Where do you live?
You know, Six Flags Magic Mountain.
Oh, of course.
When I finish this exchange and see the dawning comprehension, it makes me proud that us “Claritans” have a claim to fame.
Our Hometown Stories usually focus on an individual in the Santa Clarita Valley who has a “great story to tell.” Yet this, is not the tale of a particular individual, but of a place, a piece of property if you may that has a pulsing heartbeat, energy and personality all it’s own. 260 acres of Santa Clarita land that lends itself to a well deserved “Hometown Story.”
In 1969, the Newhall Land & Farming Company wanted to build a theme park with exhilarating rides that would be the grown-up alternative to Disneyland or Knott’s Berry Farm.
On May 29th 1971, at a cost of $20 million dollars, Newhall Land & Farming turned the quiet pristine hills of Valencia just west of the 5 Freeway, into a mountain of screams, towering wood and twisted steel. Santa Clarita was on the map.
I grew up in Orange County, California and in the summer of 73′ we ventured out from behind the orange curtain to drive up north to a new amusement park. Its name was Magic Mountain.
In my 10 year-old mind, it took at least 3 hours of driving to get to the middle of nowhere. I was not prepared for the grandeur of the Sky Tower when it came into view. It made Disneyland’s Matterhorn seem like small potatoes.
When we entered the gates, you might as well have handed me the keys to Thrillsville.
I have a photograph from 1973 on my maiden voyage in the back of a small sailboat maneuvering along a lazy river ride. I cannot recall where the boats once sailed; that river has long since been paved over.
Our longest line that warm afternoon was for “The Gold Rusher,” a roller coaster that looked like a runaway mine car. We traversed the hilly terrain on yellow tracks and sped alongside “The Log Jammer.” When we began the spiraling vortex turns, I just knew I would end up in another dimension.
It was certainly worth the wait.
1976 was America’s Bicentennial and Magic Mountain opened The Great American Revolution, the first 360 degree looping steel coaster. Through the years as the landscape flourished and filled in, the tracks of Revolution have become hidden from view. Only shrieks from behind trees give a hint of what lies ahead
My son Layne reached the pinnacle height of 48″ this summer and Revolution was the first “big kid” ride that we strapped into. I am still crazy about that white coaster and even now my stomach flip-flops as we rocket towards the loop!
Colossus was almost a colossal mistake. When it opened in 1978, it was the fastest dual-tracked wooden coaster anywhere. After its first season, Colossus closed down and went through a major revamping.
Good things come to those who wait. Today, ‘clickety clack’ is the musical percussion that accompanies the red and black cars of Colossus as steel wheels race along the wooden track.
Every October during Fright Fest, one side of Colossus runs backwards….I shudder to think of plummeting blindly down that first 115-foot drop.
Some wooden coasters though are not destined for greatness. Psyclone was built in the far southwest corner of the park in 1991. It was a brown wooden coaster built in the style of Coney Island’s Cyclone. A bit on the rough riding side, it met its demise and was torn down in 2006. I can’t say I was too sad.
The fabulous “Terminator Salvation” now sits atop its former footprint. It is one of my absolute favorites.
The park was sold in 1979 and the only noticeable change that year was the signage. Magic Mountain became Six Flags Magic Mountain.
To commemorate the 1984 Olympics, Six Flags built “The Sarajevo Bobsleds,” which opened that same year. A coaster with no rails…you sat in a bobsled and traveled pell-mell down a half-pipe track at high speeds. It was terrifyingly exhilarating.
After only two short years, the bobsleds moved to Six Flags Over Texas, where it still operates today under the name “La Vibora.”
Our longing for the bobsleds ended quickly when Six Flags erected “Shockwave” in its place. If I thought the loop on Revolution was a doozy, my terror level increased to a 10 when I realized that Shockwave was a standing looping roller coaster! It was a short sweet ride.
The dreaded “ride rotation” struck our park again. Shockwave was picked up, taken apart and shipped out to Six Flags Great America.
“Ride Rotation” is like a woman going through her closet trying on and discarding clothes so as to always be at the forefront of trends.
