Friday, December 19, 2008

The Rocket

Playland Park was an old fashioned amusement park near downtown San Antonio, which opened in 1947. I have an incredibly fond history with Playland Park.

I remember being about five or six years old and being amazed at their signature ride, a wooden roller coaster called The Rocket. To me, it looked like the most terrifying ride in the world.

I remember my dad and I watching the coaster and him explaining how it would gain enough speed from the first drop to make it coast up to the top of the second hill. I just thought that was the coolest thing ever.

My dad had grown up riding this same coaster and wanted to take me on it but there was no way I was going to get on it. Besides, I didn’t see any little kids riding it – only teenagers and the like – so I told my dad I would ride it when I was nine.
To me, nine years old seemed like “big kid” and, surely, I’d be brave enough to ride it then.

(I wasn’t)

Flash forward to 1972.

I was in the eighth grade and my mom took me and my friends to Playland Park for the day. All my friends were having a blast on The Rocket, but still, I was too afraid to conquer it. However, I got my best friend, Tim, to take my little pocket camera on board and snap this photo as it crested the lift hill.

A few days later when I got the photos developed, I was just amazed at the sight, looking down the first plunge of the terrifying ride. Frankly, I’m pretty amazed that the photo turned out this good, especially since a cheap little pocket camera had been used.

I love this photo.

Flash forward to 1980.

I was a junior in college and some friends of mine and I were in San Antonio for the weekend. Somehow, I convinced them to go to Playland Park for the day.

There, at the end of the midway was The Rocket, the source of my chickening out year after year. Finally, I rode the thing and just loved it.

I think I rode it about five times that day.

It’s a good thing I did, for the very next year, Playland Park closed forever and was abandoned. For several years after that, I’d drive past and see my old friend, The Rocket, becoming more and more weather beaten in the weeds.

Here’s a photo of what’s left of Playland Park in San Antonio.



I don't think there's anything more sad than an abandoned amusement park.

Epilogue: Strangely enough, the defunct old coaster was given new life. It was purchased by a small amusement park in Pennsylvania, dismantled piece by piece, refurbished and re-opened as The Phoenix. (A very appropriate name) It operates to this day at Knoebel’s Amusement Park in Elysburg, Pennsylvania.

Here's a photo of it after having been resurrected as The Phoenix:

I hear it still provides one hell of a ride.
One of these days, I’d love to go there and ride my old friend.

To me, it will always be The Rocket

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4 Comments:

At 6:18 PM , Blogger Miss Healthypants said...

Awww, so sentimental of you. *smiles*

 
At 6:19 PM , Blogger Pati Mc said...

Well, Buck, you are going to love this one...

Not only am I the hugest roller coaster fan in the history of roller coaster fans, but I live not too far from Knoebel's and I, my friend, have ridden "The Phoenix" formerly "The Rocket". I cannot even believe it!

Also Hersheypark is less than 30 minutes from my door and their famous wooden coaster "The Comet" is a dream as well. My history with "The Comet" parallels yours to an alarming degree. There is nothing like an old fashioned wooden coaster. (I pride myself in being a purist.)

Color me flabbergasted. Thanks for this awesome tale and for allowing me to relive a lovely one of my own. Aw!

 
At 9:50 PM , Blogger John said...

Go on take a field trip once the ice thaws. Thanks for sharing this sweet memory.

 
At 10:07 PM , Blogger Lorraine said...

Awwww....

 

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