I’ve been delving into files on my old computer lately and have been finding a few things I wanted to post to the website, this one is from the July of 2002… About a week or so ago I turned my attention to a bookcase that houses all of my most important reference books, mostly science fiction & architecture. Mixed in amongst that stuff were some unexpected treasures….like a pristine fold-out map of Six Flags Over Georgia from 1981. [Want to see a bigger version? Check out the 12MB rough photo composite I’ve uploaded to my Flickr account!]
What a flood of memories this thing has unleashed!
Like the smell of fresh asphalt.
If you’re ever with me when the smell of fresh asphalt is hanging in the air you should move quickly to get a glimpse of my face….my eyes will be slightly out of focus and I may be grinning. You see, when I was a kid, the smell of Fresh Asphalt meant that you were at Six Flags back when it wasn’t all about fast rides and marketing tie-ins. It was about good old-fashioned red white & blue Yankee Doodle Dandy Bicentennial FUN. Every Spring they’d have repaired or expanded the old parking lot and the final anticipation of going to the amusement park was that tram ride across the black, black, black steaming hot asphalt of the parking lot.
Cruising toward the main gates you could hear the terrifying click-click-click of a rollercoaster grinding its way uphill…followed moments later by screams that came blazing out of the trees just as the main gates hove into view. The main gates were always a drag for us kids…that final bit of monetary bickering at the entrance seemed so petty when we were standing in the shadows of the entrance. I don’t mean for this to sound blasphemous, but I can’t help thinking that if ever I make it to Heaven I will somehow expect to see the Six Flags Main Entrance water fountain, complete with six giant columns and full of shiny pennies.
The first thing we’d always do would be to ride the Firestone Antique Cars. After all, kids driving cars…what could be better? We always discussed new theories on how to make the car jump the track so we could head out into the parking lot. We thought long and hard on this subject. We were idiots.
Me and my friend Danny Carter always liked seeing Buford Buzzard razz the crowd, and somehow it always turned out to be a bunch of people from Alabama that Buford would home in on with his insults. I’m pretty sure that they were stupid jokes he was making, but oh how we loved that buzzard’s wit.
He was our Shecky Greene, our George Carlin…he was the voice of a generation. And yes, we were easily amused by an insult flinging puppet. But let me make sure you understand, we were idiots….albeit happy idiots.
If the phrase “Don’t go in the swamp!” rings a bell with you it means that you remember my favorite ride, the Monster Plantation. Audio-animatronic monsters and catchy music made it fun, but the fact that you always managed to steer your boat into the creepy dark swamp made it irresistible. The cool air wafting off of the softly lapping, super-chlorinated water, the clunk and hiss of pneumatically activated creatures, the click and whir of happy monsters all combined to send us floating down something we knew had to be one of the absolute coolest places in the solar system. And we were, of course, totally correct. It was cool.
We always looked forward to riding a twisty, spinning ride called Mo-Mo The Monster, which has been relocated several times over the years. We’d also make it a point to go spinning in the Drunken Barrels near the Great American Scream Machine, but not if we’d eaten recently. That lesson had already been learned by each of us at some point. Later on, usually in the afternoon, we’d find ourselves pinned to the wall of a giant spinning room (what was that thing called?) that helped teach us the wonders of centrifugal…..or centripetal force….or whatever they want you to call it now. All we knew was that we were stuck to a wall just like Spider Man, if Spider Man could stick to walls with his butt….actually, I don’t think that’s one of his powers. Spinning rides were cool.
This old map shows something called the “Casa Magnetica”?, and I’m thinking that this must be the same attraction that had me falling over like a drunken rodeo clown when me and my friend Daryl Mann decided to try it out one day. They’d built a Spanish style house, but nothing was plumb inside….and by “not plumb” I mean totally, insanely wacko crooked; entire rooms were pitched 15 degrees off level! BUT, the walkway leading through the building was perfectly level. The resulting visual presentation was incredibly disorienting. Imagine walking through a house behind a line of people who all look like they’re leaning over so far they should be falling…but they don’t. All it took was a willing suspension of disbelief on our part and the next thing we knew we were in a Warner Brothers cartoon. Up and down didn’t seem to work properly and our inner ears went ahead and checked out for an early lunch. Crazy staircases and singing chickens laying eggs that rolled uphill to the strains of foot-stomping Mexican music left us laughing hysterically by the time we managed to crawl out of that place. It was an early precursor to being drunk.
