In Huntington, West Virginia, there is an amusement park called Camden Park.
Every summer my family, Grandma, Aunts, Uncles and cousins, would load up in our Ford station wagon, along with packed lunches and drinks, and spend the day being amused at Camden Park.
I have a lot of good memories of Camden Park.
Among my favorites were the little cars on a track. This was where my love for a Ford Mustang began. Can you tell I wasn’t ready to give up this kiddie ride?
I loved the tall slides and the burlap sacks you used to ride down the slide with. I didn’t mind the mile and a half of steps you had to climb to get to the top. The haunted house. Tilt-a-whirl. The train. I could go on and on.
But the one ride that was my brother’s favorite was the bumper cars. He was ten years older than me and plenty old enough to drive the bumper cars. That was the first place he headed and where he stayed, unless Mom made him ride something with me.
One day, I decided I wanted to ride the bumper cars. But I wasn’t old enough. My brother agreed to let me ride with him.
You know how it is…… little sister cramps your style when you’re trying to get the girls attention.
So anyway, we stood in line. I can remember being so excited that I get to ride in the big kid bumper cars.
When we got to the gate, the attendent split us up. Meaning, I would be driving my own bumper car.
Did I tell you I was seven years old? No? Well, I was.
And the excitement quickly gave way to fear.
No one had ever told me how to work the bumper cars. No coaching. Nothing.
It’s kinda like how some people learn to swim. Someone throws them in water over their head and says sink or swim.
Yeah, feet first.
I watched what all the others were doing. I got in, buckled my seatbelt and sat back. It was then that I realized I couldn’t reach the pedals. Not that I really knew what to do with them anyway.
But I did know they had something to do with how the bumper cars moved. I scooted myself up to where my little hiney was barely on the seat and my toes were barely touching the pedal. “Okay, I’m good. I’ll figure out what to do when they start the cars.”
By now, all the cars were full, after checking to make sure everyone had belts on, the attendent returned to his post.
Mom and Grandma are standing on the outside watching. I don’t know if they were scared for me or they were proud that their little girl would be driving the big kid bumper cars, but Mom was smiling ear to ear. Either from pride or to give me the confidence I needed to endure the adventure that was just thrust upon me.
The buzzer sounded and I began to hear the whirring sound of the electric cars.
Yes, I can still see and hear it all very vividly in my mind. Soon, you will know why.
The other cars started moving, bumping into eachother. Backing up and doing it again. I sat there, wide eyed.
That is, until someone bumped me. Bringing me to reality. The reality that I had to get outta the way and fast.
I hit the pedal and off I went. Into another car. I sat there.
Another car hit mine again and again and again, until I was stuck in a corner.
Stop here just a second and imagine a little girl, wide eyed with fear, stuck in a corner, stomping the pedals on that bumper car, turning the steering wheel and not realizing that the little wheel in the front goes around and around….
Yeah, not fun.
By now, my fear had heightened and I was determined to get outta that corner. Realizing that one of the pedals was reverse, I began to back up. Just as I started out of that corner this kid knocked me back in. I started backing up again, the same kid knocked me back in the corner. My fear had disappeared and anger took its place.
I will never forget that kid, pale complexion, blue eyes, blonde curly hair and a great big smile that I wanted to knock right off his face.
By now the tears were rolling.
The kid yells at me, laughing, “Why don’t you get outta that corner?”
Oh yeah, you know I yelled back, “If you’d quit hitting me, I would!”
Have I ever told you I was scrappy when I was a child? Well, I was and I wanted to choke the living daylights outta that kid.
He knocked me back in the corner.
I had had enough. I started taking off my seatbelt, not realizing the danger of stepping outta that bumper car. Remember I was seven years old.
I was done with the bumper cars and done with that ever so happy blonde haired kid.
The attendent must have been watching me, because just as I raised my hiney off the seat to get out, he shut down the ride. The bell sounded and the whirring sound of the cars stopped.
I stomped myself out of that arena, past the blonde haired kid and my brother and straight to my Mom and Grandma.
Who were laughing so hard they had tears rolling, too.
At that point, I was mad at the world. The attendent for splitting my brother and I up. My brother for leaving me. The blonde haired kid for being a butthead. And Mom and Grandma for laughing.
I know it must have been hilarious to be watching that episode from the sidelines. But at the time, I DID NOT think it was funny.
I never got on the bumper cars at Camden Park again. As a matter of fact, I didn’t get on bumper cars again until I was 37 years old.
My wild ride on the bumper cars was enough to last a long time.