Ticket to Ride



Illustration by Patrick Neil

One of my earliest memories of Kennywood isn’t of a particular ride or of a particular scary-eyed kangaroo or of a particular cheese-smothered food or of a particular high-stepping, jazz-handed song-and-dance routine put on by a super-smiley team of high school students sweating to death in sticky taffeta.

Rather, my earliest memory of Kennywood is the drive to the park each summer. It seemed to take forever (20 eternal minutes), and we would make the drive feel faster by counting how many yellow arrows emblazoned with the Kennywood logo and nailed to light posts we could find on our way there. When I was a child, the excitement of spotting those arrows on the way to this legendary amusement park can only be compared to the excitement of an adult woman finding a trail of diamonds leading to a pot of gold being held by a paid-up-for-life personal maid.

My second-earliest memory of Kennywood is the ticket books.
You know. The ticket books.

I realize some of you out there are looking at me all, “Whuzzah?” as if I just started talking about El DeBarge, but I’m seriously telling you that there was a time when you purchased books of tickets instead of one ride-all-day pass. Each ride required various numbers of tickets in order to gain admission—perhaps one ticket for the train, two tickets for Noah’s Ark and maybe three or four to embark on the super-cool Laser Loop.

The Laser Loop was a state-of-the-art roller coaster that went super fast on a level track then went around a big loop and then returned you backward through the loop. That’s all it did. What a rush!

I recall my mother and father sitting on a bench in Kiddie Land holding the ticket books while chatting with my grandmother then handing out tickets to the five of us for each ride we were planning to enjoy. Gradually we grew into the big-kid rides, and our father would grab a few tickets to ride along and make certain we weren’t ejected from our seats during the double dip in the Jack Rabbit.

(I’m told it’s impossible, but tell that to my flying, flailing, terrified, 7-year-old body. It sure didn’t FEEL impossible.)

Kennywood was a huge part of my childhood: It was one day out of the year that I couldn’t sleep the night before and would wake up at the crack of dawn as if it were Christmas morning. I’d be dressed and ready to head out at 6:30 a.m. to an amusement park that didn’t even open until 11.

And if we woke up and it was raining? “Wailing” doesn’t even begin to describe the reaction. “Gnashing of the teeth” does a better job. Rending of the garments. Donning of sackcloth and ashes.

Recently my childhood memories of Kennywood came crashing up against my new adulthood experiences. There was a big chunk of years between high school and the second birthday of my first child when I didn’t go to Kennywood. So it had been frozen in my mind as a place of ticket books, personalized sailor hats and long jean shorts with baggy T-shirts and sneakers—that was the girls’ standard attire—and how could I forget the old man who rode the merry-go-round all day while standing on the very edge and leaning backward, his hands in his pockets.

As an adult spending the day at Kennywood, I was first struck by how very, very old it makes me feel. I mean, kids, I can practically see your butt in those shorts that say “Juicy” on the backside, and are 4-inch wedge platform sandals really the appropriate footwear for those shifty floor boards in Noah’s Ark? You’ll put your eye out!

And when did teenagers get so un-awkward?! If life were fair, teenagers would still have the “awkward” years, but it appears that via evolution, the human race has eliminated that phase from our genetic makeup so that instead of baby, toddler, child, pre-teen, awkward teen and swan, humans now go baby, toddler, pre-teen, STUNNING SUPERMODEL.

The ticket books have gone the way of the Laser Loop, replaced with fairly expensive ride-all-day passes and the scream-ripper-outter Phantom’s Revenge, respectively. The rides are scarier, the lines a bit longer, the food a bit pricier and the security a bit stricter.

That said, I take comfort in the constants that have survived: The merry-go-round minus the old man, the train, Kenny’s scary eyes, Kiddie Land, Potato Patch fries topped with cheese hot enough to melt down gold, laughter, families, friends, lasting memories—and above all else—the horrified look on my kid’s face the first time he hit that double dip in the Jack Rabbit and popped up in the air like a piece of ejected toast.

I should have taken a picture.

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Top 10 Things to Do in Pittsburgh in April

Top 10 Things to Do in Pittsburgh in April

This month's best bets in the ’Burgh.
Take a Hike: 10 of the Best Trails in the Pittsburgh Area

Take a Hike: 10 of the Best Trails in the Pittsburgh Area

Lace up your sneakers or hiking boots and head outdoors for 10 great walks for spring.
412 Food Rescue: Revolutionary Repurposing

412 Food Rescue: Revolutionary Repurposing

Local nonprofit organization 412 Food Rescue is taking food that otherwise would be tossed aside and connecting it with those in need through-of-the-moment technology.
Spring Fashion: The Height of White

Spring Fashion: The Height of White

Fashion is white haute this spring with the best looks from local stores.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

It's a Sign: Could Pittsburgh Be the New Hollywood?

