Last weekend we took a short 2 day trip to Pennsylvania to visit Knoebels Amusement Park on Saturday then drive home through the Poconos and the Delaware Water Gap on the way home Sunday. Knoebels was more crowded than it was when we went last year (on a Friday) but we still had fun in the park with all the oldschool rides. In fact this was sort of a theme for the whole weekend. Knoebels is renowned for it’s dedication to amusement rides of the past. They have no steel mega coasters or karaoke booths, there’s no McDonald’s in the park…they make their own food…and it’s GOOD.
The experts will point out to you that their bumper cars are the real deal made by Lusse Auto Skooter to use an overused phrase, ‘they just don’t make them like that anymore.’ There’s a Whip that’s from the same era. A time of simple physics and muscle power. They even have one of the only remaining carousels where you can still reach for the brass ring.
Knoebels is so dedicated to the history of amusement park rides that 4 years ago they set out to recreate a trackless roller coaster called Flying Turns. They’ve hit several rough patches because no such ride exists anymore and they rely on a lot of trial and error to get it running safely and consistently. When completed it will be the only one of it’s kind anywhere. You often overhear older patrons saying, ‘I remember these from when I was a kid.’ That’s a powerful place to be, those memories of your childhood. To look back for once instead of forward is a great thing and we need to do it more often.
Sunday morning we set out in a drenching rain to visit Promised Land State Park in the Poconos. My Grandparents had a cabin here when I was growing up and we spent many weeks there with my family. I was only 6 or 7 the last time I went, but I have VIVID memories of the house, the lake, the rocks and trees and especially the smells. Smoke, wood, scrapple and cantaloupe…to this day these smells bring me back there instantly.
I had not been to the house in over 30 years, but I was sure I could find it and I did, despite the street having no name and no sign. I recognized the general store where we’d make the turn and pulled onto the small park road. Down the hill towards the lake and a 90 degree right turn to drive along the shore. there were more houses closer together than I remembered, but it still felt the same.
I spotted the house from the road, it sits up on a small bluff behind some rocks. The color had changed from white to a dark red, but other than that it looked the same. As we sat out front snapping a few pictures a woman called down from the screened in front porch to ask what we were doing. My wife told her that my family used to own the house once and she immediately said, ‘are you the Kents?’ That’s us, so she invited us to come on up.
We didn’t want the kids tromping wet through their house so I started up the familiar gravel driveway myself. Marveling at how everything looked and felt the same. Stepping onto the porch I was even shaking a bit from all the memories, it was a little eerie to be back in this place 30 plus years later as an adult with my own kids. Introductions were made and I was invited to have a look, but warned that it did not look the same, that scared me until I saw that they were in the process of renovating and had stripped everything down to the studs. You could tell they were taking their time and keeping the layout as original as they could.
One of the first things I noticed missing was the large fieldstone fireplace along one living room wall. Before I could feel sad they pointed out that it wasn’t working very well and they had saved all the rocks to build a small wall in the back yard. Given the choices of leaving the house as is and letting it deteriorate, tearing it down and rebuilding and renovating it back to it’s original state I’m glad they chose the latter. The motley kitchen floor was the same as were some chairs, the pink Kelvinator fridge and the outhouse.
They asked me many questions about my family history and also that of the house and my times there. While cleaning out the attic they found an old sketchbook that belonged to my (very artistic) Grandfather. As I leafed through it they urged me to keep it and share it with the rest of my family. They also wanted me to have the hand carved ‘Kent’s’ sign that hung over the door for so many years.
I was very happy to see the place in such good hands and they urged me to please come back and see it when it was finished. I’ll do just that.
I started thinking about my own kids and what will they have to come back to as adults with THEIR own families and how will it have stood the test of time if in fact it’s still standing at all. It makes me want to take more time every day to create similar memories for them while they’re still young.