Blast From the Past–Jelly Shoes and Tilt-a-Whirls

1 04 2009


If you were alive and breathing in the 1980’s, you no doubt remember Jelly Shoes. Every little girl in my elementary school had at least one pair and the lucky, spoiled, little princesses had them in a rainbow of colors to complement every outfit. They were the Crocs of their day, only I can not imagine they were at all comfortable.

At the height of their popularity, the carnival came to the small town I grew  up in. It was an annual event, set up in the parking lot of the Montgomery-Ward. The carnival always brought with it bittersweet excitement. I loved the rides (and still do), but with a sister “too little” for them, and a mother totally disinterested and concerned about the inherent safety of a fast moving ride that only a day before had been disassembled and traveling over the highway on the back of a truck, my only hope for getting to go was if the few days the carnival was in town coincided with the weekends I spent with my father.

But this particular year, with jelly shoe excitement sweeping across the land, Mom (who, I should point out, was not yet the bat-shit crazy woman she would become), for reasons lost to time, consented to take us to the carnival. But once there, we were not allowed to ride any of the “grown up” rides alone, and all the ones that interested me required a stronger sense of adventure than Mom had. We finally, after much pleading, convinced her to take us on the Tilt-a-Whirl. I was less than thrilled, but it was the best I was going to get that day.


Mom, sister, and I filled the first available “car” once our turn came.  As the carnival worker came around to make sure all aboard were secure, a lone little girl stepped onto the platform. The worker put her into our car, and for that I am sure she still curses him. The ride starts up. Mom, always dramatic, grabbed the bar. “I don’t know why I let you all talk me into this!” As the ride sped up, sister, unknown little girl, and I, are laughing and having a great time–hands thrown in the air. Mom is sitting with her mouth dropped open, white knuckles digging into the chrome bar, letting out the occasional screech everytime the Tilt-A-Whirl made a sudden reverse spin.

I gotta get off!” Mom shouted about the time it reached full speed.

This is fun!” sister shouted.

No, I’m gonna be sick!”

I shouted, “Bitch, please! On a tilt-a-whirl?” Well ok, my little 9 year old self didn’t use those exact words, but it’s what I was thinking.

A few more whips and whirls and Mom was shouting at the ride operator to stop. Whether the ride slowed then because of her plea or because our ticket’s worth had simply come to an end, I don’t know. But as it slowed to a stop, Mom kept moaning, “Oh God, I’m so sick!”

And then, just as the carnival worker released the metal bar that held us in, she was. All over that poor little girl’s jelly-shoe wearing feet. “Ewwww! Guh-ross!” the poor little girl shouted, as she ran off the ride. Mom likely stammered off an apology but sister and I didn’t hear it, we were too busy laughing.