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Messages - Smokey

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SDC Memories/ Park History / Re: Memories of FITH/FITH Scavenger Hunt
« on: April 23, 2023, 07:48:49 PM »
Back in the day, when Fire in the Hole was the only coaster at the park, we used to challenge guests who were determined to ride over and over to a little game - a scavenger hunt within the ride itself.

It all started when we noticed that some folks kept riding the coaster over and over again. We couldn't help but ask what they were up to, and sure enough, they were on a mission to ride as many times as they could in a day. So, we decided to make it even more fun for them by challenging them to a scavenger hunt.

The hunt began with simple tasks like finding the moon and stars or the howling coyote. But as the riders kept coming back for more, we upped the ante with more challenging tasks like finding a Baldknobber holding his rifle in the air or locating a chicken on her nest. And just when they thought they had found everything there was to find, we threw in a real curveball - where in the ride can you eat burnt toast? By the way, a lot of that stuff is not there anymore, but some of it is.

It was a great way to create a positive guest experience and make their visit even more memorable.

SDC Memories/ Park History / FITH loading dock memory
« on: April 09, 2023, 08:53:33 PM »
Here is a FITH memory that has been bouncing around in my head for a couple of weeks now. I worked with an employee, I won’t call him lazy, but he enjoyed “shortcuts”.  In order to tell you this story, I need to tell you a little about how the ride works. In those days FITH was the only roller coaster at the City. We were always being asked to run at least 1000 guests an hour on a busy day. This meant that the minute any train was loaded, it was sent out as quickly as possible. Many times, the loading dock was empty since we sent trains out so fast. The belts that forwarded the train onto the dock and out into the ride are really loud if they are just running with no trains sitting on them. So, if the dock had no trains, the ride controller would normally turn the belts off and watch the board until a train came through the “Fire in the Hole!” dip. At this point, the train was approaching the dock and the ride controller would get ready to turn the belts on. If the belts did not get turned on, nothing that would jeopardize guest safety would happen, but the train would not advance and would sometimes gets stuck, and we would have to evacuate the ride and start everything over.

Well, the shortcut that this employee developed is that he would not watch the board when he was the ride controller. He would turn off the belts on the dock when they got loud and turn them back on when he heard the recording yell “Fire in the Hole!”. We figured out he was doing this, just going by audio cues instead of watching the light board to see where the trains were.

We had two guys who could imitate the “Fire in the Hole!” voice perfectly. When this employee was the ride controller, the imitators would go into the ride, near the last dip, and yell “Fire in the Hooooooooooole!”. This employee would turn on the belts. The dock area would get really loud. He would look around for the train that never showed up and then look at the board and realize the closest train was still a bit from getting back to the dock. Then he would look at us on the dock with a confused face. We would keep straight faces, of course like we didn’t notice anything happening.

Without going into too much detail, this shortcut never put anyone’s safety at risk because of all the other redundant safety features inherent to the ride. However, we did not like him doing this, but we were not his boss, so we pranked him for a few days. Every time this would happen, he would seem really confused like he was going crazy. The other employee yelling “Fire in the Hoooooooooole!”, him turning on the belts, they would be too loud, and he would finally look at the board and see he was wrong again. You probably had to be there, but we all found it very amusing since he was famous for taking shortcuts! After a while, we told him what we were and after he laughed, he decided that watching all those blinking lights on the board was better than trusting what he heard or us!!

SDC Memories/ Park History / FITH Memories Continued...
« on: March 24, 2023, 07:20:50 PM »
Here is one I will never forget. FITH was down for several days in a row. There was a major mechanical problem at the second dip, which we referred to as area 11. This problem was significant enough that the maintenance crew worked on it night and day for a few days to get the ride back up. Parts were being manufactured “in-house” and lots of intense work was being done in a hot environment. It was the middle of the summer and FITH was the only roller coaster in the park, so there was definitely a sense of urgency to fix the ride.

The attractions staff, citizens who worked on the dock, were still working at minimum staffing levels. We needed a few staff there in case the ride might open and to talk to guests who showed up to ride, who were naturally disappointed. I was the ride lead, so worked each of those days and spent most of my time checking with the maintenance staff so that we could plan, talking to guests out front, cleaning the ride, and whatever we could think of to do to keep busy.

After the ride was back up, the head of FITH maintenance (I will leave names out of this, to protect the innocent) approached me and he was pretty angry. He asked me if my employees wanted to be in charge of the appearance of the ride, which we referred to as atmosphere. I had no idea why he was so mad. Later, I found out that my employees had become bored and “improved” some show scenes, mainly at the hotel and the Baldknobber wagon before the falling bridge. To my staff these were improvements, but to the maintenance staff, this was just more work they had to do to keep these things working. I could really see both sides of the argument, but atmosphere was not our job at all, so I did apologize to the maintenance staff, who decided to leave most of the items where they were, at least for a while. If our guys wanted changes, we really should have asked first, had a meeting, or something.

