Hi Folks, as an old ride operator, I have been reflecting back on my days at CP and my kids encouraged me to share some stories about my tenure at CP so here we go. Dont bother me when Im working...
Fun was had everywhere. I mean it. CP was really fun. I'm sure part of it was because of the experiences you share with people your own age. It was a fraternity of friends and we worked hard and played hard.
I lived in the dorm named the Cedars. The took the rent directly from our pay and it really wasnt much. Im sure a large part of the reason the rent was so low was that as an employee, you are essentially trapped there on site.
The rooms had no air conditioning and was characterized by a 3 inch cast iron pipe that ran the length of the room a few inches below the ceiling. It was the sprinkler system pipe and we were forbidden to touch, look at, think about it. Hanging clothes on it seemed to be a routine practice.
The walls were made of some kind of fiberboard materials and afforded zero noise suppression properties.
Dave and I started on the same day and went through processing together and we became fast friends when we found out we were going to work at the same ride, the Antique Cars, in Frontier Town.
Dave and I shared a room and he would talk in his sleep. Only he wouldn't talk normal weird talking in your sleep moon language. Dave would be so tired he would recite the script we used to operate the ride. He would say (in his sleep mind you) "Hello, how many today? 3, ok, go to number 2. Hello, how many today, 1, go to number 5. Hello, How any today, 3. go to number 3"...
The showers were kind of weird. It was an open room with posts that had shower spigots mounted around the post. It had an erie German contravention camp feel to it. plus the realization there are going to be times where you are showering with 100 dudes. I do remember more than one time, I would take a shower with my clothes on because it was so hot out, the clothes would be dry almost by the time to took to walk to the ride.
You sort of got used to seeing certain girls make the "walk of shame" from various rooms in the morning. People hooked up there all the time. All the time. If you really applied yourself you stood a good chance about hooking up very, very often. There were guys that werent exactly going to be mistaken for Brad Pitt and had nasty, surly personalities but hooked up all the time. It was just playing the odds. If you send out "the vibe" to 100 girls, all it takes is one.
I could never do that though. It was too much effort and I was never a fan of the guys that did a full court press to get into a girls...pockets. It was just not me. Our ride crew bonded and we began to hang around together. CP did a good job to foster the comraderie and held events (like movies we all took blankets and laughed and had a good time).
Dave and I were lucky, I lugged a 13" black and white TV set from school and we hung around after work, enjoying the slow lazy breeze rolling off the Sandusky Bay. while tossing back beers having been grandfathered in to legally buy beer at age 18. While enjoying the view of the harbor, we hatched a plan.
You have to promise to never tell anyone this next part, ok?
Dave and I drew an elaborate sketch of the marina. We essentially mapped every boat in the marina and began to log when they were in and out. We kind of made it a game and before long it was clear who was using their boats at any given time. It was surprising how many docking their boats never used them.
So after getting a clear idea about boat usage schedules, we began to visit the boats that werent being used that often (or at all). We were very careful to never, ever leave a trace that we were there and never damage anything. The dock gate was open and you were free to roam the docks as long as you didnt get out of hand. A lot of peoples went there just for a quiet place to talk to someone.
More than one time, Dave and I somehow managed to convince some young ladies to "party on our boat" Bear in mind, at that point in time, I had never so much as held a woman's hand so how I made it through without wetting my pants is beyond me.
We tried to be very judicious and not press our luck. We never got caught and at the time, it seemed like a perfectly rational idea.
RollingThunder, thanks for sharing your stories. I'd imagine you have many more.
(side comment) He likely mapped Pete's boat coming and going quite frequently.
Working at Cedar Point was fun. Since I lived at the Cedars dorms, I would walk from the dorm to Frontier Town and would usually hop on the train back to my work station. Occasionally, one of the more daring train conductors would climb on top of the roof of the train engine and "surf" (balancing on top). Im sure that practice has long since been abolished.
One of the most fun things we had to do was test ride the Gemini every morning. Usually we would have 2-3 cycles and then return to our rides. We quickly got used to the ride and it was our time to catch up from the previous night about who got drunk, who hooked up with who, etc.
The ride wasnt a lot of fun if you were hung over but when youre young you get used to it.
