Monday, February 16, 2009

Living Memories: A World of Fun
























It's always about this time of year I start to think about the coming of spring, and I can't help but remember how much I used to anticipate the opening of Worlds of Fun, a world-class theme park in Kansas City, where I worked off and on from age 16 until the age of 21.  

I used to work as a photographer at a shop called Spittin' Image, one of those instant tin-type joints where customers dressed up in old-time clothes and had their pictures taken. 
Spittin' Image was atop the glorious Cotton Blossom docked in a lake with bright blue-green water right at the  front of the park.  You can see it in the map, here, just to the left of the park entrance  where there appears to be a larger-than-life duck swimming next to it. In fact, you could see the stately Cotton Blossom the way from the highway -- the same grande dame whose exterior appears in the 1951 film Show Boat. 

How I loved dressing people up, and I had my lines down: "Ladies, you can be a saloon girl, a southern belle or a bride. Gents, a Civil War officer, a gamble or a cowboy?"

I spent my summers at Worlds of Fun, hanging out with the workers at the Paddle Wheel Cafe, hiding out in the cool confines of the Cotton Blossom Gift Shop on the lower deck when there were no customers and it was scorching hot upstairs, and sneaking off to catch a show at The Tivoli theater or ride The Scream Roller. 

Sadly, I've learned that the Cotton Blossom is gone. Instead of saving her-- I remember she was in a rickety state the last time I saw her in the late 1980s -- she was torn down in 1995 to make room for another attraction. I can still hear the ragtime music that played in a loop over the loud speaker, and the screams of riders on the nearby Orient Express, which at the time was the world's largest steel roller coaster -- also gone. 

The park is still there, although somewhat stripped of its original charm, but the nearby water tower is still painted with the hot-air-balloon colors of Worlds of Fun, just as I remember it was all the way back when the park opened in the early 1970s. 



In May, Clarkson Potter will publish my book, The Find,
 The Housing Works Book of Decorating with Thrift Shop Treasures Flea Market Objects, and Vintag Details. Pre-order now on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Borders.  







4 comments:

Scott said...

Hi Stan,

So nice to meet you last night. Congratulations again on your book. Hope it's a big success. I not as much in the thrift store habit as I used to be. More recently I've been headed toward a minimalist/Zen interior but some of my past finds have been documented in various publications. Desire to Inspire did a one page profile on me that shows some of that.
http://desiretoinspire.blogspot.com/2008/07/scott-waterman.html

Btw I too have theme park experience having worked at Disney World. I'm not sure I have the same kind of fond memories you have but for teenagers living in Orlando it was a right of passage.

All the best to you,

Scott

Anonymous said...

Hey Stan,

This is Linda Spence. I worked with you at Spittin' Image. Boy, were those fun days. I do not miss the brown hands for the chemicals.
The Cotton Blossom was fun, air conditions. But, the West studio was HOT.

I now live in Colorado and preparing to move to HOT Texas.

Heard about your book and decided to look you up.

shutterbugmom said...

Hi Stan,

This is Linda Spence. Remember me from Worlds of Fun days.
I worked with you at Spittin' Image.
Boy, those were fun days, I do not miss the brown hands and the smell of the chemicals. The Cotton Blossom was the best, especially the air conditioning (which was rare for Worlds of Fun).

I now live in Colorado and have a 21 year old daughter. Hard to believe we are that old...LOL.

Great to see you are doing well and looking forward to reading your book.

Love,
Linda

shutterbugmom said...

Hi Stan,

This is Linda Spence. I worked with you at Spittin' Image. Boy, those were fun days at Worlds of Fun. I do not miss the brown hands and smell from the chemicals.

The Cotton Blossom has great memories, especially the air conditioning (which was rare for Worlds of Fun) Remember the HOT west.

I now live in Colorado and have a 21 year old daughter. (Are we really that OLD)

I heard about your book and looked you up. Nice to see your doing so well.

Looking forward to reading your book. I love thrift shops and garage sales.

Love,
Linda