Defunct Theme Parks From My Childhood, Part 1 – The Smiling Genie

I’m sure it’s happened to everyone: you’re lying in bed, late at night, trying to go to sleep and, suddenly, a random, fuzzy memory pops into your head. 

This happens to me a lot. Almost unnervingly so. Last week it was the time I randomly drove to Galveston in the middle of the night with my two college roommates so one of them could try to patch things up with his ex-girlfriend (spoiler alert: it didn’t work. But we did end up drinking beer on the beach until first light, so that was a bonus). 

Last night, it was a vague memory of a long-forgotten amusement park that we went to a couple of times as a kid. I didn’t remember much, except that it was in Corpus Christi, Texas, and that it had a genie on the sign. I struggled for a bit, rummaging around in the dungeons of my mind trying to remember what it was called, but all I could remember was that genie, beckoning passersby to stop for some amusements. 

Giving up, I rolled over and grabbed my iPhone off my nightstand and, one quick Google search later, I’d found the name: Magic Isles, along with some other interesting tidbits.

Magic Isles was only in existence for six short years—1978 to 1984, yet somehow we managed to visit it at least once if not twice (my memory is good, but not that good). Since we didn’t live in Corpus Christi, it would’ve had to have been on a trip to visit my mother’s father in the time between him moving from near Houston to South Texas, which would’ve been in the very early 80s, so the sliver of time where us going to Corpus fairly-regularly and Magic Isles being open was pretty narrow. My memories of Magic Isles are pretty limited: I only really remember the smiling genie on the sign. 

Luckily, someone online had saves this image of the logo. The sign was pretty similar, featuring the smiling (yet kind-of-unnerving) genie with the Magic Isles logotype below.

It was located at Flour Bluff Road and South Padre Island Drive. Luckily, Google Maps gives us a location via historical imagery:

2020
2020
2020
1982
1982

It’s good to see that even though Magic Isles is gone, there’s still entertainment to be had: the location is now In the Game Funtrackers.

I also found a fairly-recent write-up in the Corpus Christi Caller-Times that gives a bit more background on the park, but basically it’s demise came down to our old frenemy, money.

Which seems to be a theme with small, regional parks. You don’t see very many local amusement parks anymore…most of them are owned by big corporations such as Six Flags. I kind of miss the days that you could go to a poorly-maintained local park and risk life-and-limb to have a thrill. The closest you get now are the parking lot carnivals that pop-up at dying malls on occasion, but I always feel like those are a little too-unmaintained as they’re moved town-to-town regularly, like a WKRP disc jockey.

If you’re interested in other out-of-business theme parks, I suggest perusing the excellent Defunctland on Youtube.

How Big Is ________?

Note: It’s Memorial Day weekend here in the States, so I’m reposting an article that originally ran way back in 2011 on my photography blog rather than creating new content.

I was going over photos from our latest Vegas trip the other night, pondering on how I never seem to make it to every place I want to go when I’m out there in the desert and how I always think “I’ll make it there next time”, then never do.  Part of the problem with trying to make it everywhere you want to go in Vegas is the sheer  size of The Strip, which is where we usually confine ourselves to while visiting the gambling Mecca.

Anyone whose ever been to Las Vegas knows that everything is further than you think it is.  The size of the hotels are deceiving…more than once a day do you think “Oh, The Wynn?  It’s just right there”, then end up walking 45 minutes to actually get “there”. People forget that, because of the way the land was platted back in the day, the largest resorts occupy a full block.  And a full block on Las Vegas Boulevard fronts a quarter mile along the road.

Since the largest of the resorts have over 3,000 rooms, everything is outsized, though you have to give the architects credit in using optical trickery to try to bring everything down to a human scale on some of the buildings.  For instance, The Bellagio has 3,933 rooms, most of which are in its main tower:

Now, count the floors.  I came up with roughly sixteen.  Not that big, eh?  Wrong.  It’s actually 32 stories tall, but uses a “One Window, Four Rooms” architectural trick to make it seem smaller (you can read more about it here, along with other Vegas examples).  In addition, the lake in front of the hotel–home of the famous fountains–is 9 acres in area, giving the building a nice setback to help “shrink” it.

As you can see, things along The Strip are really massive.  But I wanted to know how massive The Strip is compared to something I know well, so I decided to compare its area with that of my neighborhood.  So I popped over to MapFrappe, which lets you outline things in one Google Map and overlay it in another, and go to work.

