Alic​e M. Batzel 

Published Author, Playwright,

Journalist, Poet, Freelance Writer 

WATER AMUSEMENT PARKS...the truth of it.

By Alice M. Batzel

Let's put credit where it rightly belongs. I propose that water amusement parks are not the creation of the 20 somethings, 30 somethings, 40 somethings, or the know-it-all current generation, not by far. If you experienced the 1950-1960's, you know the truth. The early days of water amusement parks were the creation of our generation...home style.

You haven’t had a summer as a kid until you take your clothes off, down to your white underwear pants, and jump into the slimy horse trough and cool down. No rush to get out. Swim around for a while. Dunk your brother or sister’s head under a time or two, until Mom or Dad holler at you to stop it. Many kids learned how to hold their breath while in their first swimming pool…the horse tough. I learned how to float on my back in the horse trough. Floating and looking up at the blue summer sky was a beautiful memory until my brother, Lloyd, crashed into me with all the force of a sinking Titanic. When there was not any brotherly riff-raff in the horse trough, it was great fun when you had the companionship of a duck or two in there with you. And if you found a few tadpoles in there, it was like finding gold. Granted, you have to check for snakes before you jump in, but what a good time. True, those white underpants would never be white again, and no amount of Clorox bleach that Mother used would ever brighten them up, but that’s no worry for a kid. I’m surprised we never got an eye infection or skin rash from what organisms must have surely been in that water, and no telling how much we swallowed as we dunked each other. Now that, was a water amusement park to remember. Just a few good memories from a family farm in Missouri.

Perhaps you favor the old slip-and-slide on the neighbor’s yard. Mom might have warned you that it was dangerous and to not go over there, but what’s summer without a yard attraction like that? Maneuvers performed on the neighborhood slip-and-slide could surpass anything you might see today on the Olympic balance beam, parallel bars, or rings. And let’s just say, if a kid broke their arm, well, you had a big story to tell when you went back to school in the Fall. I was scared of the slip-and-slide, but then, my brother Lloyd was quite a daredevil on that contraption. I suspect that’s where he acquired his first surfing skills by being able to stay up on his feet no matter what object was thrown at him. I felt it was best to watch from the sidelines and cool down with a peripheral splash or two that might hit me. The slip-and-slide was not for me.

Water balloon battles were the secret quest of many kids. It remains a mystery to me where the secret hiding place was for all those water-filled balloons. They seemed to come out when you least expected it. It was nice to get a bit of a spontaneous cool down once in a while, especially since we didn’t have air conditioning; but when a kid starts to develop welts because they’re the target too many times, the fun begins to run out, especially when it involves launching with a slingshot. Most summers we never dried out. Take the trash out…splat, from somewhere over the fence. Sweep the side patio…splat, from some unknown direction. Go to the shed to retrieve something for Mom…splat, right in the back and no one in sight. Sometimes, you would hate to turn the lights off at night to go to sleep for fear that “someone” would creep up on you during the night and…splat.

And who could forget riding tricycles or bicycles down the sidewalk as your parents or the neighbors watered their lawn with a handheld garden hose? As you dared them, they would spray you pretty good. Many kids could be heard squealing for hours at a time as they rode trikes and bikes up and down the sidewalk, probably a hundred times or more, getting sprayed over and over, and all the while the yard got a good drink of water too.

Water guns, water pistols, and a bucket full of soaked sponges were on the wish list of many kids, and they would beg for them. The more, the better was the silent rule, and it was amazing that no kid got a hernia from lifting their heavy arsenal of water-filled weaponry. That was when the little red wagon came in handy for many kids. Sometimes there was no time to refill or reload; reach for another one ready for use. It was the stuff that made for hours of good fun, even if some kids insisted that they needed to wear a diving mask or snorkel for the battle.

Good heavens! Would I dare forget the old creek with the swinging rope? Now there’s enough material with that for an entire article by itself.

The next time you pass by one of those modern fancy water amusement parks, remind yourself of the origin of the real water amusement parks of the earlier generations. Spare yourself the high admission price at the high-rise twisted steel, fiberglass tubes, and cement pools at today’s water amusement parks. Simply reach for your garden hose. Make some priceless memories at the real water amusement park...home style. Happy summer, and stay cool out there!

(copyright 6/26/2018 – Alice M. Batzel – all rights reserved)

(photo source: from the Facebook page of The REAL Linnie's Place, and contributor Don Forrester.)