I know I've been maintaining this site for a long time when I can no longer remember whether I've written about a given topic at some point. My memory tends to be terrifyingly detailed, but lately – either through old age or the sheer volume of posts – it has let me down on occasion. On Thursday I posted on Facebook about Action Park and referred everyone to an old NPF post about it. Turns out that post only exists in my mind. Somehow I have been at this for a decade without writing about Action Park. The mind boggles.
Action Park was a low-budget amusement park in New Jersey that combined water rides, go-karts, skiing, and other carnival-type attractions. It operated between 1978 through its heyday in the mid-80s and then sporadically until 1996. Action Park was notable for three things:
1. The extreme number of injuries (and deaths) its ramshackle attractions caused. At one point, the park had to buy the local government more ambulances to handle the flow of victims. I can't decide if I like the swimming pools "infested with snakes" or the "Alpine slide" made of concrete and fiberglass that was ridden with a brake-less sled.
2. The on-site sale of alcohol from the park's own microbrewery. So it was a park full of dangerous rides wherein the owners were actively trying to get you shitfaced.
3. The extreme laxness of the employees, who were low paid teenagers working summer jobs. The park had a "Logan's Run"-type atmosphere in which it was hard to find anyone over 20.
Rather than re-hash everything here, please take 10 minutes to read possibly the funniest page on all of Wikipedia detailing the insanely dangerous rides, the routine injuries, the wasted patrons, and the various legal issues that arose. Weird New Jersey also has some extensive (and often first-person) narratives of the park; attendance appears to have been a mandatory rite of passage for kids and teenagers in the NY/NJ area during the 1980s. If I haven't sold you yet, check out their commercial:
Notice what you don't notice in that commercial – basic safety features on any of the rides. Railings? Padding? Park employees? Why, it almost looks like someone just set up some slides and swings over pools of water and let everyone fling their bodies around at extreme speeds. I believe it looks like that because…it was. It's amazing how dangerous the rides look in the commercial, when the park ostensibly is showing itself in the most favorable light. My personal favorite is the waterslide at the end where instead of landing in a pool, riders are flung across the surface of a shallow pool where they are supposed to skip like a rock.
It's unclear whether this was an amusement park or some kind of bizarre social experiment, as though the CIA was trying to figure out what would happen if drunk children were put in charge of an environment specifically designed to kill you.