I was at an estate sale out on Henry Ford Drive the other day and got snookered into buying a stack of old scrapbooks. By the estate sale dealers, you ask? Nope, they were perfectly low pressure, tiny elderly women who kept asking if anyone needed any help in a way that made you want to think of something they could help you with. Unbelievably sweet, especially by estate sale dealer standards. No, I was hoisted by my own petard in this case. As I was paging through one of the yellowing leaves of these books, I saw some letters from the forties' and thought there might be more treasure in the hills. So I bought four interesting looking albums for fifteen bucks (WAY over my regular price, but again, the ladies were so nice!) and took them home. Turned out, two of them were the "arts" scrapbook of an old maid schoolteacher who had gone to every AND I MEAN EVERY cultural event in Nashville for the years 1972-1974. Playbill after playbill after playbill for community theater productions, evenings at the symphony, classical concerts...whatever sounded like class in the vicinity of Metro Davidson county, she went. I might up and scan/share them with you sometime soon, but for now, behold the jewel of this faded collection:
AN ORIGINAL OPRYLAND THEME PARK MAP FROM 1972:
Yahoooooooooooo! We were just talking the other day about how much I love old theme parks, and how much I miss Opryland. Well, here you go! My prayers went answered for once!
I am, as always, unable to shoot pictures that look like they WEREN'T taken in a dungeon or lagoon or some other sinisterly low-lit place, but bear with me. The funky, whimsical little pictures are so cute!
For our non-Nashvillian readers, Opryland USA was a theme park that opened in 1972 just off Briley Parkway in Nashville. Living in Inglewood, it was only about a five minute drive from our house to the park, so we bought season tickets JUST about every year when I was a kid. The name of the place gives me an immediate, aural memory of the sound of the cranking gears to the Screamin' Delta Demon roller coaster and the shrieking as it made its whirligig descent. You could hear that almost as soon as you got out of the car, and didn't it quicken your little steps towards the entrance to the park! "They're havin' fun in there! I wanna be in there!"
One thing that surprised me, inspecting the attractions listed on this map of the original layout, was how different the feel of the park was from its later incarnations. In the seventies', there seemed to be a much more handmade, folksy bent to the attractions and gift shops. While there were still half a million gift shops in my memories of the place in the late eighties' and early nineties', most of the big draws were roller coasters and splash rides. The "theme" of music and Southern regional interest was way tamped down by the time I was there-- while you still had those wiggly marionettes of Shotgun Red, foam dragons and "I SURVIVED THE HANGMAN" t-shirts are most of what I can recall as souvenirs there circa 1994.
In 1972, the Grand Ole Opry was still down at the Ryman! It made its move to the less historic, but way more plus new Opry house in 1974.
I don't remember ANYTHING about a lake. I'm not saying it wasn't there, because look-- but I would certainly remember riding on a lake raft ride as advertised below. That thing looks awesome!
The Tin Lizzie ride was a favorite, favorite of mine as a kid. As most children who rode the on-a-rail model T ride back in the day, I had no idea we weren't driving a car in much the way we had to get to the park. What if we crash! What if we go off into the ditch! I saw a similar (heck, might be the same!) ride at Six Flags over Georgia when we were there a couple weeks ago and it gave my heart a tiny pang. Notice the "Mexican Candle Shop, La Cantina Show, [and] Mexican Restaurant" in this area of the park-- like Six Flags and its early days, the park was themed by different "regional" areas, and this seems to part of the "American West" area:
The original mascots of the park, who are FINE AND FANCY, if you ask me:
More random snaps I took of the map. There was an artist's signature in the upper right hand corner next to the sun but danged if I didn't forget to get a close up of it. Ah well. Do you recognize any of the attractions here? I remember the petting zoo for sure, but in a different location. And the train always had such a long wait, we hardly ever took it!
THE SKY RIDE. Ugh, I miss that sucker. Just when you thought you might actually die from heat exhaustion, and your parents refused to spring for the wildly expensive lemon ices it seemed like everyone else at the park was double-fisting, the Sky Ride was a perfect solution to "beat the heat". I could have ridden that thing all day.
Did you go to Opryland during its 1972-1997 run? If you're a Nashville native, what do you remember best about return trips to the park, or how it changed over the years? Is there a theme park in your home town or nearby that is close to your heart? Let's talk!
Have a great Tuesday! That's all for today, but I'll see you back here tomorrow.Til then.
Great Onion AV article on working in the park back in the mid 90's here.
Opryland Timeline here