Amusement Park

by Ken S. Kristjanson, May 2011

Amusement Park

(first printed in Logberg Heimskringla August 1, 2011)

Growing up in Gimli in the 40s, we were fortunate to have the whole town as our playground. The harbor was always busy and we could go swimming or just watch the boats come and go. Our adventures were limited only by our imaginations (and occasionally by our parents!)

Next to our house, Kristjanson Brothers had a large warehouse that housed all the nets and other gear necessary for 3 seasons of commercial fishing. There were cans of paint, hammers, saws, kegs of nails, lumber, coils of ropes and dozens of other wondrous things. A kid’s imagination could find enough raw material for a hundred adventures to entertain from dawn to dusk. Outside the warehouse there were hundreds of wooden fish boxes and, usually in the company of our trusted ally John Kressock, we made them into forts, aircraft carriers or airplanes. We regularly re-fought the battle of Britain, destroying the entire German air force in one afternoon.

One hot summer night, a big storm brought fierce lightening and a bolt struck a giant oak tree in the vacant lot across the street from our house. (Street is a bit of a stretch, it was really just a trail where the streetwould someday go.) The next morning, we couldn’t wait to get outside for a closer look. As we explored the damage to the massive tree we could see that the lightning strike had taken the top of the tree clean off. Racing to the warehouse, we retrieved a long ladder and placing it against the tree we were able to climb to the new top of the sheared oak. Our collective imagination immediately kicked into high gear and we sped back to the warehouse for tools and supplies.

In short order, a pulley was affixed to the top-most branch and a rope was used to hoist lumber up the tree. In no time a platform was built and we had our very own observation post for keeping track of the enemy’s movements.

We stood on our platform far off the ground and looked over at the warehouse. Inspiration struck and we nearly simultaneously came up with the idea of an aerial ride. By fastening a 2 x 4 to the warehouse we figured that we could tie a rope to it and then string it over to our newly built platform, a distance of about 150 feet.  A Gimli Gondola.  Back to raid the warehouse once more.

We chose the rope carefully: a new coil of 1/2 inch howser rope that was to be used to tow skiffs up north for the fall fishing season. We salvaged a 100 pound fish box from Armstrong fisheries. (The box was socalled because it could hold 100 pounds of fish. All Armstrong’s boxes were made by Thorkelson, the master box maker, so we knew that they were very strong.) Next we found 2 lifeboat pulleys and by drilling holes in the box we were able to make a harness. The pulleys were hooked up to the box harness which would roll easily on our rope over to the warehouse.

We were all set. As we envisioned it, a person would climb the tree, get into the box and have a thrilling ride across the street the come to rest against the warehouse.

Our own amusement park ride!  Soon many other kids heard about our ride and came to see for themselves. We decided to get set up to charge admission when suddenly Gramma Annie came to check on the commotion. One look convinced her to go straight back into the kitchen. She re-emerged with a huge butcher knife, walked swiftly to the ladder leaning against the warehouse, ascended with great purpose and with a swing of the big blade she decommissioned our wondrous aerial ride before its maiden flight.

Everyone agreed that this was a dirty trick and that she clearly worked for the enemy. We decided to return to the top of our platform in order to keep a close eye on her activities while we plotted our next adventure.