Memories of Lagoon

Cross-posted to WordPress, 2-16-2019, updated

In the summer of 1969, when I came out to Utah from New York, my first job was working at Lagoon, Utah’s No. 1 amusement park. As a child, I had visited Lagoon many times beginning in the 50s when I would come to Utah to visit my mother’s family there.

Lagoon’s Official Website
Lagoon at Wikipedia
The Lagoon History Project

Still going strong, the park is small but homey, and although it gets more expensive every year, they do make improvements all the time, and it’s got some really fun rides. I had a season pass in 2011 before I moved back East so I could go with the my granddaughters as often as opportunity allowed.


A post on another forum about Coney Island got me going down memory lane, especially when I saw this picture of Coney Island’s “Human Roulette Wheel” from 1908.

Library of Congress

I can’t count the number of times I got flung off of Lagoon’s Roulette Wheel, suffering skin burns along the way… and I don’t think anyone ever sued lagoon for so much as a broken arm – people knew what risks were in those days, and lawyers were fewer.

Lagoon’s Roulette Wheel by the Giant Slides

The Fun House and the Haunted Shack were, without question, my favorite locations. Both as a child, from the late 50’s onward, and then as an employee one summer in 1969.

Fun house main entryway, top of the giant slides visible.

In the Fun House, the first challenge was getting in. The entrance was a mystery room, with several doors. One held a witch – not especially frightening, unless you’re 7 – and I don’t recall what was in the others, but the one you wanted, of course, was the broom closet – and you had to push the false back wall to get out.

Once inside, you would walk into the challenge area, which included the rotating barrels; I was so thrilled when I was finally big enough to pin myself in the barrel like Leonardo’s “Vitruvian Man” and be carried all the way around. Other courses included boards that swung up and down like a wooden wave pattern… a meshed bridge… a set of boards that shimmied back and forth like a huge pair of skis, among others… and everywhere throughout the fun house were the air jets, operated by a human who sat in an observation booth above the front entrance, watching for cute girls in skirts to step over the airholes. Psshhhttt EEK!! A maze after these items would drop you off in the back of the fun house close to the giant slides.

The rotating drums

There, you’d pick up your canvas slide, with a pocket in front for your feet, and climb the stairs to the launch platforms – there was one midway up, and one all the way at the top. You were admonished to sit with your legs straight, and off you’d go. There was never any limit to how long you could stay.

The Giant Slides
Loading area at the top of the slides

At the bottom of the slide, you’d find the Roulette Wheel – a big pink disk with a yellow center, which is where you wanted to be if you didn’t want to get flung off. I think there were more injuries from people rushing to get that center spot than ever happened while being ejected. People would sit on the wheel with their backs to the center, brace themselves with their feet, and wait for the ride to start. Invariably everyone was hurled off except one or two in the middle. The outside of the platter area was surrounded with a large, padded rim. (This was Lagoon’s version of the “Roulette Wheel” shown above).

Then there was the “whirlpool”. This was a large wooden drum – different from the washtub with the drop-out floor – that would effectively allow you to stand at about a 45-degree angle if you could fight the centripetal force. This ride was one of the first ones to go that I recall.

Lagoon’s “Whirlpool”

Interestingly enough, there were probably countless chipped teeth, friction burns, broken arms, split lips, and a dozen other injuries on a regular basis… and for decades nobody sued, and the fun just kept on happening. We can thank the zeal of the legal eagles, hungry for billable hours, for litigating us out of such wholesome entertaintment today.

