A Magical First Trip to Magic Mountain

Jim Ellis


Once upon a time I was a kid.

And in those years, I so loved being with my family.

  • On Saturday nights, watching Mary Tyler Moore, Bob Newhart, and if I was lucky also Carol Burnett at 10 p.m.
  • Going on trips to San Diego’s Sea World or Wild Animal Park on summer vacations.
  • Having Thanksgiving dinner together, where we all sat around one table, something we didn’t routinely do.

And yet the family time that brings the most dear memories to my heart is found in the one summer vacation trip we all took to Magic Mountain in 1973.

This was our first visit to Magic Mountain. It had only been open about two years.

Piling into our Chevy Impala, my younger sister Kathy, my older sister Mary Lynn, my mom, my dad and I took the hour trek from Huntington Beach to Valencia.

I didn’t really know where we were going, I was always just so happy to be out and about with my entire family.

You see, this was a rare occasion. During the school year, there was the routine dread of school days. Even weekends were filled with homework stress somehow. And for my dad, there was always work. In fact, work didn’t just stay at his work. He brought his office home with him. I recall many times seeing him walk through the door with a box full of paperwork and folders. Oh darn.

Getting that man away from those boxes almost seemed impossible…

… Until summer vacation, when he would take two weeks off. On these days, we would hit all the highlights:

  • Japanese Deer Park
  • Knotts Berry Farm
  • Marineland
  • Alpine Village (a shopping mall? Yawn!)

And for the first time in 1973, Magic Mountain.

Jimmy in front of the Revolution.

This was pre-Colossus, pre-X, pre-Goliath, pre-Revolution… Maybe it’s easier to recall what WAS there. There were only three big rides: Jet Stream, Log Jammer, and this tiny roller coaster The Gold Rusher.

Now what made this original trip to Magic Mountain so magical, so memorable? Looking back over the 45 years, this was the only time there was a trip to this amusement park where all of my family members – Mom, Dad, Mary Lynn, Kathy and myself – rode the rides together.

This was beyond a symbolic gesture, for what is a symbol to a child? It was the real-life experience of having fun together with the family I love. Filling up an entire log on the Log Jammer. Feeling that anticipation of the giant dip that comes at the end of a flume ride. The rush of water that drenches all of our faces during the final splash of the Jet Stream. The laughing and screams that come as we ride so fast (55 mph!) on the big roller coaster at this site.

There were other fun journeys here, but for all the times I’ve been since, almost another 30 visits, we would never ever all ride the rides together again.

It was saved for that initial trip.

All of us together. Laughing, riding the rides, enjoying the experience as one family.

That’s all that really mattered… and that’s all that really ever matters.

On that first trip to Magic Mountain.

Once upon a time.

James Anthony Ellis is an award-winning playwright, journalist and filmmaker, who is the author of eight books, including the men-focused “The Honor Book” available HERE.

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