My first roller coaster experience was courtesy of the Thunderbolt in Coney Island New York sometime in the mid 1970’s; I took this “first ride” upon exiting a fun house which also no longer stands today. I recall I rode the Thunderbolt twice that day and never again did I see it operate; it faded into history; as did my journey on the Diving Bells at Astroland and my screeches on a Wild Mouse ride. Where did these come from? Who built them? Where did they go? What was that pile of rubble?
At amusement parks everyone seemed happy; rightfully so, with uplifting music, comfort food and laughter in the air. Living in a big city, it was nice to know there was a place where life magically disappeared behind smoke and mirrors, scary coaster drops and brash colors. When I learned there were more parks in the world I was further intrigued. Then came stories of family outings at other area parks and rides before my time, more outrageous, more colorful and of course more fabled than the ones in existence. It was these experiences and ideas that made my childhood imagination go wild and become the foundation for my life interest and the love of the Amusement Industry.
When I was able to earn income in my youth I was always plotting my next visit to Coney Island for a thrilling Cyclone ride; then came the year of Backfire when the Cyclone was never scarier. Of course, as I aged my scope widened. The next thing I knew, I wanted to visit other area parks just out of reach or even experience the rides at the newly opened Great Adventure; all the while the Thunderbolt sitting idle overlooking a deteriorating historical boardwalk.
My independence lead me to become a coaster junkie. I was always seeking newer, taller, faster more unique coaster experiences; often I’d pass up historical parks just to feed this need. If I did stop, it was just to boost my ride credits; sad. Thankfully along the way I was smart enough took pictures; not many and often not good; but enough images to have bragging rights as if anyone asked. Along the way I passed up Boblo Island, Crystal Beach, Boardwalk and Baseball, the CNE and many others for one reason or another. These parks and their rides would all be removed from the landscape just like the legendary Thunderbolt eventually would.
Now that’ I’ve “grown up”, I have realized how quickly of a changing industry the amusement world is and in many cases I saw changes "first hand". Today, I have a variety of friends around the world with whom I get to experience and critique the amusement world; but do I rarely mock, as someone is probably having fun even in the places where I prove to be most jaded. Who would ever think that parks like Geauga Lake, Williams Grove, Astroworld, Nara Dreamland, Opryland, Hunts Pier, Frontierland (UK) or Elitch Gardens would just fade away? Thankfully, I evolved from a Thrill seeker to somewhat of a documentarian. Along the way I have captured many memories that may never be obtained again through photographs, videos, postcards, pamphlets and experience. I will continue to document, collect and present as one really never knows what park or ride will be next to fall victim to a different commercial development, change, or the next big idea. With that, one never knows what history or resources may inspire an existing park to reach into the past as Astroworld, Great Escape, Wild World, Knoebels or Magic Springs has proven to do. Today, I host an ever expanding web site featuring experiences, collections and travels for those who might be curious about a parks past history or possibly the pile of rubble that stands before them; thanks for visiting and possibly participating.