[Edit: An article in the Deseret News of May 4, 1957, describes the attractions in the Fun House thus:

   “Opening of a new fun house, the first to be build in the United States in 28 years, will be one of the main attractions at the pre-season opening of Lagoon this weekend.     Built at a cost of more than $100,000 to meet the requests of thousands for a fun house to replace the one that burned in the 1953 fire at the resort, it was designed by Ranch S. Kimball, president and general manager of Lagoon.     Fifty-foot-high slides are among features of the modern building. There are slides of lesser heights for the more cautious.     Another device of special interest is the Whirlpool, a new circular device which revolves at a terrific speed.     Other of the 40 features within the fun house include: a skating floor, shuffleboard, crash bumper, lily pads in a tank of water, Sahara Desert, a rolling log, twisters, teeter boards, electric air valves, a moving floor, a whistle trap, roller inclines, a dog-house crawl-through, a jail, revolving barrels, the roulette wheel, tilted room, ocean waves, the camel back, and a new cage maze, which is a maze to amaze anyone.     An eight-piece animated monkey band perched above the entrance will greet customers. A balcony, featuring special seating for spectators, has been built to permit a general view of the entire fun house.]

I was tickled that my memory of the Whirlpool was not faulty, and this article reminded me of a number of features that I had forgotten about – the rolling log, the roller incline, the twister floor, the lily pads, and several others.

The “Haunted Shack” has been described in other places, but I loved it. A walk-through “dark ride”, it sat above a cotton candy shop, and the year I worked there, a buddy of mine who was responsible for that attraction took me up into the attic where you could watch the people go through the mazes. The haunted shack included a mirror maze, which, when it was kept clean, was pretty challenging to get out of.

The Haunted Shack was featured at the Lagoon History Project. It was one of my favorite attractions, and I was sad when it was finally removed to make room for the Carousel and other attractions.

The year I worked at lagoon, what was formerly the Penny Arcade had been converted into a skating rink. That’s where I spent most of my break time and free time if I ever came back on a day off. It didn’t last long, but it was a great place. I do recall seeing the first Pong game there. At that time, the rides were ticket-based… I recall you could get into the Lagoon Opera House for only two tickets, and watch silent movies in an air-conditioned environment. They were always making announcements over the PA system in this deep, growly voice that told people about the attractions they were trying to promote. That was also a popular place to take breaks on hot days.

At that time, the employee kitchen was this dingy little place on the back of the East side of the midway, but hey, that’s where we could get lunch, and it seemed fine.

I worked the games. I was most often stationed in the Shooting Gallery (machine guns with bb’s, and you had to shoot a red star completely out of a sheet of paper to win a prize). It was much, much harder than it looked – even the tiniest scrap of red would disqualify you from winning a prize – but again, not impossible. Located just south of the Fun House, that’s where I was stationed when Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon – people were taking rotating shifts that day to watch the landing and EVA’s, and there were TV’s set up all over the park. I recall running to the Fascination room to watch the event during a break.

A Fascination Parlor

Parenthetically, Fascination was where I always spent the most time (and money) when I went to the park as a kid – when I wasn’t on the rides, that is.

Basically a bingo game with rubber balls, the attraction for me was the fact that when you won, you’d get these coupons that were worth multiple tickets at the prize redemption center. And if the traveling red light lit up on your machine when you won, the prizes were doubled, I think. I recall winning quite often, and it was exciting to play. Oh, the thrill of winning with five reds…

Tip-em-over, where the point was to get 5 lead milk bottles completely tipped over, and yes, some of them were much heavier than others – we’d put a weighted one or two on the bottom if we were facing some Lou Ferrigno type, or put a heavy one on top if it was a cute girl that we wanted to win. You could say that that particular game was gaffed, but never in such a way that it made it impossible to win. We were instructed to keep our “payout” hovering at about 30% of what we took in, which are a lot better odds than you bet in Vegas or at your average traveling carny. Flukey ball – where you had to bounce a whiffle ball off a character’s nose and into a bucket – was straightforward and just difficult to do, but not impossible – there were no gimmicks there – and the water pistol shooting gallery was a great attraction on hot days.

I recall we’d send annoying kids down to the other end of the park for a “sky hook” or a “counter stretcher”. Everyone knew the gag, so the poor wights would be sent from one end of the park to the other until they got tired.

