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Traction Park Memories
June 26, 2012 2:18 PM   Subscribe

In a somewhat unusual move, the staff at Longform.org has chosen as today's Editors' Pick the Wikipedia entry on New Jersey's notorious Action Park.

More Action:
iO9 on the Cannonball Loop
A thorough retrospective at Domain of Death
Some personal anecdotes from the Dubious Quality blogspot.
posted by chaff (52 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite

 
HA! My sister and I were reminiscing about Class Action Park just the other day and wondering if our parents' taking us there meant that they hated us and wished we would die.
posted by Maisie at 2:21 PM on June 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


Ah yes, good ol' Traction Park.
posted by ShawnStruck at 2:23 PM on June 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


here's a 94 era commercial if you want sudden, powerful bursts of nostalgia

ACTION PARK! ACTION PARK!
posted by The Whelk at 2:24 PM on June 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


The Tidal Wave Pool sounds *awesome*.
posted by eugenen at 2:28 PM on June 26, 2012


I went to Action Park at some point in the nineties after it had been reopened as Mountain Creek Waterpark. It seemed tame enough. Any time it comes up I feel like the sheriff in No Country for Old Men, like I got there just in time to see that I got there too late, and much like Sheriff Bell I'm probably better off for it all told.
posted by invitapriore at 2:32 PM on June 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


Kinda a double (though I noticed the Wiki today too).
posted by Madamina at 2:33 PM on June 26, 2012


I went to Mountain Creek Waterpark when I was about 8 years old with a summer camp. Even then some of the waterslides were pretty scary. I remember a friend getting a nasty bump on his head going down one.

Growing up in New Jersey was awesome. 'nuff said.
posted by Rory Marinich at 2:35 PM on June 26, 2012


Was this the inspiration for Thrill World?
posted by Crane Shot at 2:38 PM on June 26, 2012


It's hard to pick a favorite quote from the Wikipedia article, but it's probably this one:
Action Park and its defenders often pointed out that it was one of the first water parks in the nation and thus pioneered ideas that were later widely copied. This meant that visitors were using rides that had not been tested through practical use for very long. Ride designers may have had insufficient training in physics or engineering. "They seemed to build rides," one attendee recalls, "not knowing how they would work, and [then let] people on them."
There's some metaphor for system testing in here that a MBA-writing-a-unnecessary-book would be able to come up with better than me.
---

Though I have no nostalgic memories (or injuries) of this place, I love this post, and, if there was a service that curated and sent me longish Wikipedia entries for my eReader, I would probably sign-up in an instant.

(And twice as fast for TV Tropes)

On review, it looks like longform has highlighted Wikipedia articles 3 other times, and each of those are also articles I would appreciate. Obviously, I'm on their wavelength/predictable for my demographic.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 2:40 PM on June 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


The one time I was in one of those wave pools I literally very nearly drowned several times, and I must have been 18 or so and a strong swimmer. I really don't know how it is they don't all need two full-time attendants to fish all the corpses out from underneath the writing flotilla of children and sunburned fat people.
posted by cmoj at 2:48 PM on June 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Kinda a double

Yes, but the crafting of the Wikipedia article really is rather outstanding. It balances citations with readability very well, and doesn't venture too far into either dryness or minutiae.

My favorite quote is from the section on the diving cliffs: "Former employee Tom Fergus says the bottom of the pool was eventually painted white to make it easier to spot any bodies on the bottom."
posted by EvaDestruction at 2:48 PM on June 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


The Whelk: "here's a 94 era commercial if you want sudden, powerful bursts of nostalgia "

Huh. That's weird.

I don't remember ever seeing a commercial for Action Park as a kid, but I definitely remember each of the individual shots in that ad (and can recognize a few of the derelict attractions that I saw from the chairlift at Mountain Creek in the 00s).

