Sunday, July 29, 2007

The Buckeye Riviera

This morning I was glancing through Ohio's Greatest Hometown Newspaper, The Columbus Dispatch".

One of my favorite columns is written by Mike Harden. Mike's speciality for the past several years has been to ferret out news items of special interest that would not normally pass the muster as normal news. Besides Harden, the Dispatch has a couple of additional columnists who take a look at items of interest from a different angle and through a different lens.

I love hard news and enjoy a great political debate. Yet seldom do I find a Harden clunker. He for years has presented a different side of life outside the realm of if it bleeds, it leads.

And no, I'm not partial because Mike interviewed me in 2001 when my former employer was shuting its doors. My enjoyment of his work was in place long before that.

This mornings column was about a person who has made it thier passion to be something of a historian of the old Buckeye Lake Amuesment Park. The park is a long forgotten piece of Ohio history. Parks like Buckeye Lake dotted the Ohio countryside as well as in the cities and were popular destination points until the mega parks began and easy highway access to other points began to snuff out their reign.
Buckeye Lake brings back great memories for me. It was the place where in the 1950's (and maybe beyond) my fathers employer had their company picnic. I can remember riding the rides and enjoying the ice cream they gave away to the kids on the midway. It was the first time I had icecream in something other than a cone or dish.

And yes, I remember the entry portal seen in the photo where Route 79 took you after you left the National Road. And while I don't remember Sally Flowers from her years associated with the Moores merchandise stores as depicted in the marquee, I do remember her being on television on WTVN channel 6 with the "Dialing for Dollars" program cohosting with Gene Fullen.

But the most vivid memory was of the Buckeye Lake roller coaster. I never until this day knew it was called "The Dips". The coaster amazed me. It's large to my eyes wooden structure made it the top of my "must ride" list.
The other aspect that captured my imagination was that the coaster after the first hill went out over the water (that my parents always said was dirty) for several hills and dips before returning to unload and reload with a fresh set of people seeking a thrill.

I cried and begged my parents to let me ride the coaster. I don't remember whether it was my mother or father who took me on the ride. But I was scared out of my wits and was crying when I disembarked.

The funny part about all this is the coaster closed after an accident in 1958. I was born in 1955, meaning that at most, I was three years old when I rode the coaster. Even more strange, they apparently let a toddler on an adult coaster. Can you imagine that happening today?

The park continued to operate into the early 60's and coaster stood but remained unused until time, lack of maintenance and weather caused it to collaspe.

My last memory of going to the park was in the late mid 60's and swimming in the pool. It at that time was one of the few remaining remenents of the parks. The pool too is now long gone.

The photos are not mine, but belong to this website. But oddly, they captured the photo memories in my mind.

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