I outlined The Strip corridor along its traditional boundaries–from Sahara Avenue in the north to Russell Road in the south.  For the east and west boundaries, I used the extent of the back of the lots of the various resorts.  This covered all the land from the recently-closed Sahara Hotel and Casino to the Mandalay Bay.  Then I overlaid it on the Addison, Texas area:

It nicely fits between Spring Valley Road and Frankford Road–just about four miles!  So, no wonder it takes so long to walk anywhere on The Strip (and the 100 degree-plus summer heat doesn’t help!)

Of course, I couldn’t stop there…I had to compare the sizes of lots of things.  For instance, here’s the main campus (excluding Research Park, the Bush Presidential Library and Easterwood Airport) of my alma mater, Texas A&M University, superimposed over central Austin, Texas–home of A&M’s rival the University of Texas (it’s the area clustered around the red-roofed building):

And here’s Rome’s Colosseum compared to the Dallas Cowboys’ stadium:

Here’s Manhattan Island overlaid Houston:

Here’s Beijing’s Forbidden City overlaid on the Vatican:

Back to my home state of Texas…growing up here, you’re taught that Texas is big, but you don’t really get a good idea of just how big until you compare it to other places:


 

So, yeah, Texas is pretty big.  Interestingly, the longest dimension of the state is from the corner of the Panhandle where the border touches Oklahoma and New Mexico to the tip of state at the mouth of the Rio Grande–a distance of 796 miles.  Or, more succinctly, you could fly from that corner and be in any of the places within this circle quicker than you’d be to Brownsville:

Interestingly, the size of Texas means that people in Texarkana are closer to Chicago than El Paso, Houstonians are closer to Mobile, Alabama than Amarillo, people in Brownsville are closer to Mexico City than Dallas and El Paso residents are closer to Las Vegas, where this post started, than to Dallas.

Bonus fact:  The tiny Texas Panhandle town of Dalhart is closer to six other state capitals than its own: Santa Fe, NM; Denver, CO; Topeka, KS; Oklahoma City, OK; Lincoln, NE; and Cheyenne, WY.

Also, you can view my Vegas photos here.

Bonus:  Here’s the Great Pyramid overlaid on The Luxor:

A Perfectly Cromulent Post

Back in the 80s, HBO had a series called Not Necessarily the Newswhich featured a pre-The Onion satirical take on the news (they really had it in for Reagan!). While my young mind could appreciate some of the of-the-day news parodies, my favorite segment was always Rich Hall’s “Sniglets”, where he would teach us new vocabulary, or “any word that doesn’t appear in the dictionary, but should”. Some of my favorites:

Brattled (brat’ uld) – adj. The unsettling feeling, at a stoplight, that the busload of kids that just pulled up beside you is making fun of you.

Carperpetuation (kar’ pur pet u a shun) – n. The act, when vacuuming, of running over a string at least a dozen times, reaching over and picking it up, examining it, then putting it back down to give the vacuum one more chance.

Exaspirin (eks as’ prin) – n. Any bottle of pain reliever with an impossible-to-remove cotton wad at the top.

Genderplex – n. The predicament of a person in a restaurant who is unable to determine his or her designated restroom (e.g. turtles and tortoises).

Musquirt (mus’ kwirt) – n. The water that comes out of the initial squirts of a squeeze mustard bottle.

Sirlines (sir’ lines) – n. The lines on a grilled steak.

Occasionally, my family and I still use some of these words. “Genderplex”, I know for certain, comes up semi-regularly. 

Being a fan of made-up words, I was pleased to recently come across This Word Does Not Exist, a site that uses the GPT-2 machine learning model to create and define new words. The results, in a lot of cases, are surprisingly-good. Some of my favorites I’ve discovered so far:

kingsnoodleI can almost imagine walking the narrow alleyways of the Shuk in Old Jerusalem, looking for the best wares from the various kingsnoodles…

charminiumNot entirely sure what candles and clockworks need a defensive liquid for, but who knows?

Anything for attention!

lumberboat

I propose that this becomes a real word. I know so many lumberboats and the mental image of an actual boat weighed down with lumber, slowly trudging along a river pretty much describes them perfectly.

sexticket

Can’t decide if getting the sexticket to a boxing match is a good or bad thing…

cuddleroomDo you cuddle with loved ones in a cuddleroom? Or is it so strangers can hold “cuddle parties“?

douchebarI think the Urban Dictionary’s definition(s) of “Douchebar” is more in line with what I had in mind:

Douche Bar Douche Bar