Weird place, and I do remember being amused by the Wikipedia article.
posted by schmod at 2:49 PM on June 26, 2012


Here's a commercial from 1983. The infamous Alpine Slide is, disappointingly, only briefly glimsped.
posted by gilrain at 2:59 PM on June 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


Not to derail, but when I lived for a brief time in St. Louis we visited a water park in Grafton, IL that featured this. Basically imagine sliding down a long enclosed tube into a toilet bowl, then spinning around the bowl until gravity brought you to the bottom and dropped you ten feet into a deep pool of water.

It was awesome. I can't believe it's legal.
posted by MarvinTheCat at 3:00 PM on June 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Thanks, chaff. "Somewhat unusual" but totally worth it. That wiki is so amazing.
posted by jtajta at 3:11 PM on June 26, 2012


A friend of mine told me to look up this subject not too long ago. My first reaction: I WANT TO GO TO THERE. I have fond childhood memories of being in carny-neglected traveling rides and poorly maintained waterparks.
posted by Countess Elena at 3:15 PM on June 26, 2012


Here's a commercial from 1983.

"It's like coming to BroadWAY! It's WONDERFUL!"

Best Moment of Nostalgia Ever.
posted by bakerina at 3:18 PM on June 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Basically imagine sliding down a long enclosed tube into a toilet bowl, then spinning around the bowl until gravity brought you to the bottom and dropped you ten feet into a deep pool of water.

Water World in Denver, CO has a ride like this, with the added insult-to-injury of having the "toilet bowl" lined with high-powered squirt guns manned by passersby.

It's awesome.
posted by Sticherbeast at 3:18 PM on June 26, 2012


Seriously?
When workers had to enter the cage to attend to a stuck or crashed tank, which usually happened several times a day, they were often pelted with tennis balls from every direction despite prohibitions against such behavior that could result in expulsion from the park. This gave the tank ride a reputation for being more dangerous for the employees than the patrons,[13] making it the least popular place to work in the park.
That's like self-parodyingly bad.
posted by Kadin2048 at 3:23 PM on June 26, 2012 [6 favorites]


Freakin' great album.
posted by entropicamericana at 3:26 PM on June 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


the bumper boat pond was infested with snakes

Oh for christ's sake
posted by showbiz_liz at 3:28 PM on June 26, 2012 [20 favorites]


Had I grown up 10 years later my parents would have scared me with threats of Action Park instead of Creedmoor.
posted by tommasz at 3:30 PM on June 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


The original MeFi thread where people share stories of Action Park is one of my favorite threads in the history of MetaFilter. I didn't grow up in NJ and had never heard of Action Park (outside of the Shellac album At Action Park), but I could not stop laughing when I first learned about it and then read all the commenters' personal experiences.
posted by Falconetti at 3:35 PM on June 26, 2012


The Tidal Wave Pool sounds *awesome*.

Sure does.
From the wiki ...

On July 24, 1982, a 15-year-old boy drowned in the Tidal Wave Pool.
On August 27 of [1984], a 20-year-old from Brooklyn drowned in the Tidal Wave Pool.
On July 19, 1987, an 18-year-old drowned in the Tidal Wave Pool

posted by philip-random at 3:35 PM on June 26, 2012


The picture of the looping waterslide looks like a joke. I cannot imagine anyone over the age of...four or five thinking that that would work.
posted by punchtothehead at 3:45 PM on June 26, 2012


As with the Super Speedboats mentioned below, the bumper boat pond was infested with snakes...
That was the moment I burst out laughing.
posted by Drastic at 3:58 PM on June 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I somehow missed the previous post, reading it now, thanks for the link Madamina. My favorite quote from the Wikipedia article concerns Surf Hill:

"Employees at the park used to like eating at a nearby snack bar with a good view of the attraction, since it was almost guaranteed that they could see some serious injuries, lost bikini tops, or both"

Also, I feel I would be remiss if I didn't (sadly) burst this bubble:

