Remember the amusement park that your parents used to bring you to when you were a kid? If you were lucky they drove you down to Florida to experience the wonder that is Disney World. Otherwise, you were probably subjected to the small, dilapidated, family owned amusement parks of the past.
One such park was Fairy Tale Forest, located in my hometown in New Jersey. The place was built by a German immigrant and his two sons in 1957. The park was filled with storybook cottages each depicting fairytales like The Three Little Pigs and Little Red Ridding Hood. I am sure in its heyday it must have been a wondrous site. By the time I was a a teenager and had excepted a job there, the park had started to show its age.
When my girlfriend and I were hired, the owner Paul was 90 years old and insisted that everyone call him Opa (German for grandpa). Every once in a while Opa would wander across the street and attempt to fix up some of the displays. At this point the only thing that could clean it up was maybe a bulldozer. But still, the kids came. It wasn't all sugar coated sweet or so clean you could lick the bathroom floor. It was a down and dirty sort of place. Most of the displays had cobwebs growing on them. The taxidermied animals in "The Rabbit School" were downright creepy. But that was part of the charm, wasn't it? When you are five, you don't care if the Candyland train is up to code; as long as it was fast you were a happy camper. So what if one of Snow Whites drawfs looked a little like the devil himself? You got to run free through the park and loved every minute of it.
Fairy Tale Forest closed its doors in 2003. The front facade still stands, but behind it are a bunch of storage buildings. Yesterday, Joe and I took Leah to another local park. OK, it wasn't quite as dilapidated as Fairy Tale Forest, but they did have some poor guy dressed up like Santa, sitting in a hot, dimly lit attic handing out cookie cutters. Leah loved it, and so did I.