When I was a little girl, my poppa and I would go on “Daddy Daughter Dates”, where he’d let me pick anywhere I wanted to go. Anywhere on the WHOLE planet. And whatever I wanted to do, we’d do it. (I usually wanted to go water the weeds growing up through the cracks in the asphalt behind the local Wienerschnitzel or catch tadpoles down by the canal.)
Our Daddy Daughter Dates have been an on-going tradition for well over two decades now. Yesterday? I wanted to go ride on the Hanford Carousel.
I was born and raised in Hanford, and growing up I never realized how lucky I was to have a real, old fashioned carousel in my own back yard. Didn’t every kid have this innocent pastime at their fingertips? One summer, when I was about eight or so, my mom volunteered to work the carousel on the weekends, and we would spend the day riding around and around and around, never tiring of the delightful monotony. I must have ridden on every single horse a dozen times each in my lifetime. I have so many fond memories with this turn of the century amusement.
This historic 1939 Allan Herschell Company Carousel is one of the true jewels of our tiny town, a centrally located pride and joy. Aesthetically and mechanically, it is a masterpiece. Here are a few fast facts on the carousel:
– From the early 1800’s to the 1940’s, an estimated 6,000 classic wooden carousels were constructed in North America. The Hanford Carousel is one of only 213 surviving and currently operating classic wooden carousels from that time period.
– Of the Allan Herschell Company all wood carousels, the Hanford Carousel is one of only 49 surviving and currently operating carousels in North America.
– The carousel was constructed for travel and designed to be portable. It features 3 rows of horses, with 30 classic horse “jumpers” (all legs off the ground) and 2 chariots.
– The period of the Hanford Carousels construction was during the Art Deco era, and the design greatly reflects that. The inside panels feature art deco lighting and classic mirror panels.
Yesterday was another Central Valley scorcher, with temperatures well over 100 degrees, so when my poppa and I arrived it was empty and we had the carousel all to ourselves. I picked out my favorite horse (“I want a white one! Here dad, you ride on a white one too!”) and my dad, who will always be my daddy no matter how old I am, insisted he help me up and buckle me in. (“The buckles are for children, dad!”)
While we were spinning around, sharing small talk and me being overly excited over the ride, my dad kept nervously reaching over to keep his hand on my shoulder and steady me as I snapped pictures or talked with my hands. “Keep both of your hands on the pole.” “Dad, I’m not going to fall. I’m pushing 30. I think I can stay on a carousel horse.” “You’re going to fall.” So around we rode, with my dad holding onto my shoulder, and me hands-free and giggling, like nothing has changed at all over the past 25 years.
I don’t know if it’s the timeless appeal of the carousel that’s got me feeling nostalgic or if it’s my pregnancy hormone addled brain – or maybe a mixture of both? – but our little outing has me feeling emotional and sentimental. When my dad said I would always be his little girl, I didn’t know it would be so… literal! And it’s crazy to think – I have a daughter in my belly. This was Tessa’s first carousel ride and she got to share it with her Grandpa! The first of many Grandpa Granddaughter Dates to come, perhaps?
Rodger Brasel, the Carousel Operator, was kind enough to let me wander around the horses after the ride, snapping pictures and inspecting the hand paintings on each horse close up. Every single horse is unique. We wove in and out among the horses, my dad and Rodger sharing small talk and discussing memories of Hanford while I snapped pictures at random, until a family with small children wandered over from an ice cream date at Superior Dairy. The little girl ran over to one of my favorite horses, and exclaimed to me, “I like this one!” I smiled and said, “I know, me too!” And as she was scrambling up the horse she said, “I just had ice cream over there!” I told her, “Really? I love getting ice cream over there!” While she was struggling to climb up, her dad came over to steady her and I couldn’t help thinking, holy goodness… this is my childhood that I’m looking at right here. Does this little girl know that one day she is going to look back on this lazy Sunday afternoon and treasure it?
Rodger with some very excited children about to ride the carousel! The little boy was telling Rodger, “This horse has some purple!”
Rodger was a dear and took a photo of me and my dad, and then I snapped a couple of pictures of Rodger interacting with the sweet little kids and then we took off. It was a fun day and a perfect Daddy Daughter Date!
As long as I am waxing poetic about the carousel, I should note that this Herschell masterpiece in located at the Civic Center Park in Hanford and is open on the weekends in summer. It is only $1 a ride, and if you show your military ID you ride free!
Me and my poppa… and baby Tessa in my belly!