Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Carousel

From Facebook, an update from a high school friend :
Fun day with my nephew and 4 year old great-nephew ..... a ride on the original Nunley's Carousel.
In a flash, I was a kid and I was there, waiting not that patiently for the previous ride to stop spinning so that I could get onto the black horse, the best horse, the one with the hot pink rose and the flaring nostrils.  The one reared on her hind legs, fierce and proud and gorgeous.  The one on the outside, in front of the bench on which I used to sit, paralyzed with fear, until the black horse spoke to me.

C'mon, denizens..... I was 8 and tiny for my age.  Those stirrups were at my eye level for a very long time.  Imagine how high up the saddle seemed.  It took some courage for me to mount the steed.

I can feel the concrete of the pavilion beneath my feet and hear the bells clanging on the skeeball games because that was always where I stood to wait for the previous ride to end.  It was quieter back there, in the netherworld between the pinball machines and the robotic fortune teller.  It allowed for more flexibility should I need to make a gigantic move to one side or the other, if the black horse happened to stop anywhere but right in front of me.

The amateurs stood in front of the open doors, near the white wooden ticket booth with the single window and a view of everything except maybe the flying airplanes in the back.  Someone from the Nunley family was behind that window, every time I visited.  And I visited a lot.

There was a 6 car ferris wheel with enclosed cages and a view of the parking lot.  There was a roller coaster  with a maximum vertical drop of 6' or so.  You could sit in boats that went around in a giant kiddie pool, and your mom could walk right next to you if you got scared, unless you could convince your big sister to ride with you.  At 5, feeling superior, I remember demanding the right to honk the horn and steer most of the time.

There were cars on a track and go-karts that were arm-propelled and twirling tea cups which were always good for a belly ache.  I seem to remember something behind the planes and the roller coaster, but the memory is hazy.  (If you remember, please comment!!)

There was mini-golf attached to the amusement park, and that was always good for a laugh or an argument or two.  It was always hot when we played there.  I was terrible. It didn't matter, because there was always a ride on the carousel before we went to get Carvel and then drove home in a sweaty stupor.  Whether I was 5 or 15 the story remained the same. Whether Daddooooo or a date was driving, I was filthy and exhausted on the ride home.  It felt fine.

And all this wonderfulness is tinged with not more than a little bit of sadness, because by the turn of the century there weren't any Nunley's willing to take on the responsibility of maintaining their little bit of heaven in these litigious times and so, like many things on Long Island, it was sold off in pieces and replaced with condominiums and a 7-11... or a strip mall... or a box store... and I don't know because it would hurt too much to drive past the corner.

And the carousel?  Well, that's what was elided from the opening quote.  My friend and her guys were at the Children's Museum, outside of which rests our memories.  It's an historical artifact.  My life is in a museum.

I'm thrust back to 11th grade when, upon asking G'ma where Patton fought, I found myself face to face with an enraged woman bearing some slight resemblance to my normally placid maternal unit and this woman was screeching at me that "This is not history! This is my life! My brother fought with Patton! IN ITALY!"

I want to fly to New York right now.  I want to stand in front of the carousel and tell people that it only cost 1 ticket and if you caught the brass ring you got to ride for free.  And yes, it might be kinda sorta dangerous I guess if you leaned out too far and forgot to hold on and your legs had no strength at all.

I'm sure that's why here, as an artifact, you won't find a yardarm with a semi-circle cut-out at the end, that special 4 inches of wonder, holding out a chance bit of metal that might, just might, if you were quick and careful and most of all lucky, just might be your ticket to .......

Well, to much more than just another ride.  You'd caught the brass ring.



  1. Ashleigh, what a beautiful depiction of some wonderful memories. Amusement park related...when we were little our parents took my siste, Ele and me to Steeplechase Park in Coney Island. It was a place they had gone many times. I'm not sure it's even there anymore. I think the Parachute Jump is, but I think the indoor park is gone. It's such a wonderful memory and you brought that all back for me. Thanks...

  2. Coincidentally, New York recently announced a database project to enable people to look up amusement-ride safety records. :)

  3. Sigh, so evocative. We have a classic summer fair here in TO every summer called the Ex that is as classic as you can imagine. A must do.


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