This morning the very cool Buffalo History Gazette posted a great picture of the Buffalo harbor circa 1910. There is this magnificent passenger ship that sailed between Buffalo and Detroit. And off to the right -- it just happened to be there -- was the Americana, outbound toward Crystal Beach.
One thing led to another, as these things do, and we wound up looking up a few things about Crystal Beach, such as when it opened (1888). Then we looked up the Cyclone, the old roller coaster that was there before the Comet. That is the Cyclone pictured above in an old postcard.
Buzz used to love the Comet but our dad always told us that he rode the Cyclone and next to him we were in the kiddie pool.
Now we see what he meant! Because we found this account on Wikipedia by a Canadian soldier named Ed Mills who wrote the Cyclone in 1943.
Every once in a while you stumble upon someone who has a real way with words. This guy did. He puts you right on that Cyclone. You feel as if you are there! Try to find time in your day to give these couple of paragraphs your undivided attention. It is suggested you put down your coffee first.Take it, Mr. Mills:
My most memorable ride in an amusement park occurred in July 1945, when I was on military leave in St. Catharines, Ontario. I had just turned 18 and had been in the Canadian Army for about 8 months. My two buddies and I spent a part of our leave in Crystal Beach, Ontario, which at that time was considered to be one of the greatest places for servicemen to have a good time. Besides, Crystal Beach was famous for having the most thrilling roller coaster ride in the Western Hemisphere. Being soldiers of course, and having been trained for all kinds of warfare, we had "no fear" of anything, except perhaps Military Police, and since we were on a legal pass, there was "nothing to fear". As soon as we entered the park one evening, we headed straight for the roller coaster, which was identified with a huge sign announcing "The Cyclone--Thrill of a Lifetime". After listening to the loud screams coming from the roller coaster, we decided that we must go on it right away, and promptly bought our tickets, which were I think about 15 cents or maybe 20 cents. We then stood in the line-up near the entrance gate, which happened to be very close to where the previous passengers got off. It was then that I first noticed the distinctive smell of vomit which was stronger as we got closer to the loading point. It was a bit disconcerting, but I was then immediately distracted by getting a whack in the face from something kind of leathery. It turned out to be a wallet which had fallen from the ride, and we opened it and it had a US Navy ID Card in it. As soon as the ride stopped, we saw the US sailor getting off the ride and called to him. He looked a bit dazed, and did not realize what had happened to his wallet.
It was then our turn to ride, and we ran to the coaster cars. Up the steep ramp we went, up, up and then up some more until we could see the entire amusement park. Just as I was enjoying the view, the car lurched forward and I looked in front of me down a steep incline that looked to me to be about an 89 degree slope. The cars then headed down the incline at warp speed, and all I could see in front of us was Lake Erie. I was sure there must have been a part of the tracks missing, and I then uttered my only two words during the entire ride... "Jesus Christ!" ... As we plunged down towards the Lake, I then saw a steep bank to the right of the incline and we changed directions in a split second, turning violently on our side as the car careened around a hairpin turn. I looked sideways and saw the earth spinning by, and from that point on, most of the ride was pretty much of a blur. The only other memorable part was as we reached a high horizontal point again, we were racing around a curve at such speed that it seemed certain that we would fly off into thin air. Very frankly, I was quite relieved to see the cars finally slowing down...even then, they approached the unloading platform at such a speed that one would think they would overshoot and go right into the spectators.
When I walked off the unloading platform, I couldn't help but smell the vomit again, and in fact, walked away from the area fairly promptly in order to resettle my own stomach.
That. Is. Wild.
The detail about the dazed sailor and his wallet. Then the "up, up, and then up some more."
When you get your land legs back, you might enjoy this Facebook discussion page on Crystal Beach. It is time to get the discussion rolling again!