Image for the poem First experience at Six Flags Great Adventure

First experience at Six Flags Great Adventure

In July this will mark the 40th anniversary of my 1st time at Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson New Jersey.

Prior to Great Adventure, I had some experience with Amusement Parks. My parents and grandparents have taken me to Adventureland in Farmingdale Long Island since 1980. My first roller coaster experience was there in 1982. Accompanied by my father, I rode a coaster called the Galaxy. A simplistic, figure 8 coaster that hit speeds of 30 mph. At that time, I thought it was the greatest thing on Earth!

In 1983 my parents took my brother & I to Disney World. That was quite intense. We were awestruck with how unique and massive this park was. My second experience on a coaster was Space Mountain. Great ride for the time, but truthfully the ride is overrated.

1984 was a special year for me. In August my parents took us on vacation to Hershey Park. What an experience that was. That story will be for another timeÖ

It was July of 1984. I was seven years old. My parents surprised my brother & I with the news at dinner a few days before we went. We were ecstatic. Our grandparents were also coming for the ride. Grandma & Grandpa were not these old fashion grandparents you would see in a movie. They were hip, edgy, and progressive 63-year-olds. My grandfather wasnít too excited for the rides, but my grandmother was.

We went on a Friday. We packed up my grandfatherís 1977 Buick and headed to the park. The 1st stop was the largest Safari outside of Africa. At this point my parents have been to Great Adventure five times. They were aware of how impressive the Safari was. I remember monkeys jumping on top of the car, scratching up the vinyl. We saw elephants, lions in the distance, a bear that came very close to the car, an ostrich that peeked his head through the crack in the window since my grandfather was a heavy smoker. I donít recall much else from the Safari. As we finished, we headed towards the parking lot to enter the theme park.

Entering the park, I realized how massive and impressive this place was to me. Sure, I loved Epcot and Disney World from the year prior, but you couldnít compare the two parks. Disney is for dreamers and people into fantasy and majestic themes. Great Adventure is for a diehard who wants to experience the thrill of it all. No fillers, no excuses, no BS. Just ride & scream!

I remember my parents talking about a tragedy that happened a few months prior, where a tragic fire destroyed the Haunted Castle. This resulted in the death of eight teenage patrons. My parents were in the Haunted Castle a few years before the disaster. They always mentioned that it wasnít a great experience. Almost as if the ride was something youíd see at a carnival. A bunch trailers put together with some crude, cheap looking effects to scare & shock. The problem was that there was only one exit for everyone to get out. Our trip to Great Adventure I donít recall going near the charred ruins of that catastrophe.

My father led the way, since his sense of direction was sharp, plus he knew the park well. We headed towards the Kodak log flume. This was an impressive ride that you were guaranteed to get soaked. We most certainly did. This was also the 1st time I was ever on a log flume. I was impressed. My mother years later said she had photos from this ride, but I never was able to see or find them.

Another ride I recall was Lightning Loops. This ride always kicked ass! You climbed this blue metal stairway 85 feet off the ground. When you arrive to the top, thereís this coaster that awaits your entry. The ride blasts off forward, dipping you into two back-to-back loops until you get to the other side. At this point you wait, and the coaster now descends backwards. Once threw your back at the station and the ride is over. Great ride!

We could of went to some other rides, not remembering but I do remember going on Roaring Rapids. This ride was maybe three years old at this point. A popular ride with enormous, long waits. The rounded boat youíre in is controlled but the way they created the illusion you were in some turbulent rapid was spectacular. Something you would see at Disney World for the landscape and theme. During those early years the boat would ricochet and bounce off the faux rock walls. †Sometimes getting stuck under these enormous waterfalls dropping tons of water onto your party. So awesome and so much fun. My grandfather was drenched by the time the ride was over. He needed a new pack of Lucy Strike cigarettes! Unfortunately, in 1988 changes were made to improve ride safety, with the addition of the attendant block advance buttons on the docks and life rings along the river. †Walls of pressure treated lumber added a few years later to prevent boats getting caught between the rocks. †The wave machines were deactivated as well since they were rendered useless by the new walls. The ride was never the same again.

It was the very 1st time I was ever on a skyride. These unique colorful buckets would glide slowly on these cables 100 ft above the ground. That was unique. I remember my grandfather taking photos of the entire park from up there. We were heading to the other side of the park.

