I may have grown up in Troy, but my family always has had a big Cincinnati connection.
Both of my parents were from Cincinnati and most of their families are still there. So the Lindeman boys grew up hearing about, and visiting, Cincinnati institutions. The Cincinnati Reds, the Cincinnati Zoo, Mount Adams, even the Cricket restaurant downtown were all places we knew all about.
But there was one place I suspected my mother liked best of all.
Coney Island is an amusement park located on the Ohio River just east of Cincinnati. Every year, my mother would pack us up and take us for a day at the park. She seemed to be as excited about it as we were. She would tell us how you used to be able to get on the Island Queen in downtown Cincinnati and ride the riverboat to the park. She had a special twinkle in her eye when she talked about her days as a girl at Coney Island.
Coney Island was a big deal until the early 1970s, when many of its attractions were transferred to the new Kings Island. The park eventually made a comeback, though, and today is once again going strong.
What I remembered best about Coney Island was I always wanted to play miniature golf, but somehow we never got around to it. I also decided I could live solely on salt water taffy.
Then there was the Lost River.
I was a little bit scared of roller coasters and my older brothers made sure they reminded me about it. At one point, one or more of them talked me into going on the Lost River. My mother explained this was the old tunnel of love. My little brain had trouble getting my mind around my mother riding in the tunnel of love when she was young, but I figured if it was a tunnel of love, how bad could it be?
It actually was just a mild ride in a boat through a dark building. I couldn’t figure out why my brothers were snickering so much until we came out … and hooked up to a chain that started to pull us up a roller coaster hill.
You know that cachunka-cachunka sound when you are going up the hill? I had never heard it before. I was so scared I simply froze until finally I yelled something like, “Let me out of here!”
“Too late now,” one of my loving brothers said.
Cachunka-Cachunka-Cachunka and … total silence. A moment perched on the edge of the precipice. Then straight down into a little lagoon.
Compared to rides today, the Lost River was a tiny bump in the world of roller coasterdom. But it sure scared me to death. Of course, when we got off the ride, someone said to me, “That wasn’t so bad, was it?” And it wasn’t. It became my favorite ride.
I bring this up because recently a bunch of my friends from Troy, most who have young children or grandchildren, took a trip to Coney Island. Being that I was a Coney Island expert, I decided to go along.
I stayed away from the salt water taffy because once you get to a certain age things like that result in a trip to the dentist. As much as I like my dentist, I prefer to see him only on regularly scheduled visits.
My wife and I immediately played miniature golf, which finally got that off my list. Then we rode the Ferris Wheel a couple times. I even rode the roller coaster, which is more like a “Wild Mouse” type of ride. I told my wife we missed being able to ride the tunnel of love by about 60 years, but she didn’t seem to mind.
The park is much different now – all the old rides are long gone and it is more geared for young children. But watching the kids run from ride to ride, or jump off a ride and run to get back in line to ride it again, brought back memories from the distant past. I guess it was the same kind of thing for my mother when she took us there many years ago. It probably reminded her of visits to the Moonlite Gardens when Coney Island was the place to be in Cincinnati.
I stopped one of the boys and asked him about his favorite ride. He was so excited I could hardly keep up with his explanation. Then he said, “I rode it nine times!”
Riding your favorite ride nine times in one day? That’s living.
I suspect he’ll be able to tell his children that story many years from now when he takes them to Coney Island. As for me, well, I’m thinking the next time my grandchildren are in town they might be old enough to make the pilgrimage. It’s too bad they won’t be able to ride the Lost River, but I imagine they will be able to find plenty of things that will be worth remembering.
David Lindeman is a Troy resident and former editor at the Troy Daily News. He can be reached at [email protected]