I’m sure that many of you, like me, couldn’t get enough carousel rides. In our imaginations, those horses took us on wonderful adventures, no longer tethered by their poles and always accompanied by cheerful music. Of course, I only rode the “jumpers” (the standing horses were for babies), and we traveled great distances during those three and a half minutes of bliss. I never got tired of riding in circles, because my horse was free.
“My” carousel was the one in New York’s Central Park, a fixture in the park since 1871, this is actually the fourth version of the popular ride. The original Carousel was powered by a live horse, or mule, which was was hidden beneath the Carousel platform in a pit and trained to stop and go when the operator stomped his boot on the carousel floor. The mules were replaced by a steam power in 1912.
The new Carousel was destroyed by a fire in 1924, as was its replacement in 1950.
The current Carousel was found abandoned in an old trolley terminal on Coney Island. It had been crafted by Stein & Goldstein in 1908 (amazing that it wasn’t destroyed). It has 57 horses — 52 jumpers, 5 standing horses, and two Chariots. It was installed in 1951 and when I started riding it, in the mid 1960s. I thought it the most magnificent ride in the world.
Of course, a ride on the Central Park Carousel now costs $3.25 for each 3 1/2 minute ride, but they are still glorious minutes.