Saturday, September 19, 2009

Jump Rope Rhyme Stories...Happy Valley Park

My mother told me
If I were goodie
That she would buy me
A rubber dolly.....

     My mom was the "Queen of Parties".    She seemed to come up with a party at the drop of a hat.    Growing up she planned out birthday theme parties for my brother and I.  A Cowboy theme with baled hay for decorations , Pin the Tail on the Donkey, with all of us looking like little buckaroos.   Dress-up parties where my girlfriends and I looked like miniature little ladies.   A few times I had Christmas parties where she would have a mini dinner party for my friends and myself.   This would include appetizers as well as her decorating the dining table in some way.   On my 10th birthday she said we would have it at   the Happy Valley Park which was just outside of Salinas on Highway 68 that goes to Monterey.   A venue party place that was designed just for kids.   I think all the girls from my class and other classes were invited.   My mom seemed to be preoccupied with my group of friends and concerned that I didn't have enough or that they be the right kinds of  friends.   Which was a challenge since I was a shy girl when it came to school and church but I was quite content with the friends I did have.   Needless to say it was going to be a big party with her planning it.

    Unlike today where there are places like "Pump It Up", "Rocktopia", or even the bowling alley (where my mother told me I was not allowed to go!), there was Happy Valley Park.   It had an indoor Party Room that they would set up for however many would be coming, but it was the outdoors that made this a kids heaven.    Circuitous of the property behind the main building was an oval dirt track where there were multiple bikes of all kinds you could climb aboard and go round and round, racing each other or just riding with the wind blowing in your face, laughing in pure delight.   It wasn't a flat track as it had slight  rises, gentle drops as well as turns .    In the center of the large bike track were swings, playground type equipment, a cargo type climbing rung area, teeter-totters and just about anything to keep a child happy and not wanting to leave.   After you played for an ample amount of time, you went inside the main building into one of the party rooms and had your birthday cake and drinks. After that you would be led outside to go through the Goldmine.    You would wait in line  patiently as they explained the rules of the Goldmine area and then you would  go down a narrow dirt path into a large underground room.   Just like what one imagine a goldmine might be like.   Inside there  were rough wood walls with bare lights up near the edge of the ceiling heights, spaced far apart to give light but not enough to see to well.   It smelled damp and musty inside and once inside  the floor became a fine gravel that crunched under your feet as you walked on it.   This was your time to hunt for gold in the gravel under your feet.   Everyone would find some, of course.   You were given a small little cloth bag to put your gold into and that was your token party favor.  Somehow it sounds so silly compared to parties of today where you feel you need to provide so much to your guests before they leave.  Once done with the Goldmine the best was saved for last. On the far side of the property that you could see when you were riding around the track was what I would call their version of a zipline.    Set up on one side was a platform that stood about 12 to 14 feet off the ground.    There was a cable that spanned a long distance to the end point and attached to the cable was a a swing seat with another long cable hanging down from it that dangled to the side.   One at a time we would climb up on the platform to await our turn on the ride.   An instant smile would come across your face when you were released from the platform to zip to the opposite end which felt like a great distance to me as a child.  Towards the end you would glide to a stop where you would jump off into the sand.   Ride over.   You would grab the cable that was dangling and run back to the platform with the swing seat and hand it off for the next person to ride on, run to the end of the line and wait for your next turn.   Sadly to say Happy Valley Park closed up in the early 70's and now is a gardening nursery center.  I use to wish that I could go there whenever I wanted instead of having to wait for a friend who might have a party there.  I think I remember riding my bike out to it with some friends once after it had closed and looked in the windows to see what we could see inside.  It was too dark inside so we couldn't see anything.   Outside in the back it was a ghost town playground.  The bikes were gone and all was shut up tight.   Some places in childhood can not be visited again and Happy Valley was just one of many.

My brother told her
I kissed a soldier
Now she won't buy me
A rubber dolly.....


DainBramage1 said...

Very nice memories, indeed! I came upon this blog because I just watched a video of friend's 3 year old at the Pump'd Inflatable place and I had to see what ever happened to Happy Valley.

What a simple, yet perfect concept. Totally unbreakable bikes that anyone could hop on at anytime and leave anywhere, searching for "gold" nuggets, and Salinas' own zipline!!

I went to a handful of birthday parties growing up there. I'd put that up against Pump'd Inflatable Whatever Whatever any day!!

Mark said...

OMGosh! I just mentioned to my wife about this place and googled it to show her. Your blog came up first! I lived on the same street (Hunter Ln) as the park in a house my dad built. My three brothers and I had a lot of birthdays there. After it closed, we would take our bikes down there and ride the trails. Thanks for writing about this. Haven't thought of this place in 30 years!


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