You Would Never Know It Existed

For those of us who grew up here in Nashville, it is as much a part of our DNA as anything else.

But, you would never know it existed.

There is not a single piece left of it anywhere.

And yes, there are a few signs around town pointing you in that direction.

But, if you follow the signs, you will drive forever because it is not there.

It’s almost impossible to tell a story of your childhood, if you grew up here, and over 30, that doesn’t include a story from there.

And if it doesn’t, then your parents let you down.

I am talking about this.

 

 

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Yep, good ole Opryland USA.

If you have moved here since 1998, you have heard about it, but never got to experience it.

And for our kids today, that is quite sad.

You could get a season pass for about 29 bucks and with a Pepsi can, you got 5 bucks off of that.

We would go 25 times a year.  At least.  The passes paid for themselves.

How many times did you ride this?

 

 

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1,000?  2,000?  Not kidding, probably more than that.

Or got on the Thin Lizzie and tried to run it off the tracks? And switch seats constantly and laugh like you were breaking the law?

Speaking of breaking the law, as an adult, we learned how to sneak into the park.

One day, I saw a guy next to us walking in with his girlfriend. Then, I saw him in the park but way ahead of us and I asked him, “How did you get in so quick.”  He told me he worked at the park and would just go through Roy Acuff’s “house” and that no one would stop him.

(Roy supposedly lived in the park, but not sure how much and you could walk up, like you worked there and go through a side gate and then another and you were in the park.  No questions asked.)

Boom!  We did it and never paid to enter the park again for 10 years. Perhaps that is the reason the park eventually shut down.  I hope not, I don’t need that kinda pressure on me. 

I had to run out to the Opryland Hotel a few days ago and you would never know that a theme park even existed there.

Nothing.

Even the rocks from the Grizzly River Rampage are gone.

The entrance is still the same, but that is about it.

But if you close your eyes and your ears, it is still there.

Do-Wah-Diddy-City.

The Rock’n Roller Coaster

The Sky lift.

The Wabash Cannonball.

The Carousel.

The train around the park.

The music.

The Flume Zoom.

And many, many, other things.

Sad that my kids, and your kids, don’t get to experience that growing up.

I know life moves us in many different directions and we get so busy, but every single time I pass that sign on the interstate that says, “Opryland USA,” I am taken back to that park.  And those days.

And yes, sneaking in.

Sorry Roy.

@BIGJOEONTHEGO

 

 

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35 Comments

  1. Susan Warburton July 23, 2014 4:36 pm  Reply

    Screaming Delta Demon was my favorite. I want Opryland back. Let’s riot!

  2. Rob Taylor July 23, 2014 4:44 pm  Reply

    You killed Opryland you son of a bitch.

  3. Amanda Hooten July 23, 2014 4:44 pm  Reply

    I remember the Sky Lift that was where you and I had our first kiss!!!

    • Rob Taylor July 23, 2014 4:52 pm  Reply

      I remember the spinning barrels that was where you felt me up for the first time.

  4. Judi ballard July 23, 2014 4:47 pm  Reply

    My husband worked at Opryland, until the night they locked the doors, Sure wish my grandchildren could have had the experience.

  5. Rob Taylor July 23, 2014 4:54 pm  Reply

    I remember when you felt me up on the Barnstormer.

  6. big ben July 23, 2014 4:55 pm  Reply

    Joe you told me i was the only one you took on the skylift

  7. Tick Bryan July 23, 2014 5:21 pm  Reply

    Joe, it’s the TIN Lizzies. Thin Lizzie sang, “The Boys are Back in Town”. LOL!!
    The thought of Opryland not existing makes me want to CRY!!!. I worked for a newspaper and Opryland would let us in free with our TN Media passes. I would have loved to have taken my grand daughter there. Such a dumb a__ move on Gaylord’s part.

    • Joe Dubin July 23, 2014 6:57 pm  Reply

      HAHAA! Yes Tin, not Thin….thank you!

