Waiting at the ramp, I noticed the company builder's plate mounted on a section of the wall behind the braking station. The words read:

Jungle Ride/Mill Chute
1963
Paragon Park, Nantasket Beach
Philadelphia Toboggan Company
Serial Number: (can’t recall, but it was long!)

It was the very first time that I saw a builder's plate and while I was bit confused by the ride title, I had little time to dwell on it. The cute ride op soon motioned for my grandfather and me to sit in the back bench of the boat, while two teens in back of us boarded the front bench. The middle bench was left empty and I suppose this is how they balanced a boatload depending upon the size of the riders.

I felt the submerged brake below our boat disengage from the stern and within a second, the swift current of murky water swept us into the narrow concrete tunnel. Immediately, I could hear singing but I couldn’t understand the lyrics. The tunnel became darker as we floated ahead, soon putting us in zero visibility with only the echoes of undistinguishable sounds as a beacon to which direction we were headed in. Suddenly, on the left was a pre-lit scene: Tracy’s Singing Skulls. As most dark ride fans know, this trick could be customized for any ride and in this case, the five skulls, wearing jungle pith helmets, were mounted on the tips of three individual spears and flanked by a shield presumably left behind by native warriors. The skulls sang in unison to a recording of the Mills Brothers’ 1930s tune “I Ain’t Got Nobody”
Passing that scene, I spotted another about 20-feet ahead. For a few seconds I actually thought it was a male actor, but upon arrival at the scene, it was clearly a papier mache figure: a pith helmeted “bartender” wearing glasses with heavy dark frames, gyrating left to right in front of a fully-stocked bar. “Hey, don’t stop here my friends!” he “advised” “There’s much more fun up ahead!” (Years later, after meeting Paragon owner Larry Stone, I suspected that Tracy made the bartender in Stones’ likeness and recorded his voice for the scene). Within seconds, the bartender’s promise was fulfilled:
Set in a swamp was Tracy’s famous “Stanley and Livingston” stunt with investigative reporter Henry Stanley prying open a large alligator’s jaw to reveal the presence of a pipe-smoking, long-lost Dr. Livingstone. The lone sound hit, repeated every three seconds, was “Livingstone, I presume?” The scene was detailed to the max, including a flask in the rear pocket of Stanley’s khakis and a jungle bird perched up on back side to get a better view of David Livingstone. (Tracy listed the stunt as “Stanley and Livingston” in his 1963 catalog, possibly to avoid litigation with the late doctor’s family).
More music ahead and this time I recognized the song. It was “Where the Boys Are,” a 1961 hit by Connie Francis. To my right was the singer, but it wasn’t Connie. It was a mermaid atop a rock in a creek, flanked by two adoring hippos with water squirting from their ears. The scene was Tracy’s “Hippo and Nile Queen” but here there were two hippos instead of one. Leaving the concert, our wooden boat scraped up against the concrete wall as it made a slight turn to the left. The singing was replaced by squealing and it became apparent that somebody was under duress, an understatement, as the next scene was a beheading of a male explorer with a large knife by an African native. It was Tracy’s Native Executioner stunt and it was quite graphic. The beheading and the victim’s death wail repeated about every five seconds, so I got one good look at the execution and that was enough.

But it seemed the natives were restless because the adjacent scene was Tracy’s Dessert and Stew where a heavy-set cannibal alternately dunked a missionary and his blonde wife in marked kettles. The soundtrack was very subtle but you could hear the happy couple uttering, “Ouch!,” “That hurts!” and “Too hot!” And I knew there was more bad news up ahead. I heard a male and female voice scolding children to “Eat them up!” and “Don’t play with your food!” As our boat approached the scene, it was apparent that body parts were being devoured...but by what? We soon got our answer. It was a family of giant praying mantises feasting on the remains of explorers. The parents and four siblings held legs and arms in their mouths and claws; the baby of the clan trying to pick up dismembered toes. As I learned much later, Tracy used his mold for his Pouncing Bat stunt to create the hungry insects.

  For the next seconds our boat floated along in total darkness while we heard the echoes of the terrors we had left behind. Suddenly, the light at the end of the tunnel, pardon the pun, appeared 20-feet ahead: the apparent end of the cruise. But not so fast. A small scene suddenly appeared to our right. It was the bartender from the beginning of the ride bunkered down behind a fallen tree limb. His face, looking directly at us, was frozen in terror. Just a few feet in front of him was an exit sign. So he was apparently trying to exit the ride. But what was stopping him? We got our answer. “It’s the bat!” warned the man. “Watch out for the bat!” And with that, Tracy’s giant lunging bat appeared from behind the fallen limb, circling the bartender.
I guess the “fun” was over for this apparent likeness of Larry Stone. But our boat was about to exit the jungle madness into the blinding sun.

I squinted as our boat came to a stop in front of the Mill Chute lift hill. A teenager seated in a folding chair held our boat in place by resting his left foot up against the wooden brake lever. Another man, possibly in his early twenties, stood next to him and looked into the water ahead of us. “How’s the brake holding today?” he asked the teen. “Fine,” the teen replied, more interested in the transistor radio he was fidgeting with. “Hey, what time are the Sox on?” the teen asked the older man. “One-thirty,” the man replied as he checked off an item on his clipboard. “Okay, let ‘em go!” he instructed the teen.

 

With that, the teen released his foot from the wooden lever and soon our boat left the water and engaged with the lift chain, slowing chugging up the short ramp. As we approached the peak, my grandfather warned me to keep my mouth closed and not to taste the water. True, the water was yellow and smelt like motor oil, but that didn’t bother me in the least. Way too much excitement to sweat the small stuff. I hadn’t been on a splash down since riding a prototype log flume at the New York World’s Fair two years earlier, so I was stoked for this one. Our heavy wooden boat made quite the splash: the waves going about 8-feet high. Surprisingly, we riders received but a few drops on us, so I assume that PTC designed the chute to give observers the illusion of getting soaked.

As expected, the cute girl on the ride’s platform warned us to exit the boat slowly and walk, not run, off the platform as it was slippery. I followed her instructions and glanced back at the façade just to make sure this incredible ride wasn’t a figment of my imagination. Much to my surprise, the girl smiled and winked at me. It was then that I realized the whole experience was too good to be true!

Pointing to the Giant Coaster and other rides in that vicinity of the Cruise, my grandfather asked me what I wanted to ride next. I pointed far down the midway to the Kooky Kastle. “Okay,” he sighed, “but why don’t you ride it yourself. I think I’ll sit this one out. Just meet me back here after you ride it.” With that, he pulled out his pack of Camels and took a seat on a long green bench in front of the Cruise.