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Robert “Bob” MacCallum - Member #006
1937-2020

With many emotions, we must say goodbye to my old friend Bob MacCallum.  Bob has been struggling with health issues for the past two years, and it was difficult for him not to enjoy participating in activities he used to enjoy.

I met Bob originally on the same morning bus route where we both used to get to downtown Cleveland.   I also met Chuck on the same bus route on my way home.  Years later when I reconnected with Chuck, we started dating, and he introduced me to amusement parks and roller coaster riding, as well as his friend Bob.  The three of us went to coaster enthusiast gatherings and events (Spring Fling, Mid-Summer Scream, Fall Freak Out, and holiday parties) together and developed a strong bond. We were part of the original group which started Great Ohio Coaster Club with Bob being the lowest active member number.

Bob and Chuck travelled together for years plotting out trips to ride roller coasters.  They also shared interest in classical music, film, and of course good eating.  Bob was involved with Kiwanis, railroad clubs, theater organs clubs, NAPHA, MACC, WYNCC, ACE, EBPN (Euclid Beach Park Now), his condo/ retirement association, his local AARP, and his church --- all of which will miss his involvement.

He will be greatly missed. We are grateful for the many memories and shared pictures from Bob, his extra hobby, to cherish and remind us of our time with Bob and of coasters now gone.  

----- Rosemarie Kusold
Member #014

 

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Article by Michael Burkes

Photos by Michael Burkes and Bob Kilner

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In a place, approximately 2000 miles away from Ohio, that was once populated by acres and acres of orange groves, lies an oasis of fantasy and fanfare that started as an idea in the mind of its creator, Walt Disney.  It has revolutionized the concept of the American amusement park. Before its creation, the entertainment complex was very traditional. They had their roller coasters, merry-go-rounds, flat rides, dark rides/tunnels of love, train rides and such.  This particular amusement park went a step beyond giving its attractions a detailed emphatic feel that no other facility had initiated. With a heavy emphasis on American and European architecture and larger-than-life cartoon characters such as Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, Pluto, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Dumbo, Mr. Toad — this is a place that has a magical talent to make grown men and women feel like children again. Celebrating 65 years as the “happiest place on Earth,” I bring to you the one and only Disneyland.

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The idea for Disneyland began when Walt Disney was visiting Griffith Park in Los Angeles with his two children.  While watching them ride the carousel, he came up with an idea of a place where adults and children could go and have a great time together.  He may have been influenced by his dad’s memories of the World Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago. Another likely influence was Benton Harbor, Michigan’s Eden Springs Park (formerly known as The House of David).  Mr. Disney visited the park and bought one of the miniature trains used there; The Colony had the largest miniature railway set up in the world at that time. The earliest documented draft of Disney’s plans for Disneyland were sent as a memo to Dick Kelsey — A Studio Production Designer on August 31, 1948, where it was referred to as Mickey Mouse Park.

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The initial concept for Mickey Mouse Park started with just an eight-acre plot of land.  Mr. Disney started to visit other amusement parks for inspiration and ideas including Tivoli Gardens in Denmark, Efteling in the Netherlands, and Greenfield Village, Playland, and Children’s Fairyland in the United States.  As his designers began working on concepts, the project grew much larger than the land could hold. Mr. Disney then acquired 160 acres of orange groves and walnut trees in Anaheim, California. Construction began on July 16, 1954 and cost $17 million to complete, equal to roughly $163 million today.  Disneyland opened one year and one day later.

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When Disneyland opened, there were five themed areas; Main Street, Adventureland, Fantasyland, Frontierland, and Tomorrowland.  As the park expanded, new themed areas were added. New Orleans Square in 1966, Bear County (now Critter Country) in 1972, Mickey’s Toontown in 1993, and Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge in 2019.  When you enter the complex, the train station is located directly in the front in all of its glory. After walking through a small tunnel, guests emerge on Main Street — a tribute to small town Americana.  This area is the setting for the park’s daily and nightly parades and also leads to a central hub that branches out to New Orleans Square and Frontierland to the left, Tomorrowland on the right and Fantasyland and Adventureland straight ahead.  Located in the center of the hub is perhaps the most iconic attraction of them all, Sleeping Beauty’s Castle.

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When It comes to rides at Disneyland, Walt wanted an entirely different experience for his guests than other parks provided.  Guests will not find the “old school” rides like a Tumble Bug, Loop-O-Plane, Tilt-A-Whirl or modern-type (for the 1950s) rides like a Wave Swinger, Disk-O, Frisbee, etc.  In fact, the only rides that look similar to this genre are Dumbo the Flying Elephant, Astro Orbiter, and King Arthur’s Carousel. What you will find instead are a large assortment of dark rides, scenic rides and a spectacularly-themed log flume called Splash Mountain.

