Dispatches from the Blue Ghost

As mentioned in a previous missive, I recently spent several days in South Texas with the extended family. While there, I took a couple of hours to visit the USS Lexington Museum in Corpus Christi, mainly because I’ve never been on an aircraft carrier before and thought this would be a good chance to do so.

A bit of background: The Lexington is an Essex-class aircraft carrier built commissioned in 1943 and, save for eight years after WWII when it was deactivated for a major refit, served until it was decommissioned in 1991, at which point it was converted to a museum ship. If you want to read its full history, Wikipedia has a nice write-up here, though it doesn’t explain how the ship earned the nickname “The Blue Ghost”. 

At any rate, I grabbed some snaps with my trusty iPhone 13 Pro Max and thought I’d share a few here in lieu of a travelogue of our entire trip as I did for Oregon/California earlier this year.

Upon arriving at the Lexington, you’re greeted by this retired Blue Angels A-4F Skyhawk “gate guardian“. The Blue Angels—the US Navy’s flight demonstration squadron—flew the Skyhawk from 1974 until 1986.

The ship is permanently moored with a nice, long, easy-to-walk ramp leading up to the museum entrance on the starboard side of the massive hangar deck.

The hangar deck, of which you can get a sense of the size in this photo of part of it, is somewhat massive, though I don’t believe it contained snack bar when it was in operation 🙂 

One of the guns on the starboard side of the ship. This one is a 3″/50mm anti-aircraft gun.

The antenna mast atop the ship’s island:

Always a good policy to follow

A AH-1 Cobra helicopter was adorned with this piece of advice that pretty much sums up why I don’t exercise 😛

The bridge of the ship was much-more spartan than I imagined. In my head, there were controls and information displays everywhere. Instead, the reality was much more basic:

Speaking of controls, there was no shortage of various valves, gauges and dials around the ship:

Including this mystery gauge:

One of the most-interesting things about the ship was that it featured an escalator:

The escalator was installed during the ship’s post-WW2 refit to allow the carrier air wing pilots to easily and quickly travel from their ready room to the flight deck. 

As a museum ship, there were plenty of recreations of various things from when the carrier was in operation, including this food in the galley/mess that probably looks more-appetizing than the actual food during the ship’s service:

The dental suite featured this uncomfortable-looking mannequin:

Several recreations featured figures with creepy projected faces as illustrated in this quick clip I shot:

Another area featured this war-era aircraft trainer that can best be described as an adult version of those kids’ rides that they used to have outside supermarkets:

All-in-all, it was an interesting, albeit hot, visit to see how WW2-era carriers were operated and laid-out. If you’re in the Corpus Christ area, I recommend taking a couple of hours to visit the museum. 

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.