Wally’s Wild Ride (and Mary Lou’s trip, too)
Story courtesy of Ferdinand News
The local buzz reverberating throughout Ferdinand’s Scenic Hills Care Center was that you’d have to be crazy to ride that thing — “That thing” being Holiday World’s new metal winged roller coaster and that sentiment (having to be crazy to ride it and all) was, in fact, all the motivation one brave lone resident needed to step up to the plate.
Ninety-one year old Wallace Schaaf, aka Wally, formerly of Dale and currently residing at Scenic Hills was up for the challenge. He had seen articles on the ride in the local papers and decided right then and there he wanted to ride.
Wally claimed to have never ridden a roller coaster before the 60 mph Thunderbird.
“Everybody said they wouldn’t ride,” said Wally, “so I just made my mind up, ‘I’m going to!’ I said from the very beginning, I’m going to ride that. I didn’t tell anybody in particular but I guess I told the right people.”
So last Thursday morning, Wally, accompanied by a couple of Scenic Hills helpers and fellow resident Mary Lou Fritz, 85, took to Holiday World and Splashin’ Safari for a field trip.
Mary Lou had never been to Holiday World, but she did recall visiting Santa Claus Land many years ago. She had expressed interest in visiting the park during several outings in which they would pass the towering and twisting coaster along Highway 162.
Mary Lou had also been asked the question: Have you ever ridden a roller coaster? while playing the Shake-A-Memory game at Scenic Hills as she suffers from Alzheimer’s. She, however, has very strong and passionate memories of time spent at Santa Claus Land with both her parents and later her own children.
“We used to have such a good time and the people were so friendly,” says Mary Lou. “We always went to Santa Claus Land every summer!”
After entering the park, the crew made the way to Thunderbird’s launch area. Wally and Mary Lou were seated on the ride, although due to medical conditions, Mary Lou would not end up riding the coaster so Wally’s son Mike accompanied him for the adventure.
Wally removed his glasses and took the wild ride. A minute or so later, Wally came around the corner as the ride slowed with an exalted expression and new hair do to match.
He recovered fairly quickly (for a 91 year old) and later would recount: “I don’t hardly remember anything except boom! and I was gone.” Many a youngster 80 years his junior might have a similar experience on the launched coaster.
“I tell ya, that was quite an experience, I can’t believe I rode that thing,” says Wally not long after.
After the ride, Wally, Mary Lou and the crew had lunch; took a spin on the Louis and Clark Trail, (old time car ride); played skeet ball; and ended their day with a treat of Dippin’ Dots and a visit to the souvenir shop where Wally and Mary Lou got t-shirts.
The next day, Wally is found relaxing in his room at Scenic Hills, grasping a keychain photo of himself and Mike riding the Thunderbird.
“The first thing I thought when I saw that photo was that must have been a scary ride — (it’s) got my hair straight up,” says Wally as Life Enhancement Director Kristina Gentry, adds, “I told Wally he looked like Elvis Presley!”
“I don’t think I completely knew what I was doing or what I thought I’d be doing,” Wally adds with a chuckle. “To tell you the truth, I’m not very big on riding things like that!”
For Mary Lou, many older memories seem distinct but she can’t quite recall what she had done the day before. “Oh, oh we had so much fun,” she says while viewing photos of herself on Gentry’s phone riding the antique cars, then chuckles, “even if you’re old, it don’t make no difference – we just enjoy doing things together!”
The trip was made possible by Trilogy Health Services’ Live a Dream program; Lydia Schneider, who was gracious enough to supply four tickets to Holiday World for both residents and escorts; and an extremely accommodating Holiday World staff who took the time to make the visit as special as possible.