Lost Journal: Amusement Park Ride “Brings Out” the Worst in Fifth-Grader

Journal entry: June 6, 1980 (age 11) — Amusement Park

I’m bummed out that my friends and I are about to graduate St. Thomas Aquinas Elementary School.  Most of us are going on to St. Patrick’s Middle School, but others are going to St. James, and a few real traitors are switching to one of the public schools.  But before we have to split up, our entire fifth-grade class got to go on a trip to Magic Valley Amusement Park.

Early this morning, we piled onto a chartered bus for the 2 ½-hour drive to Bushkill, PA.  The bus trip itself was fun.  We spent most of it singing “99 Bottles of Beer,” “On Top of Spaghetti,” and the funniest song on the radio these days, Joe Dolce’s “Shaddap You Face.”  We started to sing a recess favorite called “Miss Susie Had a Steamboat,” but the priests and nuns on board cut it off when it veered into “inappropriate” territory.  They would have been even more horrified if my friend, Paul Gentilini, had launched into his much-requested recitation of a schoolyard abomination called “Oom Chucka Willie.”

Once we arrived at the amusement park, it was a free-for-all.  Despite the best efforts of the teachers and parents that were our designated chaperones, the Class of 1980 spread out like conquering Huns.  My best friend, Peco Hull, and I headed straight for the concession booths.  At Ma Brown’s Candy Factory, we each downed about a dozen of the flavored-sugar-filled straws called Pixie Sticks.  Then we devoured representatives of our other three favorite food groups:  the pizza group, the Italian ice group, and the chili dog group.  We were about to get in line for our first ride of the day when I spotted the perfect capper for our healthful repast – an inviting stall labeled “Aunt Fanny’s Funnel Cakes.”  Peco said he was stuffed, and saved our place in line until I returned from dessert.

Old Glory” is one of those “scrambler” amusement park rides in which you sit in a two-man, cup-like car that speeds around a twisty track while rotating.  Approximately 2/19 of the way through the ride, I felt the sea within my gut threaten to crash over the railings of our tiny ship.  I called out to the guy operating the ride, begging him to hit the stop button.  Taking his blank, tobacco-chewing stare as a no, I unfastened my seat belt and turned around in my seat so that my face was hanging out the back of the car.  What followed was a widespread, Technicolor purging that Peco later referred to as a “Spirograph of Sick.”  During the event itself, Peco was busy laughing hysterically and cheering me on as I gave the rusty exoskeleton of Old Glory a new paint job.

Miraculously, none of our fellow riders were, um, affected.  Afterwards, many of them gathered excitedly around my gasping, trembling form, as I convalesced on a park bench.  There was a kind of awe at the biological havoc I had wreaked on the huge metal machine, which was now being hosed off by unhappy park employees.  Paul Gentilini was especially impressed.  “They had to shut the whole thing down, Tim.  That’s awesome!”

Tim Mollen
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