Beyond the turnstiles

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

  • When I was a kid my parents used to take my brother, sister, and I to a beachside amusement park called Peter Pans Playground. It was always a treat and we loved it, despite the fact it was a pretty underwhelming place with fairly run down amusements. There was a little big wheel, a tiny roller-coaster, a kart track, and bumper cars.

    We would get a huge helping of bright pink cotton candy then run between the amusements. My favorite for a long time was the crooked house, where true to it’s name, nothing was straight or flat. We must have walked through that house so many times, laughing at ourselves in the wonky mirror as if it was the first visit.

    In St Kilda, Melbourne, there’s an old amusement park across the road from the beach that reminds me a little of Peter Pans Playground. It’s called Luna Park and it’s been in near continuous operation for almost a hundred years!

    Inside Luna Park there are a number of rides and amusements, all of which look pretty unexciting to me, just as I suppose the rides at Peter Pans Playground must have seemed to my parents all those years ago.

    While the park is noted for having the worlds oldest continually-operating rollercoaster called the Scenic Railway, the real landmark feature of the park is the famous gate. The vividly colored clown face just looks terrifyingly wonderful with its gaping mouth and crazy wide eyes.

    I’ve taken many photographs of this landmark which looks even more scary at night when the lights are on. In fact, as I stand beneath those maniacal eyes looking up at the crazed expression of the clown, I wonder just how many children are so frightened by him that they simply refuse to go inside the park, despite the promise of wild fun beyond the turnstiles.

    I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have been one of those kids. In fact I can say with a fair degree of certainty that I would have loved walking into the mouth of the crazy clown, and crossing that barrier between the real world and the wonderful world of magic and make-believe where the old and underwhelming rides would have played only a small part in what makes a place like this fodder for fond memories.