I remember on several occasions pretending that I was brave enough to ride the TALLEST of the two log flumes (the one where you went through a giant log with an equally giant lumberjack standing on top, chopping away) which WAS fun all the way up to the point where you got to the big giant rubber conveyor belt. Then it stopped being fun. It took me many years to interpret the sensation of plummeting down a steep incline with no visible means of stopping as “fun”.
We would sometimes be forced to ride the old-fashioned steam train through the woods and wonder why our parents enjoyed that ride so much. Something about tired feet……obviously a ruse of some sort, we knew that your feet never hurt!
Oh, and I should never forget Jean Ribault’s Riverboat Ride, chock full of Indians on the warpath being shot at by settlers with guns. Or was it the other way around? The best part was the rubber hand forever twirling in a whirlpool of watery death. You hadn’t been to Six Flags if you hadn’t seen the hand spinning around and around.
The Dolphin Show! I’d forgotten all about that. I still remember how much fun we had watching the dolphins and the high dives. How could I have forgotten the dolphins…and The Castle! When I was young it was a haunted castle, later on it was something else….I can’t remember exactly WHAT. I still have a very early memory of about three scary monsters rising up from a watery pool. Maybe a flying bat. Maybe. That’s a memory from a really early visit.
The bumper cars were even better than the antique car ride up front, because we were REALLY STEERING! Sometimes I just wanted to drive around and enjoy the experience, but soon enough somebody would broadside me and the next thing I knew I was vengefully slamming away at people left and right. Man that was fun. As an adult I’ve been tempted to do it during rush hour, but I always stop myself in time (stupid car insurance!).
I’ll never forget being flabbergasted at having been talked into riding The Great Gasp. Hadn’t I promised myself not to endanger my own life? Wasn’t that my deal with myself? Didn’t anybody understand how far above the ground 200 feet was? That ride made me ask a lot of questions…and make a lot of deals with God. Funny how as I got older it seemed they’d lower it a bit every year…
I remember being bored silly during all that stupid singing and dancing they did at the Crystal Pistol…but boy did the grownups sure seem to love it. We’d have been happy if they’d left us at the Chevy Show all day long instead. We just knew that if they’d run a rollercoaster through the Crystal Pistol the singing and dancing would be so much more bearable.
Six Flags only had a few rollercoasters (the Scream Machine and the little Dahlonega Mine Train) for the longest time, but by the time of this map they’d added the Mindbender. Yet another rollercoaster that my friends had to talk me into riding. The Wheelie was a Big Deal back then, now I wonder if they still have it at the park. Nowadays, I understand that they have five or six rollercoasters and several other high-speed rides….rides which would suit me just fine now that I’m older and more foolhardy.
In fact, maybe I need to go to Six Flags this year….
Maybe it’s time to make some new Six Flags memories.
You know, I haven’t smelled fresh asphalt in ages….
Postscript: One of my friends, Alice Nisbet, remembered some other stuff about Six Flags…like how you’d develop a crush on people in those endlessly criss-crossing lines for all the rides, trading furtive glances every time you passed the person.
I remember my friend Daryl would wait until the line stopped moving then pull a mean (but funny) trick on one of us. After ten seconds or so of talking to whichever one of us was farthest along in line he’d shift his focus beyond us and take a step forward…the unspoken signal that the line has moved. The lead person would whirl around and plow right into the back of the stranger in front of them…..because the line hadn’t moved an inch. If you were the person who got tricked you were mad, but for everybody else it was a riot.
Also, Alice made me remember those weird popsicle things on the plastic sticks…didn’t they have collectibles at the tops…the part you had to eat the popsicle from? I think that they did.