Remembering Silver Beach

I could tell, even as a young girl, that the Silver Beach Carousel horses were different from most fair or carnival horses.  They were tasseled and bejeweled creatures - all of them white, most with black horsehair tails that swept to the floor.  Each horse was uniquely carved, had leather reins, and stirrups that a kid could put his feet into if his or her little legs could reach.  Some horses were standing – heads defiantly tossed, tongues lolling, and then there were the jumpers, or the “fast” horses as my sister called them.   No horse was more beautiful than my favorite -- the lead horse.  His neck was gracefully arched, with ears back and nostrils flared as if ready to do battle, and clad in breathtaking jewel-encrusted armor.

A few years later, when I was a teenager who thought herself too old to ride the merry-go-round, I would find time to sit on a nearby bench and watch as he circled around, marveling at his beauty.

Mom handed out our tickets and we waited in line, watching as the merry-go-round slowed and its riders exited down the ramp.  It was our turn!  My sisters and I would linger for a second by the ornate outer-row standing horses, but quickly pass them by for the inner-row jumpers, scrambling up and on – clutching the poles in one hand and our tickets in the other.  The turned brass poles shuddered as we started to move up or down and the pace was slow at first as the attendant wove through the horses, collecting each kid’s ticket.  Soon we were racing along to the music, side by side, with the band organ’s drums seeming to thump in our chests and the lake breeze in our faces!  All too quickly the horses slowed and the music ended, and if a kid was stuck up high on a "jump," the strong arms of the attendant would have him down in a flash!  Our favorite ride over - we reluctantly headed down the exit ramp, searching for our parent’s faces in the crowd.

The Whip was located next to the merry-go-round.  It was a longtime mainstay of the park, and fun for young and old.  We quickly learned to lean sharply into the curve to get as much “whip” action as possible as we rounded the corners of the oblong track!  Behind the merry-go-round and Whip was a large oval go-cart track.  The go-carts were a noisy addition to the park and a favorite of the older kids. 

Susie riding the Silver Beach Carousel

Continuing down the midway, we passed a Dish Pitch concession (tip: “skip” the coin over the plates, don’t “toss” it) before entering Kiddieland – a fenced area geared to the youngest park-goers.  Kiddieland had a gorgeous view of the lake and sandy beach, an abundance of benches, and was a wonderful place for parents to relax as their little ones rode the tyke rides.  There was a pony cart ride, a miniature train ride, a boat ride, and a fighter airplane ride, complete with guns that would rat-a-tat-tat as my little sisters aimed at each other in an imaginary dogfight in the sky!  Our visit was almost over, and we passed the Swingin’ Gym on our way to the park’s entrance.  It was fun to watch guys and girls trying to swing themselves over the top of the ride in those cage-like contraptions! 

Silver Beach Carousel Horse and the Cotton Candy Stand

The very last stop was always the Cotton Candy Stand, a tidy little white building with shiny red candy apples prominently displayed in the window.  Standing on tiptoes, we watched as a woman swirled pink and blue cotton candy onto a paper cone, eating ours while walking to the parking lot.  My sisters and I rode home in the back seat of the station wagon, happily clutching water whistles in hands sticky from cotton candy -- already looking forward to next year’s visit to Silver Beach.