There was one employee who pushed the envelope every chance he got. He would bend every rule and the employees loved him for it. He actually was a pretty cool guy unless you were in management. One position was simply crowd control and you had to move the mobile ques, make sure everyone was behaving, etc. The employee in questions (we will call him "Mark"), really relished the job and would wear a whip on his belt (like Indiana Jones) when he was assigned to crown control. I dont think he ever whipped anyone but the fact that he wore the whip on his hip (and would occasionally "crack" the whip), endeared him to us.
During our morning Gemini test rides, some workers would yell inappropriate remarks down to the customers knowing they couldnt hear us and it was completely for the benefit of the other workers. Since we test rode during the hour when the gates were open but the rides had not started, people would be strolling into the park and would see us test riding and would look up and wave.
It was on such a test ride when Mark decided to pull his last prank. In roughly the middle of the Gemini, there is a beam that appears that you are going to hit but the track dips down at the last minute. If you stand up in your seat and reach your hand up, you can hit the beam. It doesnt really hurt and this became a routine practice during the test rides.
Unbeknownst to us, Mark had smuggled a mannequins head under his jacket. The head had sun glasses, a wig, hat, the works. At the moment when the train dips below the beam, Mark stood up and held the "head" up it hit the beam and went flying.
Mark was riding in the front and the reaction to the situation was generally positive until we figured it out then it was hysterical. Unfortunately for Mark, some people on the ground only saw the ride functioning normally and then a head go flying. Then the employees cheering. Soooo some of the guests reported it to security, a few actually went to the ride to see the headless body.
Management refused to see the humor in the situation and Mark was fired shortly after the ride came to a complete and final stop.
So it was the first year Magnum was open and was all the focus that year. I remember the ride leader would routinely work 100 hour weeks that year.
I had finished my shift at the Antique Cars and was walking back enjoying the gorgeous evening weather and the warm summer breeze. My supervisor saw me and called me over. She asked me if I was afraid of heights. I said "no", she said come with me.
We went to the Magnum when it was explained that a very sudden gust of wind had hit the train in the pretzel loop and had acted a brake on the train and slowed it to the point where the computer shut down the entire ride. So now a train was stuck at the very top of the lift hill as well as the loop.
They were going to have to get cranes to get people out of the cars but in the meantime, the were going to "rescue" the trapped riders on the lift hill. Only to get the people down, they had to have the guests walk down the hill with an employee for every guest. So it went, employee, guest, employee, guest, etc.
So off we march and walk up the lift hill, in the dark, with the wind blowing and flexing the ride. Most of the employees werent exactly thrilled at the prospect but I thought it was grand fun. No safety harness, no flashlights, just an endless stream of steps.
The guests were in remarkably good spirits and were happy to be getting off the ride. The guy I had to assist had an aircast on his leg and took forever to get down. There were no close calls and most everyone grabbed the railing and wouldnt let go.
I had heard of another incident shortly afterwards where someone had lost their glass eye during the ride and employees had to search on their hands and knees looking for an eye in the sand. I dont know if they found it but it had to be an interesting situation where a guy leaves the station and comes back with an eye missing. It had to cause some people next in line wondering if they really wanted to ride or not.
I also worked on White Water Landing ride and it was very fun. We had a rotation schedule that we adhered to. We were supposed to work at each station for 30 minutes and then rotate but the schedule was routinely ignored which meant you spent a lot of time in the sun. One station was at the top of the main lift belt. There were 2 separate belts and sensors controlled the belts so the top belt started at the exact time the car transitioned to from the bottom to the top. The sole function was to override the automation in case there was a malfunctioned (which it never did at least on my watch). So this meant lots of time to enjoying the weather, looking at girls, etc.
On those brutally hot days, to cool down, we would jump into the flume. If you were quick enough, you could hop into the flume for a quick dip and then hop back out in between the "boats". One big issue was the fact the fiberglass flume was very slick and if you lost your grip, you slip into the flume and you would ride the flume until you hit the hill. Then you would have to negotiate the grates that divert boats to which flume the boats went down.
I never slipped and I didnt everyday but I did do it occasionally. Plus, it was water from the lake so you wore the "Lake Erie Cologne" the rest of your shift.
