Life is a Roller Coaster – Literally

When I saw August fun facts, August 16 was listed as National Roller Coaster Day. My first job, the day after high school, was as a ride hostess at Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio. Cedar Point is the second oldest operating amusement park in the U.S., opening in 1870 second to Connecticut’s Lake Compounce in 1846.

I had no idea which ride I was assigned to, but I really wanted to run The Gemini – the tallest, fastest, steepest racing coaster in the world! When we stopped in front of my assigned ride – there it was, the Gemini. I got it.

Most people don’t know all the jobs a ride attendant performs. There are several positions, especially on a coaster of that magnitude. They try not to let you burn out by being at one station too long, so your ride
team would be rotated to a new position about every hour. Before the park opened every day, everyone had to test ride their rides to make sure everything was safe. We had to sign a contract stating we would not hold the park responsible if we were hurt or worse, but I thought at the time, what could be so unsafe? I would soon find out.

My day began at 8:30 a.m. as I arrived at the Gemini. I was immediately sent to one of the first racing coasters where I would meet up with my team and “test ride” every single coaster, looking and listening for problems. We were all trained on what to watch for, but you are on the ride, so now that contract starts to become clearer. Riding the Gemini six times every morning by 9 a.m. eliminated my need for morning coffee.

Don’t be offended if an attendant doesn’t make a lot of eye contact if you speak to one. Our job was safety of our park guests, eyes on the coasters and surrounding area, finding an occasional lost child, etc.

Another position we would fill from time to time was a ride tester, for rides about to open. I still can’t look at the Wave Swinger without feeling nauseated. This ride was having problems getting speed and timing worked out, which completely affected every swing participant. For hours, the appointed “victims” would sit in individual swings, that were then lifted 16 feet in the air, and spun in a wave-like motion. The problem was the speed was off and we all banged into each other as the ride lowered and came to a stop. So, up again we went, and repeated until the problem was solved.

There are over 2,000 coasters in the world. Find one and end this season with a memorable thrill!

Karin Jenkins is a Licensed Esthetician, Makeup Artist, and the author of the book, “Pageant Land and the Family Who Lived There.” She has been involved in all aspects of the beauty industry and in show business for over 30 years. Karin is the mother of two and the grandmother of four. She and her husband David co-own the local family business - Applause Salon in New Smyrna Beach. (386) 426-5454

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