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Even when it comes to roller coasters, Disneyland does not give them this name.  They call them “roller coaster-type attractions or roller coaster-type devices.” They do this to differentiate them from a regular amusement park attraction (OH WHATEVER!)  There are a total of four roller coaster-type attractions in the park. The oldest is the Matterhorn Bobsleds — a dual coaster that takes place inside the title mountain where passengers escape the grasps of the Abominable Snowman.  This ride was notable for being the first tubular steel tracked coaster in existence. The second is the legendary Space Mountain — an indoor space themed-type coaster that takes place in a futuristic building. Then, there is Big Thunder Mountain Railroad — a runaway mine train-style coaster that shoots through tunnels and traverses through tight curves.  Finally, there’s Gadget’s Go Coaster, in Mickey’s Toon Town. It’s the most “normal” looking of all the rides and is primarily a junior/kiddie ride for the whole family to enjoy. 

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I feel it is imperative that all amusement park fans come to Disneyland at least once in their lives.  It is so unique, different and charming and it is an amazing feeling to experience attractions that Walt himself had a part in designing and building.  The park might not have the standard amusement park attractions, but what other place on this earth can make adults feel like kids again? What other place can make you go gaga when Mickey Mouse appears and gives you a high-five? What other place do you know that is so meticulous in their daily operations, with pathways so clean, guests can eat off them (although I wouldn’t recommend it)?  Where there is not one single light bulb that is not operating? Where employees are always glad to see you and make you feel very welcome? That’s Disneyland in Anaheim, California!

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Article by Michael Burkes, GOCC Member

Photos by Michael Burkes and Bob Kilner, GOCC Editor

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Los Angeles, California.  The name says it all. When someone mentions this city, thoughts of blue skies, pleasant temperatures, endless beaches, and Hollywood come to mind. Unfortunately, along with these visions are smog, traffic congestion, endless highways, high prices, and an ever-growing population.  But just west of the downtown area, there is a metropolis with a year-round population of less than 100,000 people. It’s a scenic break from the hustle and bustle of everyday inner-city life. The city is Santa Monica. Within Santa Monica lies an attraction called Santa Monica Pier.  Within Santa Monica Pier lies a two-acre amusement park that is a must-see for anyone who considers themselves an amusement park fan. It has been seen in countless television commercials, TV shows, and movies. It is a major asset to this city and surrounding communities. It’s simply called Pacific Park.

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Pacific Park on the Santa Monica Pier is the perfect destination to take in the scenery and people watch.  The current pier is actually made up of two adjoining piers. There is a long, narrow, municipal pier that carries sewer pipes beyond the breaker.  The short, wide, adjoining pleasure pier to the south, a.k.a. Newcomb Pier, was built in 1916 by Charles I. D. Looff and his son Arthur. The bridge and entry gate to Santa Monica Pier were built in 1938 by the Federal Works Project Administration as part of the New Deal.  This place has long been known for fishing, taking in the sights, and strolling on the beach below.

When it comes to Pacific Park, its slogan says it all: “The family amusement park on the Santa Monica Pier, LA’s only admission-free park.”  That’s right, admission is free and you can either pay one price or pay as you go. The two big attractions here are West Coaster roller coaster and the Pacific Wheel, a large enclosed Ferris Wheel that is located at the end of the pier.

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West Coaster is a full-size junior coaster with a single train consisting of five coaches, each seating a maximum of six passengers, for a top capacity of 30 passengers per ride.  It has a maximum height of 55 feet and reaches a top speed of 35 mph. This is the perfect ride for families because there are no excessive g-forces for passengers to endure. The ride experience is as follows:  Immediately after leaving the station, the coaster train engages the chain lift to ascend the lift hill. At the top of the lift, the coaster will traverse a downward one-and-a-half helix turn. At the bottom of the turn, the coaster goes over a speed hill.  The grand finale is another downward helix encircling the Pacific Wheel and back into the station. That’s it. Now I personally would not fly or drive to California just to ride this, but it is a worthwhile credit and a great coaster for younger enthusiasts looking to move up from kiddie coasters.

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Pacific Park has other rides like a Scrambler, Sea Dragon swing, drop tower, and bumper cars along with some midway games, food outlets and shopping.  A must-see attraction that should not be missed is the carousel. This particular ride is located within the Looff Hippodrome building, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.  Both attractions were memorable sets featured in the movie “The Sting,” although the story was set in Chicago.

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Besides the movie “The Sting,” some other motion pictures that were shot here were “Elmer Gantry” in 1960, “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?” in 1969, “Farewell My Lovely” in 1975, “1941” in 1979, “A Night at the Roxbury” in 1998, and “Her” in 2013.  Pacific Park has also made its mark on television, appearing on “The Mod Squad,” “The Rockford Files,” “Charlie’s Angels,” “Three’s Company,” “Star Trek: Voyager,” and in animated form on “South Park.” Finally, the Pier also appears in the book series, “The Dark Artifices” by Cassandra Clare.