"Contrary to popular belief, the title has nothing to do with the infamous New Jersey theme park, Action Park, which closed in 1996 due to numerous fatalities. Drummer, Todd Trainer, came up with the title of the fictional park because it sounded cool." Although there is a [citation needed] following that, so who really knows? Someone could ask Todd I guess.
posted by chaff at 4:07 PM on June 26, 2012


The water park section reminds me quite a bit of 80s-era Schlitterbahn in New Braunfels, TX (about halfway between Austin and San Antonio). The water was all natural and unchlorinated, so the concrete surfaces of the tubing rides were thick and slick with algae and the water tasted like what it was -- river water. And did I mention that most of the rides were made of concrete? It was also in a shaded, wooded area, and so was very cold even on 105-degree days. I hated Schlitterbahn back then.

Last time I was there in the late 90s, that part of the park still remained, but they also had a more modern section.
posted by mudpuppie at 4:37 PM on June 26, 2012


Yeah, I remember this place. I had some weird issues when I was that age, so, for example, the Alpine Slide was not something I wanted to do, but I was totally fine with the waterslides. (My brother, on the other hand, hated the Alpine Slide after his first run, when some kid twice his size refused to brake at all and slammed into him, causing a nosebleed when his head hit the control stick.)

A bunch of the locations were interesting. For example, my first view (not on video, and at the age that made it interesting) of an exposed breast was in the 'Roaring Rapids', when there was a bikini top loss.

The 'Cannonball' was, for me, terrifying, because I was (and still am to an extent) a hater of dark, enclosed spaces. The fact that it was just dark dark dark HOLY SHIT HOW FAR UP AM I didn't help.

We didn't go after the first few years, as my family started to go to Ocean City, MD, more often and the stuff there was more fun.
posted by mephron at 4:41 PM on June 26, 2012


I confess, I took my kids and their friends to Action Park, and we lived to tell about it! Yes, I swam in the Tidal Wave pool, but I am used to the ocean at the Jersey shore. They neglected to warn non-swimmers to stay out. The thing I remember most vividly is being there on probably the hottest, most humid day of the year, with thunder storms threatening, and having to walk up an almost vertical incline to get to and from any of the attractions. The place was built on the side of a mountain. Kids had fun but mom was not happy, and relieved when it began to thunder which gave me an excuse to leave.

Weird NJ has many hair-raising stories, especially from the local kids who worked at Action Park.
http://www.weirdnj.com/
look for stories about Action Park. It was a very scary place.
posted by mermayd at 4:43 PM on June 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


AND FURTHERMORE!

I loved loved loved the alpine slides they used to open at off-season ski resorts in Colorado and New Mexico. (I specifically remember one in the Durango area. I think maybe at Purgatory?) I used to race my dad down the mountain. He always won, because I was a bit of a chicken. If my parents had any idea that it was dangerous, I don't think they would have let me ride. Must have been an 80s thing, and was definitely not relegated to this place.

And there was one of those Tarzan Swings at White Water in Grand Prairie, TX, when I was growing up. I don't remember it being all that dangerous, but I do remember it being difficult to control your release so that you were able to land in the right depth of water, and also not on someone's head.
posted by mudpuppie at 4:44 PM on June 26, 2012


God, I'd never heard of Action Park before, but everything in the wiki -- especially the part about the tennis ball tanks -- seems straight out of The Simpsons at its earliest and best.
posted by awenner at 4:49 PM on June 26, 2012 [10 favorites]


The place was built on the side of a mountain. Kids had fun but mom was not happy, and relieved when it began to thunder which gave me an excuse to leave.