The redemption center was fun for kids. You pretty much had to have a zillion tickets to get anything worthwhile, but there was always something that you could get with just a few. And there were some very tempting things there, tempting enough to keep the kids playing Skee-Ball or Fascination until their (or their parents’) money ran out.

The Terroride has always been a central attraction at Lagoon, it was located right next to the original Fun House (I have written about that ride elsewhere.)

Terroride exterior
The Terroride original mural

Lagoon was a marvelous place to visit, and a good place to work, for a teenager. After that summer I moved on to bigger and better things, but I won’t forget my experiences there. Robert E. Freed and my mom went to school together, and I knew his family well – it was a tragic loss when he passed away far too early.

Ranch Kimball and Robert Freed inspect the “new” popcorn cart at Lagoon.
This newspaper ad would have been after 1969 when the Lagoon Opera House opened. More vintage Lagoon ads can be seen here.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Utah Speak

Utah has its own language and its own dialect, especially when you get out of the cosmopolitan areas. This list of Utah words was assembled by the Radio from Hell show.

Liar
Skiddin
Sway
Mart
Al
Scout
Strew
Sarah
Zrenny
Meetin
Smelp
Bulimia
Cheatin
Skit
Sain
Skweet
Jeat
Snot
Stew
Zis
Smee
Frude
Frignernt
Melk
Mungry
Lechin
Galna
(lawyer)
(just kidding)
(this way)
(my heart)
(owl)
(lets go out)
(it’s true)
(is there a)
(is there any)
(I am eating)
(some help)
(believe me, I …)
(what are you eating)
(let’s get)
(saying)
(let’s go eat)
(did you eat)
(is not)
(is too)
(who is this)
(it’s me)
(for rude)
(for ignorant)
(milk)
(I’m hungry)
(let you in)
(gallon of)

Other phenomena have been observed, such as the tendency of vowels to go from tense to lax before /l/, resulting in things like “Bell the Hay, George, there’s a hellstorm coming.” The phenomenon is not limited to production, but also perception; my ex-wife always referred to my cousin Del as “Dale” – i.e. she couldn’t hear the difference between the two phonemes in that position.

Southern Utahns have a heavy tendency to pronounce words like “born” and “Mormon” as “barn” and “Marmon.” This has been stigmatized as “hick speech,” and some people, aware of this, can overcompensate when trying to avoid the appearance of being a jay, coming up with things like “horpsichard.”

Here in Utah, we call that little gray bug that rolls up when you touch it a “potato bug,” rather than whatever you probably call it, and the thing that goes down the middle of two freeway lanes is called a “bar pit.” “Caught” and “cot” are identical here, as are “Mary,” “merry,” and “marry.” Coming from New York, I distinguish between these words, and have never given up the distinction although I’ve lived in Utah for 46 years.

Lastly, Utah is famous for its double modals, such as “might could,” “might would,” etc, as well as the odd names with interstitial majuscules like “LaVar,” “DuWayne,” and such things. If you want some real technical stuff, a preliminary survey of Northern Utah speech can be found here.

Strew.

The Old Wolf has spoken. Er maybe spoke, dunno.

Well yeah, why *can’t* public transit be free?

10

Of course, it comes down to economics. But I’m reminded of a couple of stories.

A corporation needs a new accountant, and the VP of HR does the interviewing. In comes the first candidate.
“How much is two plus two?”
“What is this, a joke? I don’t need to work with simpletons!” And the first candidate walks out.
In comes the second candidate.
“How much is two plus two?”
“Well, four of course.”
“Thank you for your time, we’ll be in touch.”
In comes the third candidate.
“How much is two plus two?”
“How much would you like it to be?”
“You’re hired.”

Second was the delightful scene in the film “Dave” with Bill Pullman where a presidential stand-in rewrites the budget with the help of an accountant buddy of his to save a previously-vetoed homeless shelter that the (real) First Lady was supporting.

