Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Vacation long ago, go

The Summer of 1974, my family and I had been waiting in our green station wagon for our turn to get into Silver Dollar City. We knew we were close because we had passed the horse ranch which my sister and I always wanted to visit, "we aren't here to ride horses we are here to go to Silver Dollar City", but knew would never happen. We loved Silver Dollar City. We loved the walk up to the tram stop in parking lot C, we loved seeing the long green snake pull up, "howdy folks, welcome to Silver Dollar City, Please wait until the tram comes to a full and complete stop before loading, watch your head." The Silver Dollar City was the first of many rides that I looked forward to. I can still remember the heat of those metal seats burning my legs as I slid into the bench, scrunching close to my Dad. Mom never let me ride against the edge because she was afraid I would fall to my death...on a tram going no more than five miles an hour!
There weren't many rides compared to Six Flags (ST. Louis) or Worlds of Fun (Kansas City) but they were great. Sis and I always made our way to every one full excitement and anticipation. There was: Fire in the hole, Run a way mine train, Rube Dugan's Diving Bell, and the Train. Of course, you can't forget Marvel Cave which wasn't really a "ride" but totally cool to walk through. Mom never stepped foot in the Cave, Dad had to go. Mom just shopped while we did the cave.

The center of town was cool because we could ride a real mule driven stagecoach, or go through Tom Sawyer's tree house (which is closed), and stood mesmerized and all keyed up because the Hatfield's and McCoy's were at it again. I really believed the story and always had a tinge of fear that those guns were loaded. The Sheriff wanted to deputize me and I was reluctant because I just wasn't ready to defend the city against the bad guys. I remember well when the Plunge came to SDC and it was just awesome! I didn't care about getting wet back then, now I do care-A LOT! Plus the apple butter house was right by it and you could sample fresh apple butter--HOLY COW that stuff was good.
Vacations for my family were always an adventure because something had to go wrong. Thinking back it was as if our car knew we were getting ready to go somewhere and decided it would just breakdown. We always packed a cooler with bologna and bread, mustard for Dad, and drinks chips. We never ate out on the road, Dad didn't want to stop he just wanted to get there. We would stop for critical bathroom breaks (most of the time on the side of the road) because I had reached the point of no return. On our only trip to Florida, which we drove to, my family loves to point out that I had--HAD to stop in every state to, "leave my mark." When nature calls you just can't tell it to leave a message.
Silver Dollar City meant funnel cakes. I just love funnel cakes and looked forward to eating them every time I knew we were going. There is one place in the park that I prefer to get my cakes from and don't really thing the other places do justice, it has to be that place. It also meant salt water taffy. Watching that taffy machine crank out fresh batches of taffy just brought joy to my heart. Plus, they give you free samples and for a boy who wasn't allowed to get souvenirs or was given spending money--free samples meant a lot! We did by the souvenir glass mugs because it meant cheaper refills. They have since become plastic mugs, but the glass ones were really cool. SDC has unfortunately become a fan of huge skillets that cook a goulash kind of conglomeration, which I am OUT on-Totally! I just can't stand the smell or sight of these huge vats of mixed up food stewing away. This picture does not do justice to the "real" sight of such a thing. I can't really describe it other than to say it looks like some took a compost buckets contents and decided to cook it over an open fire and add stagnant swamp water to it. BLECH!
We also ate lunch in the lost Mine, I don't think that I've eaten in any other place at SDC--ever. The Mine is a cool place, underground below the Fried Chicken place. You eat on tin plates and drink out of tin cups. The cornbread is just the best I've ever had. It is a buffet, but it feels like a cafeteria. Love the Mine. The Mine also had a special table which slowly crept up as you ate. By the time you were through eating it was about four or five inches higher than before. It was really fun to watch people who didn't know the table grew and see them try to fight off the feeling that they are losing their minds. So cool. By the way the picture to my right, taken from the SDC website does not--NOT portray the true visual experience of the Mine because the food does not look that good.
Hannah's Ice Cream Parlor is a true old fashioned ice cream parlor that I love. The blackberry ice cream would make anyone decide it's ok to be fat! I'm telling you it is incredible. They make the stuff right there on the sight in huge ice cream churns. They look just like the wooden bucket ice cream makers we all know, only super sized to 10 gallon not one gallon. So cool to see these things churning out such delectable confections--I'm a huge fan of ice cream. Just love it and Hannah's is the best place for Ice Cream ever!
Around 1980 or so I had a brush with celebrity. I will never forget walking by Grandpa Jones in the Park, "Hi Grandpa!", "Howdy son." He said, "Howdy son" to me--Me! Silver Dollar City had just built this huge amphitheater and showcased the Darlin Band from Andy Griffith fame. Grandpa Jones had come as a special guest. So cool to see a real live celebrity. The amphitheater called Echo Hollow opened after the park closed which meant you could stay a little longer and then go enjoy a good show. I loved the fact that the band that played with Andy Griffith was actually playing for me Live! They were really great and we always enjoyed the show. I don't' know who does the show now, but for the longest time we went to see the Darlin's at SDC. When I was a kid the end of the park was Echo Hollow but it has since grown on beyond.
We just wrapped up a trip to Branson and SDC where we took Teensy and the boys and it is just as I remember it. So much has changed and the park has really grown up, but so much is still the same as I remember it when I was a kid. Knowing that my boys can walk the same paths that I walked at their age and ride the same rides (some have been removed though, but that kind of ruins the nostalgia) is awesome. We had Teensy last year when we went to SDC and didn't know it. This year she rode in a stroller and not in her Momma belly! I got tickled at Kendra because she commented that, "these hills aren't as bad this year as they were last." There are some really steep hills you have to walk, and when you are pregnant and don't know it it's really bad!
I had the same feeling of melancholy when we left the park on Friday, a week ago, as I did when we left park in 1974 and years following. When would I get to come back to this wonderland and enjoy the freedom of fun. Waiting another year just didn't seem fair to me. These memories wrap around me like a warm blanket and just keep my soul cozy. Silver Dollar City is a good, good friend.


Tracy said...

that was fun - i've never heard of SDC (i'm such a northeastern girl i guess... just ignorant right? LOL) we didnt have places like that where i grew up - well somethinglike it but amusement parks were different waaaay back in the day as i recall. no big themes - just rides.
i cracked up at the ice cream- it being so good you'd decide it was okay to be fat! lol.. no chocolate in it neither...
thanks will - i loved your trip down memory lane!