This makes me laugh because my family went here at least once but the only parts I remember are walking up those hills. I was little and they didn't let me go on many rides. Wonder why.
posted by bleep at 5:04 PM on June 26, 2012


This was actually the topic of discussion on a recent episode of Jeff Rubin's Podcast. The episode is well worth a listen. They discuss all the crazy ass rides. He's from New Jersey and talks about how it was a right of passage to survive the park.
posted by chunking express at 5:41 PM on June 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


I mean, I'm laughing at some of these anecdotes but am I the only one here who feels kind of sad and uncomfortable reading about all of this?
posted by MattMangels at 5:46 PM on June 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


Ride designers may have had insufficient training in physics or engineering. "They seemed to build rides," one attendee recalls, "not knowing how they would work, and [then let] people on them..

Oh God, I so want that job. Apparently you just sit around and get stoned and invent crazy amusement park rides without any real worries about whether or not they will work or if they are safe or people would even enjoy them.

Lemme try that!
  • A roller coaster where you are entirely upside down the whole time. Better than a loop-the-loop!
  • It's a Smell World, where you ride through unusual odors.
  • The Catapult! Not only a fun ride, but also an easy way to get transported from one end of the Park to the other!
  • The Waterboarder!

    Not that good at this. Clearly not stoned enough.

  • posted by twoleftfeet at 5:55 PM on June 26, 2012 [8 favorites]


    My favorite was the water slide that went through a tunnel, and the end of the tunnel was the end of the slide, shooting you out at high speed like ten feet up in the air, into a pond where people who you couldn't see and who couldn't see you were swimming.
    posted by Flunkie at 6:25 PM on June 26, 2012


    Oh, and obviously it's sad about the kids who drowned, but from the point of view of a preteen or teenager who didn't know about that, the tidal wave pool was indeed awesome.
    posted by Flunkie at 6:27 PM on June 26, 2012


    I know I'm a fraidy cat and all, but just *reading* about most of the water park rides terrified me.
    posted by maryr at 6:36 PM on June 26, 2012


    Not the first time they've picked a Wikipedia article certainly .
    Bit cheating , if you ask me!
    posted by Bwithh at 6:57 PM on June 26, 2012


    The fatal (literally) design flaw of the wave pool was that it was filled with fresh, as opposed to salt, water. Since the pool water was less buyoant than sea water, it was easy to quickly exhaust yourself trying to jump with the waves like you would in Asbury Park.

    Even a beach kid, used to spending hours in the surf, would not be aware of how tiring the fresh water makes you.
    posted by otto42 at 6:57 PM on June 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


    I have, upon reading the article, decided that Action Park must have been an engine designed for human sacrifice to fuel some unholy purpose. It is the only explanation that makes sense.

    Hail, Khorne! Blood for the Blood God!
    posted by winna at 8:01 PM on June 26, 2012 [4 favorites]


    Heh. I grew up near Action Park in its heyday. My best friend worked in an ice cream parlor between the park and the nearest hospital, and I remember hanging out there, eating free cones and watching the ambulances race along.

    Weirdly, we locals all felt safe enough at Action Park; it was the sort of place where you knew it had been designed by greedy morons without a single thought to safety, so you had to use some sense about what rides you would go on, and after a while we all knew what areas of the park were particularly bloody. What we really feared was The Haunted Mansion at Long Branch, where the actors would actually chase you down and physically grab you, and Great Adventure, which managed to kill at least 11 people (and have a couple of random shootings/stabbings) during my middle & high school years.
    posted by apparently at 8:03 PM on June 26, 2012


    Oooh, that's interesting, otto42! I got my ass KICKED in a wave pool when I was about 10 years old at Downey Park/Wildwater Kingdom (just outside NJ). My mom finally fished me and my little brother out (we were both really good swimmers) after we almost drowned a dozen times in ten minutes. Wave pools are no fucking joke. Do water parks still have those anymore?
    posted by Aquifer at 8:14 PM on June 26, 2012


    Yes, they do.
    Since I never lived close enough to an ocean to get acclimatized to salt water, I never felt anything inherently difficult about fresh water wave pools. The difficult thing is when it's packed with a couple thousand people and everybody kind of whacks into each other with no room for personal space.
    posted by Daily Alice at 8:33 PM on June 26, 2012


    Not to derail, but when I lived for a brief time in St. Louis we visited a water park in Grafton, IL that featured this. Basically imagine sliding down a long enclosed tube into a toilet bowl, then spinning around the bowl until gravity brought you to the bottom and dropped you ten feet into a deep pool of water.