Now, that’s fiction – but you can’t tell me that if a room full of people of good will sat down with our national budget and cut out the fat and the folly and the inhumane bulldust, you couldn’t fund all sorts of useful and needful infrastructure and social programs like transportation and education. I simply refuse to believe it. The money is there, it’s just that so much of it is being redirected toward pork and waste and death and destruction, and the good will isn’t, because everyone wants to belly up to the public trough.

I got thinking about this today because of a recent article at the BBC reporting on a three-day free transit window in Paris (to reduce pollution), and one at The Atlantic which asks and explores the issue of free public trasnsporation.

When I was at the University of Utah in 1974, I began my experience as a freelance translator, and one of the pro-bono jobs I did was translating certain documents from Italian in to English for the benefit of Utah State Representative Sam Taylor regarding a free transit experiment in Rome. His obituary from the year 2000 illustrates that he was a controversial figure; in retrospect, I’m not sure if Representative Taylor was actually for or against the idea of free transit.

In 1970, Mr. Taylor was elected to the Utah House of Representatives, where he served until 1986. In 1973, he passed the Transit Act, which created the Utah Transit Authority.

Mr. Taylor would later become a UTA critic. In a 1995 letter to the editor printed in the Deseret News, Mr. Taylor lamented that too much tax money was being used for mass transit. He referred to the yet-to-be constructed light-rail system from Sandy to Salt Lake as “political boondoggle.”

In 1993, Mr. Taylor was appointed to the transit authority’s board and served two terms. He was often the sole voice of dissent on UTA board decisions and in 1995, while a board member, he filed a lawsuit against UTA to try to stop construction of Salt Lake County light rail.

Mr. Taylor was recognized in 1997 by the Amalgamated Transit Union and the AFL-CIO for “leadership and untiring support for the men and women who make UTA go.” Mr. Taylor left his position on the transit board last year.

The article below from the Deseret News is published from the Utah Transit Authority’s slant, but it does point out that Sam was an activist who was looking out for the rider rather than the corporation (click the image to read in full size).

Taylor

Well, Light Rail and later the FrontRunner heavy rail system ultimately went through and continues to be expanded. It was needful and remains useful, but the UTA still struggles to increase ridership. From my extensive travels in Europe, I can tell you that a good and reliable mass transit system is a huge blessing for people from all economic strata. But here in America, where people are wedded to their cars, it’s constantly an uphill battle.

That experiment in Rome? Well, it didn’t work out so positively, but I give them props for trying.

The earliest urban experiment in free public transit took place in Rome in the early 1970s. The city, plagued by unbearable traffic congestion, tried making its public buses free. At first, many passengers were confused: “There must be a trick,” a 62-year-old Roman carpenter told The New York Times as he boarded one bus. Then riders grew irritable. One “woman commuter” predicted that “swarms of kids and mixed-up people will ride around all day just because it doesn’t cost anything.” Romans couldn’t be bothered to ditch their cars—the buses were only half-full during the mid-day rush hour, “when hundreds of thousands battle their way home for a plate of spaghetti.” Six months after the failed, costly experiment, a cash-strapped Rome reinstated its fare system.

If public transit is to succeed, it must be both convenient and affordable. A monthly pass which includes Trax and buses in Salt Lake runs $83.00, with 50% reduction for seniors and the disabled. Add another $100 (or $50) if you want to use the FrontRunner heavy rail. That’s not overly burdensome for the average wage earner, but the main problem in this area is that it’s not convenient if you don’t live near a bus line, and getting from one place to another can double your commute time as opposed to driving. mostly due to the time getting to a bus stop and the wait for transfers.