The next station was standing on the platform overlooking the hill. The platform was an open grate that you could see right down through. Occasionally a pretty girl found it necessary to "adjust" her top which afford you a nice view. We would sometimes rest our eyes by wearing sunglasses, lean back against the rail and loop your belt through the railing. This way if you accidentally slipped a little (while resting your eyes), your belt would prevent you from falling too far.
The ride was characterized by a revolving platform that captured the rafts on the outside of this revolving platform and a metal railing that was mostly underwater. The platform slowly rotated and if you were working there, you had to walk in a curved path for 8-10 hours a day, listening to the same 5 songs on a loop all day long. When your shift was finished, it looked like you were over supplied with alcohol and you struggled to walk straight.
One station was to stand at the point of the station where the rafts entered the revolving platform and got "pinched" by engaging the revolving platform and metal underwater gate.
You were officially supposed to warn guests to remain seated because the raft behind them was going to bump them. Of course we were routinely ignored and the guests gave you a dirty look somehow blaming you despite being routinely told to remain seated.
The fix was to use the railing and lean out over the flume and stop the raft with your foot. You held the raft until the next raft 'bumped" the raft into the channel. This way you had better control over the rafts. Unfortunately the footing became wet and slick and while you were hanging on the railing, you had to have one foot extended out to act as a brake against the raft. Because it got slick, some people would fall into the flume. This was very bad because if you slipped, you would get pinned by the raft against the revolving platform. This never happened to me but it did to a coworker.
The 'fix" was a 2x4 that we were supposed to pry the raft away from the platform. Someone grabbed the 2x4 and tried but it instantly snapped. They had to wait for the platform to cycle through while the employee screamed in pain with an obviously broken leg.
The ride that I started in was the Antique Cars. Not a premier ride but we still had fun. The job was very physical in the sense you had to run, move or walk 8-10 hours a day. Most of the time the guests were nice and friendly but occasionally you encountered problems.
As the cars were moving into the station, the employees would hop onto the running board and move the cars into the station. There is an override pedal on the outside and it frustrated the kids who were trying very hard to crash into the car ahead of them. The override pedal would stop most (but not all) of the accelerator (the gas pedal) which allowed the car to crawl to a stop.
To get the car to fully stop, you have to put your foot under the gas pedal and lift up. So if someone was motivated enough, they would kind of fight you for control of the pedal. They would be stomping on the pedal as hard as they could, you would be on the outside pedal overriding them. As the cars entered the station, you needed them to come to a complete stop so you would have to put your foot under the driver pedal and lift up. The kids generally would then try and kick your foot out so it became a battle of wills.
All the while the parent would sit there with a smug grin, happy their child was trying to smash into the car ahead of them.
One time as the car was pulling into the station, the steering linkage broke and the car was now free wheeling. A young girl was driving and her grandma was in the back seat. The girl had the gas pedal fully depressed and the car headed for the split rail fence. The car ran over the guide rail, I lost my balance and proceeded to smash through the fence and into the midway. It was cool. Fortunately the people scattered and the car just rolled into the midway. I landed in the grandma's lap and the little girl was scared enough to stop pressing the gas pedal.
We were able to move the car back onto the ride and into the repair area and we had the ride back up and running quickly.
The gas tanks used to be under the back sat. We had to refill them every night. There was an old style gas pump there and the "correct" way to fuel the cars was one at a time. To save time, you could drive up close to the pump, put the hose in and latch the handle to automatically pump the gas, run and get the next car, pull up behind it, finish the lead car and then do the second. This works if youre smart and paying attention. If not, you now have problems.
There was an employee we will call "Butch" who was marginal at best. He was lazy and slow. He was the guy who chewed tobacco and had a constant ring of tobacco spit around his mouth. He really wanted to gas the cars and he was finally allowed to try. He saw the 'big boys" doing it and he tried the above method. All was well until he forgot that the gas pump handle was still in the tank and drive away.
There was no quick release on the hose so he wound up tearing the entire pump out of the ground. Gasoline began pumping out. Huge, huge, huge problem. The ride manager shut off the gas and emergency control was called to shut down the whole area and deal with a big puddle of gasoline. The employee didnt last long there.
RIP Butch and Mark. These are pretty awesome stories, haha. Keep 'em coming.
