Since I’ve lived here in the greater Binghamton NY area, I’ve known that locally carousels were a big deal. Today my wife and I had some time so we went to investigate. There are currently about 170 working antique carousels in the US and Canada. Six of those are local to here.
Why six? This area used to have a major shoe manufacturer called Endicott Johnson in the first half of the twentieth century. One of the Johnson brothers decided that no child should be without the opportunity to go on a carousel, so he had a carousel built in each of the neighborhoods his employees lived in, mostly in the nineteen twenties but I think at least one in the thirties. Not only did he have them built, he made them free to use. They still are, they run in the summer months administered by local park service employees.
They’re all in public parks. We knew that one of the six was being refurbished. One that we went to was inexplicably closed and another we couldn’t find, so we visited three. They’re all inside buildings.
Three horses across. All are “jumpers” which means they all go up and down, which is true of all those we saw. You can see the chain link fence. There’s one around each carousel for safety.
I didn’t ride this one. The park employees there would have fired it up just for me. I figured I’d wait for an opportunity when there were other riders.
Here’s something you might not have seen on a carousel before:
The next one, in a tiny local Little Italy, was closed. The third one we couldn’t find. The fourth, in Johnson City, Is a nice one. Bigger, four horses across, in a more centrally located park.
I rode here, on an outside horse, which meant it moved fast enough to generate a breeze. You might think getting on and off one of these things would be easy. You would be wrong.
If you look low on the horses, you’ll see an iron bar jutting out on the right side where a stirrup would be. There is nothing on the left. I don’t know about you, but the only way I get on a bicycle or a horse (it’s been a while for either, much longer for a horse) is from the left. Once you’re up, your left foot dangles. If the carousel stops when your horse is in the up position, it’s a long way down, and I’m not a kid any more. At the next carousel, I figured out to dismount while the carousel was still moving so I could get off when the horse was in the low position.
The next shots are still from Johnson City.
We next went to one in Binghamton, the one in the prettiest park and the prettiest neighborhood.
The other carousels we saw had recorded music. Not this one.
This carousel in Binghamton is involved in a piece of television history. It was not filmed, but was duplicated in Hollywood for an episode that aired in 1959 entitled Walking Distance, written and produced by a man who grew up a few blocks from this carousel.
His name was Rod Serling.