In the end, I am left wondering what the effect would be if public transit were free altogether, always. I’m not offering any suggestions on how to fund this, just wondering what the overall impact would be. In the meantime, follow this link to see how your city’s public transit system stacks up.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Sketches of Life in the Uintah Basin

Alice Woolf

Alice Bartlett Woolf, 1916-1997

Alice Bartlett Woolf, a painter, writer, master teacher, horse breaker, and story teller, was also a dear friend of my mother. While working on scanning my mother’s papers, I came across an article that Alice had submitted to the Utah Humanities Review for their first edition in October of 1947. I found it delightful, and thought it worth sharing here. I have provided a PDF version of the article for anyone who wants to download it. The essay gives a homey, affectionate and impartial look at Mormon communities in the first half of the 20th century; there is much to be envied in the lifestyle of these simple and sincere people.


SKETCHES OF LIFE IN THE UINTAH BASIN

Woolf, Alice B.
Utah Humanities Review
1 (October1947): 313–319.

 Expecting the mode of life and the people to be much changed, I was going “home” for a vacation in the red sand hills of northeastern Utah. As I turned my car north from U.S. highway 40, I was delighted to see again the small farms on either side of a very muddy and rutted road. Of course, I reasoned, the very structure of the farms, with outbuildings, Jackson-fork hay derricks, stackyards, and straw-covered. sheds couldn’t have all disappeared in the space of fifteen years. But what of the people? Had the innovation of elec­tric lights, radios and refrigerators changed their way of life? Did they still refer to a journey to Salt Lake, or some place other than the Uintah Basin as “outside”? Had the oil boom in the nearby town of Vernal urbanized them?

Woolf1

SUNDAY MORNING – Alice Woolf

 After several weeks in Uintah and Duchesne counties I concluded that life in general was much the same as it had been when I was a child of the sagebrush, happily riding my pony between prairie dog holes.

Of course, one may wonder why anyone should hope that small communities of people would not change; and after some thought, I decided that the people in the farm area to the south of the Uintah Mountains are, by and large, the happiest group I have ever known. I had been worried lest the “finer things” of civilization had made them unhappy with their lot, for to the casual observer the small farmer in the Uintah Basin has so many natural odds against him that it seems incredible that the country has ever been popu­lated. He has a constant battle with wind, sand, drouth, and grasshoppers. Getting water to the land has been a major problem since the land was homesteaded, and even today everyone donates time to the building of canals and ditches, in an effort to fight the desert dryness.

Main Street

MAIN STREET – Alice Woolf

 The main factor in this happiness the people enjoy, it seems to me, is the complete social integration of all members of the community. From birth, children go through the same experiences as their elders. They work or: the farms, go to church, visit the stores, listen to conversations, attend dances and all public social functions. Most of their parents did the same. Thus the group becomes tightly knit. Everyone in our own particular community (the nucleus of each community being the church, school, store, and post office) knows whether you were quiet or fiendish in church, how well you did your lessons in school, when you had your first date, how much a dozen you are getting for your eggs now that you are grown and farming for yourself.

One finds the people themselves tolerant and understanding with members of their own community, or of com­munities they would consider neighboring. They discuss the faults and failings of friends, as well as their good qualities, with joyous abandon. However, this ready acceptance extends only to the group. A stranger entering their midst – let’s say someone from “outside, ” perhaps Colorado or Wyoming – would receive a very reserved welcome from everyone, and it would take considerable good-will on the stranger’s part to draw any attention but the rather austere courtesy that is far from impolite, but leaves the atmosphere a little frigid.

Farm methods have improved somewhat in the last few years. There are more tractors and less broken-down teams. Nearly everyone has a car, and there are actually people in the farming district who are getting running water.

In dress the people are utilitarian rather than stylish. The men wear overalls and work shirts, and the women effect the typical “Utah” house dress and apron.

Country Store

COUNTRY STORE – Alice Woolf

 In the series of sketches, I chose several pictures which depict the life of the people. The one entitled “Main Street” is actually a typical thoroughfare in rural life. The barbed wire fence in the background encloses a pasture that lies between the store and the school house. l would like to call attention again to the children, who, even though small, are becoming used to grown-up talk, and the exigencies of grown­up life.

