Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Deep Sea Adventure, The Edmonton Journal, and Me
Yeah, I had a real thrill today, so I hope you don't mind if I take one last moment to milk it for all its worth.
I was at work today, taking a moment to check Facebook, and I got a Facebook message from my Mom. Mom said that she did a spit take when she sat down for her morning coffee, looked at The Edmonton Journal, and saw that I was quoted on the front page about West Edmonton Mall's dismantling of their submarines.
I had to go to the Edmonton Journal's website right away, and sure enough, there I am being quoted about West Edmonton Mall and their submarines.
So, for those who've been asking, here's how it came about. Yesterday, I was checking the news online, and I came across this article at the Edmonton Journal's website announcing the end of the submarines. I was a little bit sad, because they were always there at West Edmonton Mall when I was a kid, they were really fun to watch, and we all heard that joke about how the Mall had more subs than the Navy.
So I shared that article on the various social networking sites, including Twitter, with the message, "Another part of my childhood being sold off."
I then took a nap, because I had to work job #2 last night, and I woke up, checked Twitter, and saw I had a direct message from Edmonton Journal reporter Bill Mah, who saw my tweet and asked if I would share some of my thoughts on the submarines.
I sat down and wrote him a somewhat lengthy, rambling e-mail of my memories of the submarines. He e-mailed me back almost immediately saying thanks, and that he wouldn't be able to use all of it.
Of course, in my low-self-esteem way, I thought the true meaning was he wouldn't be using any of it, but he did use some, and needless to say, it brightened my day.
For those who might be curious, here's my complete collection of thoughts that I sent to Mr. Mah:
I originally hail from a small town called Entwistle, which is about one hour west of Edmonton on the Yellowhead highway. When I was a kid, trips into West Edmonton Mall were a rare and special occasion that only happened once every couple of months. On those trips into the Mall, my parents would do best to steer us kids away from all of the big attractions like Fantasyland and the World Waterpark, lest we start begging and pleading to go on a ride or two. However, there was no avoiding the Deep Sea Adventure, as it's always plopped down right in the middle of the Mall. Me, my brother, and my sister would stand at the edge of that indoor lake and watch the submarines go around and around. We'd implore our parents if we could go on it, but they'd always say no. They would, however, give us a penny to toss in the lake. And of course, we'd try to hit a submarine as it went by.
In those early days, the only way I rode the submarine was vicariously, thanks to the books of Eric Wilson. He had a successful line of mysteries for kids back in the late-1980s, and each one took place at a well-known Canadian landmark. His book about West Edmonton Mall is called Code Red at the Supermall, and the Deep Sea Adventure figures prominently in the book, as several of the submarine pilots and scuba divers are prime suspects. That book painted the Deep Sea Adventure as being akin to the Jungle Cruise at Disneyland, with a very hyperactive host spinning wild yarns of going on a search for a missing submarine. The book made the ride sound very exciting.
For a while there, it seemed like I would be riding the submarines quite a bit. I had a blustery uncle who used to work for an outfit called Alberta Mobile Air, and AMA had won the contract in those early days of the Mall to provide the air for the submarines. That uncle promised all kinds of benefits from having that contract, and promised he'd be able to get all all kinds of free passes to the submarines. Never panned out, sadly. He's one of those uncles that talked a big game.
I finally got to ride the submarines in 1990, at the tender age of 13. It was the waning days of Christmas vacation, the family had gone to the Mall to see Home Alone, and we had some time to kill before the movie. So, after years of asking, my parents finally said, "Yes! We will go on the submarines." I remember being very excited. Standing there on the dock, watching the submarine rise before me, I couldn't believe it was finally happening! When we piled onto the submarines, I was a little surprised at how cramped it was inside. My memories of Code Red at the Supermall having faded, I was wondering what exactly you'd see on this submarine trip. I mean, the water's so clear, you can see most everything underwater in that lake.
Well, much to my surprise, that's when I learned about all the aquariums that are in that lake, and I got to see all those wonderful fish. The submarine captain wasn't as dynamic as in Code Red at the Supermall, but he made his fair share of corny jokes. Passing by one of the giant fiberglass clams, he said, "And there's our Mick Jagger impersonater!" At the end of the trip, when the submarine releases it's air and rises, the captain remarked, "And now you're about to see what it's like to be an ice cube in a glass of 7-Up." But the big thrill was finally seeing the inside of the cave.
For those who don't remember, the island that now houses the Booster Juice was once a mountain, and the trench that encircles it was once a cave. I always wondered what was inside that cave as a submarine disappeared in one end and came out the other...and I finally saw it was these amazing models and mock-ups of underwater scenes. The one that stands out to me is a giant squid devouring a submarine...that looked a lot like the one I was in!
Needless to say, I found it very exciting.
The second -- and final time -- I rode the submarines was in 2003. Now, I found myself in the role of the blustery uncle, as I was treating my niece and nephew to a day at the Mall. Much like that night in 1990, we were there to see Finding Nemo, and had some time to kill before the movie. What better way to kill time before the movie than by riding the submarines? So I took my niece and nephew on the Deep Sea Adventure.
It hadn't changed much since my first time those 13 years ago. Still small inside...still amazing sites and all those amazing fish in those aquariums. A lot quieter, though. No big performance like in Code Red at the Supermall, not witty comments...most of the ride was in silence. But my niece and nephew still loved it.
In a way, I'm sad that many of my beloved icons of West Edmonton Mall are gone now. The Drop of Doom was taken out before I ever worked up the nerve to ride it. They got rid of the whale statue in front of what is now Victoria's Secret over a year ago, and hasn't been refurbished and re-installed yet like they said they would. And now, the submarines are going. But, in another way, that's also what I like about West Edmonton Mall. It's a very dynamic place. It's always changing, there's always something new to see. And I'm sure there'll be another new icon for a new generation of youngsters to look at and wonder...and beg their parents to go on.