Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Texas Chute Out

{Photo taken Summer 2012}

Today marks the end of an era.  The Texas Chute Out parachute ride at Six Flags Over Texas is going to be imploded to make way for a bigger, better sky swing ride.   According to the news reports this morning it's not really being imploded.  It's just being taken down like a tree.  It's just going to fall over. 
The Texas Chute Out has loomed over the horizon of Six Flags since 1976.   That was about the time that Six Flags became my summer hangout. 
After my mother died in 1975 my dad would load up my sister and I and bring us from our home in Tennessee to visit all of his family here in Arlington.  After the shock of losing our mother so quickly to cancer our world was reeling.  Coming to Texas where we had a large family of cousins, aunt and uncle and grandmother was wonderful.   And back then Texas was exotic to us TN girls.  Taco Bell, Braums ice cream, snow cone stands!  So many things we didn't have at home.  And since I was almost as tall as my aunt, I got to shop from her closets before going back home every year. 
When I was about 12 or 13 my dad started leaving us here when his one week's vacation was over and we would spend the rest of the summer and fly home just before school started. 
My cousin Maryann was situated in age exactly between my sister and I who were 6 years apart.  Long before anyone thought of abductions, assaults or encountering any wrongdoing at a theme park, the three of us were let loose at Six Flags armed with a few dollars and hours to ride to our hearts content.  We would be dropped off in the morning when the park opened and usually get picked up right after lunch for a quick run home for sandwiches, cleaner non-sweaty clothes and then back to the park to stay until dark.  
Our days were one continuous loop of rides, Pink Thing ice creams, rides.  When it was finally dark we would make our way out of the park exhausted.  Right outside the park gates there was always a little Baird's Bakery stand handing out hot mini loaves of bread to those leaving the park.  Such a random thing to be handing out.   And either my uncle or my dad, or both, would be sitting in the car waiting for us listening to the Texas Rangers baseball game which was being played right down the street. 
In the summer of 1981 when I was in high school and one of the last summers I spent in Texas there was a terrible heat wave.  Daily temperatures of well over 100 degrees didn't stop the three of us from going to the park.  I remember that was the first time to see water stations throughout the park handing out water to keep people hydrated.   But we were young and invincible and didn't need water.  We just ran like always.  I remember standing in line for the Shock Wave, the largest roller coaster in the park at that time.  It was still new and always had a long, long line.  (Today it's outdated and you can walk right on.)   It was 115 degrees that day.  Maryann, who was thin as a rail and never ate, keeled over right there in line.  Passed out from the heat.  So that was the day we got to see the first aid area of Six Flags. 
The Texas Chute Out was always a big draw too.  Getting strapped in to what seemed a flimsy little 2 seat basket and then whooshed up to the top before free falling back down.  Just enough excitement without the fear of the bigger rides. 
Those were such great times!  Not a care in the world.  Three little girls running free with no worries about anyone bothering them.   
This year was the first year we have felt safe letting  Madison go to Six Flags all day with only her friends.   Times change.   This was also the first year that we have gotten season passes to Six Flags for our family.  Since moving here in 2007 we've been going regularly but this year we got there much more than ever.  And I always relive some of those memories every trip we take to the park.    Cullen and I have a running joke every time we are walking in through the same familiar arched entrance.  I'll lean down to him and point to the sidewalk and say, "did you know that when I was a kid they gave away FREE BREAD right over there?"  He just laughs and says, "YES!  You've told me a thousand times!" 
Last year they replaced the famous cherry Pink Thing ice cream on a stick with a generic cotton candy push up.  That was sad.  But I see there's a Facebook page dedicated to getting the original brought back.   
Six Flags is such an important part of my childhood and I'm glad that we live here now and in a small way it's becoming a part of my kids childhood as well. 
Those summers feel like a very long time ago.  Maryann was killed in a traffic accident 16 years ago and I don't really have a relationship with my sister any more.  So the threesome is gone.  But oh, such great memories that I have been reliving every time I go to Six Flags with my kids.


Here's the video from today's implosion/fall.

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