This is the fourth date with your new boyfriend, Mike, and he's taking you on a dream date to Riverview.
Golly! Riverview! All those rides and cotton candy too! You hope he'll hold your hand while you're strolling down the midway. That'll be so romantic!
You spend a long time looking through your closet to pick out just the right attire for this date. What should you wear? Well, you decide to go casual. Suddenly, you feel really daring: no nylons--or that uncomfortable girdle that goes with them. The thought makes you feel a little nervous, maybe a little risqué, but gee, this is Riverview, a place for picnics, games, rides--and fun.
You peruse the skirts. What about your cute poodle skirt with saddle shoes? No...a little too long and bulky.
Then another one catches your eye. Reaching in for the hanger, you think, yeah, this'll do: a nice plaid skirt with a hem line just below the knees. Your short-sleeve pullover sweater will go nicely with this skirt. Bobby socks and penny loafers add the finishing touches.
Your date picks you up early in the evening, well before dark. He wants to arrive at Riverview while it's still light so you can see the park both before and after dark when all the lights come on outlining the rides.
"You look very cute today, Karen," he says as he walks you to the passenger side of his car.
Smiling brightly, you thank him. He opens the car door for you, then hurries around and gets in himself. He's obviously in a hurry to get there, and you can understand his excitement. You can't wait to get there yourself. You haven't been to Riverview since you were in grade school, certainly never on a date. What an exciting place for a date!
As he pulls away from the curb, you stay discretely on your own side of the car. After all, this is only your fourth date with him, and you don't want him to think you're too forward.
Driving east on Addison, he turns left onto Western.
"The main entrance is on Western Avenue, you know. I wanted you to see the main gate. It's really a sight to behold."
You reach over and touch his arm, but just for a moment. With excitement in your voice, you say, "I can't wait. I can't really remember what it looks like, it's been so many years since I've been here. Do you come here often?"
"Oh, yeah, several times a year. I love it."
You wonder briefly how many times he's brought a girl to Riverview on a date. Oh, well. Of course he's dated before. You've only known him for a month.
He parks the car in one of the Riverview parking lots on the east side of Western Avenue. As you cross the street heading for the main gate, he takes your hand in his. Your heart flutters; it feels so romantic.
The gate is absolutely spectacular. It must be 25 or 30 feet wide. There are two large red domes on either corner and a smaller dome in the middle of the archway. Mike pays the entrance fee and the two of you walk in, still hand-in-hand. It doesn't cost too much to get into the park, because every ride has its own booth where you pay to get on.
The first roller coaster you see is the Silver Streak.
"If it's been a while since you've been here, maybe we should start out on the Silver Streak," he suggests. "It's not quite so fast, and it's enclosed."
You gaze up to the top of the first hill, and suddenly you feel an odd sensation in your stomach. It looks incredibly high, but you have no time to answer. Mike is already in line to buy the tickets.
You stand in line for five or ten minutes, giving you plenty of time to worry. Finally, you're standing on the platform, waiting for the next train to pull in. It does, empties out, and then the gate is opened for you to walk to the train. Mike grabs your hand again and practically pulls you to the front seat.
You get in first and slide over on the seat. Then he gets in, and the attendant snaps down the bar that holds you in. It's scary. Whether Mike thinks you're forward or not, you scoot over closer to him, hoping he'll put his arm around you.
He takes the hint. He does!
The long, straight incline as the train is pulled up by the chain is scarier than you thought it would be. And this first hill is even higher than it looked from below. Your heart starts beating faster, but it's not from romantic feelings.
Finally, when you think you must be a thousand feet in the air, the train slowly goes over the crest as it leaves the chain and is on its own. The speed it gains going down that first hill takes your breath away. At the bottom of the hill, the train whips around a sharp turn and heads back up the next hill.
The ride continues...up...down...right...left...
All the while your handsome date is holding you tightly around the shoulder. You let out a few screams as the trains careens along its exhilarating course.
But then it's over. You're pulling into the stop, and a new set of young lovers is waiting to board. Maybe it wasn't so bad after all.
Walking down the sloped platform to the midway, you put your arm through his.
"Boy, that was really great! You say that was a slow ride?"
"Wait till we get to the Bobs, the fastest roller coaster in the world."
"I don't know..." suddenly you feel your new-found nerve slipping away. "I might not be up to that..."
He laughs. "You'll be up to it, don't worry."
As you walk down the midway, he buys you some cotton candy. Then you spot the Tunnel of Love. Now you feel mixed emotions of different sort. The Tunnel of Love is not a scary ride because of height or speed. But have you really been dating him long enough to go in the Tunnel of Love with him? Would he try anything fresh? Maybe try to kiss you? Do you want him to?