I have chosen two other sketches dealing with social pleasure. One is the interior of a typical rural store, where the people come partly to buy and partly to visit. There is nearly always a family or two in the store, the men, of course, discussing weather and crops, and the women doing exactly what visiting women have always done talking a mile a minute. The second sketch concerns a dance. This one happens to be at a Gold-and-Green Ball, but is a scene that might be sketched at any country’ dance. Unlike dances in the city, this one is not selective; everyone comes. Many come as “lookers-on.” They simply choose a scat and tend children and visit. The young women, both married and unmarried, come in delightful confections of pink and blue tulle, as “formal” as can be. Older children slick up in their Sunday best and dance or not as they feel inclined. The charm of the whole occasion is that everyone has a good time, the dancers dancing, the onlookers speculating about any new romances, and the children just being children. At midnight the three or four-piece orchestra plays “Home Sweet Home, ” and the hall is vacated, except for a few older boys who stay to put the chairs up for church next morning.

Gold and Green Ball

GOLD AND GREEN BALL – Alice Woolf

 When someone in the community dies, friends of the family build the coffin. This is looked on not so much as a distasteful task as a last kindly gesture toward the de­ceased, and even though neighboring towns have undertak­ing parlors, it is rare indeed that the dead are not cared for by their own friends.

Making coffins

MAKING COFFINS  – Alice Woolf

Sunday morning finds nearly everyone at church. If chores or housework keep people until past the starting time, they come late, expecting everyone to understand. Here again we see ail ages amalgamated together in the large general assembly. No one minds the general hubbub caused by the small children, least of all the people conducting the church service, who are very likely tending children of their own. Somehow everyone comes away from the church up­lifted spiritually, although an outsider might find the whole atmosphere confusing.

Last but not least is the sketch called “Saturday Night.” Never, in my return visit, did I fail to feel nostalgic as I walked into a warm kitchen and saw the tub on the floor and warm towels on the down-turned open door. If there is one thing above others that seems to cement family solidarity, it is the Saturday night bath. By the time everyone has par­ticipated in chopping wood and carrying water in prepara­tion, and has emerged clean and shining from a tin tub, all seems right with the world.

Saturday Night

SATURDAY NIGHT – Alice Woolf

 After spending several months in such an area, it is a little difficult to return even to the modestly urban life of Salt Lake City, as it is always hard to leave a peaceful life among happy people for a life that is more hectic and far less happy. Struggling with wood-chopping, water-carrying, and a cow-to-you milk supply is incidental when one has a joyful life. If one makes the slightest attempt to live within the group mores and customs his life can be an open book – ­read and accepted by all, good and bad alike; and he can of course help in accepting his acquaintances, good and bad alike. With such community solidarity, as long as one stays in the community, security and contentment are forever present.


Two prints of artwork by Alice WoolfAlice Woolfe Print 1 Alice Woolfe Print 2Alice and my mother were born in the same year; Alice passed five years before mother did, but they were lifelong friends, and I recall hearing many stories about her as I was growing up. I’m pleased to share this bit of Utah history which, thanks to Alice’s insights, has been preserved.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Saltair, ca. 1900

Saltair-Pavilion-1900

The first Saltair pavilion in Utah, around 1900. Several resorts have borne the name over time.

Sightseeing1

“No scenic wonder on the American continent is better known than the Great Salt Lake, “the dead sea of America,” eighty miles long and forty miles wide, lying a short distance west of the city of Salt Lake.
Here above the surface of the briny waves, on great pilings stands famous Saltair – the immense, picturesque pleasure resort, visited annually by hundreds of thousands of tourists from every country in the world.
No stop-over at Salt Lake is complete without a trip to the Dead Sea of the New World – to Saltair where you can float like a cork on the salt-laden waters of the Great Salt Lake. Sink? You can’t!
The waters of the Great Salt Lake contain 22 per cent salt, creating a buoyancy that keeps you on top of the waves without any effort on your part. No bathing anywhere in the world is more healthful, refreshing or invigorating. Every provision has been made for your comfort, pleasure and amusement. A maze of never-ending attractions! Every hour – every minute – something doing at SALTAIR!
Splendid ship cafe; city prices.

