Monday, July 12, 2010

A Visit to Utah's Only Real Amusement Park

Our family recently spent a day at the Lagoon amusement park. This was not a new adventure. Lagoon has been around for more than a century and I’ve been visiting the place since I was a little kid.

Back in those days they had no all-day passes. People came and went from the park at will. But everything you there did cost money. You’d buy a sheet of tickets. Each ride had a sign stating the number of tickets required. (That tradition continues to this day, despite the fact that it means nothing under the current system.)

After waiting in line, you’d rip off the specified number of tickets, hand them to the attendant, and climb on the ride. As kids we memorized the phrase uttered by almost all ride operators before starting the contraption: “Keep your arms, head, and legs inside the car at all times and have fun.”

Some of my favorite attractions from my younger days are long gone. I spent plenty of time at the Fun House, with its entry maze, tilted room, spinning tunnel, high slides, spinning disc, and spinning whirlpool. I was scared beyond belief the first time I actually rode the Roll-O-Plane. I rode the aging ride a few years ago, a few months before the frame cracked and the ride was deemed irreparable.

They used to have these swinging cages that were run by human power. I thought those were cool. There was the old rocket ride that sat where the Turn of the Century swings are today, and the paddle boats on the lake. The Hammer was fun. Or at least it was fun to get off and say that you’d ridden it. The old Haunted Shack walk-through spook alley was kind of fun.

When I was a teenager, they had a ride that was like a big spinning canister. You’d stand against the wall. The ride would spin faster and faster until centrifugal force pinned you against the wall. Then the floor would drop away and you’d be suspended against the wall. I liked the ride, but I guess it was too dangerous. I used to enjoy playing SkeeBall on the midway.

I’m glad that some attractions are gone. I hated those hand powered rail devices that were reminiscent of tricycles. I’d always get queasy when riding the Magic Carpet. It was a good thing that they eventually closed down the old swimming pool. It might have been grand in the 1940s, but it was decrepit by the time it closed. Lagoon-A-Beach water park is far better.

Today’s Wild Mouse is much better than the one it replaced. Today’s gas-powered go-carts are a far cry from the old center-rail gas-powered cars. But you have to pay extra to drive or ride in the newer go-carts. I also worry about the workers there. The fumes produced by the car engines are significant.

Many attractions from my younger days are still there. The old “white” roller coaster is still somewhat harrowing to ride because it is so bumpy. Some of today’s kiddie rides are the same ones I rode as a child.

Some attractions have changed over the years — some for the better and some less so. The kiddie land is much better than it was years ago. Pioneer Village has been improved. But some of what I thought were the best features of Dracula’s Castle have been replaced by much more benign elements. They used to do great street shows in Pioneer Village but you never see those anymore.

For the last dozen or so years, Lagoon has focused on fairly significant annual improvements. Some of the rides added during this time are intense. The Wicked coaster, installed in 2007, is highly innovative and exhilarating — and/or terrifying, depending on your point of view.

The interactive fountain was a good addition. Unlike when I was a kid, Lagoon now has so many attractions designed to get you wet that you’d be well advised to dress in anticipation of this before heading off to the park.

One of my fondest memories is when my grandmother rode the Colossus while visiting from Germany. She was in her 80s at the time. As instructed, she removed her glasses before the ride started. After we got off the ride, my brother asked her how she liked going upside down twice. “We were upside down?!” she exclaimed. “But I didn’t see it!” she complained. She had to ride again. Only this time she firmly held her spectacles in place so that she could see what was happening. She was thrilled.

Going to Lagoon with the family is easier for us than it used to be, now that we no longer have toddlers. We still end up splitting up because different ages of kids have different interests. It has been years since I returned from Lagoon without at least one child holding some kind of stuffed toy gleaned (at much higher cost than it was worth) from some midway game. Like we don’t have enough stuffed critters at our house.

Like all amusement parks, the food at Lagoon is pricey. Some might complain that it’s of marginal quality too. But it’s really not too bad, as far as amusement park food goes. Tickets for a ride pass are pretty pricey too. We don’t go to Lagoon without some kind of discount. Fortunately, discount coupons are fairly widely available.

Many of the people milling around the park are school-age kids. For the price of a couple of daily passes, parents can buy a season pass for their child. Many adolescents with such passes roam the park unsupervised in packs. Far be it from me to judge another’s parenting, but I would never get my child a season pass to Lagoon. The behavior I see among the kids with such passes is not something I’d want my children to emulate.

Perhaps the greatest pastime at Lagoon is watching other park patrons. An uncanny number of them appear to be current carnival side show attractions or possibly asylum escapees. It is not unusual to see youth dress and groom bizarrely. They are naturally at a stage where they are exploring their identities. I was, however, surprised at the number of fairly young girls that wore pierced nose jewels. I guess that the boys they hope to attract find this kind of thing attractive.

