Remember Jantzen Beach Amusement Park in Portland, Oregon? If so, you're old. Sorry to be blunt.
That said, I am not without my own memories of Jantzen Beach. Shut down in 1970 and transformed into a shopping mall by 1972, Jantzen Beach SuperCenter kept only one relic of its former days: its 1921 C.W. Parker carousel.
This historic ride provided a beloved link to the past for Jantzen Beach visitors young and old. That is, until recent demolition and redevelopment plans threw a wrench into the mall's merry ways. The center's owners have spoken in carefully worded terms of plans to save and restore the carousel. However, sharp-eyed community members pored over site plans and noticed a glaring omission: lack of a dedicated merry-go-round space.
Through blogs and social media, worried citizens banded together to spread the word and voice their concerns through online posts, informal gatherings at the mall, and various other forms of community involvement.
Researching the ride's fate, I learned a local carousel group had organized a wake for the classic machine, to commemorate its last ride on April 22, 2012. I decided this would be the perfect opportunity to reacquaint myself with a merry-go-round I hadn't seen since the 90s.
Meet the Jantzen Beach SuperCenter, slated for a $50 million makeover, possibly sans carousel.
One of my photos got posted out of order, sorry. Oh, wait, I lied. This is what the mall looks like DURING normal operating hours.
The mall is swimming with references to its past as an amusement park with rides, pools and picnic groves.
The closure of a classic merry-go-round is cause for celebration in these parts. There was cake.
Today was a BIG DAY for me, my very first carousel ride!
The merry-go-round is nestled in a custom glass-walled space near the food court. I mean, it WAS.
Please note that shoes are required on the carousel at all times. Don't be like this young miscreant, who had to have his shoes nailed on because he kept breaking the rule.
What would be the lead horse on many machines, but didn't make the cut on this one. Such a shame; that armor cost a fortune!
As you can see, the carousel was made in Kansas. (Although the ride was carved by prisoners, there was nary a ball and chain or black-and-white striped saddle blanket to be found.)
The largest surviving Parker machine and one of only five of its scale produced, the carousel features 72 steeds. At 10 mph, it is rumored to be the world's fastest merry-go-round.
This is the larger of two chariots. Fortunately, the carousel was closed shortly before Oregon's ban on Native American mascots and thus avoided hefty fines. ;)
Put your hands over your eyes, 'cause peek-a-boo manes are a Parker hallmark.
Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the REAL lead horse. (Someone hand me a bucket of water, because this horse's hair has been whipped up into a "flame mane.")
Patriotism is another Parker trademark. His company produced mostly modest portable machines, but this park model is an impressive four-abreast.
Walking through the mall, we come to a history display about the carousel and amusement park, featuring three sorry (but proud!) fellows who always got picked last in gym class.
Before a 1995 restoration project, visiting enthusiasts noticed a horse (left photo here) who looked, well, a little different from the rest. They decided to call him "Hector." After removing years of paint, restorers revealed several prominent swastika carvings. The horse was then re-nicknamed "Herr Hector" and banished to a display case in the mall.
Since this is a family-friendly exhibit, community outrage sent Hector all the way back to the Leavenworth, Kansas penitentiary of his birth. (Actually, it is said he may someday become a Smithsonian exhibit. Take that, haters!) Anyway, the display was then made safe for the curious eyes of children. Here, we learn all about stripping.
After a horse is restored, it is ready to return to its crowd-pleasing career around a pole.
Like many classic parks, Jantzen Beach was once home to a fun house. Just what kinds of fun, I'll leave up to your imagination.
At Jantzen Beach and a few other parks (Oaks Amusement Park being the sole survivor), Oregon boasted its fair share of old-fashioned flat rides.
Eyerly, of O-Plane fame, was an aircraft company based in Oregon. Here also was a popular predecessor to Wave Swingers and Yo-Yos, the Merry Mix Up. AND WHAT ELSE DO WE SEE?
OHEMGEEZ IT'S TEH BIG DIPPER!!!!!!1
At the time of my visit, these BIG DIPPAR LIFT HILL CABLES were in the display case. However, they are now thought to be in the possession of a certain high-profile dignitary.
The park also had a choo-choo ride to appease the local railfans. AND A BYGGE DIPPRE OF MOIST HI IMPROTANCE!!!!!1!!!
Let us calm our fluttering hearts for a moment with a view of the old picnic grounds. No word on whether the park routinely sold out of gravy during events.
Jantzen Beach Amusement Park was once home to a 1921 C.W. Parker carousel, which survived the park's demolition to become part of a mall at the site. I know, it's easy to forget about when you have TEH BIG ZIPPER to concern yourself with.
Here we have a standard ride ticket, as well as an early Fast Lane system for those who could afford to throw money away. ;)
Kiddie choo-choo, flat rides and the edge of the original carousel pavilion.
The park also had a Tumble Bug. Aww, how adorable, a Tumble Bug. Don't you just love saying Tumble Bug?
This sign was removed after yellow and brown paint was banned in Oregon.
Jantzen Knitting Mills was a swimwear company, so of course the park had pools and a bath house. I myself own a Jantzen skort. Yes, a SKORT.
A cheery old advertisement for the park, which was one of several to call itself "Coney Island of the West."
And now, a selection from my personal archives: a postcard showing the park's location by the Interstate Bridge connecting Oregon with Washington.
Complete with a HUGE GIANT LADLE for your viewing pleasure.
Returning to the carousel, we find Proof of Parker (or a skilled plagiarist): one of two Parker plaques, this being the inner one.
In the past, names and photos of local children were added to some of the horses. Amy was a young girl who frequently visited the carousel on the way to cancer treatments, falling in love with this "baby horse." After her tragic death, the horse was named in her memory. During the last restoration of the carousel, nearly all names and photos were removed, but the tribute to Amy was kept.
Amy's row of "baby horses" is a highly unusual SIX abreast. (No operating carousels are fully six-abreast, as the few built were too heavy to run effectively.)
The other remaining named figure, Terri, honors a former long-time employee. This was her son's favorite horse.
The smaller chariot promises a roaring good time for one lucky couple per ride!
Black and brown don't go together, but I couldn't resist taking this beauty for a ride.
The bell rang to signify the start of the final ride. The beginning of the end.
There is something wrong with this picture. Do you know what it is? The lights are out. It's the end.
Some of the horses cried out in fear and anguish.
Others hung their heads in sorrow.
The little ones took it especially hard.
Even Taco Time knew it could not live on without the merry-go-round.
We now pause to reflect upon the latest of several merry-go-rounds to depart the once vibrant Portland carousel scene.
Don't let this beautiful floor mat become meaningless to future generations. Think of the children!
This is the last photo in my report. Goodbye!
Last edited by cal1br3tto on Mon Jan 21, 2013 8:08 pm.
Great trip report. I really enjoyed how a mid-sized trip report was all on one carousel. I'm a bit confused, the sign saids that it will close for restoration, so will it ever re-open?
1: Lightning Run, 2: El Toro, 3: Maverick, 4: Xcelerator, 5: Voyage, 6: TTD, 7: Gold Striker, 8: El Loco (Vegas), 9: Millennium Force, 10: Kingda Ka Coaster Credits: 110 (89 steel, 21 wood); Last Coaster Credit: Raptor (CP) [8/22/14]; Last Park Credit: Waldameer [8/21/14] What a season pass??
XYZ wrote:I'm a bit confused, the sign saids that it will close for restoration, so will it ever re-open?
It's like we're supposed to be confused. The company realizes it's good PR to insinuate that the carousel will return to the mall. However, we're suspicious due to a lack of concrete evidence this will be the case. Furthermore, the carousel has been de-listed from the National Register of Historic Places, which isn't exactly a good sign.
Chuck - I'll definitely be listening to that song again. Good stuff!
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