374 MF laps
Smoking Area Drone Pilot
The general idea when working there was to bust your tail and then get trashed. Most of the workers hung around together but there was sometimes cross pollination between classes. You really met some interesting people there and one of my roommates worked in food service. He really thought he was a modern day renaissance man because he claimed to be a published author. OK, sure.
Upon further examination, it turns out he paid to have his poetry published. We tried to point out that usually it was the other way around but he didnt care. There used to be a booth of sorts that would record a song (karaoke style) and then sell you the cassette tape. he had at least 20 of these that he would play in the dorms.
He did have a girlfriend and we would sometimes see a sock on the door which we instantly ignored. Its not like the show was all that great but we just didnt care what they were doing.
We kind of out up with him because he had a car and we needed to secure beer. So we tolerated his nonsense to a degree.
The guests could really make or break your day (obviously). On a night that Dave and I closed the ride at midnight, we were walking back and we saw a young boy (maybe 8 years old or so) standing crying all by himself. Being the good workers that we were, we asked him where his parents were. He said he was supposed to meet his Mom at the front gate at 11pm. He was all the way in the back of the park, the farthest away you could be from the front gate.
We agreed to walk the kid to his Mom at the front gate. The kids mood improved and as we walked, Dave and I discussed what reward we would get for this obviously heroic deed. Surely we would receive some sort of bonus, maybe a statue in our honor, a plaque, something.
As we approached the front gate, we told the kid to look for his Mom and Dave and I would kind of fan out a bit to help look. Within seconds his Mom saw him and he ran into her arms. She asked him where he had been and all he could get out of his mouth was "those men......" and started crying hysterically.
The Mom took this to mean Dave and I had part in his absence. She began to scream and attack us with her purse. Security soon swarmed us and Dave and I found ourselves with flashlights in our faces, up against a wall. We were able to explain the situation and finally everyone calmed down. The Mom eventually got it and gave us a hug (our only reward for the night).
I was probably a little different in the sense that I really cared about the job and I followed the rules for the most part. I would always listen to the guests and try and make their experience as pleasant as I could. One time when on the Antique Cars, a lady approached me about a complaint of some sort. It was a brutally hot day and she had obviously been in the sun without any sort of sunscreen at all. She was kind a fair skinned lady and had those giant round "old lady" sunglasses on. She approached me and was complaining very loudly about something or other. It had been a long day and she took her glasses off and looked very much like an owl with 2 giant white rings around her eyes where the sun had not scorched her. I couldnt help. I laughed very, very hard.
My laughing was not the reaction she was expecting and she was now screaming very loudly. My supervisor was nearby and jumped in to help. There was a first aid station nearby and they escorted her there to cool down and hopefully a skin graft.
Most of the guests were very cool and it was fun to get to know people.
Occasionally you would see people trashed but for the most part, people were there to have a good time. I liked working a split. You would open the ride, have the afternoon free and then come back to close at night. When I was finished with the morning shift I would walk to the dorm to chill or go into town. There was a ferry that you could ride for free so it was cool to go grab a burger or hang out in downtown Sandusky.
There was a patch of grass outside the IMAX theater that people used to lounge on and get hammered. I dont know what it was about that exact location but on more than one occasion I would see the same people passed out 4 hours later when I would return for the evening shift.
The mechanics were pretty nuts. They were fun and generally a little older than us. I would hear stories that they would hide their "stash" on the rides. So they would schedule frequent safety inspections which would allow them to inspect a baggie or two. I never saw it myself, just heard stories.
There was a governor override on the carburetor of the antique cars. So if it was the end of the night and you needed to move the cars quickly, you could lift the fiberglass hood and make them go at least double the speed.
Most of the park security were cool but it had its fair share of jerks too. Im sure the security is way more hi-tech than it is now. It was pretty neat to walk through the park after everyone had left and my nerd friends and I once tried to hide all night in the park. I didnt have the nerve to do it myself but my friends did. One of those friends was fired for climbing the Giant Wheel at night. I heard he got pretty far up before he was caught. Being high as a kite probably wasnt the best choice either.
Speaking of that, I was talking to a former park department director (who also was a jerk). Without too many specifics, he claimed that the park directors would "christen" a ride by riding a new ride before it opens without safety restraints. I cant confirm nor deny but he swears its true.
