A column I wrote during the summer of 1980 reminded me of a difficult period of my life as a responsible, but maybe a bit overly cautious, even cowardly, parent as I guided my youngest son through area amusement parks and carnivals.
Adam was nine, almost ten, and the two older boys were old enough that summer trips to amusement parks with their parents weren’t on their “must do” lists anymore.
Adam was old enough to want to go on the most exciting rides, and I — who was elected by a committee of one to go with him — was old enough to want to stand by and watch others go on those exciting rides.
I wrote back then:
“C’mon Dad, you’re being a chicken.”
I had just lost my annual amusement park argument. It’s been happening for years. I don’t care for the words “chicken,” or “coward.” I prefer to look at it as a cautious intelligence.
I have never been able to convince my companions through the years that bravado at the amusement park does not make a man, and I have found myself hammered by The Hammer, torpedoed by the Torpedo, tornadoed by The Tornado, scrambled by The Scrambler, and whipped by The Whip.
The rides always seem to have nerve-calming names like those.
This summer it was an iron monstrosity affectionately known as The Wild Mouse, and the next thing I knew I was helplessly strapped in with a nine-year-old at my side.
“This is gonna be fun, Dad.”
“Dad, what are you doing down there? Sit up straight.”
“Open your eyes Dad, we haven’t even started yet.”
“You don’t have to hold on that tight, Dad. Your knuckles are all white.”
“You better take off your glasses so you don’t lose them when we go upside down.”
“Get back in, Dad, I was only kidding about the upside down part.”
“No, Dad, that wasn’t the worse part; we’re still on the way up.”
“There’s no emergency brake.”
“Didn’t I tell you that was going to be fun?”
“Dad, why are you walking funny like that?”
“I don’t think he’s smiling Mom, I think his teeth are like that so he won’t scream.”
We went to the Valley Field Days this week. That particular five days of fun is named for the Valley section of Syracuse, where I lived when I was born and for the first 21 years or so of my life. I live very close to that area again.
The Valley Field Days was an annual summer event for me and the kids I grew up with. We rode the rides, played the games, and ate the food every year and had a great time.
The Valley Field Days are held each year in mid-July at the same place they were then – at Meacham Field, which is around the corner from Valley – my high school.
When my wife and I went to the field days this week, we watched others ride the rides and play the games, but we joined them for the eating part.
Part way through my slice of pepperoni pizza I noticed that my wife seemed to be writing; she was scribbling on what looked to me to be a used, greasy napkin. I had forgotten that I had taught her to keep track of what the other people were doing at events such as this one, in case I needed the information later on.
Using the information that I rescued from between the greasy spots on my wife’s napkin I can tell you:
People were eating most of the favorites from years ago. Pizza seemed to be a top choice now as it was back then. There were hamburgers, hotdogs, and French fries, of course – all of the fifties’ favorites.
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