One of my favorite memories took place during my formative years in the 90’s while participating in my JROTC junior year trip.
Each year the Juniors and Seniors would take a trip that would alternate between Visiting NASA in Houston and Visiting American Airlines in Dallas. My Junior year (some time in 1995 or 1996) we had the luck of the draw and got the NASA trip. Now, NASA was awesome, the crew of the Atlantis was even present during our visit, but this isn’t what this story is about. This story takes place AFTER the NASA part of the trip.
You see, after the educational part (and this one was the cool educational one, Space Dude!), we would get to spend a day at a local amusement park. This particular year was Six Flags AstroWorld. Now, the first thing that made this particular trip memorable (outside of NASA) was the heat. It was, by far, one of the hottest seasons in Texas in a while. The morning was cool as usual but later that day, the park had to have topped out at 102 degrees F and had no signs of getting cooler that day. Hardly even a cloud in the sky. So, naturally, waiting in line was torture at best.
All day we tried out rides, from various roller coasters to other amusements. It was around midday (and nearing the hottest part) when I ran across the greatest ride ever, ‘The Greezed Lightnin’. Now, let me explain how this ride worked. It was a roller coaster, that had only one loop. At first glance it was nothing to look at but once you got close it was pretty amazing. The ride would launch you at 60 miles per hour first forward through the loop and then backward for approximately 33 seconds of exhilaration. I am sure it wasn’t the safest thing in the world but man was it amazing. For the next few hours I rode that ride non stop. As friends bailed to ride something else, I kept going back for more. over and over again like an addict searching for his next adrenaline kick. It was on my 12th or 13th time around that the unthinkable happened, it broke down.
That’s not bad, you say, you rode it all day, so why is that a big deal? Well, had it broke down at the end of the day, it wouldn’t have been but you have to understand, this ride was popular. I mean, REALLY popular. By the time it had broken down a crowd had formed of well over a hundred people standing in the Texas heat waiting for a ride to be fixed. The lines were formed in a way that it was not an easily dispersed crowd so we all stood and started getting restless.
After about an hour of standing in the heat, people were getting grumpy. some started pushing a bit and others began sitting on the pavement (and that wasn’t very comfortable either). Just when it looked like people were about to start yelling at the operator, a young man near me started to sing to himself. At first I couldn’t make out what he was singing but within minutes his friend started humming along.
Just when I started to make out the tune, a very young girl, no more than 10, approached the young man and tapped him on the leg. he looked down questioningly, slightly annoyed (partially from the heat) and asked her what she wanted. She looked at him and said bluntly, “That’s not how that song goes, mister”.
The young man took a knee and asked, “Well then, how does it go?”
That’s when it happened.
She smiled and started to sing in a sweet youthful voice:
“Some-times in our lives we all have pain
We all have sor-row
But, if we are wise
We know that there’s always tomorrow”
It was at that moment the young man and his friend, clearly inspired, began to sing with her.
“Lean on me, when you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend
I’ll help you carry on
For it won’t be long
‘Til I’m gonna need
Somebody to lean on”
Soon others joined in, and the song spread like wildfire. People of all ages, all walks of life forgot about waiting, forgot about the heat, forgot to be miserable and joined the two young men and the little girl in a song.
“Please swallow your pride
If I have faith you need to borrow
For no one can fill those of your needs
That you won’t let show”
We all sang that song like it was the first time it had been sung. Everyone was swept up in a tide of song and it was amazing.
And then, as all good things, the song ended. Almost simultaneously they announced that the ride was fixed and everyone went on to experience their 33 second rush.
The ride is gone now, having been removed when AstroWorld closed in 2005. Last I read it had been relocated twice, once to Lubbock’s Joyland Park and later to Cliff’s Amusement Park in New Mexico. Sadly, unless things have changed recently, once it left AstroWorld is was never reassembled. While I have fond memories of that ride, I have fonder memories still of that song and think of that occurrence every time I hear it. It’s one of my most cherished memories.
I often wonder if anyone else remembers that event and whatever became of that little girl and those two young men. I doubt I will ever know and that is okay, I have that moment in time.
So now you can too, this is my favorite version: https://youtu.be/KEXQkrllGbA
and a great video of this ride in action: https://youtu.be/yYDRqshpF60
Late To The Game – 8/9/2017