Safety was generally a concern but not to the degree you might think. On the antique cars, there was a ramp that lead from the ground level into the station (maybe 2 feet high). On the edge of the ramp was a board (if you can picture that). This was the area that the ride operators would run back and forth on to assist cars into the station.
Over time, the edge of that board got rounded off and then became loose. So imagine you are running full speed, you plant your foot down on this rounded loose board at an odd angle and it wasnt long before you are twisting your ankle.
One of the biggest guys working there did just that and his ankle snapped with a very loud "pop". We had complained about it but very little was done until that happened.
Like I mentioned, it was brutally hot when I worked there. To cool off, we had one of those big McDonalds yellow water coolers. We would grab a bunch of those wax paper cups to start the shift. So if you wanted a drink, you dipped the cup (which would become progressively more soggy and water logged as the day went on) into the cooler, sweaty hands and all. You only had a second to drink before the next cycle of cars came through. It was common practice to sneak up behind another worker and drench them with water down their backs. Occasionally water would "accidentally" spill onto an unruly guest.
There is a single silver tag (or plaque) on each ride generally visible near the controls. This is the operating stamp and without it, the workers are not allowed to operate the ride. Each hour, we would take readings from the turnstyles and report these on a DOR (daily operating report).
Measuring kids heights was a pain. We would measure them with the plastic rod and if it was close, we were supposed to measure them on the metal platform with a swinging arm.
There was usually no good outcome. Nobody wants to tell a kid they cant ride. I would routinely tell the parents of the kids that failed to go buy a cheap pair of flip flops, tear them into pieces that would fit their kids shoes and come back. Not all my coworkers agreed with this practice. One of my coworkers had a different method. If a kid was close to being tall enough, he would tell the kid to hop up on the metal platform and he would tell the kid to stand on their tip toes. When they did that, he would swing the metal arm very hard and hit the kids in the top of their heads. He would say "See, with that bump on your head, now youre tall enough to ride".
I personally didnt see too many famous people there with the exception of: The rap group the Fat Boys, Neil Young (very cool guy) and Bernie Kosar (ex-Cleveland Browns quarterback). Ive heard LeBron James "buys out" the park during the summer for a day so he and his friends can have the place to themselves. Ive heard he invites underprivileged kids too so good for him if thats true.
We used to hang out on the beach. It wasnt as built up as it is now. It was a nice quiet place to hang out with a friend if you needed to get away to somewhere quiet. We would routinely order pizza directly to the beach which we thought was very cool (for some weird reason).
Yes, it was a lot of fun to work as a young person. When we are that age I suppose we don’t mind working long, crazy hours, drinking cheap beer, and chasing members of the opposite (and really not having a clue what to do if the situation ever presented itself).
Dont let CP fool you though. There are lots of things that don’t get talked about behind the scenes that don’t get discussed. A good example is how they handle bad weather. CP has a PA system they just don’t use it only in extreme situations.
There was a waterspout that touched down that was absolutely terrifying. If you’ve ever been up close to a tornado, you understand. There is a YouTube video of this event. While the weather can change quickly during the unstable, humid summer, CP knew of the bad weather sweeping in yet did nothing to warn the customers. To look up and see this enormous funnel cloud bearing down on you caused everyone to lose their minds and simply panic. People running everywhere, screaming, panicking and not knowing where to go. The storm swept through very quickly but for some people still were hiding in the trees and brush well after the storm was over. It reminded me of the Japanese soldiers who emerge from hiding years after the war was over.
Ive heard crazy stories of women giving births in restrooms and leaving the babies behind. There are also numerous instances where things are swept under the rug and the police are never contacted. I’m sure it’s different now with the advent of the ubiquitous cell phone.
People would lose things all the time. All the time. Working at white water landing there was a “sump” of sorts, a smallish concrete hole that fed the water pumps. Roughly the size of a shower stall. The water would be drained every night and fired back up in the morning. Anything lost during the rides would accumulate in a catch basin so it was standard practice to clean the objects out each day. It was also standard practice to turn on the water while your buddy was cleaning out the basin. It’s an interesting feeling to climb the ladder down into this hole, bending down to clean out whatever was there only to have the water suddenly surge on quickly filling the basin causing you to panic and get out quick. I think all of us wound up with ray-bans and other goodies. The balance wound up at the Salvation Army in Sandusky.
