Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Weekend Finds 2: Vintage Opryland Theme Park Map

Good morning!

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

12 comments:

  1. Living at the eastern end of the state, I spent my late '80s and early '90s childhood summers at Dollywood! I even remember when it was Silver Dollar City when I was a toddler and can remember the excitement of going to Dollywood it's premier year! Fun!
    Alas, I never went to Opryland. I don't know why really. I mean, both of my parents worked out of Nashville...my dad as an institutional teacher evaluator and my mom on 'the hill' as lobbyist...when I was younger. It's odd that in all of the time I spent there with them I never went! That map makes it disappoint me even more that I was never able to partake in the joy that was Opryland! How fab it looks! I want to tease my hair, put on a leather fringe laden mini dress and go to all those hokey folksy attractions! They sound lovely!!....and oh so '70s!!! I love that you framed it! That'll look great on the wall! I think I shall frame my 1965 Disneyland map now! Great thinking, chick!

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    1. ....btw, my Shotgun Red doll came hopping out of a bin from my parents' the other day...Alabama and Hank Jr pins on his hat and all!! HA!!

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    2. I too now have dreams of a seventies' Opryland...doesn't it look like a BALL? I had to look up what Shotgun Red's name was, I admit with some shame...I don't think I ever saw him on the show but those dolls were EVERYWHERE. So cool!

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  2. My mom has this exact same map in her childhood scrapbook! My sister and I begggggged her to let us have it, but she refuses to give up the hoard, oh well. Lucky you!

    Sadly, I don't remember much about Opryland. Although I grew up in middle Tennessee, I'm actually from Gallatin, so going to Opryland was an event itself due to distance. I never had a season pass :( I was SO BUMMED when they closed that shit down before I had a chance to be a teenager with a season pass, grr!!

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    1. Haha, it's really a beautifully done little map! Maybe you two will wear her down eventually. It's funny about going to the park because again, we were there ALL. THE. TIME. In the late 80's and early nineties', to the point that I assumed it closed sometime around 1994. I guess we just quit going as much towards the end! One of the weirdest memories I have of Opryland is when the park closed and they were liquidating the gift shops and the fixtures... I ended up with a big Minute Maid sign from a concession stand and some Beatles posters from one of the nostalgia gift shops. Danged if I wish I couldn't go back and get some of the "really" good stuff! Alas, missed opportunities.

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  3. I loved, loved, loved our season passes to Opryland. I would ride the Grizzly RIver Rampage until my hands were prunes. I remember pushing my baby brother around the park in a stroller and staying until it closed every time Sunday when we would go after church. I loved falling asleep as soon as I took a seat in our massive family mini van after a hard days work of running around the park. Opryland was the highlight of my summer, a time where I got to know my mom and siblings and connect with my family. I remember when I became tall enough to ride the terrifying Hang Man and wondering if I would ever get over my fear of falling. Thank you for the stroll back down memory lane with your beautiful map and article. I miss our beloved theme park.

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    1. I love your description of your Opryland memories! Perfectly put. Thanks for sharing!

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  4. That is and awesome map, that is. We had season passes from when it opened until the mid 80's. My mom used to just drop us off there starting from when I was around 11, times were different then. I loved the log ride the most as a kid but when I was a teen it was all about the Sky Ride.

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    1. I'm pretty sure my sister and I went unsupervised there a couple times! Or at least could ride the rides on our own. The Sky Ride's still my favorite!

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  5. oh girl, jamie from owl really has to see this! she has been searching for one of those maps. AMAZING FIND! just that is worth the 15 bucks! i hope you are going to get it framed!
    i remember that lake! it was across from the petting zoo! there were always ducks/swans there. oh i'm having lots of flashbacks looking at this. and i can just smell the place! i always thought it was called the oatmeal scream instead of the old mill. ha! i can remember getting to ride the screamin' delta demon when my brother was too short to and feeling VERY smug about it. and the tennessee waltz swings! and chaos which scared the crap out of me! in the best way. and the sky ride! i had forgotten that but i loved it! it was always so scared to get on it since it didn't stop.
    Travis' dad was head of security there so he has lots of memories from the park too. and once his dad was charged with guarding johnny cash's suit!!!

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    1. Oh, that's neat Jamie's an Opryland collector, I love that! And I love all your memories of the park, mine are pretty similar! The petting zoo was always SO. HOT. And I'd forgotten about the swings until you mentioned them! Was Chaos the one that was all-inside and took you through like a dragon at one point? I may be making this up, I have the vaguest memory!

      I want to hear this story about the suit!

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  6. I'm so smitten with that. I loved opryland especially since I didn't wait in lines! I was such a grandma when I was little and my favorite rides were the lil deuce coupes and the tin Lizzie's. I know I was a pussy! They tour it down when I was in 8th grade I think. I was pretty butt hurt about it. In 5th grade, my class went for the year end field trip and I got to display my new fanny pack and I was ultra excited!

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