Gwynn Oak Park
Growing up, we were so poor that as the saying goes, “we couldn’t pay attention”. My parents never owned a house or a car, so the idea of a vacation was out of the question. However, there were a couple of times that we were able to hitch a ride with some neighbors out to Gwynn Oak Park, an amusement park outside of Baltimore. For this Southwest Baltimore youth, it was quite a thrill!
Gwynn Oak Park had a lot of cool rides and one of my favorites was the ‘Spook House’. As soon as the car that you were sitting in went through those double doors, everything got dark. As the cars took you through the Spook House, it would whirl you around and bring you right up almost nose to nose with some scary figure placed in various places along the way. I could have spent the day just going through that haunted house as for a young boy it was scary but a lot of fun.
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Another one of the rides that I liked was the Roller Coasters. They had a little one and a big one. After riding the little one several times, I decided to give the big one a try. I mean, after all, the Little Roller Coaster was fun but nothing really scary about it. After getting my tickets and going up to the entrance of the Big Roller Coaster and getting in one of the bright Red cars, the ride started off real slow as it climbed the hill. I was probably thinking, “what’s so scary about this”? When it finally reached the top, it all of a sudden took off, and made a quick jerk and drop down the tracks, and not having a good grip, it threw me forward with my mouth hitting the rail, and busting my mouth with blood and all that. Needless to say, I gripped that bar with all my strength after that. That was my first and last time on the Big Roller Coaster!
They also had some other neat rides, the Double Ferris Wheel was cool as it really put you up high and you had an excellent view of the park when the ride would stop and you would be at the top of the wheel. The ‘Tilt-A-Whirl’ was another that I remember and you could make the car turn faster by spinning the wheel in the car. Even then I remember that when coming off of the ride you would be dizzy and out of sorts for a bit. They had some other rides that had a real scary reputation like ‘The Mouse’ but that was only for the older kids and adults as it must have really been a knuckle gripper.
It’s been many years since those days at the park, but I still remember it fondly. The sounds, the food, the rides, it was an exciting experience for a kid that seldom ventured outside of his Southwest Baltimore community