Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Your Action Park Stories, Plus One More From The Wayback Machine

I am always of the opinion that less of me and more of you is a good thing, so here are some epic stories stories about legendary Action Park (hit the link if you didn't read it on Friday). Plus, one more terrific story about the "old days" of computing.

First off, from Chris Mattos:
Thanks for posting that article about the looping water slide at Action Park. Being a 40-something, lifelong New Jersey resident, it should be no surprise that I visited Action Park on several occasions during my younger days. The rides at Action Park were quite literally one bad idea after another, but we didn’t care because there was absolutely nothing like it…anywhere. While I saw the looping water slide on my last trip to Action Park, it was never open (fortunately for me), but immediately recognized it as a really dangerous ride, even in a place where dangerous rides were the norm.

Action Park was built on a ski resort, so they had the convenient mountains to allow gravity to fuel many of their rides. They also had ski lifts to bring you to the top of the mountain. During the summer, these brought you to a ride called the Alpine slide. This ride consisted of you riding a sled down a concrete track all the way down a mountain. The sled had only one control…a brake. And I’m not particularly sure if anyone ever used it. Also, keep in mind, that Action Park was primarily a water park, so most everyone would be dressed in some sort of swimsuit. So you essentially had a near naked person, riding an open sled down a concrete runway at near break-neck speeds. Chaos ensues. Now, to my 18 year old self, this ride was an absolute thrill and was my favorite ride at the park, but looking back, I can’t believe they actually let people ride that.

Next, from Geoff Engelstein:
I was one of the few that actually went on that thing back in the 80's. It was ridiculously dangerous.

First off, Action Park in general was dangerous. There was no thought to safety when designing the rides, and we never left there without some injury and a trip to the nurse - although it was usually just my sister ripping the skin off of her arms after flipping over on the Alpine Slide at 30 MPH.

One time I went there with college buddies during one break or another, and they had just built 'The Loop'. Being stupid college kids (even going to MIT didn't prevent us from being stupid college kids) we egged each other on to try it. Fortunately for all of us it was not open. When we asked they were 'fixing' something.

Then, on the way out of the park at the end of the day (the Loop was near the entrance) we saw that they were opening it up and a few people were climbing up the tower. All of my friends decided NOT to go on it, but I, for some reason, decided to prove my machismo by getting on line.

There were maybe 3 people ahead of me. The first two went through OK, but were not too excited after getting off. The guy in front of me was a little heavyset, but they let him go through anyway.

He jumped into the tube and slid into the darkness.

And never came out.

Eventually the guys running the ride decided they better see what was going on. They went down and pulled open the trap door on top of the tube at the bottom, and there he was, stuck at the bottom and screaming. He had slid up the far side but not made it over the top, and slide back down and there he sat. He didn't realize there was a trap door above him -- and I'm not even sure it was openable from the inside, knowing Action Park. He just had to lay there in the dark with water rushing down the tube all around him until they got him out.

Then it was my turn. You'd think that at this point I would simply climb back down the steps. You'd think the fact that I was a freaking Physics Major would clue me in to the serious design flaws here. But no. I figure I'll go for it -- I was light enough that I would make it all the way around.

So I jump in. I slide down and up over the top. At the apex of the loop I was fast enough to get around, but not fast enough to stay 'stuck' to the top. So I fall down onto what has become the bottom part of the tube at the top, hitting face first. I then slide down the back side of the tube, but as I round the 90 degree point what was the bottom of the tube becomes the top of the tube and I fall down again, this time landing on my back.

I am then deposited unceremoniously into a shallow pool at the exit.

I lay there for a few minutes trying to get the will to stand up and get out. Finally I do. I was totally bruised and my back was thrown out for at least a week. I decided not to go to the nurse, and just slinked out with my friends.

They never demolished the Loop until the whole park came down years later, but I never saw it open again.

Here's one more from DQ Fitness Advisor Doug Walsh:
I used to go there every summer as a kid growing up in NJ and I VIVIDLY remember that Cannonball Loop ride. I was there that one summer it was open and the stories that surrounded that ride were phenomenal – and horrifying. It was its own urban legend generator. No matter what ride you were waiting in line for, much of the talk was about so-and-so drowning/dying/getting stuck in the Cannonball Loop. Us kids loved to tell of fat guys getting stuck and then being crushed by someone coming down behind them. Of course, much of the stories were exaggerated, but everyone knew people died on the rides there. And at least one member of every family that seemed to go to the park would come home bruised or bloody, including my own. If only my father had a better lawyer...

