I didn’t realize as a child how fortunate I was to grow up so close to Pullen Park. Maybe I took it for granted that all children get to enjoy such a place, but as an adult, I know Pullen Park is one of your greatest treasures.
When I visited yesterday, with a friend and her three young boys, much had changed. But so much of what makes this park wonderful remains the same after all these years.
The humble walkway into the park with its little waterfall is long gone—replaced by a new, grander entry in a different area of the park. But some of the same rides and play spaces reassured me that you hadn’t lost the spirit of this place, only shined them up a bit.
I will never forget bringing my nephews here when they were little. My younger nephew, who knew no fear, kept leaning out of the back of the paddle boat to put his arms in the water. At one point, I reached back just in time as he tipped over the edge, and I held him by the back of his life jacket to set him back in the boat. After that, we headed for dry land.
Um, Raleigh, you know I don’t like to point out flaws, but could you please do something about the water? It used to be clear enough to see koi and other goldfish—my first experience with those gentle underwater creatures. Now, I’m not even sure the geese should be swimming in it (and I don’t even like geese). No water should be that shade of green, not even on St. Patrick’s Day.
The playground is entirely different now, but I found a familiar friend tucked away under some trees by the pond. Is its dolphin mate somewhere nearby? All I can remember is how hot this got on summer days, enough to make you wonder if you’d lose some skin while trying to climb up on the turtle’s back. Is it shrinking? It seemed so big back then.
I’m glad you put it in the shade. Nearby, I found some other familiar friends, though their statues weren’t here when I was Opie’s age:
Did the train have to break down just in time for my visit? I missed its whistle, and the screams through the dark tunnel, and the rattle and shake as it made its slow tour of the park.
With the train silenced, that left me one ride option: the most fabulous, most entertaining, most joyful carousel. You know, Raleigh, I’ve never quite gotten over you closing the carousel during some of my prime childhood years. Don’t you know how long five years is in the life of a child?
But I bought a ticket yesterday, and the carousel was in full glory. Thanks for preserving this glitzy piece of history for many future generations of Raleigh’s children.
I always had a hard time picking which of the menagerie I would ride, but one thing was sure: it had to be an animal that galloped, which meant leaving the stationary outer ring to others.
Raleigh, thanks for the irreplaceable memories across so many years. Thanks for preserving and improving Pullen Park.
A native daughter
Readers: I’d love to know which carousel animal you’d pick to ride. Do you have a favorite childhood spot that this park brought to mind? I’d love to hear about it!
And for all you trivia buffs out there: Here’s great information about Dentzel carousels. And the history PDF at Pullen Park’s site is worth downloading for a quick look at the park’s, train’s, and carousel’s histories.