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

A History of Pittsburgh, in 50 Artifacts

A History of Pittsburgh, in 50 Artifacts

For a city only two centuries old, Pittsburgh has amassed a surprising amount of history. To assemble this collection of 50 of the region’s most fascinating historical artifacts, we hunted through museums, archives and private collections. We also looked for things many of us might pass each day without appreciating their significance.
The Origins of Isaly’s: It's Not What You Think

The Origins of Isaly’s: It's Not What You Think

Tracing the story of the chain back to its roots — which, surprisingly, are not in Pittsburgh.
In the Frame: Julie Sokolow Sees the Future

In the Frame: Julie Sokolow Sees the Future

After making films focused on Pittsburgh, Sokolow is rising through the ranks of U.S. women documentarians.
Restaurant Review: Salem's Market & Grill in the Strip District

Restaurant Review: Salem's Market & Grill in the Strip District

Salem’s offers accessible and delicious meals for Pittsburghers of all stripes.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

Pittsburghers Get Less Robocalls Than The National Average

Pittsburghers Get Less Robocalls Than The National Average

Next time you get a call from a telemarketer, just be thankful you don’t live in Atlanta.
Four Pittsburgh Chefs Honored on James Beard Long List

Four Pittsburgh Chefs Honored on James Beard Long List

The four are semifinalists for James Beard Foundation Awards, considered the most prestigious of the nation's culinary honors.
Is Pittsburgh About to Become the Next Detroit?

Is Pittsburgh About to Become the Next Detroit?

No offense to the motor city, but auto companies are eyeing the steel city to develop the next generation of driverless vehicles.
Even the Penguins Helped to ‘Shear Da Beard’ This Year

Even the Penguins Helped to ‘Shear Da Beard’ This Year

A who’s-who of Pittsburgh legends were on hand Monday night to help shave what may be Pittsburgh’s most famous beard.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

A History of Pittsburgh, in 50 Artifacts

A History of Pittsburgh, in 50 Artifacts

For a city only two centuries old, Pittsburgh has amassed a surprising amount of history. To assemble this collection of 50 of the region’s most fascinating historical artifacts, we hunted through museums, archives and private collections. We also looked for things many of us might pass each day without appreciating their significance.
The Origins of Isaly’s: It's Not What You Think

The Origins of Isaly’s: It's Not What You Think

Tracing the story of the chain back to its roots — which, surprisingly, are not in Pittsburgh.
In the Frame: Julie Sokolow Sees the Future

In the Frame: Julie Sokolow Sees the Future

After making films focused on Pittsburgh, Sokolow is rising through the ranks of U.S. women documentarians.
Restaurant Review: Salem's Market & Grill in the Strip District

Restaurant Review: Salem's Market & Grill in the Strip District

Salem’s offers accessible and delicious meals for Pittsburghers of all stripes.
Pittsburgh Penguins Share Tips for Parenting on Ice

Pittsburgh Penguins Share Tips for Parenting on Ice

In a year when youth-hockey participation is expected to increase, Pittsburgh Penguins players weigh in on the role of the hockey parent.
Face the Frost: Go Daytripping on Winter Hikes in Pittsburgh

Face the Frost: Go Daytripping on Winter Hikes in Pittsburgh

There’s a magical, snowy landscape right in your backyard.
Edit Module
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


Pittsburghers Get Less Robocalls Than The National Average

Pittsburghers Get Less Robocalls Than The National Average

Next time you get a call from a telemarketer, just be thankful you don’t live in Atlanta.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Union Standard Will Open This Weekend

Union Standard Will Open This Weekend

The highly anticipated restaurant from Derek Stevens opens is located in the Union Trust building Downtown.

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


Social House 7 Is Okay ... But There's This Really Weird Thing About It

Social House 7 Is Okay ... But There's This Really Weird Thing About It

While it's not among Downtown's best, Social House 7 is a fine place for a drink and a bite — but we're stuck on a bizarre element of the décor.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Love Affair Between Pittsburgh & Keisel is a Two-Way Street

Love Affair Between Pittsburgh & Keisel is a Two-Way Street

Where else but Pittsburgh would a football player, two years removed from his playing days, be able to raise about $85,000 in one night for the staging of an event that involves the gathering of a crowd to watch a man shave?

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Tantalizing Textiles for the Table

Tantalizing Textiles for the Table

Check out the chic decor from Pittsburgh-based artist and designer Janice Nelson.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
Great Wall Crumbles, Fist Fight Whiffs

Great Wall Crumbles, Fist Fight Whiffs

Reviews of "The Great Wall" and "Fist Fight," plus local movie news and notes.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Our Favorite Unique Centerpiece (That’s Not Flowers)

Our Favorite Unique Centerpiece (That’s Not Flowers)

This couple’s centerpiece from our Real Pittsburgh Weddings shines brighter than the traditional table bouquet.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
The Candle Lab Ready To Make Its Debut in Lawrenceville

The Candle Lab Ready To Make Its Debut in Lawrenceville

The Columbus-based store, where you can customize your own candle fragrance, is expected to open in March.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
Get a Behind-the-Scenes Look at ‘Fences’

Get a Behind-the-Scenes Look at ‘Fences’

An art director from Warner Bros. Studios will visit La Roche College to talk about the Oscar-nominated film with ties to Pittsburgh.

Comments