Something pretty significant is happening to my past. Astroworld is closing! I first heard of AW closing about 3 months ago and my first reaction was “Damn, that’s too bad”. That reaction had nothing to do with the fact that the business was ending, but rather that the entity that allowed so many young adults to be part of something was ending.
Then a few days go buy and the folks that know my past kept asking me if I knew that AW was closing, which kept bringing it to the forefront of my thoughts. It wasn’t until I met up with a friend and former fellow employee at Texas – OU that it really started hitting me. We started talking about the park and the folks that we knew and lump started building. But then Texas beat OU so I sort of got over it for the time being.
A few more days go by and I get an email from Robert (the friend at TX/OU) with a link to a site and forum dedicated to Astroworld. When I began reading the posts it hit me like a ton of bricks. A HUGE part of my youth would be torn down and sold. I know, I know a lot of you are saying that the bricks and mortar does not make up the experiences I had, but what you don’t understand is that the ability to go back and relive will be gone.
I’ll give you a bit of history to help you understand. My sister started working at Astroworld when she was 15 in 1981. She loved it and managed to thro it in my face that she had money and I didn’t. So I couldn’t stand it and talked my parents in letting me work at 14. Yes 14. Yes I know there are child labor laws, but a simple forgery of one’s birth certificate took care of that. The parents didn’t know that of course, they just thought I was allowed to be hired at 14. Surprisingly, Beth didn’t mind that I tagged along in 1982. I was hired into Merchandizing which basically meant that they let 14 year old kid touch money. Not smart on their part, but I guess it worked out because I didn’t get fired. I only worked a few months that season because we were going the family trek to Alaska that summer. Then came 1983.
Wow… what a year. I was a freshman in High School and was somewhat involved in things at school, but nothing out of the ordinary. Sports, a few clubs, etc and not very good at any of it. I wasn’t really making my niche as a freshman. I know, who does, but I was an idiot and thought the world should be mine. Then came spring 1983. In January of that year I tuned 15 and got my “hardship” license to drive. I didn’t really have a hardship but back then if your parents were divorced, it was close enough. Part of the hardship license allowed you to drive without an adult to and from a job. So Astroworld here I come. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I got really lucky when going through the orientation and they placed me in Rides. I was actually a little disappointed because I had made a few friends the summer before in Merchandizing and felt more comfortable there. But since I was always a season pass brat, I knew Rides would be fun so I didn’t put up a fuss.
I was assigned to the River of No Return and as luck would have it, on the crew was two senior girls from Deer Park High School. Missy Smith and Beth Goldstraw. Seniors!! Now that was a big deal. Not only that but Missy was the Drum Major and Beth was the Senior Class Vice President if memory serves. We began to car pool that early spring for all of the training and we hit it off as friends. (Side bar, I would have gladly made it more than friends with either of them if I actually had enough nerve to do so.) So you can imagine what having two popular senior girls passing you notes and talking to you can do for a freshman. Unfortunatly, Deer Park High School was divided into two campuses, freshmen and sophomores on one and juniors and seniors on the other. But since there was enough cross classes between the two campuses it didn’t take long for my freshmen friends to hear a rumor that Terrill had a girl friend that was a senior. A rumor I did not feel the need to dispel. In stead I stupidly ignored what now seems like obvious signs from a couple of very nice and cute freshmen girls. This in turned sealed my fate that I would dedicate my social life to Astroworld.
The River of No Return
Speaking of fate, I was assigned to the day shift at the River of No Return. Jimmy Keathly was the Lead Forman and Lilian Branch was the Forman. I could, and probably will, write pages on what it meant to be a River Rat on the RONR. It was simply the greatest ride to work that ever existed at Astroworld. Ask any and all that had the great pleasure to do so. But more importantly, I was part of a large crew that was actually encouraged to be out spoken and have fun. It was part of the ride. I can’t imagine a better fit for an emerging personality such as mine. I remember Jimmy was bucking to be a supervisor (more on what that meant later) and was going to ensure that his crew was the best. He would actually take a card from his wallet and scrape our faces to ensure that we were clean shaven. I didn’t care, I thought that he was great. And the crew was fantastic as well. What a bunch of characters. Brenda Kuhn, David Neff, Andy Scott, John Anderson, John Peacock, David Saydof, Chris S (I think the caption is wrong in the picture.. but I can’t remember.) And of course Missy and Beth. Since Jimmy was a Lead and usually pulled for some project or another we were usually left to do what we wanted on the day shift. So we did. I can remember finding a stuffed frog left on a boat once and I adopted it. Named it Freddy and he sort of became the mascot of the day shift. The night shift would steal him and we would find him hanging in a noose from the Bridge over Trouble Waters. Poor thing was even shoved to Magoomba’s mouth. Thank goodness the cannon wasn’t working (which it didn’t about half the time). Anyway, the point is that we had a blast and really bonded. It forced any bit of shyness out of me. Anyone that knows me will tell you that they are shocked that I was ever shy, but being a River Rat cured that. This in turned allowed me to make many more close friends and really played a big part of my social development. All this while wearing a silly hat. I knew they would be hit somewhere.
I’ve already written too much for one sitting so I’m going to end it here for now, but there will be plenty more. It is just so very sad that Astroworld had to end.
Shop Class as Soulcraft, by Matthew B. Crawford
3 months ago