Friday, December 02, 2016

Remembering Lakeside

Last night the local PBS had a documentary on Lakeside Amusement Park in Salem, VA.

I visited the amusement park many times as a child and a teenager. I think the last time I went, I was 19. Then this area had a major flood in 1985 and the amusement park went underwater. It never recovered and now the land houses a retail area.

The park opened in 1920 with a large football-sized segregated swimming pool. In time, it changed hands and ride attractions were added, such as a roller coaster (there were two; I only knew the last one, The Shooting Star).

These were the times when my mother could drop us off with my 14-year-old uncle (I would have been nine) and let us roam free. The uncle (her brother) would of course ditch me, my brother, and my other young uncle as soon as he could, leaving us to fend for ourselves amongst the rides and the pavilion.

I suppose it was here that I learned to love cotton candy and the huckster games that one finds at carnivals.

I recall riding The Shooting Star only twice. I was never a fan of the rides that made me sick. I was more of a Merry-Go-Round or bumper cars type of kid.

I did like the skyline, though, which circumvented the park. The long trip around the complex was relaxing, if not a little scary, and it was as if you could see the world from up there. That was a big deal when you were a kid.

After I received my driver's license, I would go to Lakeside with friends (even when I wasn't supposed). We loved to sneak into concerts and there I heard Juice Newton, Merle Haggard, Loretta Lynn (I think) and many other country and pop stars. We were under age but security apparently was not that good, because we never had any trouble getting into the shows. They were held in a pavilion area.

The documentary should be available for purchase at the local PBS station at some point. They were hawking it last night during the show, so I assume it will be available to the general public.

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