Trains every 45 minutes from Saltair depot. Fare, Round trip, 25¢

From the above brochure. Of note: third from front on the right, and fourth from front on the left, are my grandparents – Delbert M. and Frances Rogers Draper. This would date the photo above to around 1912, the date of their marriage.

Saltair

As the Wikipedia article mentions, the resort has had a checkered history, but in its heyday was one of the premier tourist wonders of the nation.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

 

The I-15 Polka

For four years before the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake, I-15 was torn up and widened from Riverton to the north end of Salt Lake. It was sheer misery, although I have to say the final result was very nice. In 2009, it was Utah County’s turn, as the CORE project widened the freeway from American Fork to Payson.

This is a little tribute to our suffering, with music provided by Salzburger Echo, who wrote the I-15 Polka in honor of the previous project.

Lagoon’s “Terroride” Mural

Lagoon has long been one of my favorite places to visit. It’s not the fanciest amusement park in the world, but it’s ours – and the owners have done their best to make it a good place for young and old to have fun for as long as I can remember, which dates back to around 1957 or so.

This mural appeared as the backdrop for the loading area to the Terroride, one of the oldest park attractions and still a favorite. I remember I posted about it at a forum dedicated to Lagoon about three years ago, so I’ll just steal my own comment from there:

“The Terroride mural is a holdover from an age gone by. Many traveling carnivals had dark-rides or dark walkthroughs, and they appealed to people from a rural environment who, “b’gosh I’ll jest swan to Guinea, I never done see’d nothin’ like that in all my born days!” The mural was designed as the visual representation of a nightmare. Apes, skeletons, octopi, spiders, mummies… and Negroes! Hey, back then, “Negroes” were scary! We’re talking 1940’s and before… this is an old mural. Even though it’s not terribly frightening now, or even politically correct, I hope they preserve it – it’s a beautiful piece of history. I recall visiting Lagoon in around 1957 or so, for the first time, and that picture gave me the heebie-jeebies. “

Now that I think about it, the dancing African was probably supposed to represent a juju-man, or witch doctor – which back in more provincial days may have been frightening enough indeed.

[Edit:] Lest anyone think there was even a hint of racism in the minds of management, Lagoon’s owner and general manager Robert E. Freed was fiercely dedicated to the causes of equality; when the Freed family and their partner, Ranch Kimball, took over the lease of Lagoon, the terms forbade blacks in the swimming pool and the ballroom in accordance with a Farmington town ordinance. By the late 1940s, Freed had succeeded in fully opening Lagoon to the black community; when his company acquired the Rainbow Gardens, later known as the Terrace Ballroom, the same policy was adopted.

Posted on a Flickr picture was this description:

“The mural was painted by William M. Tracy, who is probably dead now. He lived in New Jersey. It is believed to have been painted in the 1940’s. William Tracy used to display stunts for dark rides at the industry trade shows. The mural was most likely purchased at the trade show along with some stunts. Bill Tracy also did many of the gags that were in the original Dracula’s Castle, many of which remain in place today. Sadly, he was an alcoholic.”

Others have disputed parts of this, but it’s the only bit of history I’ve been able to find.

If it’s indeed gone, that would be a sadness – I’ll be curious to find out if it was preserved anywhere.

[Update:] I called Lagoon today – apparently the mural has indeed been replaced by some trees, but it has been preserved in the offices at the Lagoon annex. That’s good – a piece of history like this deserves to be saved. Thumbs up!

The Old Wolf has spoken.