A Simple Plan.

Source: WPLN’s Curious Nashville

In the summer of 1984, when we were between eighth and ninth grade, my friend John came up with a simple plan. John was, and still is, a smart guy—he’s a lawyer in Atlanta now, and using his powers for good, but his scheme forty years ago was a little more shady. He told me his parents were buying him a season pass to Opryland and that our friend Jeff’s parents were buying him one too and I’d better get one or I’d be left out while they were off riding the Tin Lizzies and the Screamin’ Delta Demon.

Opryland was Nashville’s country music-themed amusement park, Disneyworld as reimagined by the producers of Hee Haw. The Tin Lizzies were Model T’s that could be driven around a track, the Screamin’ Delta Demon, a later addition, put riders in in scaly green cars that slid down a tube, there was an antique carousel, boats that meandered around the Cumberland River on a track, and a few roller coasters. It was a fun place and my family would go at least once every summer—usually only once because the admission price was pretty expensive and also there was an additional charge for parking because of course the owners wanted to bilk the tourists and the locals alike. If we didn’t go by the middle of June I’d start getting anxious. Opryland was only open eight months of the year and I worried we’d miss it. My favorite ride was the Tennessee Waltz, a swing ride. I’ve never liked roller coasters—I thought about going on the Wabash Cannonball which had a full loop but always chickened out—but the Tennessee Waltz which lifted all of us riders several feet in the air in bucket seats and spun us around over spiked fencing was exhilarating to me. I always made sure to ride it at least once during the day and once after dark when it lit up with red and white lights. There was also a train that went all around the park, and the Skyride, boxes suspended from cables that carried riders high up and from one section to another. There a long stretch of game booths with giant stuffed animals as prizes. All of it was pretty standard amusement park stuff but to a young child it was magical; I remember being surprised by music literally in the air, thanks to speakers placed behind bushes along walkways, and people dressed up as musical instruments walking through the park. It was even more amazing they didn’t pass out in the heat. Even as I got older it was still fun to go and ride the rides. It was a shock when it was abruptly closed in 1997. The park was still profitable but the owners didn’t think it was profitable enough so they tore it down and put up a mall, which was definitely a downgrade even if parking was now free.

John didn’t tell me about his scheme. By letting me believe he and Jeff had already been promised season passes he was evoking an honest performance from me. There was a small risk that Jeff and I might compare notes but John was clever enough to talk to me while Jeff was away visiting his grandparents. If the plan had worked by the time Jeff got back John and I would have season passes and Jeff’s parents would, well, they probably wouldn’t have bought him a season pass since he’d just gotten an Atari console for Christmas, but maybe he could have joined us a few times. What John didn’t count on was that it was a large enough financial commitment that our parents would talk to each other. He also might have stretched it a bit too far when he said both his sisters were also getting season passes. There was also the question of who’d be driving us. John and Jeff both lived within easy walking distance of my house; Opryland was about a half hour drive. Food was also not included in season passes and it wasn’t as though we could slip through the gates with sack lunches. Like all simple plans John’s idea, under scrutiny, became entirely too complicated.

Although we live in different cities now and haven’t seen each other in a really long time John and I have stayed in touch, and he recently told me he might bring his family to Nashville some time this summer. I hope we can get together, maybe have a meal or two, even find something to do as a group. Something simple.

Facebook Comments


  1. Ann Koplow

    This took me back to amusement park days, Chris. Thanks for the ride!

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Nothing makes me happier than providing amusement.

  2. mydangblog

    We have a great amusement park about 2 hours from here called Canada’s Wonderland–it opened when I was a teenager, and it was, and still is the most amazing place! Ken and I were just talking about how we hadn’t been there in almost 15 years (our daughter hated rollercoasters and rides that spin or leave the ground so there was no point in taking her, sadly!). https://www.canadaswonderland.com/

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Canada’s Wonderland looks like an amazing place. I’m sorry your daughter doesn’t like any of the rides. Maybe you and Ken could go now as a couple. There’s been some talk of a new amusement park opening in Nashville but Dollywood is a few hours east of here and no one smart wants to compete with Dolly Parton.


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