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Kiddie Park: It'll "take ya home"


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Guest Blog Post by Amanda Vaclaw from Eve's Charming Garden

Bartlesville Kiddie Park

Bartlesville Kiddie Park (stock photo)

Bon Jovi asks "Who says you can't go home?"

My Papa says, "I'll take ya home!"

Have you seen the new Disney Pixar movie Inside Out yet? It's all about a girl and her feelings about moving and how to navigate major life changes. The emotions, Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness are all in conflict on how to navigate a new city, school, making friends. Inside Out

 

Inside Out

Disney Pixar's Inside Out (stock photo)

I absolutely loved this movie. It caused me to do a little introspection (as I am prone to do), thinking about my "core memories" and the feelings that are associated. One of my earliest childhood core memories was of Kiddie Park and my Papa.

Bartlesville Kiddie Park

Bartlesville Kiddie Park (stock photo)

Kiddie Park is a Bartlesville treasure. On a warm, humid Oklahoma summer night you hop on the Kiddie Park train. First, you'll chug past the YMCA. A little further down the track the lights are on at Doenges Stadium for an American Legion night baseball game. You hear the smack of the ball hitting the bat that sends the outfielders running and the crowd cheering. As the lights fade, you hear the crickets chirping and see the fireflies a-glowing. Next you circle around the north side of the park and wave to the other patrons before entering the tunnel. Here is where the train speeds up a bit and choo-choos, signaling to you and everyone else that it's time to scream your lungs out. Everyone has a "Kiddie Park story". Mine includes Murphy's Steak House, cotton candy, the carousel, and ladybug floor mats.

 

Doenges Stadium

Bill Doenges Memorial Stadium (stock photo)

Marvin aka my "Papa" is a genius. Not only is he a brilliant chemist, but as a family man, he was also way ahead of his time. He took me on daddy-daughter dates, or in our case, "papa-granddaughter dates" before it was cool. One of our time-honored traditions was Kiddie Park together.

On a hot summer evening in 1981, after dinner at Murphy's Steak House, we drove to Kiddie Park. This was a reward for finishing my 2 week long swimming lessons at the Phillips 66 Adams Building. I think I graduated from a "Guppy" to a "Minnow". I was about four years old.

Adams Pool

Adams Building Pool

Can't you just smell the chlorine? I love that smell! (stock photo) Anyway...our family legend has it that Murphy's is the first restaurant that I visited as a baby. It's only fitting, as I love-love-love a good greasy spoon establishment! I also loved the famous garlic dressing (I had sophisticated taste buds for a 4 year old) on my salads...our family likes to put the dressing on the buttery club crackers that sit in the red baskets on all the tables. Next course: a kid's cheeseburger and fries. Yummmmm.

Here is a link to Murphy's: Murphy's Original Steak House...Oh yeah!

 

Murphy's Original Steak House

(stock photo)

 

After dinner, I climb into Papa's blue "Maggie the Maverick" car with the ladybug floor mats. We are off to kiddie park and I am already thinking about all the rides... the train, roller coaster, boats, airplanes, the red barons, turtles, horse & carriage, cars, ferris wheel, and the carousel. I can hardly wait! Holding my Papa's hand, we stand in line, and he gives me the money and helps me buy tickets. With a fresh, crisp tickets in hand I look around to decide which ride I'm going on first. The boats, always the boats first, I have always loved boats.

 

 

 

Ford Maverick

Ford Maverick (stock photo)

 

After a few rides Papa asks me if I want a snow cone, because it's so hot. Snow cones are nice, but I have my heart set on something else. This time I talk Papa into buying me some cotton candy. This is a special treat because my mom always forbid the sticky pastel stuff, because "it will rot your teeth". Papa indulges me, so I excitedly tear off pieces of the pink cloud and shove it into my mouth where it quickly melts as I'm already tearing off another piece. The pink puff is gone in 60 seconds and now I get to decide which ride is next. We still have a lot of tickets, so I scour the park for the shortest lines, deciding on the carousel.

 

Cotton Candy

Cotton Candy---The Forbidden Fruit---Oooh-La-La!

(stock photo)

 

As I wait in line, I pick out my pony and watch closely as the carousel slows to see where the pretty white horse with the purple, red and gold saddle stops. I map out my strategy whether I need to go left or right to secure her! As the chain link gate swings open I race around to find my pony, and I quickly grab the reigns and climb on. A small victory for any little kid! I'm ready to go on my pretty princess pony and I search for Papa in the crowd. I see him! Standing on the other side of the chain link fence he's wearing his usual attire: white short sleeve dress shirt, Levi's 501 jeans with a belt, and leather penny loafers. He's looking for me too, our eyes meet and we smile and wave to each other. The ride and the music slowly starts...here we go! Giddy-up horsey! The carousel starts picking up speed, round and around, each time around waving to Papa, up and down, and as the carousel is turning, so is my little four-year-old-tummy!!

The ride is over. I get down and look for Papa through the crowd, once I find him I say, "Papa, I don't feel so good, my tummy hurts." He takes one look at me and without hesitation says "Alright, I'll take ya home!"

He puts me in the car and buckles my seat belt and before we reach Hensley Boulevard, I am sick. Sick in his car, sick all over the ladybug mats of Papa's Maggie the Maverick car. If I haven't said it before, I'll say it now...Marvin is a saint. He has the weakest stomach of anyone in our family, the mere mention of something gross will turn him green. We haul down Cherokee, left on Adams, a few more turns and we are coming in hot as he pulls into the driveway on Woodland Road. He throws the car into park, picks me up and runs upstairs to the bathroom and sticks me in the gray bathtub, turns on the shower and sprays me down with my clothes still on. All the while he was practically dry-heaving since we left Johnstone Park. Then I hear him yell, "Marilyn!!!" much the way Fred Flintstone yells "Wil-maaaaaa!!!!"

 

Ladybug Mats

These 70's ladybug mats smiling up at me will forever be seared into my brain!

 

This episode has been told a hundred times growing up, and no wonder it is a core memory. The whole family thought it was quite hilarious that Papa had to endure the whole throwing-up ordeal. Later that night in the living room I told everyone in my four year old dramatic "Papa voice" he said, "I'll take ya home!" Everyone erupted in laughter.

This is a core memory for me. The feelings associated are that of joy, a little disgust, but most of all, trust. Because Papa believes you. He believes children are to be seen, heard, kept safe, a little spoiled maybe, but most of all: believed.

If you're in Bartlesville for the summer holidays, take your kids or grandkids to the Kiddie Park and tell them your favorite "Kiddie Park Story". I love that I get to raise my family here. Show them where you grew up, talk, drive around town and tell them all your "core memories" and the emotions they invoke in you. Even better, write them down so they'll be able to look back and imagine your childhood through your own words. Remember the magic of being small and picking out your pony on the carousel. Slow down, take a break from being an adult and let the memories "take ya home".

Kiddie Park Train

And just in case you forgot...the last train ride is always FREE!

 

A wonderful thing about Kiddie Park is that it is so affordable. Amusement park quality children's rides are only .50 cents! They count on donations to help with operations and repairs. If you feel so inclined, please visit their site at the link below to make a donation.

Kiddie Park

www.kiddiepark.net

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