They say you can never go home. I believe it.
But I came close yesterday during my first visit to Canada’s Wonderland in over 20 years. As a former employee who spent three awesome teenage summers riding rides, talking to girls, and – oh, yes – working there, it was the biggest attempt to “go home” I had undertaken in a while.
As I expected, many things had changed. Here are some of the ones I found most evident:
1) $3 parking is now $20 parking. Ouch.
3) Metal detectors on the way in were a little depressing. I guess us skinny kids weren’t security enough, huh?
4) Worker’s outfits seem standardized throughout the park. I always felt bad for the kids stuffed into those polyester pirate suits.
5) The themed music, customized for each Wonderland area, has been replaced by popular music. I understood what they were going for (lutes and harpsichord in Medieval Faire, accordion-based polka in International Festival, etc) but I welcomed this change. Maybe it’s because I was subject to that canned tripe eight hours a day.
6) Aforementioned Dragon Fyre is now spelled Dragon Fire. Just like Wilde Beast is now spelled Wild Beast. Medieval Faire is becoming a memorie, which is now spelled memory.
7) The Minebuster seat was more snug than I remember. Apparently I’ve gained weight.
8) ‘The World’s Fair of 1893’ is now a movie-themed area, probably a holdover from when Paramount owned the park. You can still see remnants of the original theme here and there, but for the most part it’s gone. Not surprising, as I don’t think anyone paid attention anyway. They wanted a ride, not caring if one’s called “Swings of Siam” or “Swing of the Century“.
9) Long gone is the Hanna-Barbera theme, now replaced by ‘Peanuts‘. I didn’t think that Snoopy was a relevant character to today’s youth. There again, I would say the same about Fred Flintstone. Maybe Spongebob Squarepants or Simpsons characters would be more au courant. Anything but cutesy-crappy Smurfs.
10) A bottle of Dasani is nearly $3. Ouch again.
11) I felt like the old man in a formerly-small town (“I remember when this was all trees and grass. Now they built something called Splashworks on it and it’s covered in nearly-naked people eating funnel cakes“).
12) Said funnel cakes are nearly $12. I repeat: ouch.
13) The view at the top of Vortex was great (albeit short-lived), and much-changed with the local development over the last 20 years. One cool thing is that you go over the old observation deck at the top of the mountain, another long-closed attraction.
14) Starbucks. Where once there was never a franchise in sight, we now, even here, have Starbucks.
But many things remained the same; stupid things that only I could notice. The refuse transfer carts (“RTC” in Wonderland-lingo) were still in use. The gates to the backstage area had the same locking mechanism. The employee lunchroom (known as the “Lemon Lounge” due to its all yellow-interior) looked to be in the same place.
And more than anything, it still smelled the same. Especially as the sun went down, the lights went up, and the park began to close, I was awash with great memories of teenage summer nights I’ll never forget. I can only hope that the kids working there today are having as much fun as I did.
See you out there!
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Richard Todd is a novelist, screenplay writer, and Social Media guy. Plus a few other things that get lost in the clutter. Visit him online at www.richard-todd.com.