LJWorld.com weblogs In the Dark
No More Joy in Joyland
...the taste of sno cones, cotton candy, and popcorn mingled with late summer dust in the air......the smell of grease, the creaking of metal and wood, turning round and round and repeatedly glimpsing the grin of the clown......waiting, holding dad's hand, summer sun beating down making sweat trickle down my back until the cowboys finally duel it out on "Main Street"......feeling that rock of fear in my stomach burst into a thousand fragments of excitement as I make it onto the Tilt-a-Whirl, alone, for the first time......evening creeping slowly in until the incandescent bulbs burst to life, outlining the gentle curves of the white wooden roller coaster...I grew up in Wichita. I was a kid in the 70s. Like those of my generation and those a generation or two before me, I remember Joyland in its prime. I read today in the LJWorld that this once-beloved place where my father and I spent many a summer afternoon and evening is now overgrown with weeds and the target for vandals. It is soon to be sold and most likely razed for an office park.I remember hearing, though I cannot confirm, that the roller coaster was one of the last operating wooden coasters in the US. My friends and I congratulated ourselves every time we survived the coaster without catastrophe, considering all the stories of dry rot and termites we heard over the years. There was also the rumor of the reckless teen who stood up at the top and fell to his or her death. I think this cautionary tale had more impact on our behavior than those horrid accident films we would see later in driver's ed.I can't ever forget the mechanical maniacal grin of Louie the Clown, forever in motion, keeping time to the Wurlitzer at the carousel. Louie is apparently missing, whereabouts unknown, the object of a lawsuit. Even though he haunted me as a child, I hate to think of Louie being dismantled or discarded, that painted grin chipped or just...gone.Over the years I have been to many amusement parks. However, any time I have a dream set in an amusement park, it always resembles my faded memories of Joyland. I haven't lived in Wichita for 20 years, and only go back once or twice a year, so it's not as if this news is life-changing. But somehow, knowing that the place is going, going, gone is yet another reminder of how impermanent the past truly is. Unsettling to think a fixture of my childhood no longer exists.