Some history accounts record a type of the rollercoaster debuting 400 years ago in
Russia, when a Florida entreprenuer coated wooden slides with ice and charged folks to
ride down a hill. America's heyday for 'coasters occurred in the 1920s when nearly two
thousand stood throughout the land. Today, that total has slipped to just over two
hundred. But Penfield, New York's Paul Rueben, Editor of Rollercoaster Magazine, says
the 'coaster is on a rebound.
RUEBEN: Parks are discovering that 'coasters are very, very good for business. Last year,
attendance at amusement parks across North America rose by one and a half percent. However
seven parks that added new rollercoasters saw their attendance increase by eight and a
half percent. In 1990 alone, we are seeing 17 moved or renovated rollercoasters being
introduced. That is the most since the depression. In fact, the nation is in the midst of
a rollercoaster renaissance.
Of the four major 'coaster clubs in the US, ACE, the American Coaster Enthusiasts tops
the list with over three thousand members. It's a pursuit enjoyed by kids from nine to
RUEBEN: Everyone likes the challenge of testing the edge, being a little bit out of
control. It makes your heart pound, your adenaline pump. Let's face it, it makes you feel
45-year old Marty Multz, a lawyer form Chicago, says rollercoasters make him feel
young again. He's visited at least eight states, and gotten aboard around 200 'coasters.
MULTZ: You're more likely to get the feeling in the pit of your stomach in the back cars.
Because the front cars will be going down a little bit more slowly down the incline-
whereas the back cars tend to get whipped or thrown down that first drop. The front cars
of course give you the visuals, which you don't get in the back, so it's sort of a
'Coaster freaks will tell you: don't fight the ride, try to relax and keep your eyes
open. It's that feeling of weightlessness- negative gravity is the term- that attracts
Jacksonville, Florida's Lucy White. She confesses to have celebrated in the neighborhood
of 60 birthdays.
WHITE: I hope that I just keep right on ridin' until I'm a hundred years old. I hope.
Because I'll tell ya, it's just like a shot in the arm. It's like being on a high without
any drugs or alcohol. And I love those dips, and also what is known as air time when you
go over a little bump, and you kind of go up in the seat.. negative g's you know. That's
the big moment!
Rollercoasters are actually one of the safest rides in the park. Incidentally, the
most-hazardous is the Merry Go 'Round. State laws call for yearly inspections of the
park's rides- which also go through examinations by employees on a daily basis. Joe
Bellinger is a preservationist and historian for the Western New York Coaster Club. He
notes wooden 'coasters are just as safe as the steel strutures.
BELLINGER: There are side-friction and under-friction wheels on the wooden 'coasters
similar to the steel 'coasters. You just don't see it because it's on the inside of the
track. The whole entire structure would absolutely have to break down. We're very
conscious of safety. We don't want to see anything happen because one of the biggest
problems nowadays for amusement parks is insurance. We don't want problems because we
know it hurts the parks.
The Western New York Coaster Club was formed in 1982 and now boasts over 200 members.
This summer they hosted 'Coasterfest '90, a convention of the nation's rollercoaster fans,
celebrating the grand opening of The Predator at Darien Lake- the state's first wooden
coaster in 30 years. Rochester's Seabreeze Park features the Jackrabbit, America's
second-oldest 'coaster- built in 1920. Bill Flynn, WXXI 1370.