When I was a little girl and we were at my grandparent’s house in Maine in the summer, there was always a cocktail hour. The grown ups had cocktails, I had ginger ale. The easy listening station would be on and periodically there were commercials for Old Orchard Beach. I thought it sounded terribly exotic…a beach and an amusement park and a boardwalk (not that I knew what that was)….it just sounded so incredible that it never occurred to me that we could actually go there. We went to Crescent Beach—which I loved—-but it was a beach—it didn’t have things like rides and fireworks….. So being the child I was…and I suppose the person I am…I never asked if we could go to Old Orchard Beach.
Sometime in the early 90’s Ernie and I started making annual trips to Maine—partly vacation and partly as antique buying trips. One night we stopped at a little motel cabin (and boy are they disappearing from the highways…sigh) and as I was perusing the information that was left in the room I saw that we were less than two miles from Old Orchard Beach. Most likely I screamed and told Ernie we had to go. I don’t remember but I know we went and fell madly in love with its slightly rundown blue-collar charm….and the neon and the rides and the bad cover band in the bar at the end of the pier. I think we went back the next night too and I called my mother and excitedly told her we’d gone to Old Orchard Beach. I told her that I had always wanted to go and she said, "why didn’t you ever ask? We could have gone there." It just had never occurred to me to ask…..
Over the years since we first went there Old Orchard Beach has been ‘revitalized’ a bit which means many of the neon signs have been replaced with more tasteful fake wood signs and some of the old building have been torn down but it still holds its charms for us. Last year we never got there with the boys—just ran out of time but this year we have sworn to them that we will go there and they will get to ride the bumper cars and look at everything and eat some french fries (no doubt I’ll get fried clams). I can’t wait.
photos c Matthew Trump 2004
One thought on “Countdown to Maine: Day 12”
Oh, yes! You must take your boys there. I hold wonderful childhood memories of going to “Playland” (an amusement park somewhere southwest of Chicago) with my niece and nephew. My sister married young, has two children close to my age, and I spent many summers practically living over at her house. As kids, Darcie, Keith, and I would beg to go to Playland, and my sister gave in to our requests several times every summer, probably so we would just shut up and she didn’t have to entertain us for the evening.
As a kid, you must see things differently. Nowadays amusement parks don’t do much for me. However, back then, we thought Playland was magical, especially at night, with the neon lights, the smell of popcorn coming from the soft yellow glow of the pushcart, and the taste of cotton candy. I can still feel the stickiness on my lips and fingers just thinking about it. If I stood on my tiptoes, I would see them making it in the little wagon, the strands of fluorescent pink sugar appearing out of nowhere and onto the white rolled tube. We were allowed to run free back then, even from the age of five. We had tickets in our pockets, cotton candy in our hands, and the world was ours. God, we had fun! Near the entrance, I remember a small lake dotted with huge, pastel colored swans, which we would get into to take rides around the pond. I loved those melamine-covered, wooden swans, and could’ve spent hours floating and gazing at the glittering reflections of light in the inky water. I was a little too introspective for my age. Then, after all our tickets were gone, we’d get into the car all sticky, dirty, and tired; drive back to my sister’s, and the three of us would collapse in a heap on the living room floor.
Wow, you have to take your boys to the amusement park, even if you don’t let them run free.