Okay, Everyone, I’m back from our most recent jaunt. We headed out for a quick flying trip (strictly unofficial) to New Mexico. Lots of adventures, mostly good, and I’ll share them in due time.
But, right at the moment, let’s pick up where I left off...which was our trip to New England.
In particular, we were at an AirB&B in Nahant. In fact, as I recall, we had just toddled off to bed for some well-deserved rest. I’m just sure it was well-deserved. But, then, I never understood why rest might *not* be deserved. I mean, if you’re tired...but, well, I’m sure some Neo-Puritan out there would be happy to explain it to me. (But, please don’t. Okay? Thanks.)
Where was I? Oh, yes. Sleeping. So the next morning, we got up, got dressed, cobbled together a bit of breakfast, re-packed, and then we were on our way. Specifically, we were on our way to the Wonderland T Stop.
Sounds magical, doesn’t it? Wonderland. And what is the “T” anyway? I have to explain all that. The “T” is what Bostonians call their subway. It’s from the the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority...the T, you see, got singled out. But, anyway, MBTA is Boston’s Mass Transit system. It’s one of the nation’s oldest, by the way. It dates all the way back to 1897.(1)
About the photos: Three today, and the first, as per norm, has nothing to do with the story. I just like it. ’Tis a snap of Martha at Ellsworth Kelly's “Austin,” an art installation at Austin Blanton Museum. We visited with the kids last spring. Amazing place.
By contrast, New York’s subway only got started in 1904. Well, technically, the Big Apple did have an experimental pneumatic tube subway system in 1870-1873. But it was more a funhouse ride than a serious means of public transportation, and it didn’t last long.(2)
Anyway, the MBTA has run now for over 120 years. And the local joke is that the T is still using the same trains. Meaning the T isn’t exactly notorious for its excessively comfortable rides. I gather it is better now. Trains have been upgraded and the routes improved. But, when I was a regular rider, in the 1980s, it could be...rather rough and tumble. I have several stories I could share about T-rides that make for good short stories, but not pleasant memoirs.
Of course, the reality is that no mass transit system is without its problems. I’ve seen some that are pretty good...London for one, and the Bay Area Rapid Transit System (BART) in San Francisco (at least when I knew it, which has been many years back) was cool, too. But, well, if you have an urban area, and a whole lot of people want to go someplace on a regular basis (like to work), and you can’t afford to spend tons of money...well, things are, on occasion, going to get thorny. That’s just the way of it.
Which takes me to Wonderland, which is the name of a major T-station. It’s in the city of Revere, Massachussets, and is (I gather) currently the northernmost station on the line...though, that could change. There is pressure from folks living further out to extend the tracks.
The name is evocative to say the least. You’ve probably already heard it. Remember the movie “Next Stop Wonderland?”
Where did the name come from? Again, you have to go back a century. Revere (and, once more, this comes as a surprise to many a Bostonian. The town has long had a rather dodgy reputation) was once the home of one of the most innovative amusement parks in the United States. Between 1906 and 1910, Wonderland Amusement Park was considered among the top attractions of the Northeast.
Apparently, it was quite a place. Founded by some visionary businesspeople, it was to be Boston’s answer to Coney Island, only better...with newer rides and more interesting attractions. It was to be, in other words, what Disneyland and Disneyworld would be half a century later--a place of entertainment, but also engineering innovation, and a beacon to progress.(3)
Thus, there were water rides (“Shoot the Chutes,” “Love’s Journey,” “Descent Into The Hellgate”), roller coasters and tilt-a-whirls, restaurants and ballrooms, and educational exhibits, like “The Japanese Village,” and “the Infant Incubators”--something stolen from Coney Island, and, yes, they were real incubators with real premature babies in them. This was a standard for a lot of fairs at the time, and, incidentally, saved the lives of many children. See “Baby Incubators: From Boardwalk Sideshow to Medical Marvel” by Erin Blakemore. (4)
Unfortunately, the Wonderland Amusement Park only lasted a few years. In 1907, it got hit by a national financial panic. It limped along for a while, but finally went out of business three years later.
The name “Wonderland” survived, however. It was picked up by a dog-racing park that opened in roughly the same area in the 1930s--the Wonderland Greyhound Park. Where the amusement park died, the dog track thrived for decades. Lots of money changed hands, and lots of dogs dashed along the endless track after an electric rabbit. Rather too good a metaphor for life, I fear.
Anyway, I remember the place rather well. I never attended one of the races, but it was very much in operation while I was still a resident of Massachussets. It was still popular, but ...by the 1980s...everyone knew it was living on borrowed time. The general feeling was that dog-racing was somehow illicit, and, rather more importantly, the Park owed a lot of back taxes to various authorities. Things went from bad to worse, and the Park closed down in 2010. (5)
But, it left a legacy. In the early 1950s, the MBTA had built a station near-by. It was called, of course, Wonderland.
And that’s where we were headed.
More to come.
The second and the third are an experiment. I took one of my photos of Rockport (that’s the second photo) and uploaded it to a server running Stable Diffusion. Then I asked the program for an image based on my photo showing a seaside town. The third picture is what I got back. See what you think.
1. For more on T and its origins, see the MBTA’s Wikipedia entry, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MBTA_subway, and the MBTA’s own remarkably informative site here: https://www.mbta.com/guides/subway-guide
2. On the New York subway, see Wikipedia here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_York_City_Subway. For the “Beach Pneumatic Transit” system, go here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beach_Pneumatic_Transit.
The story of the pneumatic system is colorful even by New York’s standards.
3. For more on Wonderland Amusement Park, see its Wikipedia entry, here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wonderland_Amusement_Park_(Massachusetts). Also see the website for the book “Lost Wonderland” by Stephen R. Wilk, here: https://lost-wonderland.com/. The book looks fascinating, though the website is (alas) somewhat undeveloped as of this date (January 23, 2023). But what is present is excellent.
4. “Baby Incubators: From Boardwalk Sideshow to Medical Marvel” by Erin Blakemore, Sep 12, 2018, History, https://www.history.com/news/baby-incubators-boardwalk-sideshows-medical-marvels
5. For Wonderland Greyhound Park, see here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wonderland_Greyhound_Park
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