Six Flags tries on, discards and lends out rides in the same manner.
When an attraction has run its course, for whatever reason, another Six Flags Park may get to borrow the ride or it may be scrapped altogether.
Occasionally the nuts, bolts and bones of a ride may be put into the back of the closet, stored but not forgotten by the many thrill seekers who screamed, laughed and clutched their handrails for dear life.
Change can be a good thing.
I moved to the San Fernando Valley in 1981, which brought me one hour closer to my favorite park.
The oppressive heat of summer was relieved a bit by the addition that year of a mega water ride, The Roaring Rapids. A sign at the entrance warns that you “may” get soaked. No, in reality, you “will” get soaked.
Along with thousands of others, I have spent a good part of my day at the park with wet recycled water drenching my hair, pants and shoes.
As you slosh your way off Roaring Rapids, you could catch a quick (very quick) blow dry on Freefall. In it’s hey day in the early 1980’s this ride was radical. You sat 4 across, moved forward a bit and then were yanked straight up, very fast. The anticipation was horrible as you waited at the top for your car to plunge straight back down.
We bid a fair adieu to Freefall in 2005. If you miss that out of control elevator sensation, Disney’s Tower of Terror is beckoning to you.
With my move to Stevenson Ranch in 1991, I was now practically living in the shadow of the 38-story Sky Tower. I do not know if it is an urban legend or not, but I was once told that as tall as the Sky Tower is, it goes that far underground…
Each year at the Santa Clarita Boys & Girls Club auction, Six Flags generously donates a dinner party in the Tower. I secretly covet that prize, but unless I blindfold my husband who is morbidly afraid of heights, I will not be dining in the sky!
Someone with a brilliant mind at Six Flags has found a way to utilize the top of the Sky Tower. In 2008, “The Magic of the Mountain” museum opened. This grand showcase is full of memorabilia, photographs and video of the park’s thirty-eight year history.
I must admit that there has only been one coaster at Six Flags that I have despised. “Flashback.” A chiropractors dream, it was a compact blue steel monster. You sat strapped into an extremely tight shoulder harness while being flung right and then left and then down. I may be embellishing a bit, but I think I hobbled off of Flashback with bruised shoulders, a migraine and a twisted spinal column. I did not shed one tear when Flashback was reduced to a pile of blue rubble.
In 1996 I had three little boys under the age of three. My salvation was Sunday mornings at Bugs Bunny World. We would spend the morning greeting Looney Tunes characters, riding the kiddy rides and eating lunch on a shaded bench.
My three boys are now 17, 16 and 16 and each year my parents buy them a Six Flags Season Pass for Christmas. The tradition continues, but the rides are not so “kiddy” anymore.
From my mouth to God’s ear, Six Flags opened a water park in 1995 over the site where the Mystic Lake once flowed. Hurricane Harbor is a family friendly liquid haven with beautifully laid out children’s pools tucked in-between gravity-defying drops and slides for the daring souls.
Today Six Flags Magic Mountain is the premier destination sensation for coaster enthusiasts worldwide. We proudly hold dear; Viper, Goliath, Ninja, Tatsu, Superman, Scream, Batman-The Ride, Riddler’s Revenge, déjà vu and of course the mind-numbing 360 degree seat spinning X-2.
It may be cruel, but I still secretly grin when I remember taking my father on “Batman-The Ride” and watching him scream like a little girl. I don’t think I have been forgiven.
As my story and recollections wind down, I realize that I have yet to even scratch the surface of all that Six Flags Magic Mountain has to offer. It would be impossible unless I was to write “Our Hometown Epic; Volumes 1, 2 and 3.”
My scrapbooks document the growth and changes in my children and in the park of dreams. With the turn of each page, time seems to melt away. The fearful face of my now 6’3″ son on the “Wiley Coyote Coaster” is priceless.
We in Santa Clarita do have a claim to fame.
This magical mountain of a park that enthralls, thrills and excites hundreds of thousands of people each year is “ours”.
I am now going to my closet to dig out my lavender, long sleeved, circa 1979 Magic Mountain t-shirt and wear it proudly.
By Rachel Singer