Well, before you can make up your mind about any of these dilemmas, he puts his hand on your shoulder and turns you to face the entrance to the ride.
"Hey, Karen, how about the Tunnel of Love?"
You feel your face flush just a little, but then you turn to him with what you hope doesn't look like an embarrassed smile. "Yeah, I'd like that."
The ride consists of a boat with several rows of seats, and it travels around a circuitous course, which includes, of course, the dark "tunnel of love."
As the boat starts its romantic journey, your heart starts beating again, but not because some chain is dragging your roller coaster into the stratosphere. You're scared, but in a different way. The question floods your mind again. What if he tries to kiss you? Well, what if he does! Didn't the two of you kiss goodnight on your last date? That was the first time he kissed you, and you liked it! So what if it is getting fresh with you in a dark tunnel? Why not let him do it again? You won't let him go any farther, but what could be more romantic than being kissed in the Tunnel of Love?
You look up, and there it is: the entrance to the tunnel. Darkness lies behind the opening. Then another thought hits you. What if he doesn't try to kiss you?
But before you can answer that question, you're suddenly surrounded by darkness. Then you feel it. His arm slowly wraps around you and turns you slightly toward him. Suddenly you have second thoughts. Should you resist? Should you tell him no? But you want to be drawn into his arms. You're not quite sure how in this darkness, but somehow his lips find yours, and he kisses you, a warm and tender kiss that says he really likes you. When your lips part, you put your arm around his waist and lay your head on his shoulder.
The kiss was heavenly, but he doesn't try anything more. You're greatful because you don't want anything to spoil that kiss. You'll dream about it tonight.
All too soon the ride is over.
You walk a little farther and suddenly see the towering image of Aladdin on the famous Aladdin's Castle.
"Ooooo, let's go through Aladdin's Castle," you suggest.
He turns and looks into your eyes, as an odd smile develops on his face.
"You want to go into Aladdin's Castle? You're sure?"
"Yeah, of course. Why not?"
"Okay, let's go. I'm game if you are."
He buys the tickets and the two of you hurry in. At that moment, there are no people waiting in line to enter, so you get right in.
In Aladdin's Castle, you follow a long walkway that winds through the castle on several different levels. It goes through many curious rooms. Some have mirrors that distort your reflection into gross caricatures of your figure. Other rooms have floors that twist and turn under you, almost making you fall over. Gruesome monsters pop out of closets to scare you.
But unless you're familiar with the castle and all of its tricks, the worst is yet to come. Many a girl has been the victim of Aladdin's devious nature. The path you follow through the castle takes you outside several times. One such time brings you out right in front of the castle on the second level, visible to everyone waiting in line or passing by. One of the operators is sitting secretly at this passageway. As an unsuspecting girl walks over a grid she hardly notices in the walkway...
But you're not thinking about grids or attendants at all. The walkway is narrow as it leads you outside, and the two of you walk single file with you in the lead. You see a park attendant sitting nearby and for a brief moment wonder why.
But then suddenly you feel a strong gush of air from the grid you're standing on, and your skirt is billowing up around your waist for everyone to see, including your boyfriend!
You're mortified, and your face turns beat-red. You quickly step off the grid and back into the castle as you push your skirt down. Then you turn around and look at your date. He's smiling mischievously. You realize he must have known what was going to happen and was probably looking forward to seeing your...skirt blow up. How typical of a male!
"Michael! You knew that was going to happen, didn't you? And you didn't warn me!"
"Gee, Karen, that's what's fun about Aladdin's Castle. It's been going on for decades. I was hoping you wouldn't remember."
"Yeah, I bet you were," you say with anger still in your voice and feeling very embarrassed.
But then he puts his arm around you and gives you a hug. As much as you want to be angry with him, the anger seems to drain away as he takes your hand again and you finish the walk through the notorious Aladdin's Castle.
As you continue walking along the midway, you reflect on your humiliating experience. Your skirt all the way up to your waist! Yeah, how typical for a guy to get a thrill out of seeing that! But...maybe that's just it--"typical." Guys are guys. They're wired that way and so girls have to be careful. You smile knowingly to yourself at the thought. He is a gentleman in many ways. He's never really tried to get fresh with you on any of your dates so far. Let him enjoy his little thrill.
He's still holding your hand, and you squeeze his a little tighter, hoping to let him know everything's all right.
You look up at the rides just coming into view, and there it is, looming ominously before you.
The most notorious roller coaster in the world. You've never been on it.
He drops your hand and points. "Here it is, Karen! I can't wait to get you on that."
You look at him suspiciously. "What do you mean, you can't wait? What's going to happen to me on the Bobs? More nasty tricks to play on a sweet, innocent, unsuspecting girl?" You really play it up.