    It was awesome. I can't believe it's legal.


    Oh man. I love Raging Rivers. The stories about Action Park's wave pool made me think about the Raging Rivers wave pool, which I would spend hours in as a kid. I haven't been back there since 2005, but it was still awesome then.
    posted by limeonaire at 8:36 PM on June 26, 2012


    OMG...
    “...the pool was eventually painted white to make it easier to spot any bodies on the bottom.”
    posted by quazichimp at 12:12 AM on June 27, 2012


    I grew up in NY in the 80s. Action Park was a mecca for us, one of the things we most looked forward to during the summer.

    When I was 8 or so, probably my first or second time at the park, I took an alpine slide curve too fast and flipped over. The sled and I both slid for a good hundred feet or so before coming to a stop, resulting in some nasty friction burns on my knees and elbows. Since there was no one supervising the ride, I righted the sled myself (which was hard; those things were heavy for an 8 year old) and made my way to the bottom.

    In first aid, I was sniffling and upset as they treated me. One of the employees said "stop crying...at least you're not like her" and pointed to a girl lying on a stretcher with her neck in a brace, seemingly in shock.

    Of course, I went back to the park about a dozen times after that.
    posted by Barking Frog at 12:17 AM on June 27, 2012 [4 favorites]


    The more I think about it, the more the wave pool seems like a death trap for all types of Metropolitan area kids.

    Experienced ocean swimmers from the beach (The Shore for everyone north of the Raritan tolls), didn't realize they were expending more energy than in the surf.

    Kids used to swimming in lakes and pools in Jerseys northern towns were not used to the waves.

    Kids from urban areas, including inner city kids, who were lucky to get to go in a pool a few times a year at most, and had little swimming experience, were probably the most victimized.
    posted by otto42 at 4:02 AM on June 27, 2012


    I just woke up and don't have time to read everything before work, but do any of these articles mention the gory injury pictures they showed while you waited on like for the Alpine slide? Since the vast majority of people rode that first, your first impressions of the park were grim reminders of what happens if you dont respect the action. In some rises you could see how the physics were meant to work but just weren't quite tweaked enough or properly thought through. The main tube ride was set up so the rider behind you bumped you in to the next pool, not taking weight discrepancies into account. So if you're an eight year old girl in one of those fetching flowered swimsuits with ruffles on the butt and the person behind you was a 250 lb gold chain wearing dude it made for a harrowing ride where the guy had to save me from slipping beneath the water every friggen time. There were more mundane examples of the physics just not working, another tube ride engineered with whirl pools whether never quite pushed you down the slide into the next pool, so you'd have to get out of your tube and figure it out yourself. This was later abated by a bored teen that would physically push you down the slide. I love action park because it made me feel like I had one of those fun dangerous childhood experiences people raised in the 70s/80s were always bragging about.
    posted by Betty_effn_White at 7:39 AM on June 27, 2012


    This is awesome. I grew up in NJ (though my parents must have considered me worth keeping, since they never took me to Action Park) and had friends who worked at Action Park's less-deathly successor, Mountain Creek. But the real reason I'm happy to see this article here and on longform is that I'm passingly acquainted IRL with the guy who wrote the bulk of the article, a Wikipedia editor named Daniel Case. Hell of a nice guy, hell of a Wikipedian, and I'm really pleased to see his work be called out for its high quality.
    posted by badgermushroomSNAKE at 6:23 PM on June 27, 2012 [3 favorites]


    Everything I know about Action Park comes from Polvo.
    posted by klangklangston at 10:32 AM on July 4, 2012


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