When we exited, we went towards the runaway train. This was ok for me. It reminded me of the ride in Adventureland I mentioned earlier in the story. The ride is still in existence as we speak.
A ride that my grandmother was excited about was the Parachuterís Perch. A 250 ft parachute tower that was like the Parachute Jump in Coney Island. My grandmother would tell me stories of Coney Island when she was there in her teens and early 20ís during the 1930ís & 40ís. Another ride that was a first for me. I remember going on and getting scared, since there was nothing around us except the basket seat, with a metal bar supporting us. Off we went upwards. Everyone was shrinking in a matter of seconds. Once we reached the top, the parachute opened. A slow, tranquil glide down with the sun and wind in your face. A very relaxing and dreamlike experience.

One ride I truly enjoyed was the Sarajevo Bobsled roller coaster. The ride was brand-new for 1984. I recall riding in the front seat with my mother. For the time the ride was so unique and special. The sled would reach speeds of 30-35 mph but from what I recollect it felt much faster. I remember many people losing baseball caps on that ride. Whether the staff told them to take their hats off or not, Iím not too sure.

The ride of all rides I remember vividly and was my favorite at the park was Rolling Thunder. This double wooden racing coaster was impressive at 96 feet high. One train operated forward, and the other train operated backwards. In 1984 this was the only year the train went backwards. A celebration of the 100th year anniversary of the roller coaster. The new ride experience was billed as "Rednuht Gnillor" (Rolling Thunder backwards)

My grandfather & brother stayed off the ride. We all went on the train going forward. My parents knew the ride well, my grandmother & I didnít. This was the 1st time my grandmother was on a coaster since the 1960ís. She would often take my mom & uncle on the Cyclone in Brooklyn. I still remember the ride going up that track slowly. Hearing the train clicking and ascending upward. Once we hit the top, I let out this high-pitched howl. What a memory. The ride swerved, and curved and brought you up & smacked you down! A rough ride but so worth it. You do get your ass kicked on any old-school wooden coaster. Especially the back seat. Thatís where we were. When it was over, I remember immediately asking them can we go on it backwards? Yes, my parents said. Even my grandmother went on backwards as well. Again, we were able to get the back seat. This time we were descending the 1st drop backwards with no way of seeing the track. That was intense! For all the years I went on coasters, Iíve only gone backwards a handful of times. What a rush that was. The experience, the memories were all there with me.

At one point we slowed things down by heading towards Kiddie Kingdom. My brother wanted to see the Shirt Tales. I do remember the animated characters dancing & singing on stage. It wasnít really my thing but looking back at now, it was ok. We had some pictures taken with these characters. Within a year, Shirt Tales were out, and Warner Brothers was in.

Towards the evening my grandmother & I rode the scrambler. A carnival type ride that sways you around, as if youíre going to smack into the other person. Fun ride. I remember when the ride was over, my grandmother tripped on the step exiting the car and falling. She was ok. Not the type to person to make a scene or sue someone because Six Flags was at fault.

The traditional log flume was quite amazing. The line was insane. We waited and waited and waited. No e-z passes or different gimmicks like you have today to cut the line for an additional fee. I recall the log flume boat was quite narrow and slippery. I sat with my grandfather and grandmother. We were wet but not as wet as the Kodak Log Flume.

Before we left the park, we went to the Yum Yum Palace. This was an enchanted place if you love ice cream. I remember the inside of the palace was ice cold. The building reminded me of some distant, majestic fantasy world. The palace featured large mirrors throughout, including behind the counters with the menu posted on them. Small chandeliers hung from the ceiling with white iridescent globes on them. I recall getting a banana split with butter crunch, maple walnut and strawberry ice cream. An amazing experience.

Everything throughout that day was one of the greatest times in my life. I had family who were involved with me and made my day so captivating. That was the last time I ever went to a theme park with my grandparents.

The next year I didnít return to the park. In 1986 I did return, but this time with my mom, dad, brother and their friends and kids. I was transfixed with Great Adventure. I continually went to the park with other family, friends and girlfriends until 2020. Covid ruined that. Also 2021 I didnít attempt it. To many protocols & bullshit procedures. I returned in 2022 and 2023. Sometime in May of this year I will be back.
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