"No, no, nothing like that." He points to a train as it whips around one of the lower curves near where you're standing. "You'll notice it's wide open, high, and fast. I might have to hold you pretty tight to keep you from flying out."
He has a childish grin on his face, and you feel your own face flush again, but that image he just painted is not altogether unappealing. But wow, what a strange mixture of emotions! Excitement over being held tight, but mixed with plain, old-fashioned fear of that really scary-looking ride.
But he seems to give you no choice. He takes your hand again and drags you toward the ticket booth.
You look up again at the train careening through space at break-neck speeds.
"I don't know about this..."
His ear is deaf to your pleas. Images you only half see flash by in rapid sequence, and the next thing you know for sure is that you're sitting in the front seat of the famous Bobs as that bar snaps into place with frightful finality. There is nothing around you but open space.
The train starts to move.
Golly, it goes fast just getting to the chain!
The chain catches the roller coaster, and you begin going up...and up...and up...slowly...ever higher.
The ground seems awfully far below you and is moving farther away by the second. You decide not to look at it. You look up to the top of this first, incredibly high hill. At its summit, where the chain will leave the train, there is a sign: "Do not stand up"! Your heart is pounding.
Your date puts him arm around your shoulder, squeezes it, and pulls you tight up against him.
As you pass under that terrible sign at the crest of the hill, you try to look at the tracks heading downhill. Good grief! You can't even see them! How steep must this downgrade be?
The train suddenly starts to pick up speed at an alarming rate.
That's it. You close your eyes and start screaming, just like all the other girls on the train.
You reach the bottom of the hill, and you think you must be going 100 mph. Then the train flies up the next hill. Many roller coasters have a braking device in the middle of the tracks just before going into a curve to slow the train slightly.
Not the Bobs.
At the top of the second hill, you're whipped violently toward the outside of the curve as the train turns left. You feel Mike's arm gripping and pulling you back toward him.
Would you have flown out if he were not holding onto you?
But while you're thinking about that, the train flies over the crest of another hill. This time you feel yourself rise up off the seat, and your legs hit the bar extending across your lap. But you feel his hand still on your shoulder, and suddenly you're smashed back down onto your derriere.
The ride continues with unrelenting violence. Curve after curve, hill after hill. Does this ride ever come to an end?
Finally the train comes to a stop.
You open your eyes and pick your head up off of his shoulder. How did it get there?
You're out of breath as you step out of the train.
"Do you want to ride again?" he asks?
You feel a strange urge to be really close to him. You grab his arm and lean against him as you walk down the ramp.
"No, no, please, not again!"
He laughs, but then he does something very sweet. He runs his hand up your neck and into your hair. Nothing more. Just that. Your skin tingles a little under his touch.
"Okay, Karen, no more Bobs. I think there's a ride coming up more your style. But first, how about a hot dog?"
"Yeah, I could use something to eat right now--after that harrowing experience you just put me through." The Bobs, however, did have its benefits, and you're smiling as you say this. He turns toward a concession stand, and you locate a little table in a pretty setting.
Mike brings two hot dogs but only one large Coke. It has two straws in it. How romantic! You look up at him, and his eyes are sparkling. He sits down close to you.
"I've always wanted to try this," he says, as he positions the drink between you. You can detect the excitement in his voice.
"Come on now," you say, giving him a sketical smile. "You want me to believe you've never done this on a date before?"
"Scout's honor! I've seen other couples do it, but I never have. I've been thinking about it ever since we got here. I wanted to try it with you, Karen."
You feel all warm inside as the two of you bend down to the straws. Your faces are very close, and you find it truly romantic.
While you're sitting there at the table, he reaches out his hand tentatively toward yours. Then with just one finger, he tenderly caresses the top of your hand.
Now it's your turn to get a thrill. How surprising that such a little thing can be so emotionally powerful!
After a few seconds, you turn your hand upright and take his. For a few moments, the two of you look into each other's eyes while holding hands.
Once back on the midway, you see the Shoot-the-Chutes coming into view.
"Oh, yeah," you say with excitement in your voice. I remember the Chutes from when I was here as a little girl. My father took me on this."
Mike buys two tickets and holds your hand as you wait to board one of the large boats.
Once on the boat, you snuggle up close to him as it floats into the monster's mouth on its way to the elevator. The elevator ride is straight up but not nearly as scary as being dragged up by that chain on a roller coaster.
At the top of the Chutes, you're not afraid to look around, and you can see much of the park. But then your attention is drawn to the water below as the boat slowly tips downward.
The descent is very quick. You hit the water with a mighty splash, and suddenly your hair and sweater are all wet!
