Ponchartrain Beach was my favorite amusement park as a child. Also the closest amusement park to my home in New Iberia, Louisiana. Who knew I’d marry an Amusement Park Guru who practically grew up in Disneyland. Though he loved most parks Disneyland had his heart. Along with his Aunt Dollie and Uncle Owen who were the original Managers of the Circle D Ranch at Disneyland, Bob was one of only 3 residents living inside Disneyland to this day.
During World War II amusement parks’ shooting galleries closed or in the case of Lake Ponchartrain reimagined their gallery because all shot went to the war effort. The park built a Walking Charlie, incorporating the 5 Axis powers. Each wore a hat and the park guests received several baseballs per game trying to knock the hats off to win as the heads moved across the game on a rail. Leave it to showbiz folks to come up with a great idea.
In 2007 during the dismantling of Ponchartrain Beach a friend who was overseeing the carousel takedown found the 5 stick heads under the carousel. He called Bob and said, “No one would appreciate one of these heads as much as you. Take your pick.” Of course Bob picked Hitler.
We went to Uncommon Market in Dallas and asked the brothers who owned the store to make a stand. They found this WWII shell and attached it to a base. Again, Bob was thrilled and Hitler lived front and center on our living room fireplace always a topic of conversation.
After Bob’s death our son and I “loaned” a lot of his memorabilia to the National Roller Coaster Museum in Amarillo, Texas. Couldn’t give up Hitler because I always see Bob smiling when I look at him. And who knows? I may have the chance to watch the building of another Walking Charlie gallery someday. Bigger wishes have been granted. PS. Thanks to Robin Walker from Walt Disney World for the Minnie Mouse ears/tiara. The perfect hat to knock off Hitler.