Freedomland was a theme park, intended as New York's answer to Disneyland, which opened in the Bronx in 1960. The park's layout was similar in shape to the 48 conterminous states, with large shallow ponds for The Great Lakes, and was divided into sections called Little Old New York, Chicago, The Great Plains, New Orleans, Old Southwest, San Francisco, and Rocket City (Florida, natch). Each section featured historical and regional exhibits, food, and reenactments as well as more traditional amusement-park rides and gimcrackery.

I remember well the Dragon, a wonderful ride-on-rails that was just far enough off the ground and wove back and forth in just the right gentle, serpentine motion to suggest, yes, riding a REALLY big lizard over water and through woods and gardens. Oddly enough it was in New Orleans (certainly it should have been in San Francisco's Chinatown) to represent a Mardi Gras float. Another thing I could remember was the farm exhibit (in the Great Plains) where I saw Elsie the Borden Cow in a satin-lined stall (no lie!) and the Chicago Fire, a great participatory event where the firemen asked for volunteers to help pump the water. I was too young to do much pumping, but it was fascinating nonetheless (firefighting interested me at the time -- I was pretty far out for a five year old girl). There was a German band playing oompah music, and a few other musical events, like Dixieland jazz, and such. I tried most of the food, didn't like it much, but then, I was a picky eater. Other parts that didn't make much impression on me were the Civil War and the Wild West -- too young to care, I suppose. As a grand climax to the trip through we got on a skycar and rode up, up, over the park back to where we started.

Freedomland was plagued from the start with accidents, robberies, and basic bad luck -- after two years of operation, it dropped the "educational" slant, and went for basic amusement-park stuff with shameless huckstering from any and all corporate sponsors who wanted to plug their products, resulting in such weird venues as "The Smoke Ring", a cafe run by a tobacco company with a machine blowing rings out of the roof. (Let's see anyone try to get away with that one nowadays!) It closed a few weeks after Robert Moses opened the New York World's Fair in 1964, to be replaced by Co-op City, a set of eight (or is it nine?) high-rise apartment buildings. One wonders whether it was an improvement...

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