1940 - 2006.
A friend of mine has died.
I wrote this on April 24, 2001:
On a bittersweet note, it appears that Whalom Park in Lunenburg might not open for the season. It was supposed to on Easter, as is its tradition, but it didn't. Now we're hearing possibly May, but possibly never -- the park hasn't been hiring and there's still maintenance to be done on the Flyer Comet that should've been finished at the close of last season. It doesn't look good."But you know," someone once said, "every year, when you were at Whalom on its last day, you always just kinda thought in the back of your head 'this could be the last one.'" I can't remember who it was who said it, but it was true.
One of the last old trolley parks (built on the end of a trolley line to attract fares), Whalom's an endearing old amusement park. There's no theming, no multimillion-dollar coaster, no extravagant stunt spectacular -- one of the park's bigger entertainment draws was the host of a local children's radio show -- but Whalom persevered over a century with a wonderfully old wooden roller coaster (the Flyer Comet) and a grand selection of flat amusement rides, like one of the last three Tumble Bugs remaining in the United States, and a Flying Scooters (from Mountain Park) that you can snap pretty well on a good day.
But Lunenburg is in Central Mass, off Rt 2, and deemed "hard to get to" by jaded metropolitan wanks. Riverside Park, 50 miles away, went Six Flags last year, and while Six Flags doesn't see Whalom as competition (they're mainly concerned with Lake Compounce in Connecticut) the attendance at Whalom has dropped considerably and you can most likely attribute that to the lure of the Flags. Add to this numerous (mis)management changes and a general feeling of malaise in the air and suddenly I'm really worried that the park won't open. The carousel will, however. It was auctioned off last year, sold by the piece, and now a group of concerned locals are buying the pieces back as much as they can. The carousel works, it runs, and has some animals back on it. It's lovely.
But as far as I know, I took the last ride on the Flyer Comet on Labor Day 2000. The park announced it was closing early that season (usually Whalom stays open through Halloween for a "Pumpkin Park" event) and so Greg Reid and I hurried over to Lunenburg and met up with the ACErs already there. We had a few minutes of Extra Ride Time after the park closed at 4, and after a particularly nice ride on the Comet, the platform guy just stopped and said "Ok, we're done." There were ACErs waiting to ride still. Nobody complained, because, really, you respect the platform crews like that. Or something.
I'm glad I didn't have that ride knowing it was the Last One. I might've put a lot more nostalgic melancholy on the memory than I did. The Comet was fun, as it always was -- and how it always should be. If it goes, I'll sorely miss it. But at least we were able to say goodbye.
Because then one time, it was the last one.