Andrea's Friends at Trolley Park with Inn, Rides,Water Slide, and Theater
Note: This is one in a series of stories taking place in late 19th Century about Swedish immigrant Andrea and her friends Roald, a preacher who sometimes strays, Jay who she keeps company with and Karolina her best friend.
“I’ve gotten an engagement for a series of lectures at a trolley park in Illinois,” Roald said. He looked very exited about it.
“What in the world is a trolley park?” Andrea asked.
“Roald stood straighter as if by reflex and lifted a hand for emphasis. “A Trolley Park is a place with a number of attractive rides and amusements built at the end of a trolley line. They are sometimes….” Andrea held up her hand. “Roald, if you are going into one of your insufferably preachy explanations I don’t need to know that badly.”
Roald relaxed. “I’m sorry. Old habits are hard to break. The trolley company in Rock Island, Illinois has built a park at the end of the trolley line to promote use of the streetcars. It has roller coasters, Ferris wheel , a water slide, and other rides.”
“That does sound like it might be fun. What does the water slide do?”
Just than Andrea’s friend, Karolina, whom Roald was keeping company with came in. “What would be fun Roald?”
“I’ve an engagement to give a lecture series at Watchtower Park in Illinois. What’s more there are jobs for you and Karolina if you want. Jay too if he can come.”
They took the train to Rock Island and crossed the Mississippi River at 10 O’clock. Andrea was excited at the prospect of a new adventure. She had been given a job as desk clerk at The watchtower Inn. “It will be fun” Karolina said, “ I can sing at the theater and maybe play some bit parts. Isn’t that something?’
“Let’s get to the trolley,” said Jay, Andrea’s beau. who was going to be a conductor.
“What’s that?” He pointed at an animal, which ran past the trolley station.
“It looks like a white dog or a wolf,” Andrea answered. The others tried to guess at the breed. Some kind of white shepherd dog, Roald guessed. I wonder what It’s doing here.”
When they got on the car they asked nearby passengers if they had seen the dog but no body had. A beautiful dog like that would surely have been noticed, Andrea thought. She felt something brush against her leg. When she glanced down she saw a white dog curled up on the floor by the window. She tried to get Karolina’s attention but in the crowded trolley car she could barely turn. When she got off she tried to find the dog but it was gone.
Her friends were certainly surprised when she told them. “Maybe I imagined it.”
“Strange things happen sometimes,’ Roald said. “Maybe it’s a sign of some sort.”
The friends were enjoying theirtemporary work at the trolley park, with its holiday atmosphere and novel rides. In off hours the couples could compete against each other at the bowling alley. There was the open-air theater where Karolina was working. It was very professional with offerings of some well-known performers in summer operas and vaudeville acts in the afternoons and evenings. Karolina was overjoyed in the chance to work around and with such professional singers and actors.
Andrea liked the fact that the Watchtower Inn where she worked overlooked the Rock River and the chutes for the water slide. It was he most popular ride in which a people in flat boats go down a long slide into the Rock River. Pulley’s pulled the boats back up.
She took one more glance out the window and thought she saw the white dog again running across the grounds. “You’re going to be late for your first lecture, Roald, if you don’t hurry.”
The Rev. Roald Johanna put on his clerical clothes and hurried over to the pavilion, where people were already gathering in the seats. Being springtime the afternoon sun was warm but not hot. As he approached the pavilion a heavyset young man in work clothes blocked his way. “Ain’t you the preacher what wants to close down the taverns?”
“Sorry young man. The taverns are not my concern. That you better take up with your town council. I’m concerned about people like yourself that may be harmed by poor choices in their drinking. It is immoderate drinking that my program is about.
Two more rough looking men joined the first one. Roald was a bit worried as fighting was not one of his talents. As he looked from a hard-set face to another he determined to hold his ground and hope to avoid a fight. As his gaze left the second man he noted a white shape off to the side. He didn’t know what the dog would do but he felt oddly reassured. He focused his attention on a burly but short man wearing work boots, chambray, shirt, gray work pants and clean-shaven except for a moustache, who appeared to be the leader. Instead of lashing out, Roald faced the man and spoke directly to the one man and ignored the others. “Now Sir, I have been invited to this place on the legitmate business of giving a series of lectures. I have an obligation to fulfill that contract and intend to do so.” I invite you and your friends to sit down and listen to what I have to say. After that I will listen to your views during a discussion period.”
- Watch Tower Amusement Park - Rock Island, Illinois
An article with pictures o the 19th Century Park used in this story
Apparently they were all so surprised by Roald’s words they sat down. As they did so the preacher saw in his peripheral vision, a white dog a ways off sitting with its ears perked.
From a balcony of the Inn at the top of the cliff Andrea was watching Roald’s confrontation with the workers. As she turned to go back inside she smelled smoke in the building. She knew there was a gong on a lower patio of the large building. She ran as fast as she could. When she got there she beat the gong with a mallet. Then she thought she saw the strange dog running away, but it was running to the pavilion. The dog ran past the audience, jumped onto the stage, nearly knocking Roald over. “What is it boy?” The dog started pulling at his pants leg and then he saw the smoke. Roald yelled “Fire.” and then left the stage and started running toward the Inn. He saw that Andrea was safe he soaked his coat and himself in the little pond in the courtyard. He rushed into the Inn to help who he could. The dog plunged past him. When he caught up he found Karolina was trying to get a young woman with a baby and a small child out. He gave his coat to her and she threw the wet coat over the woman and the child. to shelter them. He helped get them to a safe place they could get out. The dog ran up a flight of stairs where there were more people trapped.
In the meantime Andrea saw the men that Roald had a confrontation with. She pointed to where she saw him go ”Go help the preacher,” she said pointing the direction Pretty soon she and Karolina were organizing help for the injured
Jay in the meantime went for help from the trolley company. Soon several streetcars were on the way up the bluff with men and supplies to fight the fire as well as help the injured and carry people back to town.
Andrea and Karolina gathered people about the pavilion and sang songs to keep the people entertained. Roald chatted with the workmen who seemed to have acquired a companionship with him. They saw the dog around and tried d to give it treats but the animal ignored them and slipped off somewhere. Roald wondered if they would ever see the dog again.
Copyright 2011 Don Hoglund
© 2012 Don A. Hoglund