  8. Lisa Rynor-Tiemeyer July 23, 2014 5:24 pm  Reply

    Ohhh the memories! I worked at the Opryland Hotel, but our friend Wendy worked at the park! We had all the employee parties covered! We snuck in a lot too, so the pressure isn’t just on you! Great article, hit the nail on the head!

  9. Julie Kuchinski-Elliott July 23, 2014 5:33 pm  Reply

    When ever we go to the mall… and drive through the entrance… I get this huge grin on my face. Remembering how exciting it was… then I get around the curve and see the mall. My grin leaves.

  10. Kay Johnson July 23, 2014 5:54 pm  Reply

    Joe, you left out the music, that kept your toes tapping, the trees that provided shade you couldn’t find in any other amusement park anywhere, the genuine warmth and courtesy of the employees, the cleanliness of the park, the joy of seeing beautiful young performers living their dream, the assurance you had that your children would be safe here. How fortunate we are that we got to enjoy this Nashville jewel. RIP Opryland…all we have left are beautiful memories.

  11. Hugh Jass July 23, 2014 6:38 pm  Reply

    I remember you having them guess your age instead of your weight when you were 15, and they guessed you were 25. I remember seeing Quarterflash, I remember panicking playing Fascination and that stupid ball taking forever to bounce around and go in the hole. I remember being 10x more nervous sneaking in behind Roy’s house than I was when I got married.

  12. Brad July 23, 2014 7:10 pm  Reply

    I remember the angle inn. All those crazy tricks they did with the pool table and how in awe I was. Fun times and great memories!!

  13. Bambi Windrow July 23, 2014 8:38 pm  Reply

    Man those were good times. I spent every Sunday there . Feel sorry for my lil boy he hears the stories but will never really know just how cool

  14. WORD July 23, 2014 9:49 pm  Reply

    I DID run a Tin Lizzie off the track! They shut it down and had sheriffs and a wrecker truck in there…I have never been so scared except for when I got caught throwing pennies out of the sky lift at Disney World

  15. Jerry July 23, 2014 10:35 pm  Reply

    Love it Joe, I could hear it and smell it just reading this.

  16. Jim Walden July 24, 2014 12:04 am  Reply

    We visited Opryland the second year it was open. It really hadn’t caught on nationwide yet so the lines for the rides weren’t that long. It was my first experience with musical bushes (speakers 😉 and lots of live singing throughout the park. My heart sank when I heard it was closing. At least my kids were able to experience Christmas time there. It’s a shame it wasn’t more than just profits to the corporation.

  17. Amanda July 24, 2014 12:50 am  Reply

    OMG BRAD!!! The angle inn was my favorite..jingle jangle dingle dangle welcome to the angle inn!! Memories!!

  18. Teresa July 24, 2014 6:20 am  Reply

    What great memories! Too bad my kids didn’t get to experience it! What killed Opryland is Gaylord. He got greedy, kept going up on the tickets so those of us who weren’t sneaking in (good job, btw!), couldn’t afford it in the later years. He saw $ signs & threw up a mall! Think of all the entertainers who actually started at Opryland! What a waste Gaylord!!! A [piece of American History, gone…..

  19. Stacy Young July 24, 2014 1:00 pm  Reply

    We were just talking about the Angle Inn and all the funny tricks in it. We loved the show at Doo Wadiddy City. So many great memories there!

  20. Lara July 24, 2014 3:51 pm  Reply

    That was my very first job when I was in high school. I have so many wonderful memories of that place. I had a “good times” pass when I was in grammar school and would spend every weekend out there with my best friend. When I worked there I made some wonderful friends. I met my former husband there. The guy I am currently seeing is also a former employee. It’s a shame that the younger generation can’t experience the fun that was Opryland. It was a great place to both play and work. There is a spot in the back of the mall by the river where the Southern Plantation restaurant used to be that stands as a reminder (for me at least). 🙂

    • Joe Dubin July 26, 2014 2:53 am  Reply

      Where is that place the SP is located? I wanna go see that.

