I promised a catch-up post (dialect note: in the Land of My Birth, “ketchup” and “catch-up” are pronounced Exactly the Same. Yes, I know. We’ll discuss “Highlandtown” and “Belair Road” on another occasion. No sense exploding any heads.)
So, as I was saying — a catch-up post, since I’ve been scarce here though not necessarily there.
Monday-last, Steve and I took the day off and headed in a southwesterly direction, to the justly famous 19th Century Willowbrook Village. My interest was the carousel — yes, you’re surprised.
Now, the carousel at Willowbrook Village is very interesting, indeed. It’s an Amitage-Herschell portable carousel, built on commission for Mr. Ivory Fenderson IV of Saco, Maine. Mr. Fenderson was by trade a cabinet maker, but he apparently also kept out a Very Sharp Eye for the Coming Thing.
From 1896 through 1922, he moved his carousel from town to town (in horse-drawn wagons, occasionally by train), and sold rides for five cents per. The carousel came apart in numbered sections, for what passed for easy dis/assembly — it took three men a full day to put it together and to knock it down.
Now, back in Mr. Fenderson’s time, the carousel was considered an adult ride — no children under 10 years of age were allowed to ride it. (Edited to add: The horses rock, and the carousel does get up quite a turn of speed, which makes keeping your seat a wee bit of a challenge. You can sorta see why you wouldn’t want kids on it — at least until they’d learned to ride a real horse.)
Carousels were also considered, by some town fathers, to draw an unsavory sort of adult into town, who, exhilerated by the ride, might then be expected to perform mischief in the town. Mr. Fenderson was often fined, and/or required to purchase expensive permits to bring his “machine” to town. He loved his carousel, however, and persevered.
Mr. Fenderson, an early adopter of income diversification, also had a motion picture projector, and showed films. I’m not clear if this traveled with the carousel, or was housed permanently in Saco.
In 1922, the carousel was disassembled and stored in the Fenderson family barn. At the time of the decommissioning, Mr. Fenderson’s son was seven years old, and, of course, had not been allowed to ride the carousel.
I’m a little hazy on dates here, but the Fenderson family eventually contacted the Willowbrook Museum and asked if there was room for the carousel. The museum took on the machine and the restoration project. It took fifteen years to restore the carousel (restoring the organ remains beyond them, so they play a CD of carousel music when the machine runs), and to build a pavilion.
When the carousel was completely restored, Mr. Fenderson’s son, then seventy-seven years old, was allowed to ride the carousel — and he did, over and over, until he had ridden every horse.
For a few years after the restoration, no one (with the exception of the owner’s son) was allowed to ride it, then the decision was made that, for heaven’s sake, it’s a merry-go-round; what did we restore it for, if we don’t allow it to fulfill its function?
Nowadays, carousel rides are offered every day, and on special occasions, three times a day.
Here are some pictures — sadly not very good pictures, but you’ll get the idea:
After riding the carousel, we did tour the rest of the village; I’ll just add one more picture at the end, of the Concord Coach Line; before heading north and east, to Freeport, LL Bean, and home.