This ride was fun. It was fun to mess with people while they were riding. People thought once they left the station they could horse around. Most of the time it was just kids having fun but you would have to use the rides PA to say “please sit back in your seat”. The riders would often give the finger to the speaker.
one time, I was at the top of the lift hill when a raft came up the hill and a guy stood up and handed me a screaming, kicking kid. I’m sitting 80 feet up in the air and this guy stands up just as the raft was moving from the lift into the flume. It was terrifying and stunning someone would be that stupid. It was all I could do to grab the kid (a boy maybe 6-7 years old) and walk him down the steps.
If you take the “old way” into CP, the road with the houses, just as you make the hard left hand turn and CP comes into view, there is a house where The head of CP lived (Mr Kinzel). The rumor was that the house is decked out to the Nth degree, including an elevator for the outside deck/patio. It must be tough.
CP is hyper concerned about its image (of course) to the point that if you were in uniform and you walked by a piece of trash you could be fired. I never really heard of this happening but to this day I still will go out of my way to pickup trash.
There were these weird bird creatures that were all around. Kind of like turkey vultures. They would just sort of be there and often do their own thing. They would sometimes land on the rides and always fly away before the cars came through until one day....
I was working on the antique rides and a customer asked me what kind of birds those were. I stopped the car thus holding up the cars behind me coming into the station. I was looking at the birds and everyone just kind of looked at what I was looking at. As the bird landed on the mine ride track a car from the mine ride came through and with a mighty BAM, the bird exploded in a grizzly mix of dirt, claws and feathers. Most people laughed and applauded (?????) but mixed with a few gasps and “oh my”’s.
For a history nerd, the museum in Frontier Town USED to be a pretty cool place (literally and figuratively). I always enjoyed looking at all the old pictures on the walls and the other assorted memorabilia and ephemera scattered about. I know they auctioned a lot of the cooler stuff earlier this year.
I hope the fortune teller booth found a good new home.
I assume most people know they had wax figures in the museum up until 3 or so years ago. The wax figures were at one time modeled after famous people notably Al Capone and Dean Martin. They had others but those were the only ones that hung on. I always kind of wondered what happened to the others. I like to think that CP has a sense of nostalgia about things like this and from time to time brings it back to life. Like the entrance to the Pirate Ride from Halloweekends. I remember that ride very fondly as a kid and it having a very lasting imprint as a kid. I hated the pirates coming over the side of the boats with a cutlass in their teeth ready to attack. I remember the pirate chest, the guy getting hung, etc.
I watched a video of it on Youtube and its stunning how outrageous it all was. The colors were garish and something we can only delicately call "early black light" motif.
Im not sure how that would play today in our image conscious, sanitized world.
So there was this cute girl that worked at the front check desk. She had an "Amy Adams" vibe that was not unpleasant. My first day there caused some very serious pain to my feet and since I had to work here all summer, I thought the best choice would be to soak my feet in ice water and my new friend Amy also ran the small snack store. She found it odd I would soak my feet but I didnt care. It gave me a chance to strike up a conversation with her.
She was hanging up a weather sign on the wall for the employees coming in and out. She was kind of hustling and I volunteered to do it for her. In fact, I told her I would do it everyday, so I did. I would make these funny off-color weather signs to push the boundaries.
So the entire summer goes along and I think Im the coolest guy in the world and Im building up to the moment I would ask this young lady on a date. The big day comes and I walk down, say hello and she looked over and said "I'm sorry, I dont think I ever got your name". The balloon was deflated and I sulked back to my room.
Worked on the Giant Wheel in 93 and 94. A few stories I remember: (1) I couple got on the wheel and she was wearing a trench coat. It was summer so I guess that should have been a hint. Anyway, after the the all clear was sent and the wheel started to rotate she stood up and shed the trench coat with nothing on underneath. she proceeded to do a little dance while her "friend" filmed....clearly visible to many guests and employees. security took them away.(2) Another time I remember was when a sudden rainstorm came out of nowhere. Not sure how the wheel runs now but it is not water friendly and the wheels the moved it would slide if it got wet. Anyway the wheel got unbalanced and dozens of guests were stuck on it in a drenching rain. Security was called because of threats to our lives....seriously. (3) The OP mentioned being able to hook up all the time if you wanted. This was 100% true.
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