As a 12 year old, there were numerous rides at Action Park that I was scared to death of, but none moreso than that Cannonball Loop. Even my adolescent mind knew it was a non-starter. I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve sat and pondered the thinking behind that ride’s design, even as an adult. In fact, I’m pretty sure that ride – and some of the others at Action Park – were what first taught me that companies didn’t always have my best interests in mind.

Comparing Action Park to Hershey Park over in PA or Great Adventure in NJ (no self-respecting New Jerseyite would ever call it “Six Flags” though technically it’s the largest Six Flags in the USA) was like comparing a PG movie to one rated XXX. Nobody mentioned Action Park without hearing someone within earshot say, “I can’t believe parents would take their kids there.”

Let’s see... there was another “Cannonball” ride that was very short, had a near-90-degree turn (upon colliding with my father separated his shoulder) and dropped you about 15 feet over a spring-fed ice cold lake. I’m pretty sure that’s where the heart-attack occurred.

Nearby was a “Tarzan Swing” that also dropped you into a spring-fed lake of bone-chilling water, only this one was lined with rocks. It was completely up to you to release from the rope at the right moment, or risk landing on the rocks. No joke.

There was 1980’s technology worked into a near-vertical waterslide that towered about 8 stories in the air. They finally installed a retention curtain over the top 20 feet to keep people ON the slide. People were freefalling for about thirty feet before touching the slide.

The alpine slide (responsible for fatal head injury) was little more than a concrete chute that you slid down the mountain at. Nothing strapped you to the sled; nothing kept the sled on the track. My father, again, built up incredible speed on that alpine slide, came around a corner, and found himself bearing down on a lightweight boy stuck in the track. My father had no choice but to intentionally crash himself, otherwise risk colliding with the boy at over 25mph. He could have killed him, but instead opted for severe road rash along his entire side, and a few bumps from rocks off the track.

I can go on, but you get the idea. Action Park was THE PLACE for masochistic thrill seekers and it was lightyears ahead of its time for amusement rides. It was something you had to see to believe.

Lastly, one more story from the Wayback Machine, and it's entirely wonderful (submitted by Maxime Tremblay):
Although I never had an Amiga, I had the chance to receive one of the greatest gifts I’ll ever remember (besides my trusty “big-wheel” tricycle): A Tandy 1000 SX computer. It was in 1987 and I was only 8 years old. My mother wasn’t entirely trilled by this, since she thought the thing had been too expensive, but my dad kept saying that this machine would change the way we worked and looked at the world forever.

So we kept it.

I didn’t know what to think at first as this wasn’t a NES... Why didn’t dad just buy me that instead, he’d had saved a lot (and I could've played Final Fantasy)!

Then, he bought a game... It was on a floppy disk with a decidedly deceiving printed label. That label had nothing to go for it, just a name written in gray over the yellowish background of the label: King’s Quest 1 it said.

I knew nothing about English, as I’m a French Canadian from Québec. Even worse, my family knew nothing about it as well, being from a fairly secluded area. The walls of text that this game threw at an eight years old kid seemed daunting at first, but I had a weapon. Which kind of weapon would that be?

Of course, I’ll tell you. It was my Harrap’s French-English dictionary, which mom kindly bought seeing my dismay staring INTENTLY at these walls of texts with a pencil and a sheet of paper trying to find words I could understand which would help me out finding the meaning of these cryptic (at the time) sentences...

There you know, I learned English with Space Quest, Leisure Suit Larry, King’s Quest, The Black Cauldron, Gold Rush!, Police Quest... I finished them all.

Of course, this could be an opus to all of Sierra’s games, but let’s not go there.

Oh, and one last thing (A Steve Job’s moment?). The sound of a Tandy 1000 SX reading a floppy disk is engraved into my mind. That computer still works and is at one of my uncle’s. When I go see him, he’ll know I’ll need some time. I need to hear that buzz again, it’s just not rational. Maybe it what religious people feel when they go to in a pilgrimage.

Site Meter