As you're walking back along the midway, you're thinking that your hair must be quite a sight. You look down the front of your sweater.
"Boy, this really got wet. I must have been in just the right place."
Your date gives you a impish smile as he draws out his handkerchief.
"Maybe I can dry it for you."
You look up at him with a knowing scowl.
"That's quite all right, Michael. It'll dry on it's own."
It's dark now, and Riverview is aglow with thousands and thousands of lights outlining all the rides. What a magnificent sight!
You next ride the gigantic Ferris wheel. Naturally, one of its stops place you right at the top of the wheel. You look out at the lights of Riverview. You can see most of the park and even the lights of the City beyond. Like "A Thousand Stars in the Sky."
Mike tries to show off a little and starts rocking the seat.
"No, Mike, please. This scares me."
He stops and puts his arm around you. You lean toward him and bury your head in his chest until the rocking stops, feeling warm and protected.
After leaving the Ferris wheel, you walk hand-in-hand for a while. He buys you more cotton candy. But no sooner do you finish eating it than another roller coaster comes into view.
The Flying Turns.
"Say, here's a really great ride," he say excitedly as he points to it.
"I don't know. Another scary roller coaster?"
"But this one isn't too scary, and it's really unique. It's not that fast, and it's not that high. What makes it great is it's design. There are no tracks. The train follows sort of a tunnel without a roof, and it swoops back and forth onto the sides as it goes around the turns. You really can't even see how high you are because of the sidewalls."
"Well...I guess so..." You're still not quite sure. You've learned tonight that your new boyfriend can be a little devious.
As you're standing on the platform waiting for the others to climb out of the train, you notice something. There are no seats. You look up at your date, but he has his eyes fixed on that front car.
There's no opening on the side of the car. How are you going to climb in and out? You'll have to step over the side, then somehow sit down on the floor. It's going to be a bit awkward with a skirt. And there will be no more floor shows tonight! You'll have to be very careful.
It's obvious that your date's been on this ride many times before. He knows exactly what to do. On the other roller coasters, he always helped you in first, but this time he jumps right in and then holds out his hand to help you. When you're both in, he sits down.
There is something else highly suspicious about this ride. You don't even sit next to each other. Instead, you have to sit one in front of the other. How is all this going to work? Has he tricked you into something else embarrassing? Well, too late now.
He sits down first and spreads his legs into a V shape. You carefully lower yourself down between his legs and then while holding your skirt so it doesn't ride up, you stretch your legs out in front of you. But no V position for you! You keep your legs tightly together. You reach out with both hands and make sure your skirt is as far down as it will go. It covers your knees. Yes, everything seems to be okay. You look to the side and see that his arms are resting on the sides of the car.
The train begins to move. It's a short distance under the pull of the chain, at least compared with the other roller coasters.
Since you're sitting on the floor of the car, as the train picks up speed down the first hill, you slide back against Mike. Suddenly with a smooth, and apparently well-practiced maneuver, he weaves his arms under yours and clasps his hands together around your waist and lays them on your stomach.
The move startles you, and you feel him gently pull you back against his chest.
You're confused. A new dilemma. Is this proper, or is he getting fresh?
Then you realize a new danger. It's only a matter of inches...
How many girls have been lured unsuspectingly onto this ride? How many has he taken on this ride?
But then the solution dawns on you. No doubt many other girls have thought of it before you.
You reach down and place both of your hands tenderly on his. This move has the advantage of being a seemingly romantic response to him, while at the same time, it can prevent his hands from moving any higher up.
You smile contently at your cleverness as the ride tosses you from side to side. He's holding you tightly against his chest as the train whips around the curves, climbing up one side of the "tunnel" and then the other side.
A thought suddenly occurs to you. Oh, my gosh! What if he wants to park before he takes me home tonight? He's never tried that yet. Your heart does a strange flip-flop. Well...maybe just for a kiss or two. You've been going together now for a month. A few visions of the two of you together in a dark car flash through your mind.
When you exit the ride, you glance surreptitiously to see what expression might be on Mike's face. Was he upset that he wasn't able to try anything fresh?
No...he seems to be smiling very happily. He takes your hand and caresses it gently as you continue down the midway.
You make a decision. Once married, you will return here with your new husband, and he'll be able to get fresh with you to his heart's content...
...at Riverview Park.
Email me your thoughts on this story. I'd love to hear from you!
Now that you've finished this story, you might want to read Story 3 in my Terry and Laurie series, "A Romantic Fantasy". In it, Laurie plans a very romantic "date" for the two of them to go on.
Riverview Park was a Chicago landmark from 1904 to 1967. When it closed for good, many of us felt like a part of us had died. Here are a few good Web sites I've found that deal with Riverview.
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