  21. Shannon July 24, 2014 4:08 pm  Reply

    Joe,

    I worked there, too, and got in the same way. 😉

    On slow afternoons, employees could sometimes be found on the roller coaster or playing games, or grabbing a snack. This was early ’90s. Great days, fond memories.

  22. Ricky Cook July 25, 2014 3:39 am  Reply

    Great post! I remember using the “Tricket” a bunch. One ticket for three days. Good times!

  23. Donna July 25, 2014 3:50 am  Reply

    You could also sneak in by going behind the bathroom that was to the left of the first bridge going into the park. There was a break area in behind. Beyond the break area was a path that lead to an out building and then a path between the flume zoom and the park. You just walked on in like you owned the place and nobody said anything.

    Oh and Judi Ballard, tell Jackie I said hello!

  24. Carlene July 25, 2014 2:20 pm  Reply

    I’m one of the lucky ones who was able to share MY Opryland with my daughter for 3 years, while she was 5-7 years old. I was unaware of the Roy Acuff house entrance, but Good Times passes were beyond affordable and I will never have to live with the guilt of contributing to the killing of Opryland. Anyway, I will NEVER forget her first Wabash Cannonball ride. Her delightful scream and her hands in the air as we dropped the first drop made me the happiest Mom on the planet. The shrieks and shrills ending with a hard stop back in the station just to hear “Let’s Go Again Mom!” It was so sad that the park closed so suddenly and we never had the opportunity to savor “the last” anything. Our last time in the park was for the Winter hurrah complete with ice skating, hot chocolate, christmas carols and all that goes along with the Holidays. Man, there was something special about that place. That was OUR park. I end my little trip down memory lane with the gone but never forgotten, “Official Opryland Wave”…

    • Joe Dubin July 26, 2014 2:31 am  Reply

      Aww, CC, that was beautiful!!

  25. Chris July 27, 2014 1:49 pm  Reply

    The Hangman sign is in Smyrna. It’s at a biker bar on m’boro road right by the Nissan plant. I remember sitting on Wabash for multiple rides before even having to get off! Stupid Gaylord.

    • Joe Dubin July 28, 2014 4:40 pm  Reply

      Thank you for letting me know…..

  26. Brutus July 29, 2014 1:04 pm  Reply

    Being one of the few to work at the Grand Ole Opry as a teenager (1984-86) we had some great memories others didn’t get to experience. The best was, after working noon to midnight running a cash register in the Opry concessions we wouold go to cash control in the middle of the park around 12:30 am. Then on our way back to wardrobe we would play hide and seek in the park which was completely empty except for a “Ranger” or two who never caught us!
    WE also would tell very gullible Opry fans we would get their favorite Opry stars autograph on a popcorn box. We would then take the box back in the stockroom for a few minutes and sign it ourself to reappear with an auotgraph.
    I spent the night in the Opryland hotel one snowy January night with Hessey after working the opry and they wouldn’t let us drive home.

    • Joe Dubin July 29, 2014 3:05 pm  Reply

      hahaha…fake autographs…..classic..

  27. ZACH CLAYTON July 29, 2014 4:48 pm  Reply

    I think one of the reasons it closed was the fact that since it was owned by a corporation, the profits were used for others parts of Gaylord’s business.

    When it first opened, it was like there was a new attraction/ride every year which kept locals coming back. In the latter years, it would be several years in between new stuff.

    I remember riding the Wabash one year over & over because it was raining (no lightning) and no one was waiting. I bet we rode it 10 times in a row without getting out.

    • Joe Dubin August 2, 2014 2:25 pm  Reply

      Zach, will you take me to Holiday World?

  28. Robert Hughey April 3, 2016 8:22 pm  Reply

    The first time I went to Opryland the Rock n Roller Coaster was named the Timber Topper.

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