Silver Dollar City in Branson, MO, the Ozark Empire Fair in Springfield, MO, and the Annual Brown Family Reunion held at Alley Springs; these were the places I would go almost every year during summer vacation. Kids these days wouldn’t even call these day trips a vacation, but for us…this was the highlight of the Summer.
Going through a stack of old postcards recently brought back a lot of memories from one in particular.
A trip to Silver Dollar City in the 1970’s & 80’s was an all day adventure. Highway 65 was a two-lane and Highway 76 was a small twisting byway that took an agonizingly long amount of time to travel. With no air-conditioning in Dad’s 1974 Chevy Nova, the slower the traffic was, the more we melted in the back seat. Much like today, Silver Dollar City wasn’t cheap for a family of four. Mom would pack snacks and we were up and gone early so that we could be there when the gates opened to get the most out of our entrance fee.
Once inside, it was off to find your favorite ride. Unlike today, there were only a few rides. The Train (The Frisco Silver Dollar), even though that was more of an “old people” ride, it was worth it when you rounded the bend and got robbed! Fire-in-the-hole was of course my scary favorite, but the Flooded Mine was a close second. Rube Dugan’s Diving Bell seemed magical too, I never did know if we really went underwater. I knew the stuff on the TV screen wasn’t real, but watching from the outside – the bell really went under?
Some of the best things to visit were not even really rides. The Swinging Bridge was exhilarating for a 10 year old daredevil. We didn’t have OSHA back then, just enough common sense not to go over the edge. Grandpa’s mansion was great fun, we would run and get lost in there for an hour. Falling down on purpose and acting goofy. Definitely one of my favorites.
Of course Silver Dollar City had great artists, crafts and food, but for a kid those were just things your parents made you look at instead of having fun. Although I will say, the sooty, charcoal smell of Shad’s forge and his big smile are vivid childhood memories for me.
After everyone was good and hot, it was time to cool off before we took the long drive home. Of course Marvel Cave was the final stop of the day, the tour was cool and the formations were great. The thing I remember most about the Marvel Cave tour was disappointment that I was not tall enough to bump my head on “Headache Rock.”
Mom and Dad were now wore out and broke, we would climb in the backseat and begin the long trek home along curvy 76 Highway.