Fit for royalty

King’s Island celebrates 45 years

By Jim Bucher

Back in the day, we didn’t have much in in the way of amusement parks. Oh, there was LeSourdsville Lake and Fantasy Farm down near Middletown, and Coney Island in Cincinnati, but that was it.

Imagine then, as kids, when we heard the Taft Broadcasting Company, owners of TV and radio stations, with a stake in Paramount Pictures, was planning on building one of the best amusement parks in the Midwest right down near Cincy.

The doors to Kings Island opened for the very first time on April 29, 1972. The park was named by taking Island from Coney and Kings from Kings Mills, Ohio, where the park is located. Kings Island had the latest and best rides around. Only 150 of the 1,600 acres were utilized at the time, which, in hindsight was pretty smart. There was plenty of room to expand.

My brother Tom got a job there his first year out of high school handling lighting chores inside the “balloon-like theatre.” Remember that? Where upon seeing a show, staff would announce, “If the air comes out of the structure, please everyone lie on your backs and blow up!” Funny how you remember things.

So, with a brother as an employee, I could finally get in for free. At least that’s what he told me as we hid in the back seat while driving into the employee lot.

The first thing we saw was the Eiffel Tower smack dab in the middle of the park. «I believe there›s one of those deals in France,» my buddy Joe blurted.

Uh, ya think?

The park from 1972 consisted of The Racer, a dual roller coaster that ran one set of cars forward, the other in reverse. The classic model-T mini-cars, gondola ride over the park, log flume, and Hanna-Barbera Land pleased kids of all ages.

And who could forget the Enchanted Voyage, which was an air-conditioned indoor boat ride to the land of all your favorite cartoon characters. Anyone remember the song that played throughout?

“Cartoon friends and funny faces all in my TV, the happy friends who live in my TV!”

Again, the things you recall.

Another fav of mine was and is the Kings Island and Miami Valley Railroad. During the early years, actors portrayed cowboys and Native Americans with guns, bows, and arrows along the way.

The summer of 1972, when my brother worked, we were there 40 hours a week over the summer, basically during his work schedule. It never got old and sure beat staying home, cleaning my room, and doing other chores.

The highlight over all those years must’ve been when The Brady Bunch TV show filmed at Kings Island. We got to see the film crew and some extras, and one scene with the Brady kids was not too far from our view. I could have sworn we positioned ourselves perfectly in the background of this particular scene. Imagine my excitement seeing the episode months later, Friday night on ABC.

Now imagine the disappointment of ending up on the editing room floor. Sigh.

Later, it was loads of fun to cover all the new happenings during my TV reporter years. One highlight was the opening of the Happy Days diner, based on the television series. The PR folks brought in Mrs. C, actress Marion Ross, to ham it up with on-air folks. I wore my leather jacket, with slicked back hair, just like The Fonz. She had a ball with it, and at the end of my news report, I gave the classic “ehhhhhhh” to the actress. Without missing a beat, she replied, “Oh, Arthur.” If you have no idea what I’m talking about, catch the series in reruns.

It’s been really cool to experience Kings Island changing over the years. Adding The Beast was awesome, and a couple of misfires like The Bat and Son of Beast really didn’t matter much. You knew the wizards behind the scenes would come up with something bigger and better next year.

Now jump forward to 2017. Many of those early rides are history, but this year brings a new and exciting addition to the parks legendary coasters: the all-wooden Mystic Timbers.

It’s funny how many of these rides were literally a walk in the park as a kid, but at my age, what was once a breeze is now a big windstorm.

But I was game, and I survived. Mystic Timbers is a bit bone shaking, but has nice twists and turns and a surprise ending. If you make it to the end, you’ll discover the secret in the shed.

By the way, I’ll never tell,

Cheers and happy birthday Kings Island!

Buch

 

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Jim Bucher
For over 25 years, Jim Bucher has been a regionally known and loved local television icon. “Buch’s” followers describe him as trustworthy, fun, the guy next door, a friend and role model. You can promote your business with Buch and grab your customer’s attention! Reach DCP freelance writer Jim Bucher at JimBucher@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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