Late evening to nightfall is probably the best time to visit Pacific Park because the facility, as well as the pier, are brightly lit.  It’s the perfect time to embrace the ambiance of this long-standing institution. So, when visiting Southern California, check out what beachfront amusement parks were like in the past, as well as today.  Come to Pacific Park and imagine yourself 50+ years ago. It is definitely worth your time to visit an amusement park that has the charm and feel of what amusement parks were like.

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Article by Brandon Perkins, GOCC Member
Photos courtesy of Universal Orlando


Hagrids Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure 1

Universal Studios has a history of record-setting attendance and revenue with their Harry Potter themed lands and attractions. The design of these magical lands is quintessential, making visitors feel as if they are right in the movies themselves. The disparity and distinctiveness of these lands appeal to a vast range of people. From roller coaster enthusiasts to the general public to diehard Harry Potter fans; the large majority of visitors are impressed by the detail and attractions found in the recreations of Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley. 

Nonetheless, when Universal Studios Orlando announced that a new roller coaster would be coming to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in July of 2017, suspicion and a lot of preliminary excitement were aroused. The resort waited nearly a YEAR AND A HALF before announcing any details, letting people try to predict and anticipate what the next great Harry Potter-themed attraction might be.

Construction could be seen in the park, where the former Dragon Challenge closed in September 2017. In late 2018, the park finally released details about the ride, which was met with huge enthusiasm and excitement. It was revealed that the ride, produced by Intamin of Switzerland, would have a 2-minute 55-second duration, a 70-degree vertical angle, a 17-feet drop, 5,053-feet of track and a maximum speed of 50 miles per hour. The ride cost $300 million to manufacture and install. Leading up to its opening, Universal described the ride as, “a highly-themed roller coaster that will take us into a different corner of the wizarding world, where guests will encounter some of their favorite characters and creatures.”

Early this year, the opening day was finally announced for June 13, 2019. The new roller coaster opened with a ceremony, featuring popular characters of the Harry Potter series in attendance to celebrate the attraction. Despite a lot of kinks that needed to be worked out, fans and other patrons waited upwards of 10-12 hours to ride over the first few days the ride operated.  For a while, Universal was opening the coaster later in the day to give the techs time to work out the glitches early in the morning. WIth a ride system so complex, it was clearly going to take a bit to get it up and going with minimal downtime, but they seem to have it running quite well roughly three months into its lifespan in the park.

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The ride experience starts with a pre-show in which Rubeus Hagrid (the groundskeeper and Keeper of the Keys at Hogwarts) takes Muggles (people without magical ability) through a Care of Magical Creatures class. He procures the help of Arthur Weasley to duplicate Hagrid’s magical flying motorbike to take it into the Forbidden Forest (an untamed forest on the grounds of Hogwarts school that is home to magical creatures). The motorbike is successfully copied. Then, Fang (Hagrid’s giant-yet-cowardly pet boarhound) releases cornish pixies and takes Arthur’s wand, burning the motorbike, causing it to explode. 

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The ride then takes Muggles on a magical journey through the Forbidden Forest on Rubeus Hagrid’s motorcycle. 

Each motorbike plays music composed by John Williams for the Harry Potter films. The vehicle is modeled to closely resemble Hagrid’s motorcycle, with 7 rows and 2 passengers in each row. There is a total of 14 passengers per motorbike.  Interestingly, each row has one seat that resembles a motorcycle, handles and all and a second, slightly lower seat that resembles the sidecar. From reviews, it would appear the two seats offer a fairly different experience in terms of the feeling of the ride elements themselves.

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During the ride, you come face-to-face with several creatures of the Harry Potter world. You will travel as fast as 50 miles per hour encountering Fluffy the three-headed dog, cornish pixies, Devil’s Snare, a centaur, and the Blast-Ended Skrewt, which was never featured in the Harry Potter films but did appear in the books.

The ride includes not one, not four, but SEVEN launches! This statistic is very impressive and markets the ride as the roller coaster with the most launches in the entire world, as of September 2019. It features a 17-foot free-fall vertical drop, making it the second coaster in the world to do so after Verbolten at Busch Gardens Williamsburg. In addition, it is the longest roller coaster in Florida at 5,053-feet. The ride features a catapult 65-feet in the air up a spike at a 70-degree angle followed by a reverse section of track.

When the ride was built, Universal knew they would probably not be able to get the main trio together to film again, as many of them have “moved on from Potter” in their own words.  Choosing to use the Hagrid motorbikes and the Forbidden Forest setting was a perfect match for what they were working with. 

In closing, Universal Studios did a wonderful job on this attraction! Even if you aren't a Harry Potter fan, the ride is thrilling for all ages.

Other than some general information, I didn’t want to give any spoilers for those who have yet to experience the attraction themselves.

Until the queue line is less than 4 hours,  here’s a POV video if you want to see the ride for yourself.

Video courtesy of The Potter Collector on YouTube.