Note: It is 1959. John’s love child, from his army days, Beth, his daughter, has come over from England to live with him. John introduces Carl to Beth and they start dating.
On our third date I took Beth to my favourite place of my youth, Riverview Amusement Park. Even the entrance was stunning. You walked under a huge archway about sixty feet long and thirty feet high.It was painted red, white and blue, the colours of : Old Glory”, the American flag! Coloured bunting was draped across the midway. The man selling balloons was right at the gateway to the park. He was as colourful as his balloons, with his candy stripped jacket! He looked like he might float away with his big bunch of balloons!
“ I’m so excited, Carl,” said Beth, glutching my hand.
“ This is just the entrance, wait until you see the rides and attractions!”
I paid our admission and through the turnstiles we went. The crowds were streaming in under the bright sunshine. I could smell the hot dogs and onions on the grill at the food tent.
“ Smell that, Beth, dogs and onions, we’ll have one later.”
“ Cotton candy! Cotton candy!” the vendor shouted.
“ Want some cotton candy, Beth?”
“ Oh, yes please, in England we call it candy floss.”
It just melted in our mouths.
“ Well, Beth,we’ve got a lot to get through today, so let’s start with the “ Tunnel of Love”.
We jumped into the rickety boat and entered the dark tunnel under the big red heart hanging over the entrance. I stole a kiss from Beth, she giggled and it echoed through the darkness.
When we came out into the light, Beth said, “ You’re a sneak, Carl Willis, I wasn’t prepared for that kiss, but I enjoyed it anyway!”
“ Well, at least you didn’t get bitten by the Black Widow Spider!”
“ What!” Beth was wide-eyed.
“ Just a rumour, I think,” I laughed.
“ The Greyhound next.”
As we approached the Greyhound rollercoaster, I played experienced coaster rider!
“ Now Beth, the Greyhound is known as the “ beginner” coaster, it has smaller hills. My father took me on it when I was eight years old.”
“ So Carl, we’re starting tame and working our way up”
“ That’s right, you’ve got the idea.”
We jumped into one of the cars, it had a safety cage over it. It resembled a silver train I put my arm around Beth and off we went up the first hill. Beth let out a little whimper when we headed down.
“ Well, that was a nice smooth first hill with just a little excitement. But I enjoyed it,” said Beth.
A few more small hills and that was the end of the ride.
“ Guess your age, sweetheart?”
It was the clown at the “ Guess Your Age” booth.
“ Oh Carl, do you think he can guess my age?”
“ Well, let’s see!”
I paid the twenty-five cents and the clown started scrutinizing Beth from all angles. Beth was giggling away!
“ I’ll have to guess within two years,” said the clown.
He started mumbling to himself.
“ Twenty years old,” he said.
“ You’re wrong,” laughed Beth.
The clown’s painted face went from smile to grimace!
“ Well sweetheart, before you pick your prize, I’ll have to see I.D. with your birth date.”
Beth showed the clown her I.D. and selected her prize.
“ You looked older than seventeen,” he snarled.
Beth picked a chain necklace with the emblem “ Riverview, Chicago” attached to it. I put it around Beth’s neck and fastened it.
We started walking and kicking the saw dust that covered the entire midway.
“ What’s next?”
“ It’s Aladdin’s Castle.”
“ What’s that?”
“ It’s the Fun House, filled with mirrors, smoke and slanting floors.”
The huge building had a big grinning image of Aladdin over the entrance. I paid the admission and we entered the first room full of crazy mirrors. We had a great time looking at our distorted images.
Then came the rolling barrels. You had to walk through, but we both fell down half way laughing.
Next the tilted rooms. We were getting dizzy now, but it was great fun.
At one point there was an outdoor balcony platform that connected the sections of the building. On this balcony the designers had built in a series of high pressure air jets. As the gals would be walking over the jets, the operators would release them. It was hilarious! Beth screamed! The air jets went off and skirts and petticoats went flying upward. Crowds would gather by the fence out front just to watch the show!
We came out of Aladdin’s Castle laughing uncontrollably.
“ Carl, you knew about those air jets, you devil you.”
“ Nice legs,” I smiled, sheepishly.
Down the midway we went hand in hand.
“ There’s our next ride, Beth,” I pointed up two hundred feet above us.
