Writing with Ghosts of the Past

The other day, in the parking lot of northwest Denver’s Sprouts Farmers Market, a bag of groceries in one hand and car keys in the other, I was unexpectedly hit with a blast of nostalgia for the original Elitch Gardens Amusement Park that had once occupied the ground where I stood. Twenty years ago, a new Elitch Gardens opened near downtown Denver, and had taken or replaced everything except the ghosts of the original park.

View from Elitch's carousel pavilion to the theatre.

View from Elitch’s carousel pavilion to the theatre.

From my vantage point, the only two remaining structures–the Elitch Theater and carousel pavilion–weathered their past like spectacular roses in an otherwise common garden of townhomes, apartments, and office/retail space–no more thrilling rides and entertaining games or smells of caramel corn, hot dogs and cotton candy wafting above excited voices of kids and adults alike.

As though a tin can of springing snakes had been released from my chest, these Park ghosts surrrounded me, and right then and there, I could have crumbled in the parking lot.

Wildcat Roller Coster at Elitch Gardens Amusement Park, Denver, CO, c.1960

Wildcat Roller Coster at Elitch Gardens Amusement Park, Denver, CO, c.1960

This is how the Ghost of Childhood Past visits me, often unannounced, as though materialized in my mind by a flash of magic.

Sometimes I sense the ghosts as welcomed companions, pacing the room, standing over my shoulder, anticipating that the next words I write will capture the true flavor and meaning of the past.

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About Ken Lutes

Ken Lutes brings his background in memoir and fiction writing to his work at the North Denver Tribune (northdenvertribune.com). He enjoys interviewing his neighbors in Northwest Denver, where he has lived since 1999. After hours you will find him playing hot gypsy guitar with the Paris Swing Set band.
This entry was posted in Creative Non-fiction, Memoir, My memoir, Security Bound and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Writing with Ghosts of the Past

  1. Ray Kemble says:

    Hi, Ken

    I’m really enjoying following your blog.  Creating one of my own is something I’ve resisted doing for a long, long time.  It’s not that I’m sour on the technology.  Far from it.  It’s just that I wonder where oh where am I going to find the “new” minutes to do justice to a blog.  I have to assume you’ve found doing yours of great value.  I’ll confess, though, following yours has got me rethinking and rethinking and rethinking …

    Ah, the old Elitch’s site!  Unfortunately I don’t have any first hand memories; I believe it was still up & running when I arrived in Colorado, but I just never made it out there.  I did have an “encounter,” though, more recently, with the old theater.  About five or six years ago, when I was still with the Boulder Shakespeare festival, some fellows who were trying to resuscitate the old theater invited me and my artistic director to walk about the building, thinking we might like to “tour” a play to Elitch’s.  My God, Ken, the building was in such disrepair!  Looking up from centerstage at the roof you could see blue sky through the broken planks.  As I’m sure you’d understand, it was a sad, sad visit.

    Ray

    >________________________________ > From: Ken Lutes >To: raykemble@ymail.com >Sent: Monday, May 27, 2013 10:07 AM >Subject: [New post] 486 > > > > WordPress.com >Ken Lutes posted: “The other day, in the parking lot of northwest Denver’s Sprouts Farmers Market, a bag of groceries in one hand and car keys in the other, I was unexpectedly hit with a blast of nostalgia for the original Elitch Gardens Amusement Park that had once occupie” >

  2. Ken, I am always sad to think I never took my daughter to Lakeside while we lived in Denver. Her middle-school class went to Elitch’s, but it just ain’t the same! In my hometown in Michigan there was an amusement park built right on the beach of Lake Michigan. It started springing up right after the turn of the last century, when people from Chicago would ride a ferry over the lake to St. Joseph to get out of the city. I had many a fun day at Silver Beach and there are people all over the town with mementos from the glory days.

    • Ken Lutes says:

      Mimi,

      Lakeside is still here, so if you’re planning a trip to the area

      Some rides have come and gone, as has the old fun house with Laughing Sal, the fat lady over the entryway, but Lakeside’s character really hasn’t changed much at all since the 1930’s (it opened in 1908). In fact, my wife and I will be there next weekend to snap some photos at dusk of the remaining art deco neon that still garland many of the arcades. And, as in “days of old,” there’s a simple gate/parking admission ($2.50) for those of us who only want to walk around with a Sno-cone and maybe buy individual ride tickets–you can still do that!–for the carousel or Cyclone roller-coaster. It’s still family-owned, but I’m sure that with each passing year, it becomes more and more challenging to keep it maintained. I do wonder how long it will last, and that’s a good reason to take some photos before it’s ghosts join those of Elitch’s.

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