Boomer Memories: The Himalaya & REO Speedwagon

a carnival ride, possibly the himalaya, spins quickly with riders

The Himalaya Carnival Ride introduced me to fear, and REO Speedwagon

Some memories are universal, while some are unique to baby boomers. I’m not completely sure where this one lands, but it’s one of my favorites for sure. It involves a carnival ride known as The Himalaya, and a song by REO Speedwagon called, Ridin’ The Storm Out.

The Himalaya

If you didn’t live within close proximity of a major theme park such as Six Flags or a Disney park, the carnival coming to town was the next best thing…and what most of us had access to. Usually taking over a local park or shopping center parking lot, all your pre-teen eyes saw was great food and neon fun. At that age, you were still oblivious to the seedy, carny underworld that lurked in the shadows, and certainly weren’t concerned if the rides were safe.

One of the great rides at a local carnival was the Himalaya. A similar ride called the Matterhorn was often available as well. For me however, the Himalaya represents one of the great baby boomer memories I’ll have as a kid.

The ride itself was compelling. A small roller coaster-like ride that rotated clockwise in an undulating circle, it smashed riders together with centrifugal force. This was a great ride to take a potential love interest on, you just had to make sure she sat on the inside.

What Makes the Himalaya Different?

There were two things that made the Himalaya special. One was inherent to the ride, in that it went backwards. Now look, today that doesn’t seem like a big deal, but in the early 1970’s, to an 11 year old…that was practically a miracle.

The second thing that seemed unique to this ride at the time is that the music wasn’t simply back ground noise…it was part of the experience. Initially, I feared that perhaps this was my youthful memory simply remembering what I wanted it to remember. I did a little digging and many YouTube comments bore out the fact that I was not alone in my recollection. Even more interesting, is that for those looking to start up a carnival and buy their own Himalaya ride today, it is available from Wisdom Rides, but is branded as “Music Express”.

Ridin’ The Storm Out

In December of 1973, the album “Ridin’ The Storm Out” by REO Speedwagon was released. Looking at the track listing today, only the title track resonates in my mind. Later years would yield much bigger hits as REO became one of the biggest glam hair bands of the 70’s and 80’s. While I didn’t see them in concert during their biggest years, I had the privilege of experiencing them in, of all places, Billy Bob’s Texas, in Fort Worth. They were still absolutely terrific, and I was able to enjoy the concert with one of my teenage sons.

The Convergence

In the summer of 1974, the carnival came to town and setup shop in a local park. One of their premier attractions was the Himalaya. The glorious Himalaya…adorned with neon lights, a snow-capped mountain facade, and images of snow skiers bounding down the simulated powder covered ski slopes.

This ride was particularly attractive at night when the neon could really shine. We stuffed our paper tickets in the Carny’s hands and clamored aboard the rickety death trap, ready for excitement. The ride always started out slowly. Each new level of speed was signaled with a sickening jerk followed by screams of surprise and excitement by its risk-taking riders.

As the speed built up, the accompanying rock music got louder. Hits of the day, now deemed “classic rock” blared forth. We enjoyed the ride of course, but what we knew, or had heard, or had seen…was that the best part was yet to come.

The Himalaya Hook

The ride began to quickly slow and finally stop, and the music faded with it. Then with the impeccable timing demonstrated by only the greatest of entertainers, the Carny-turned-artisan threw the lever into reverse and the Himalaya started going backwards.

At the same time, the piercing siren intro to Ridin’ The Storm Out began to blare as the song started at full volume. Here we were, in the unforgiving clutches of the Himalayas, desperately trying to ride out the storm. Even at 11-years old, the symbolism of the ride and the song paired together did not escape me. 40+ years later it remains as one of my fonder memories.

One thought on “Boomer Memories: The Himalaya & REO Speedwagon

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: