. Though I think we now appreciate how Aunt Elaine and Ma must have felt every year after dragging after us through the park and listening to us whine when it was time to leave. There's tired, and then there's Amusement Park Tired. But for awhile we actually reveled in our memories of visiting as kids. We lamented things that were lost to time. The tigers are still there in Mother Goose Land going round and round, but the story of Little Black Sambo isn't the same, exactly. For one thing, Sambo apparently has been seeing Michael Jackson's dermatologist and wants to be called only"Little Sambo", though one hopes that his nose is in better shape. And the tigers don't turn into a pool of butter anymore, which is why they ran in circles in the first place. But not to worry. We brought our own brown beast to the park with us.
We made sure not to miss a photo opportunity. In some cases, we merely recreated a picture from memory. When I was...what was I there? Six? I thought it would be a good--no, GREAT--idea to stand on the Big Bad Wolf's tail to stand behind him while Aunt Elaine took a snapshot with her Kodak Instamatic that traveled in the brown vinyl case and used the stick-type flashes. Turns out the tail was slippery under my sandals and I slipped climbing up and whacked the holy hell out of my toe. I knew Ma would be pissed because I hurt myself climbing up where I didn't belong, so I sucked it up and smiled. I love the resulting picture mostly because of the back story. Though Sister's cheeseball pose makes me laugh too when I look at it long enough.She's a bit too tall to pull off the pose now (and I will add that she refused to kneel on the ground for comedic effect) and that I didn't have to climb on the tail to appear over the top of the wolf's hat, though I could tell by the worn spot on the paint that lots of kids had the same idea as me.I noticed the Big Bad Wolf is not as black as he used to be either. Make of that what you will.
Anyway, after we passed through the archway to Other Lands, Papa got in line for the Swan Boats with the girls while Tanta and Baboo and I decided to walk up to Cinderella's castle. Normally we would have all waited in line to take the pumpkin coach, but they replaced the real horses with a motor, and let's face it: we've all been in a car. It's not all that exotic anymore.
The castle, like most of the place, was a lot smaller than I remembered. As was the Glass Slipper. I nudged my Sister and asked her which stepsister she wanted to be: the one who cut off her toe or the one that cut off part of her heel? We giggled and then started quoting the Ugly Sisters Step. "We're not really sisters, but we are reeeeeeally ugly," and giggling madly and inappropriately. So I took this picture of Sister "trying on" the slipper and I love it so much I may have it framed for display in my living room.By the time we got back to the bottom of the hill, we met the girls and Papa who decided that the line for the Swan Boats was moving entirely too slowly so we went to the Carousel. The carousel is an authentic German carousel that traveled through Europe in the 1800's before being sent over here and it's lived at Storyland I think since it opened We loved the fact that the horses don't go up and down on poles but are mounted on springs so that the rider can make them bounce back and forth and it's ever so much fun! All my kids thought so. (I couldn't get a shot of Bug because she had an "inside"horse and there were too many people from Massachusetts in my way.)
We skipped South of the Border entirely. It wasn't a statement about immigration or anything, we just wanted to get to Freaky Deaky Dutchland. And the kids (and by kids I mean Baboo and the girls) wanted desperately to ride the Polar Coaster. The Polar Coaster was my favorite ride by far when we used to go as kids. While they rode, Larry got a soda and Dave played in a nice flowerbed. The sign above him reads "To overlook the little things in life is to miss the biggest part of life itself." Sigh.
Hey, while I'm thinking about it, what happened to the camel and Arab cutout that used to be outside Crazy Hakeem's Sandwich Shack? Hmmm?
We also skipped over the Slipshod Safari. Seriously. Would you ride a ride that's very name was an allusion to being half-assed at best? Come on, now.
We eschewed the delights of the Safari for lunch. The only blight on a perfectly lovely day. Now we understand why Aunt Elaine insisted on packing the big red and white Igloo Playmate cooler that always smelled of overripe plums with sandwiches, Little Debbie snack cakes, a thermos of Kool-Aid and of course plums.
In preparing for the trip I joked about Sister packing the plum-cooler for trip and she said, "NO! We're going to have lunch inside the park!" Never again, folks, and here' s why. Larry had a hamburger combo. That's a hamburger with nothing on it, precooked and wrapped in foil with a fistful of soggy fries. No drink. For over eight dollars.
Know what? As we were leaving North Conway we saw a billboard for Friendly's that advertised a loaded burger with a ton of fries, a beverage with unlimited refills and a friggin' dessert sundae for $9.99. Let's just say I don't mind paying Friendly's prices if I'm going to get a Friendly's meal. I did not get a Friendly's meal. I didn't even get a Subway meal.
In case you think I jest, or I'm exaggerating for comic effect as I have been known to do, here's the turkey and cheese wrap I ordered as photographic evidence. One slice of turkey, one slice of cheese that cost FIFTY CENTS, and a heaping handful of shredded lettuce.Do you know how much a bottle of soda is in the park? Two dollars and fifty cents. Water too. It was a crazy ripoff, and when we next visit, we will be packing the stroller with a cooler full of cold drinks, big delicious sammies, fresh fruit and lots of stuff for snacking, and perhaps some Little Debbie devil food creme pies. And some plums.Suddenly, Sister and I were retroactively a lot less annoyed at having to leave the park to go get the cooler from the car. It makes perfect sense now. We could have had lunch at Applebee's for that much money.
After lunch we hit the aquatic section of the park, none of which existed when we were kids. There's a splash park for kiddies that we passed on, but we went up to the top and rode the Tractor Ride. I now have photographic evidence that Bug is ready to drive Fr. Albert's tractor. See?Dave and I shared a ridiculously expensive bottle of water while they rode the Flying Farm and then we went down to the Whirling Whales, which is a lot like the Flying Dutch Shoes but without the lever that lets you control when you go up and down. Larry said it was like riding through Canterbury where the bumps come out of nowhere and you get that tickle in your pee pee. Rumor has it there used to be 7 orcas on this ride but one of them killed a trainer last year and was euthanized.
Anyway, when we were getting off the ride and heading down the hill, a savage tiger nearly attacked and ate us!Oh Baboo, you are the master of mayhem!
Back down the hill in Freaky Deaky Dutchland ("I'm from Holland! Isn't that weird?") we walked carefully and slowly to the windmill. Larry posed in the cutout of the little boy who saved Holland from a flood. You know the kid. The one who stuck his finger in a dyke. Where I'm from that shit will get you slapped unless your name is Alice and you own your own security company. The girls ran up the spiral staircase inside the mill and then back down to try their hand at milking the big plastic cow that lactates water.This is the cow where one year, in my excitement to grope a rubber udder, I ran (after being told not to run), caught the tip of my sandal on the cobblestones and damn near ripped my big toenail off. I wanted to cry. I wanted to fall on the ground like Peter Griffin and go "SSSSSSST...aaaaah. SSSSSSST...aaaaaah." But I didn't. I didn't mention it to anyone. Why? Because I was told not to run, I did, and therefore any injury resulting from my horseplay and shenanigans was my just desserts. I spared myself the lecture, sucked it up, choked back the tears, and I milked the fuck out of that cow. I have the pictures to prove it. In one I look like I'm stooping down to milk, but I am actually checking out my injured toenail.
Sister, to commemorate the occasion, offered to lie on the ground and let me milk it into her mouth, but there were just too many people around. Alas. I was pleased to see that the toenail-destroying cobblestones are gone and there's naught but blacktop around.
From the cow one can see the Bamboo Shoots log flume ride and all was lost at that point, the log ride being a fan favorite in our group. Larry took Bug on that, but Em balked at the last minute at getting splashed, so Baboo took her on the Flying Dutch Shoes while Tanta and Dave and I found a cool spot in the shade to sit and have some more precious, rationed water.
From Holland it's a steep hike up the hill to Bavarialand and Heidi's Grandfather's Cabin. First you stop at the Glockenspiel and take a spinning ride that will make you toss your Little Debbie's and overripe plums, and then you say hi to the goats as you pass their pen on the way to the little cabin. One of my favorite pictures of our many trips is currently MIA, but it's of me holding a wooden cut out of Heidi's dress standing in the door of the cabin while Robin peeks her little head out behind the door frame.The outfits aren't portable anymore so we didn't recreate that one. Although if I tried to hold the dress up in front of me now it'd probably look like I was wearing a necklace.
As you come down Heidi's mountain, there's a wee little wayside chapel that is modeled after the ones you find in the Bavarian alps. This sign is outside and it reads:"Deep within everyone's soul lies a secret place, a hideaway. Where rainbows appear and fantasy runs free. Beyond the limits of age, this park expresses fully to every visitor the wonder, the hopes and the dreams that live in childhood and truly remain forever. Storyland invites you to open your heart, to see the world simply, and to look at the grandeur of the universe with freshness and the excitement of youth.
"There are smiles; and where there are smiles, there is joy; and where there is joy there is love; and where there is love, there is the hand of God. Richard Chaput"
Well put, Richard.
The day for us always ended with the antique cars, which was Robin's favorite ride ever in the history of rides, and a train ride around the park on the Huff Puff and Whistle Railroad. When you're ten, driving your own car is just the best. When you're seeing it through the eyes of kids that you love, it's better yet.I'm glad Storyland is still around. I'm glad that I can take my kids there to experience the very same things I did and discover new things I hope they'll wax nostalgic about. Mostly I hope that they'll tell their kids about "the times Mama and Papa and Tanta and Baboo took us to Storyland," just as thinking about Aunt Elaine and her plummy cooler is making me a little puddly even as I type this.It's not the same little roadside attraction it used to be so many years ago, but even as the bigger, better, and faster rides attract a greater number of visitors, the heart of the place stays comfortingly the same.We left the Storybook world tired, thirsty, and a bit sunburned. Amusement park tired, if you will. I hope someday my kids make their kids pose in the giant picture frame before going back to the car, and that they're still good enough friends as adults to want to recreate it together.