It's a Sign: Could Pittsburgh Be the New Hollywood?

Pittsburgh could be well on its way to replicating one of Hollywood’s most prominent landmarks.
Where in Pittsburgh to Dump Your Old TV or Computer

Where in Pittsburgh to Dump Your Old TV or Computer

You are going to want to print this list and keep it handy.
Watch: Jameson Taillon's Remarkable Recovery

Watch: Jameson Taillon's Remarkable Recovery

Sports media company Whistle Sports documented Pirates pitcher Jameson Taillon's recovery workout regime.
Celebrating 75 Years: Connecting History with Community

Celebrating 75 Years: Connecting History with Community

The Heinz History Center’s World War II traveling exhibit focuses on western Pennsylvania’s ties to history.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Top 10 Things to Do in Pittsburgh in April

Top 10 Things to Do in Pittsburgh in April

This month's best bets in the ’Burgh.
Take a Hike: 10 of the Best Trails in the Pittsburgh Area

Take a Hike: 10 of the Best Trails in the Pittsburgh Area

Lace up your sneakers or hiking boots and head outdoors for 10 great walks for spring.
412 Food Rescue: Revolutionary Repurposing

412 Food Rescue: Revolutionary Repurposing

Local nonprofit organization 412 Food Rescue is taking food that otherwise would be tossed aside and connecting it with those in need through-of-the-moment technology.
Spring Fashion: The Height of White

Spring Fashion: The Height of White

Fashion is white haute this spring with the best looks from local stores.
Restaurant Review: Pork & Beans

Restaurant Review: Pork & Beans

The latest restaurant from the Richard DeShantz Restaurant Group brings Texas-style smoked meats and more to Downtown.
Daytripping: Brave the Cave

Daytripping: Brave the Cave

Go subterranean at Laurel Caverns, the largest cave in Pennsylvania.
Edit Module
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


It's a Sign: Could Pittsburgh Be the New Hollywood?

It's a Sign: Could Pittsburgh Be the New Hollywood?

Pittsburgh could be well on its way to replicating one of Hollywood’s most prominent landmarks.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Dish Osteria and Bar To Close

Dish Osteria and Bar To Close

The beloved Pittsburgh institution will serve its last meal in April.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
Five Inexpensive But Memorable Date Spots in Pittsburgh

Five Inexpensive But Memorable Date Spots in Pittsburgh

These spots are tailored for couples who are looking for a simple, chill night out on Valentine’s Day (or any other day). If your significant other isn’t the type to be wooed by expensive wines and chocolates, this is the list for you.

Comments


The (Very Good) Brewery You Should Be Patronizing in Homestead

The (Very Good) Brewery You Should Be Patronizing in Homestead

Voodoo Brewery is an enticing alternative to the many chains in and around the Waterfront.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Steelers’ Philosophy Back on Display After Hightower Flirtation

Steelers’ Philosophy Back on Display After Hightower Flirtation

Even as they entertained Dont’a Hightower for nearly seven hours during a free-agent recruiting trip to the South Side, the Steelers never lost sight of who they are or what they’re all about.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Turn Your Bath into a Spa with These Oils

Turn Your Bath into a Spa with These Oils

The miniature bath- and shower-oil collection from Aromatherapy Associates makes every shower a luxury experience.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
The CMU Film Fest Opens with One of 2016's Best

The CMU Film Fest Opens with One of 2016's Best

Reviews of two films appearing at the 2017 Carnegie Mellon International Film Festival: "I, Daniel Blake," and "The Eagle Huntress." Plus local movie news and notes.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Combating the Cold: How This Couple Pulled Off Their Winter Wedding

Combating the Cold: How This Couple Pulled Off Their Winter Wedding

Happy to see warmer weather? This gorgeous winter wedding may actually have you missing the snow.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
Auction Alert: Own a Piece of Artistry

Auction Alert: Own a Piece of Artistry

Looking for a unique piece? Inventory from Artistry, which closed up shop in the Strip District after more than 25 years in business, will be sold at auction this weekend.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
A New Kind of Summer at Slippery Rock University

A New Kind of Summer at Slippery Rock University

The university will hold an environmental camp at the end of June.

Comments