Thursday, July 28, 2011

This used to be a Playground

Today we took a walk through Mill Creek Park..near Lantern's Mill. The kids love to see the water falls...and Mr. Picture had to take the new camera out for a spin. It was a good mix of rain and mud..and of course a bloody knee (Olivia). Then at the end of the trip we came to the area where Idora Park used to be. For those of you who aren't familiar with Idora Park, It was a small amusement  park that opened in 1899 and was closed in 1984 due to a fire on one of the main roller coasters it never recovered from.  I wiki-ed if you want more information, is actually the best article I found. IDORA PARK.

The Jack Rabbit circa 1999
I don't know why I am obsessed with Idora Park, I was only 5 when it burned down and can vaguely remember riding the Jack Rabbit. Maybe I am obsessed with Idora Park because it is a symbol for Youngstown in general. When you look at old pictures of Idora Park, you cant help but to feel sadness in your gut. That was the Youngstown our parents grew up with...the one where you felt safe in Mill Creek Park and the one where an amusement park was literally in your back yard. It was the Youngstown where you were raised up thinking you would be fine, you would thrive. This is not the Youngstown we live in today. Like the skeleton of greatness that is now Idora Park, we live in a depressed post steel Youngstown and especially one where opportunities are few and far between. I just laugh when I hear people talking about jobs returning to the Valley or the Valley rebounding..or what ever.  I know, why do I choose to live here? Do I really think that Youngstown will return to its Idora greatness? hardly. The easy answer is that my family is here...if you cant think of a better one, well I am all ears.

same area, July 2011
Its been about ten years since I have been near the empty Idora Park site. I was doing a project for a Photography class I was taking in college. My teacher was a real bi-ach. No really she was..she thought she was some kind of photography genius but really I think she just liked the attention the young artsy guys in the class gave her. A beaver was the easiest way to a C on every project. We were assigned a project for the had to do with memories or feelings..something "artsy" like that. I wasn't doing well in the class...and we hadn't even started to develop our own film yet. My love for photography was slowly slipping away. So when I came home for the weekend ( I was living in Columbus at the six year excape) in tow, I knew there was only one place to get stunning pictures...Mill Creek Park. I dragged my then boyfriend to the park with me to help me get the right shots and angles. Let me just say this...I am no picnic. I give props to anyone who has dated me and God knows there is a special place in heaven for Josh. There is a point in every relationship where I break out into all out panic attack mode. Its when i stop pretending to be "cool, go with the flow" KJ and turn into anxious mess KJ...and then about once a month from there on out.

Main area 1999
We spent the better part of a rainy dreary Saturday morning at Lantern's Mill. (it is an old Mill located inside of the park..still stunning). I took pictures of the trees, paths, falls, bridges, everything. I used different angles..flash, no flash. About an hour later, I was pretty satisfied that I had gotten enough good shots to put together a nice project. Maybe Miss Artsy will give me a B even! I opened the camera to get the film out (remember kids, this was 1999...we used real film and had to take it somewhere to get processes). Then my jaw dropped...the film was not all the way wrapped around the spool. The project anxiety turned into an all out sob fest. there were were walking up the road with and empty visually orgasmic to my fussy teacher's ears as I had imagined.  It looked like I was going to have to go all around the mill again in order to recreate the whole thing. "Lets go down this way and catch the other path" Then boyfriend said. He knew his way around the park much better than me so I was glad to have him along. On the way to the mill we passed a gate. "is that the old Idora Park?" I asked. He nodded yes..and I was immediately taken back to that time when I was a kid riding the Jack-Rabbit. I wanted to see experience it and best of all, take pictures of it. So I made sure the film was securely placed in the camera and I took picture after picture of run downs rides, an old ballroom, the famous french fry stand, and the main area. All in ruin, but still so beautiful. They were color to a grey day..the yellow paint of the Wild Cat, the turquoise fry was pure nostalgic bliss. I loved those pictures. The ball room burned down two years later and the rest of the park was demolished. I took a piece of history with me that day...and got another C. Today, I looked at the blank khaki colored grass that used to be a place of such joy..I imagine my dad taking my mom for a date there...I imagined my grandparents on a date there. Today I looked at this place and saw what I feel about this town...nothing.

Wild Cat 1999

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