Back to our 1967 visit - Returning to my grandfather outside the Congo Cruise, I gave him my brief, glowing review of the Kastle, then told him that I wanted to ride the Giant Coaster; its station about 20-feet away. His reaction was something like, “OK kid, you’re on your own again. I’ve had my fill of rides on that thing over the years.”

To make a long story short, the first drop, the highest I’d ever experienced at that stage of my life, wasn’t that bad. In fact, the coaster was more enjoyable than scary and it was the first one to give me Negative G’s or as the coaster fans call it “air time.” And the best part of all: ascending the high lift hill gave me an outstanding overhead view of the Congo Cruise tunnel and “stage houses” – the small rectangular attached buildings where the ride’s scenes are housed. I noticed that the tunnel and the stages looked fairly new; evidence that the ride was rebuilt after the 1963 fire. Also, I could see the locked metal doors on all the stage houses and the short steps leading to them. So now I knew how the scenes were accessed by park staff for maintenance.

The Magic Mine Train was closed, as was a haunted walkthrough named Devil’s Mansion, but I was thrilled to experience Paragon’s venerable Caterpillar and Rocket Ship, two classic rides that vanished from my two parks in Rhode Island just when I became tall enough to ride them. The all-wooden Caterpillar had to be an original 1920's installation. Even the canopy that enclosed us riders was old, providing us with tiny peep holes to the midway.
On our way out we stopped at a souvenir booth where I uncovered the secret behind the Jungle Ride name plate. A postcard showing a boat splashing down, the sign to the right proclaiming “New Disneyland Type Jungle Ride.” I chuckled to myself over the comparison. I had once seen a TV program about Disneyland’s Jungle Cruise ride so I knew that branding it to the Congo Cruise was like comparing apples to footballs. Actually, to this day, I believe Paragon’s Congo Cruise was, in its own way, far superior to Disney’s Jungle Cruise and I was glad the park changed the name of the ride and removed the Disney reference from the splashdown sign.
Later on in life, I learned a little about copyright infringements and thought perhaps there might have been some other reason behind the change.

I tacked the Paragon pennant to my bedroom wall as soon as I arrived home. In October of 1967, the Sox took home a pennant of their own: the American League pennant. My Paragon pennant came with me to my dorm room at the University of Rhode Island six years later. The pennant was lost when I moved into a new apartment in the early 1980s. But my memories of July 23, 1967: a magical day of dark rides and baseball at Paragon Park with my grandfather…I’ll never lose them.
 
Paragon Park Jungle Ride
The following summer, my grandfather brought me back to Paragon Park. It was almost a year to the date of the 1967 visit. This time he took my younger brother Joe along and I also brought my family’s 8mm camera to capture film of the rides in action. And there would be a very welcome bonus: unlike last year's visit, the Magic Mine Train was operating this time.
Paragon Park Magic Mine Train
  This was a dark ride of sorts, as the three-car train went immediately into the dark building to give riders an array of mining stunts, including the obligatory cave-in. It then emerged into the daylight for a short trek and turnaround alongside the Giant Coaster and the Turnpike ride track, then back into the second building.
Magic Mine Train
Building II was themed to a Wild West town with a saloon scene, a sheriff in a high-noon six-shooter duel with a desperado (the sheriff won) and a grand finale with the train veering in-between a shootout involving bank robbers and sheriff’s deputies.
There were plenty of sound hits, gun fire, ragtime piano and a repeating “You got me!” Behind a façade window was a ghoulish piano player. Decades later, I ID'ed this as a Charmin’ Charles stunt from the former Funni-Frite Company of Columbus, Ohio and it’s likely the interior stunts were furnished by that company as well. In 1977, park management inexplicably relocated the hippo and alligator heads along with other jungle figures from the Congo Cruise inside the Magic Mine cave. Their placement next to miners and cowboys defied all logic.

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