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The Lights of Life


 On the bay in Green Bay, lies one of the most special places of my childhood: Bay Beach.  Bay Beach is a small amusement park that my family and I went to often during the summer.  Going there was always the highlight of every week.  We lived in the small suburb Allouez, and Bay Beach was all the way across town on the shore of the bay.  The car ride always seemed to take forever, except for one specific time.  While my dad was driving through downtown, I remember that we made every stoplight.  At the time this fascinated me.  The stoplights were probably synchronized so that you could make them all without stopping, but I was unaware that was done.  It is very curious how we sometimes remember the most inconsequential things.  Making all the lights is really nothing worth remembering, but it is something I will remember for the rest of my life about Green Bay and my childhood.   

          Bay Beach itself is a small amusement park with a few rides.  A big blue slide out towards the bay was always fun to go down.  You had to take a burlap bag up to the top and then slide down on top of it.  One time when I went down I accidentally let my hand scrape along the side of the slide, and I received a very painful burn on my hand.  That was the last time I went down the slide.  More towards the middle of the park was the Ferris wheel.   It was one of the older rides, but still one of the best.  The best part of riding the Ferris wheel was getting stopped at the top when it was loading or unloading.  You could look far out across the bay sometimes seeing on a clear day the Door Peninsula jutting out towards the horizon.  Located around the Ferris wheel were the Scrambler and Tilt-A-Whirl.  One year the Tilt-A-Whirl was the new attraction at the park.  I was very excited to get on it for the first time but didn't find it to be as exciting as some of he other rides, particularly the bumper cars.  The bumper cars along with the train and concession center were housed in the pavilion at the center of the park.  It was a beautiful older building painted white and had a long green roof.  On top of the building sat the bell tower which was the centerpiece of all Bay Beach.  The little train station was at the back of the pavilion.  Every time we went to Bay Beach, we took a train ride around the park.  The train was just a small engine with a few small cars it pulled behind.  It meandered out towards the bay near the slide and came around through the park back to the station.  But the highlight of every visit to Bay Beach was riding the bumper cars.  The problem was I always wanted to go by myself, but I was either too young or too short.  For a long time the age requirement for riding the bumper cars was eight years old.  I was seven and couldn't wait until I turned eight, so I decided I would have my birthday celebration at Bay Beach.  My birthday is March 13; hence, having my birthday there was not a possibility.  I didn't realize this until next spring, but we did go back as soon as Bay Beach opened for the summer. When we got there the first thing I wanted to do was ride the bumper cars, but found the requirement had changed to a certain height, and I wasn't tall enough.  I was devastated.  I still had to ride with my dad like a little child, which I was but didn't want to accept.  This is the most powerful memory I have of Bay Beach.  Not being able to ride the bumper cars was like a stoplight on my personal road of life.  It had turned red and would remain that way until I grew a little taller and could move on to the next one.

            My family moved from Green Bay about years ago, but I returned to Bay Beach for the first time last year.  We were in town for the weekend for a friend's wedding.  The day after the wedding my dad and I got a chance to ride around town.  I had just gotten my temporary driving permit and was eager to go.  My dad was the only one in the car, so I was allowed to drive.  I eventually found my way out to Bay Beach, but it was before noon and the park wasn't open.  It was strange seeing the place deserted.  In my memories it had always been a bustling place with the Ferris wheel spinning, the Scrambler scrambling, and the bumper cars bumping.  People moved from place to place, and music filled the air.  It brought back many great memories, but the park was closed, and I couldn't go back in.  I drove off.  I left Bay Beach behind and drove ahead towards my destination, occasionally stopping at a red light.