These days, can a dad take his family out for a fun filled escape and pay a pittance for it? And, after it's said and done, the kiddies think he'd paid a fortune for the outing? Ha! When Pigs fly!
Well, the pigs are flying at Pullen Park, a small public park that lies next to the NC State campus in downtown Raleigh. The pigs are just one animal couple in the dancing menagerie at home in the newly refurbished carousel. The carousel is the focal point of the park which has received a face lift and, after $12 million and three years, has reopened to throngs of impressed and pleased families from all parts of the Triangle.
In an era of huge, out scaled attractions featuring over-hyped megabranded cartoon and movie characters, the park is blessedly free of any of those things. To exhausted parents, this is a HUGE benefit. The park is so small that a family can "do" everything in under an hour without walking far at all. However, they can then retreat into wooded meadows to throw a football or unpack their picnic in peace. A harried mom and dad can actually leave an afternoon at Pullen Park more rested than when they arrived! But how did such a great civic asset in such an idyllic setting come about?
Raleigh's Pullen Park is actually the 14th oldest amusement park IN THE WORLD. Over a century ago, 80 acres of land were donated to the city for use as a public park. Then, in ensuing years, Raleigh purchased a grand carousel from a defunct amusement park in the Five Points area of Raleigh. Today, the carousel is recognized as one of the foremost surviving examples produced by the Pennsylvania Carousel Company, founded by Gustav A. Dentzel. These carousels are usually referred to as Dentzel carousels and only around a dozen remain in North America. For example, art deco marvel Glen Echo Park in Washington, DC has another.
What's most striking about it are the lively, imaginative animals that riders hop upon for their ride. There are over fifty hand-carved wooden animals, the work of turn-of-the-century carver Salvatore Cernigliaro. In addition to many beautifulhorses, the Pullen Park carousel also includes ostriches, cats, rabbits, pigs, a lion, a tiger and a goat. There is even a leaping stag complete with a proud set of antlers! A mechanicalWurlitzer band organ originally provided music butlively carnival tunes still surround the twirling, whirling contraption.
There were never many amusements at this amusement park; just a few, mainly for kiddies. The miniature train ride dates from 1950 and succeeds in carrying new generations scenically around the park. Its newly painted cars are gleeming red while steam billows out the real, steam driven whistle. To adults used to big amusement park thrills, it may prove to be a short, slow ride. Yet, to small children, the miniature train must seem like an incredible trip over bridges, by lakes and through dark tunnels.
I shy away from the word 'cute' but I guess that it applies to the tiny little kiddie ride that also dates from around 1950 and is positioned where it always has been next to the kiddie train station. The power boats are small in scale but big in style! -Give me a 3X version in that beautiful red, white and blue color scheme please!
I have a heart warming Christmas tale that I'd like to share with you. It's all about Santa and his Elves and their love of cookies. But not just any cookies. They loved warm, soft homemade cookies filled with North Pole care and love. They loved them so much that they developed a distaste for ordinary cookies.
By ordinary, I mean cookies that were not made exclusively by Santa's elves in Mrs. Claus' kitchen and with locally grown ingredients. Because of this, some very vocal elves persuaded Santa and Blitzen to enact a strict quota on the amount of imported cookies allowed into the North Pole. They also added a stiff tariff onto the price of the few cookies that were allowed in.
Elf cookie bakers enjoyed this arrangement because this allowed them to stay in business despite the fact that sugar cane and cocoa beans grow very poorly in the Arctic Circle. But, after a while, the price of these cookies got so expensive that many elves started baking their own at home to save money. "HO HO HOOLLLD on a minute! All this baking at home is cutting into the bakery sales," said Santa. So Blitzen made it so tough to bake at home with all of the EPA, DoA, EEOC (Elvish Equality Occupational Codes) etc. regulations that everyone threw away their baking supplies and equipment. But the North Pole elves didn't mind because they still were able to eat all of the gooey, homemade goodness that they wanted.
But, one day, that all came to a halt. Rudolf had hired Hermey (he dropped dentistry for law) to represent him in an EEOC complaint against Blitzen and the rest of the company for lost wages when they let him go because he was differently abled (or was that firing on the basis of 'lookism?'). On top of that, the Teamsters (the reindeer are in the freight hauling business, after all) organized a strike. So, to stay in business, Santa had to drop the baking arm and focus on his manufacturing and distribution core businesses. Since there were very few cookies anymore, Santa's elves began to pay more and more for them until what was once a $5 box of cookies skyrocketed up to $500 dollars a box! Santa noticed that the elves were looking kind of thin and their toy production was dropping precipitously. "Mr. Santa, Sir" said the littlest, frailest elf with tears welling in his big, weepy eyes "We are too weak to make toys any longer. We must cancel Christmas!" "Cancel Christmas! What will I tell all of the little girls and boys all over the world!" said Santa.
