Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Wisconsin Dells -1966

The first trip we took in the new camper was a weekend getaway to Wisconsin Dells.

The Dells had drawn tourists since the advent of the automobile. In the first half of the twentieth century, the beauty of the Dells themselves, the rock formations carved by thousands of years of the rush of the Wisconsin River and the work of glaciers, were what people came to see. The famous ducks, amphibious vehicles engineered and first used by the military, would ferry tourists across land and directly into the water for scenic views of the area beginning in the late 1940s.

By the 1950s various entrepreneurs saw opportunities to expand the tourist attractions. One of the first such attractions was Storybook Gardens and Mothergoose Land. These beautifully landscaped grounds had life-size figures from all the beloved fairy tales of my youth. There was a little cottage with statues of the three bears, waiting to greet any girl willing to be their Goldilocks. There was the wall Humpty Dumpty sat precariously on. There were three men in a tub in the middle of a pond. Many more settings from children’s stories dotted the grounds.

When my family visited the Dells in 1966, Pat and I ran from one fairytale scene to the next. We pretended to eat porridge with the bear family and carried on imaginary conversations. We climbed the crooked ladder to the roof of the crooked home of the crooked man and his crooked wife and slide down the crooked slide.

Storybook Gardens is still in operation, and I hope that the children of today have as much fun there as I did. Unfortunately I bet that the kids who visit the Dells area now are much more interested in the multitude of waterparks that have sprung up all over town.

For me, though, it was enough to just frolic in the grass and pretend that I was Little Red Riding Hood.

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