Bitterly disappointed that we wouldn't be allowed to swim in algae, we backed away from the door. We consoled ourselves that we at least had television. Which, unlike the black and white set at home, would let us actually watch Disney’s Wonderful World of Color IN color.
Using Gary as a remote control, we settled in to watch the latest Disney flick starring Angela Lansbury. Engrossed in the antics of flying bedknobs and broomsticks, we were oblivious to the stack of brochures stacked in front of our parents.
During my favorite public service announcement-I LOVE that crying Indian!-we asked when we could go swimming the next day. Imagine our disappointment when told there’d be no pool in the morning. What kind of crummy vacation did you take us on, we whined.
As strident as our protests were, they were immediately squelched by what is commonly known as an empty parental threat. Provided to new parents in delivery rooms throughout the nation, these vacuous warnings ran the gamut from “Don’t make me come back there!” to the equally ineffective “I’ll stop this car right now!” Or, as my father now scolded, “If you don’t like it, we’ll just go home.”
Never realizing our father had as much intention of going home as tongue-kissing the motel clerk, we piped down. There was no way we wanted to endanger our vacation. Besides, we held out a slim hope that maybe there was a good reason why we wouldn’t be able to swim tomorrow.
Waving one of the brochures like a flag, our mother announced that we’d be going to an amusement park in the morning. That was why, she explained, there’d be no pool.
Our despair instantly vanished as we realized that we’d be going to one of the few places that was actually better than a pool in a motel parking lot. Oh, sweet joy-an amusement park!
|Nope. Didn't go here.|
Rides! Conspiring which one we’d go on first, our heads swirled with the possibilities. Roller coasters, bumper cars, spook houses, and all manner of conveyances to flip our stomachs on end awaited us. To say nothing of the massive amounts of hideously UNhealthy junk food which beckoned like a siren of malnutrition.
Television permanently forgotten, we chose up sides for which of the two beds (we didn’t count the rickety rollaway-that was reserved for Gary) we’d have for the night. The way we figured it, the sooner we got to sleep, the sooner we’d wake up and get to ride the rides.
Is there anything besides Christmas Eve that positively guarantees sleepless nights for children than the promise of an amusement park in the morning? A form of child abuse, you may as well give your kids “No-Doze” IV drips than promise them a chance to run like mental cases through one of the happiest places on Earth.
The names of these meccas of family fun were remarkably similar. They were invariably called “Land of Make-Believe,” “Funtown,” “Funtown USA” (“Funtown Hanoi” never caught on), “The Enchanted Forest,” “The Enchanted Trailer Park” (never very popular, it was wiped out by a tornado), “Never-Never Land,” “OK, Almost Never Land,” “Story Town,” “Story Ville,” “Story Land,” or the aptly named “Playland.”
For our vacation hysterics, though, our parents chose Deutsch Wunderville. Modeled after those legendary party animals, the Amish, Deutsch Wunderville promised to thrill us with a dizzying array of attractions.
Or so we thought.
As we entered the park following a sleepless night, livened only by a rip-snorting farting contest (much to the disgust of Kathy), we happily piled into the Ford for the short trip to the happiest place in Lancaster County. Used to the “Funtowns” we’d been to in the past, we were confident this one would be no different. We were sure that some madly spinning ride would have us throwing up breakfast by lunch.
Imagine our bewilderment, then, when the very first park employee we encountered was some weird dude all dressed in black who identified himself as “Ezekiel.” Adopting a grimly serious expression, he cautioned against “eating too much shoo-fly pie lest ye take ill on our most popular attraction: Brother Hezekiah’s Wild Buggy Ride.”
OK, we reasoned, so “Ezekiel” was just some freak out to scare tourists. Surely there must be more to this place than funnel cake booths and somber employees with beards (and those were the women). After all, it had its very own brochure.
As we further explored Deutsch Wunderville, though, our worst fears were realized. Instead of a wooden roller coaster sure to cause whiplash, the most fearsome ride was the Flying Butter Churns (which never left the ground). Rather than a Spook House, it had Sister Rebecca’s House of 1,000 Quilts.
|Yep. I'm the fat one. I got better.|
Looking in vain for at least a freak show, all we managed to find was a papier maché diorama of an armless farmer milking a cow with his feet.
Ignoring our whiny protests and a barely audible complaint of “This place sucks” from Phil, my parents put on happy faces, insisting that Deutsch Wunderville was a perfect vacation spot. Why, look at all the happy people strolling around the park, they gushed. Surely, they were having a good time.
Frankly, I think the shoo-fly pie was drugged.
This charade went on until lunchtime. Finally, after reluctantly giving up our search for a truly thrilling ride, we decided to head to the Plain and Fancy Festhaus and Cowpie Pavilion. At least we could probably get something good to eat there.
Ten minutes later, we were jammed into our station wagon, speeding out of Deutsch Wunderville’s parking lot.
Apparently, Dad didn’t like the fact you couldn’t get a beer in the “whole friggin” place.” With a desperate optimism fueled by an alcohol “low light,” he hoped to find one at our next stop: the guided tour of the Northeastern Brick Factory in Conewago.
As we writhed in agony over the prospect of watching some mouth-breather in bib overalls convert mud, straw, and dirty water into barely discernible lumps of building material, my mother turned around and cheerfully reassured us.
“Hey, how bad could it be? It has a brochure.”