Thursday, August 03, 2006

Mountain Park

This is a painting by Scott Prior. It is copyrighted to him. I hope that he does not mind that I am using it. (Scott and I went to UMass together, back when his wife was someone else and my husband was GSC. We used to all hang out back in the day.) Now he is this even more amazing artist, a neo-realist. His work always just took my breath away, and we all had the feeling early on that Scott would always be creating wonderful art. What you see in the painting is an image of the now-closed family amusement park in Holyoke, Massachusetts called "Mountain Park".

Every year my Dad's factory union would have a summer outing at Mountain Park, and the park would be closed from 8am-1pm to anyone else. Union members bought an entry ticket for each family member and got unlimited food and beverages, a booklet of tickets good for rides and midway games, raffle tickets and prize giveaways. It was a swell day.

Every year I would bring my friend Sandy and we would try to beat the odds. We'd throw bamboo hoops over ruffled glass bowls in vain attempts to win a goldfish. Or we would pitch dimes toward tilted shotglasses on a revolving table to try to win a watch that must have been worth all of two bucks. Or, we'd put a dime in a machine that was a big glass box. Inside the box were all manner of toys and goodies. The object was to use the levers that were external to the box to manipulate a claw-shaped grabbing device - and to get that device to grab the treasure and drop it down an exit chute. It always looked so easy. It never was.

Mountain Park had a series of lovely rides - a kiddie roller coaster and a huge monster roller coaster. The sound of the cars swirerving down the tracks and the distant sound of screaming was a constant background sound against the sound of the magical merry-go-round. And oh, what a wonderful merry-go-round it was.
There were the traditional painted horses that went up and down, but in the inner ring there were 2 fabulous swan chariots with benches facing eachother inside the swan's back. The very center of the merry-go-round had the mechanical orchestra-works, but also a series of wonderfully painted panels in bright colors depicting scenes from the turn of the century -- Gibson girls out for a stroll, country boys out fishin' with their dog. When the park closed, the town salvaged and restored the 100 year old merry-go-round.

I was so happy to hear that -- to know that some vestigial shred of that simple place still existed. Mountain Park was always small. The rides were never that flamboyant. There was chipped paint on the tiny midway, and the dodg'em cars had seen better days. But to a young girl it all just seemed exotic and compelling. The view from the ferris wheel seemed so vast and expansive that I was convinced I had seen the far flung patches of the world from up there.

I miss those innocent times - before AIDS and Bush and Vietnam and Global Warming and meth labs and 12 year old addicts and ..and...and...


Anonymous Pat Z. said...

Mata, What a beautiful memory to retreat to when the world and all it's problems seem to overwhelm.
I have a few of those also that help to keep me sane.

8:27 AM  
Anonymous Jim said...

Thanks for the memories, Mata. This afternoon started off with an email from my childhood best friend, who I haven't seen in ages. He searched the web to find my email address, after he had been looking at a couple of web sites about Mountain Park, which brought back fond memories. Since his email, I have been reliving my own Mountain Park memories (thanks to the web), as a framed poster of the Mountain Park carousel adorns the wall of my office. Why do I feel the urge to go up to the Mountain and walk among the ghosts where that wonderful and always exhilarating place once thrived? I think I'd bawl like a baby. Will anyone ever feel this way about 6 Flags?

3:09 PM  
Blogger Mata H said...

Jim, I know exactly how you feel -- I am sure the ruins have been carted away by now, but I feel the same urge to just walk around the old tiny little midway. It just used to feel so big and exciting. It had tons more charm than Riverside Park -- and you are right, 6 Flags will never have the same sweetness.

6:37 PM  

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