Friday, June 1, 2012

Kiddieland Memories-Schatzie Guerra

Kiddieland Amusement Park was one of the summer go-to spots we had on Sundays with my Father.
There was also the Indiana Dunes, various forest preserve bar-b-ques and Great America, but right now we're in Melrose Park in the mid to late 70s'.
The carousel, bumper cars and The Little Dipper.
I mostly recall these rail type cars that you got to squat into and then had to propel yourself around the track by cranking the oversized egg-beater style handles.
And, the puppet box.
Part of me thinks it a false recall, but I still have the haziest of pictures in my mind-and will swear it was real.
It couldn't have been more that 4 or 5 feet tall or so and maybe 3 deep.
There was a glass front with varicolored designs, maybe even a type of circus motif, but it was what was behind the glass that held me.
A small group of clown marionettes, puffed sleeves ending in those puppet wrists that remind you of the tied end of a balloon, hands down as if waiting to receive a slap.
Drop a coin in the slot and the edges of the glass would light up and the hidden wheels at the top would pull the strings, jerking the puppets to life for their twenty-five cent revue.
The music- Well, again, misremembering tells me it was some kind of calliope tune befitting the circus along with a small chorus of voices singing some happy circus-y song that really didn't match any of their movements.
It was odd and tinny, even standing right in front you really couldn't make out any words.
Like a drive through mountains where you catch the snippet of a song you think is familiar, you try and work the dial with a surgeon's grace, ranging between the static peaks to get it back.
I dream of the song.
Garbled but happy, the performers did as much as they could with the brief life a quarter gave them.
It mesmerized me and I had to see them every time we went to that park,.
My Father indulged but not before a look that told you you were not getting anything of value regardless how small the small expense.
There was also a slightly similar gimmick at Brookfield Zoo, maybe Lincoln Park? That I know for a fact existed.
It was a box with cut-outs of smiling animals and the money deposited was to help fund the zoo, according to the information on the front.
The concept was the same but the performance was nowhere near as captivating and if I had bothered, I'm sure I could have made out whatever it was they was singing about.
It's the Kiddieland marionette box that is the Grail of memories, partially due to it's surreal mien and because my Dad must have given up five dollars in quarters over the years so I could stand stock still for less than a minute and watch the show that never changed, unless you counted the increasing distortion from that speaker and the fading of their costumes.
I heard a song last year, it opens with a distorted warble that made me think of the puppet box immediately  and I have since tracked it down to add to my music.
I will occasionally play it and imagine the sun in my eyes from the angle of the plexiglass and picture a group of raggedy hanged men preparing to sing the only song they ever learned.

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