Monday, December 18, 2017

Sunday Nostalgia: Carousel of Smiles

Natatorium Park, Spokane circa early 1960s. Twas probably an honor society trip where they loaded us junior high students into a yellow school bus, drove us to the big city of Spokane and turned us loose for the day in the amusement park. 

Back in those days, as an early teen, I could still "stomach" carnival rides.  One of my favorites was the roller coaster aka the Jack Rabbit. 

This high speed ride is described, on the Natatorium Park website: 

Thrill seekers enter a building, where they climb into cars set on a metal track - six people to a car, two or three cars to each train. "The brake is released, the car starts rolling, turns left into a tunnel, picks up speed...faster and faster, then bang! It cracks to the left and out of the tunnel!" says Mark Blumhagen. 

From there, the train engages a chain hoist to begin its tantalizing ascent, followed by the heart-stopping free fall and a series of smaller undulations. The trains pulls into the station one-and-a-half minutes after setting out on it harrowing journey.

In those days, the speed, the thrills and the drama, excited me to no end.  As I grew older, however, my stomach and my brain, said no to carnival rides.  That did not mean, however, that I did not partake.  

Sometimes, however, I had no choice to avoid such situations, like the day in the mid-1980s I spent in Disneyland with former students, Jeralyn Lewis Mire, Steve Neuder and Mitzi Hawkins. 

Jeralyn would not allow my cowardice aka fear and insisted that I take the Space Mountain and newly opened Star Tours rides with her.  

I think when I literally buried my head in her bosom during the most of the latter, Jeralyn finally conceded that my fear was real. 

So, she and the other two went about their way while I spent a good share of the day taking ride after ride on the comparatively carefree "It's a Small World" boat tour. 

Meanwhile, let's step back at Natatorium Park and the '60s.  

The supreme attraction at the park in my mind then, and even years later in Riverfront Park when I had kids of my own, was known as the Loof Carousel.  

Just as crazy as it seems for one to float around all day in Disney's Small World, I took ride after ride on the Carousel, in pursuit of that brass ring. 

Occasionally, I lucked out, but the real attraction for me was getting to spend all that time floating around on a horse listening to the Carousel music and watching the rest of the world go by.

It was like a trip to a magical dreamland----a dream I never wanted to end. 

So, when I read the story several months ago in the newspaper about the Carousel that had sat in a pasture since the 1950s in Hutchinson, Kans., coming to its new home in Sandpoint, memories of those wondrous days spend in Nat Park came floating back.

Unfortunately, at the time when the public could view the horses, other scheduling conflicts kept me from making it down to the warehouse.

When I read that the Carousel would be making an appearance at the fairgrounds during this past, busy weekend, I made a mental note to make sure to see it this time.

While circulating my Medicaid petition to a few neighbors on Saturday, my friend Janice told me a story that sealed the deal on making a trip to the fairgrounds a must.

Often familiar faces connect us much more than names. And, that's the case with the Carousel.

When Janice told me a key detail about the owners, a light bulb immediately flashed on.

Yes, I definitely knew Reno Hutchison as ZACH SNYDER'S mom. Until Saturday's visit with Janice, I never knew her as Reno Hutchison.

With the revelation of that one detail, however, memories came floating back of a time in the 1990s before most of our world all got hooked to the Internet.

It was an era in Sandpoint when the Panhandle Free Net served as our means of Internet-type communication.

 Melody Martz of Elmira reigned as queen aka administrator, while Zach and his siblings were regulars AS was I and my daughter Annie. 

Since then, Zach and Annie have kept up their friendship and dramatically enhanced their "nerd" skills professionally. Both live in the Seattle area.

I used to see Reno frequently when Zach was one of my students but even then, always just thought of her as "Zach's mom." 

Well, yesterday I showed up at the fairgrounds, after seeing some other friends and strolling around the Carousel in total awe, snapping photos along the way, I first met an adorable little lady named Monroe.  

Turns out she was Rena's granddaughter.  A few seconds later, I saw Zach's mom, now known to me as Reno, co-owner of the Carousel of Smiles with her husband. 

After hugs and remembrances of those days when our kids first met, Rena told me about her love for Carousels.  She said it started in Butte, Mont., where, as a child, she regularly rode another Carousel, which unfortunately burned down.

"Days later, my dad told me to stop crying about the Carousel," Reno explained.  

So, instead of crying, she kept the dream of some day owning a Carousel, tucked away in her mind.

Wishes do come true.  While her husband was visiting with the owner of an Americana collection to be auctioned off, he, off the cuff, asked if this owner if, by chance, a Carousel would be in the collection.

Sure enough.  Twasn't long before the couple purchased the disassembled ride, which had sat in a trailer in a pasture in Kansas for decades. 

There's much more to the story, but hopes are to incorporate the ride, which will be totally restored, in the long term Master Plan at City Beach. 

And, fundraisers, including the bronze mini's of the Carousel horses, seen below, will help ensure culmination of Reno's dream. 

Her enthusiasm toward fulfillment of this dream is contagious, and I suggested to her that she may be smiling the rest of her life once the Carousel of Smiles is up and running here in beautiful Sandpoint. 

The great thing for an old coot like me is that when that happens, I might still be young enough to climb on one of those horses and take a wonderful trip back in time. 

I may not be alone in that desire. 

Good times from the past are coming to the future of Sandpoint. 

Thanks, Reno.  Great seeing you and some of your family members yesterday. 

Happy Monday to all. GO, ZAGS!  6 p.m. PST on KHQ/SWX.

Special note:  St. Katherine, please comment and tell your hubby Bill's story about the Carousel.  Reno would love to connect with him.   

Reno Hutchison stands in her own dreamland, the Carousel of Smiles, which will one day be fully restored and reside at City Beach in Sandpoint. 

Adorable Miss Monroe led me to her grandma Reno. 

Local sculptor Gabe Gabel and my dear friends, Ann and Rick Gehring. 

All of the sale price for the mini horses goes to support the Carousel project. 


Gabe Gabel said...

Okay, as requested, here is the correction. ALL of the money from the sales of the "mini herd" go to the carousel's restoration. Repeat, ALL.
And it was a wonderful weekend with so many enthusiastic people there to be amazed at the marvelous carousel being restored for Sandpoint. It truly will belong to the people of Sandpoint, all the support and effort we contribute will make it ours and our childrens' for more generations.

MLove said...

Thanks, Gabe.

Anonymous said...

While it may be lovely and nostalgic after it is restored, it will still require huge maintenance and upkeep costs. I doubt the price of admission will cover such costs. It will need to be housed inside a building so as not to deteriorate again and a building that large should NOT be at the city beach where people go to enjoy natural surroundings and relative peace and quiet. The reason this has never been grabbed up before by an entrepreneur is that it can never be self-supporting and it surely shouldn't become a burden on the city taxpayers.