“ The Pair-o-Chutes! Oh no, Carl, that looks too scary,” cried Beth.
“ Come on, Beth, where’s your sense of adventure?”
Beth was looking up to the top of the tower. She was clearly nervous.
“ How does it work,Carl?”
“ You see that chute going up now?”
“ Notice the four guide cables attached to it, they stop it from floating away. The central cable is for hoisting it up.”
Beth was biting her bottom lip!
“ Now, when it gets to the top it hits an uncoupling device and down it comes, opened up.”
The admission paid, Beth and I climbed the stairs to the swing chair that held two people.
“ Just enough room for both of us, Beth.”
Beth stared straight ahead. The operator fastened us in with a broad leather belt.
The wind began to blow! The “ up” button was pushed and we were slowly lifted skyward. It would take a couple of minutes to get to the top. The Chicago skyline was before us. The upward ride was scary for some, but very enjoyable for others.
“ Isn’t it a beautiful view, Beth? You can see quite a distance over Chicago, to the river.”
“ Carl, I feel the flapping of the parachute in the wind. We’re vibrating!”
“ Just part of the excitement, Beth.”
Looking down, as the people on the ground were getting smaller, I noticed two men aiming binoculars up at us.Were they the same two that had been harassing Beth and myself on our last two dates?
All of a sudden a loud “ CLICK” sounded and the chute was released! Beth was screaming during the free fall
“ Carl, I’ve got butterflies in my tummy,” shouted Beth.
The chute opened and we drifted down. “Ker-Plunk”, we hit the shock absorbers at the bottom.
“ Hold on, Beth,” I yelled.
We hit the shocks with such force that the springs stretched to their full limits. Then they recoiled with a force that bounced us in the seat violently! We were very wobbly when we got on solid ground again.
“ Oh, Carl, that was out of this world!”
“ It’s an exciting ride with the slow ascent to dizzying heights, the free fall, the fast descent and the great bounce at the end. It takes your breath away!”
I didn’t want to worry Beth about the two men with binoculars. I was looking around to see if I could spot them. But they had disappeared!
“ Well, Beth, here’s our last ride. The largest rollercoaster in the park!”
“ How high is the first hill, Carl?”
“ About ninety feet, then a steep drop going fifty mph with heavily banked turns.”
Beth just stared in disbelief as she listened to the screams coming from the cars whizzing past.
“ When we were kids, this was the ride that separated the men from the boys,” I said, boldly.
“ Carl, the cars are completely open!”
“ Yes, isn’t it great? You’re not locked in your seat, there’s room for movement, just a hand bar over your lap!”
The sign said, “ The Bobs, 17 hills of thrills!”
I paid the admission and we walked up a steep ramp to reach the boarding platform. The walk up felt like the march of the condemned to execution!
We got into a car and put the bar over our lap and waited. The coaster train started it’s ascent. Click-a-ty Clack, went the chain link pulling the train of cars to the top of the first hill. As we neared the top, all of a sudden a figure jumped up in the car behind us and hit the bar across our lap with an iron pipe and dislodged the bar and it fell loose!
The coaster went over the top, we were hanging on to the sides of the car with all our might. Beth was screaming, we hit the bottom of the hill and the tightly banked turn with such speed that the “G” forces threw us from side to side, alternately pinning us one against the other, almost flying out of the car!
As we went up the next hill, I looked behind and there were the two men dressed in black! The men with the binoculars. When we went over the next hill they were trying to push us out of our car! Beth and I were fighting them with all our strength.
Beth bit one of their hands and drew blood. I was receiving violent hits to my arms, trying to make me let go of the side of the car. At any moment I was afraid both of us would tumble out!
One of the operators of the ride saw that we almost flew out of the car at the banked turn. He signalled the motorman to bring the ride in on a spur by activating a switching device.
The train of cars glided into the station. The two men behind us disappeared into the confused crowd and into the busy midway.
Beth and I were battered and bruised. Beth was in a terrible upset state! The park security men took us to the park first aid station and they dressed our wounds. A policeman came and took our statement. He reported the incident on his car radio. We couldn’t provide much of an identification other than two heavy-set men dressed in black!
We called John to come and take us home.
Three dates and three attempts to harm us or worse!
But I think I’m the real target!