More eye opening are the seasoned adults that look like they’re still trying to rebel against their parents. While I saw no legal statute violated, some people that should know better certainly were in violation of the laws of good taste and common courtesy.

What possesses a 5’4” 300-lb woman in her late 40s to think that it’s acceptable to go out in public in shorts and a teeny-bopper shirt that brazenly exposes most of her, uh, ample upper body? And, honestly, some people that visit the water park should, before donning swimwear, consider the fact that others around them might have recently eaten.

Lagoon is a great place to go if you want to see what a tattoo is going to look like on wrinkly, puffy middle-aged skin. Or what body piercings are going to look like when you’re in your 50s. As I scanned the park, it seemed to me that the majority of the folks there were members of the dependent class rather than the productive class.

Still, we enjoyed our visit to the noisy amusement park. We were also happy to head home at the end of the day. I was particularly pleased to walk to the vehicle without having to tote a cross or sleeping child.


Anonymous said...

I loved the past few paragraphs. Laughed out loud. Although a lot of what you describe can now be seen by a trip to your favorite mass retailer.

Our family is planning a trip to Lagoon this year. It is still one of the more fun places in the state (at least from a kids perspective). And it brings back many memories for me.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Scott Hinrichs said...

Thanks. I hope you enjoy the trip. The weather was perfect for our recent excursion. I was even pretty much dry by the time we were driving home.

Bradley Ross said...

"members of the dependent class rather than the productive class"

This is an interesting speculation. I'm pondering the implications.

Scott Hinrichs said...

The fact that large numbers of those at the park were not yet adults helped fuel my speculation. We also visited on a day that would be a work day for most members of the productive class. I took vacation time, as many others present no doubt did as well.

My speculation was augmented by lifelong interactions with members of both the dependent and productive classes. While reliance on stereotypes is faulty, various behavior patterns are more likely to be displayed by members of one or the other of these groups.

Back in the dim ages when I was a loan collector for a bank, I was constantly amazed at people that could not make rent or loan payments, but that could somehow scrape together enough funds for amusements, tattoos, tobacco, and body piercings.

Bradley Ross said...

It is precisely the sentiment in the last paragraph of your comment that so intrigues me. How is it that they feel like they have money left over for frivolous things when there are mandatory housing and light bills that go unpaid.

I would love to read your response to this article (maybe in a separate post) which was a response to this article which mentions some of the stats about how many "luxury" items people in "poverty" have.

Scott Hinrichs said...

While luxury is in the eye of the beholder, as a loan collector, I constantly dealt with people that found ways to afford non-essentials while regularly having problems covering essentials. On top of that, it used to chagrin me to discover that many of my, uh, clients were dependent on some form of non-earned assistance.

I saw much of the same when we helped manage some rental properties my in-laws owned that were situated in low rent districts. It was not at all uncommon for us to have renters on welfare that could afford cable or satellite TV (which I have never had) and new big-ticket toys for the kids, while being unable to make rent.

Don't get me wrong; we did have some very good renters. But these people were usually just passing through on their way to a better place. While that's good, landlords hate losing renters that actually pay their rent and help maintain the property.

I guess that some folks simply have poor personal and/or financial management skills. They've got messed up priorities. Sometimes that's a temporary situation; sometimes not. People in their 50s that act like they're still rebelling against their parents likely fall in the latter category.

As for the articles you referenced, I think that both authors have points but that both are also myopic. The poverty statistics in question are extremely skewed by several factors. For example, we include many retirees that have little income, but that are otherwise decently situated. We include college students that aren't truly poor. They have little or no income but they will soon be out of the "poverty" class. The statistics do not count government assistance, gifts, and withdrawals from savings as income, while it really doesn't matter where money comes from when it is spent.

The skewed poverty statistics paint a highly inaccurate picture of those that are truly lacking in our society. I'm not sure what good it does to argue over such a bizarre caricature of reality.

As with all socially/politically charged matters, each of the two authors has a strong viewpoint and each draws on evidence he believes will bolster his arguments. Both articles are aimed at generating political thought and action. The purpose of most political activity is to aggregate power, not to explore truth or achieve real solutions to the issues framed in the debate.

In my opinion, those that are perpetually in the dependent class but that are otherwise capable, likely feel stuck in their situations. Many of these people likely would prefer to be members of the productive class. We ought to do what we personally can to help those that are willing to develop the thought patterns and habits that will lead to success. The unwilling should be cut loose from the apron strings. And the incapable should properly be assisted.

Our public policies rarely seem to effectively achieve such outcomes. And most ideologically slanted commentary about it does little to help either.

Bradley Ross said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts!