It started as a simple question, one that was meant to stump my listener. Surely she’d have no answer to what I was about to lay on her. With confidence I fired my no-can-lose question:
“Do you know the name of the abandoned $100 million dollar Florida theme park?”
My listener didn’t even flinch. Why, she didn’t even answer my question, but instead, shot right back with: “Do you know the name of the abandoned theme park in Brevard County?”
Now, that wasn’t fair. She answered a question with a question. You can’t do that. You’re supposed to answer my question first… wait a second… Did she say abandoned theme park in Brevard County?
“Uhhh… there was a theme park in Brevard?”
“There sure was.”
I remembered a place long ago in Melbourne. On highway 192. I ventured a stab. “Houser’s Zoo in Melbourne?”
“Nope. This one was in Titusville.”
Titusville? I racked my brains. Surely I knew of some abandoned park near the space center. I needed some more clues.
“What kind of park was it?” I asked.
“I forget the exact name. Jungleland, maybe? It was run by Johnny Weissmuller. He played Tarzan in the movies. He had a park with gun shows, rides, alligators. Even a monkey island. It’s right off of US1. Near highway 50.”
I’d driven by that intersection before and nothing had ever jumped out. “How long ago?” I asked.
“Oh, heavens… Forty years, maybe.
She nodded then added, “Part of one of the buildings is still there. I think it’s been made into a paintball park.”
That did it. I was hooked. Never fails, I try to snag someone with my own story and I end up with a new adventure in my head. I felt a building excitement. The Indiana Jones in me was antsy to start learning more. As more details came forth, I distant memory began to materialize. Yes, something about the remaining building, with its distinctive A-frame construction, was coming back to me. The unusual roofline clawed at my memory banks.
So, how do you find old, abandoned and forgotten places in your own corner of the world? Your own, “Monkey Island”? Or Jungleland?
Ask. Look. Notice.
The older I get, the more amazed I am at all the stories that seem locked up inside of many of my older friends. How do you find out their stories? You ask! You talk with them! Seems that everyone has a tale to tell, stories to spin. Some long ago memory. Who knows what secret treasure maps await? Just ask.
No doubt, some things you just stumble upon, like the Mysterious House on Rockledge Drive [â-º] or the old abandoned Daytona Beach hotel known as The Treasure Island Inn [â-º]. You have to look around at your world and ask questions. Why is there an empty foundation in that field? Was there a house or business at that spot? Why is it gone?
Or, maybe it’s an existing structure. Ask yourself, why has that building been abandoned for so long? Where does that road go? Why does that house seem so spooky?
It’s the “Notice” that brought me to the abandoned Splendid China site. (Yes, this is the $100 Million Abandoned Florida Theme Park” [â-º] that I tried to stump my friend with). It was “noticing” that led to photographing the recently sunk shrimp boat my nearby Indian River [â-º]. And it was noticing that helped me spy a trio of sand sculptures shaped like rock stars [â-º] (not exactly ‘abandoned’ but cool still the same). You have to turn your “look” into “notice”. Keep a careful eye on the places and things around you. It may be that you’ve been driving by an interesting location for some time, but you’ve never taken the time to stop and really “see” it.
So, notice. Notice things. Notice places. Notice people.
Taking the time to Ask, Look and Notice isn’t going to always lead to finding a long ago forgotten place. But I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. You will have at least learned of a memory – even if it’s someone else’s memory – of a long ago place in a long ago time.
So, when am I going to visit this Tropical Wonderland? Aka Tarzan’s Jungleland? With its Monkey Island?
I already have.
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The Tropical Wonderland adventure is now published! To read it now, Click Here.
Update 6/12/11: I hinted at a “Houser’s Grove and Zoo” in this article. Would you believe I found it? Where was Houser’s Zoo located? Follow the link to find out!