Amazing, Surprise Ending!
On Christmas Eve, the elves walked into their workshops and were overjoyed to find plates and plates of yummy cookies. Mrs. Claus had come to the rescue and had insisted that Santa lift the embargo on Keebler elf cookies and to slash cookie baking regulations. The elves were soon back hard at work and Christmas was saved!
Yes, this sounds like just a heartwarming holiday tale filled with whimsy, wonderment and make-believe characters but what is most remarkable is that that it IS BASED ON A TRUE STORY THAT IS HAPPENING RIGHT NOW IN NORWAY! Just replace elves with Norwegians (elves and Norwegians aren't the same, are they?) and replace cookies with butter. Also, replace Santa with the Norwegian government (but considering the Socialist policies in Scandinavia, maybe you don't have to). Alas, there appears to be no Mrs. Claus in Norwegian politics because that country's policies have remained largely unchanged and the price of butter remains exorbitantly expensive (reportedly $500 a pound in some cases).
I guess a gusher of off-shore North Sea oil revenues can enable some ridiculous policies to continue in a country like Norway. -But would other societies be so lucky?
What is it about bow ties and my coming of age in the 1980s? It's strange that many of the gentlemen who really made an impact on me back then wore bow ties. Probably my first exposure to bow ties was in high school watching George Will on Agronsky And Company. He appeared on the political pundit TV show in the late 70s through early the 80s and I remember being really impressed with his intellect and sense of humor. Then there were the bow ties worn in the movies in those days. Professor of Archeology Dr. Henry Jones Jr. wore a spiffy tweed suit and bow tie combo in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Note that none of the Nazis were bow ties. Then there was Delta Tau Chi (ΔΤΧ) chapter president Robert Hoover who rocked the ultra-serious skinny bow tie at discipline hearings. Note that none of the Omega Theta Pi (ΩΘΠ) members wore bow ties. These guys wore bow ties and wore them before they were cool.
Before then, I thought that bow ties were symbols of old-fashioned corniness like those worn by Orville Redenbacher (or, God help us, Dr. C. Everette Coop) or of goofiness like those big ones worn by film critic Gene Shalit or of geekiness like those worn by Pee Wee Herman or Steve Irkel. No. What a leather jacket was for Marlon Brando, a bow tie would be for me in the Age of Reagan. A bow tie was not for clowns or geeks but for someone wishing to go against the tide who had something to say. Maybe the key lies in when I was born. I'm a (borderline) Generation Xer. And, as such, I think I gravitated to the seriousness of the bow tie. The disillusionment of the Late 1970s didn't manifest itself in showy 'OWS' style rebellion. To us, life was not a frivilious, narcissicistic joke as it seemed to be for many of the Woodstock Generation. The worse the economy got, the more we seemed to gravitate to loafers and shetland sweaters. Perhaps this is why Winston Churchill's bow tie seems so fitting. Robert Hardy's portrayal of Winston in the 1980's 'The Wilderness Years' accentuates my point because that BBC production dramatized the struggles of Churchill during the 30's leading up to World War Two. Churchill railed in vein against popular sentiment while standing alone with only his beliefs and that iconic polka dot bow tie for company in Parliment.
Then there was that curmudgeon of curmudgeons the great John Houseman of Paper Chase, Smith Barney, etc. fame. Maybe I was a geek. I was entralled by the powerful performances of John Houseman. This was a character that a cynical, conservative 17 year old could relate to! He refused to suffer fools lightly while never losing his sense of humor or humanity.
In years gone by, wearing a bow tie was for lone, gentlemanly rebels fighting for lost causes. Is it just a coincidence that bow ties resemble windmills?
In my picking travels, I found a stash of really great cotton bathrobes. These were made around 1960 in Czechoslovokia and are absorbant without being too bulky. Also, unlike a lot of vintage, they are amply roomy.
It's late fall and the Raleigh Flea Market is back in full swing. As I've said before, a minority of the dealers bring out a majority of the good junk. And here are two good examples. Randy Siciliano, aka The Jersey Picker, travels the country pickin' and displaying cool wares. From Round Top Texas to the Low Country of South Carolina to Brimfield in New England, Randy brings his personality and fine taste in gnarly junk.
Ron and Judy (and Daughter, sometimes) bring an eclectic, artistic mix to their booth. Industrial antiques, weathered letters from the sides of old buildings, Mid-Century Modern furniture and Ron's creative art make for an original, exciting mix!
There's a also a guy who comes out occasionally who brings some decent stuff...
The sun sets on another afternoon at the Raleigh Flea Market held at the Raleigh Fairgrounds.