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It Came from the ’80s: Where Were You in ’82?

by Sheri White

In early Fall of 1982, Marybeth and I (and a few other friends) were working at a local amusement park called Wild World. What cooler place was there for a teenager to work? It was a brand new park, so there weren’t many rides yet.  It did have the largest wave pool at the time, before wave pools became popular.

Wild World was called that because it had a wild animal section in the park.  It was creepy and neat to walk around the park when it was closed.  When the lions would roar, it sounded as if they were coming up right behind you.  More than once I was scared that one had gotten out and was roaming around the park.

Marybeth was Carts Manager, which meant she was in charge of those food carts scattered throughout amusement parks.  I was a Roving Cashier for Food Services, which meant I took over for people on their breaks at all of the food places.

I got called “Rover” a lot.

I didn’t mind the air-conditioned restaurants like “Sugar Shack” (cotton candy and fudge) or working the carts, but working places like “Fry, Fry Again” and “Hot Diggety Dog” (I kid you not) were BRUTAL.  No air-conditioning in a tiny building where people are deep frying? I earned every penny of my paycheck, I’ll tell you.

We had to report for work no matter what the weather if we were scheduled, so Marybeth and I went in on a day when it was pouring rain and chilly.  Who wants to go to an amusement park on a day like that?  Apparently nobody, so MB and I were sent home.  Instead we went to lunch at our favorite place, Farnsworth’s (which was our favorite because they didn’t card and we could have a beer with lunch), and decided to go see a movie.

Mrs. Freeling (JoBeth Williams) meets the backyard "neighbors" for a pool party.

Farnsworth’s had a lot of business from Wild World employees, which I think is why they didn’t card.  It was also the place where DC-area pro sports teams would hang out after a game at the nearby Capital Centre, and it had a great DJ and dance floor at night.  God, we loved that place.  I wasn’t seeing Kevin at this time (he had broken up with me earlier in the summer – at his high school graduation party no less), so hanging out with MB and seeing a movie was a good diversion for me.

After lunch, we decided to go see Poltergeist; we had heard it was a pretty scary movie, and it was playing at the cheap theater. You would think that after going to so many slasher flicks over the years that I would find Poltergeist pretty tame. But that movie scared the hell out of me, and MB, too.

Maybe the cold, dreary day set the tone for our movie-going experience, or maybe it was just the couple of beers we had.  Either way, we were a mess once Poltergeist got going.  The parents smoking pot at the beginning of the movie titillated us, of course.  And there were some funny scenes before the scary stuff got going, but that haunted tree and the freaking clown doll sobered us up pretty quickly.

Robbie (Oliver Robbins) "plays" with the creepiest clown toy ever made.

So after little Carol Anne is rescued from the demon in the TV, we think everything is pretty copasetic, but, of course, it’s not.

When the clown doll attacked the little boy from behind, MB and I jumped a mile high.  I don’t think my heart calmed down until the end of the movie, and the corpses popping up out of the swimming pool didn’t help.  We left Poltergeist laughing and giggling, and carrying on like teenage girls do.

It was always great seeing movies with a boyfriend (it was an excuse to bury my face in his shoulder and clutch his hand) but it was just as fun, if not more fun in some ways, to see a scary movie with a best friend. The Exorcist scared Marybeth and me more, but Poltergeist was so much better because we laughed a lot and spent the day together.

Marybeth and I had a great time that day, even though we didn’t get paid.  I don’t remember exactly what we did after the movie, but we probably went back to Farnsworth’s – all stylin’ in our Wild World uniforms, I’m sure, because we hadn’t changed after being told to go home that afternoon.  It’s pretty lucky for us that Farnsworth’s didn’t card, because our uniforms, completely with pom-pom footie socks didn’t exactly make us look old enough to be in high school, let alone have a beer.

Wild World is now a Six Flags.  It no longer has the charm it had when it was nothing but a wave pool, a few rides and a bunch of wild animals.  The area has changed, too – there is now security in the parking lot, especially at night because of the gang fights there.  It’s not a place I can take my kids, unfortunately.

Shortly after that day, Wild World closed for the season.  I went to work at a dry cleaner’s, which was actually more fun than it sounds.  Friday and Saturday nights were spent at Farnsworth’s, and that’s where I met Kevin #2.

But that’s a story for another time…

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8 comments for “It Came from the ’80s: Where Were You in ’82?

  1. Peter Nielsen
    March 8, 2011 at 8:12 am

    As always, Sheri, it’s a pleasure reading these little snippets from the past. 🙂

  2. March 8, 2011 at 8:51 am

    Thanks so much, Peter! Glad you enjoy them. 🙂

  3. March 8, 2011 at 8:57 am

    this was on tv the other night. still scares the life out of me. nice review

    • March 8, 2011 at 10:06 pm

      Hi Ross! It’s a true horror classic. And other than THE SHINING, it really creates a believable scenario as to why the family won’t leave the house! 🙂

    • March 9, 2011 at 7:54 am

      It still creeps me out in some parts – that clown doll is the stuff of nightmares. Thanks for reading!

  4. Monica
    March 8, 2011 at 9:20 am

    Awesome essay. I saw POLTERGEIST in the movies too (I was 16). It’s still one of my favorite movies.

    • March 8, 2011 at 10:07 pm

      Hi Monica, thanks for commenting. Yeah, POLTERGEIST is definitely in the top-tier for me too.

    • March 9, 2011 at 7:55 am

      We were the same age! My kids love that movie now, but my youngest still can’t stand the face part. So glad you like the essay!

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