There are remnants of those “unauthorized” changes still around today. The Baldknobber in the tree holding Red’s pants is a version of what the guys did that day, even though they had the Balknobber standing by the tree and holding the pants. Some of the Baldknobbers at the wagon which is on your left before you go into the falling bridge (area eight) are still there, although they are arranged differently now. Right after this happened, another of the maintenance crew mentioned that maybe our guys were right and that atmosphere had taken a back seat to some of the maintenance problems they had that season and he added in the “here's barrel of laughs” show scene. Overall, it all worked out and everyone who worked there, attractions, maintenance, and food service at the Fireman's concession stand all generally got along, worked well together, and were friends!

SDC Memories/ Park History / Re: More FITH
« on: March 12, 2023, 09:39:01 PM »
Hi Jay,

In my day, we ran up to 6 trains, something that they don't do anymore. If there were more than 4 trains, the ride would go down if the trains got too stacked, so I guess it is possible that they would send out a train with the rider's consent until maintenance could get on the dock. There was a way to disengage the bars manually and they did get stuck sometimes. Usually, the onsite maintenance guys would do it, but I have done it myself if the bar would stick occasionally, but nothing else was wrong with the train.

It seems unlikely that they would let a defective train keep going around. What is more likely is that the girls were frequent guests at the ride and the employees were helping them beat their ride record. This was done on a slow day, and in order to not alert other guests to what was happening, the bars were "stuck"! I have been there a few times when those shenanigans were going on. I truly saw the same families once a week sometimes, locals and employee families. Probably, not something that would be done today, but I guarantee those girls have a lifetime memory of that day. We did a lot of things to make fantastic guest memories during that time.

SDC Memories/ Park History / More FITH
« on: March 12, 2023, 05:36:58 PM »
As I recount my memories of working at Fire in the Hole, I want to say that Silver Dollar City was one of the finest companies that I’ve ever worked for. The reason that my experiences were so good there was due to the positive attitude of management, staff, and coworkers across the park. I learned that I could be a leader there and many other lessons that I will never forget.

As Silver Dollar City begins spring break days in 2023, I’d like to mention that there was no such thing when I worked there. The first big event in the Spring was Young Christian Days, which we would sometimes refer to as Young Heathen Days since a few unruly, unsupervised kids could occasionally make for a rough day. Spring at SDC was very slow then, but if employees were willing to join the labor pool, they could start work in early March prepping the park or if someone called in sick or had an open position. Originally, I worked labor pool for the money, however, I got to the point where I enjoyed every spring, not knowing what I would be doing day to day and having lots of diverse experiences. I worked in food service for a couple of weeks, grilling, chicken and corn at the open grill that used to stand in front of where Time Traveler is now. I worked on every attraction in the park, save the train and the cave. I spent one really fascinating week with the entertainers on the square selling merchandise. This was the Victorian year which we have discussed on this forum many times before and we all know that only remnants of this era exist. When the actors were not acting, they were selling Victorian-style merchandise. Of course, someone had to watch the table while they were performing and that was me. I got to know many of them pretty well that summer.

While those experiences are stories in their own right let’s talk about my first season at FITH. I had already worked at the Great American Plunge for a little bit, so I was familiar with the general safety procedures. At FITH there were two buttons that would kill all power to the ride. One was downstairs in the maintenance area and the other was at the ride controller console. If any employee demanded that the ride power be “killed” any other employee would do it without question. Everyone was trusted. Even though it took considerable time and effort to restart the ride, test, and get it going again, no one wanted any injuries to happen on the ride so we all followed our training in that regard.

At this time there were no gates on the loading dock, neither entrance nor exit. Just yellow lines that sometimes took considerable effort to keep people behind. It was not unusual for a guest to cross the line while the trains were moving and start walking toward the moving train causing the ride to be shut down. FITH staff would sometimes have to referee between guests because everyone was mad at the person who caused the ride to be shut down.

The restraint system on the ride used to be much different as well. Small people could wriggle out of the restraints if they knew what they were doing and larger people often did not fit. At that time all the ride staff were males to fit the theme of “fireman.” The staff would sometimes use all of our body weight to lean on the restraint bar to lock in a larger person. This looked extremely painful to the rider, but we would do it at rider request. Of course, this would never be allowed today! One time a guest insisted that the young man on the dock put all of his weight into the restraint and push as hard as he could so the bar would lock. We let the train sit on the dock for a moment to make sure the guest was fine and that he could make it for three minutes. He reassured us that everything was fine. On the dock, trains are controlled by conveyor belts. However, once the train is dispatched and connects with electricity, there’s no stopping it other than to kill the ride. As the train with this guest got out into the first portion of the ride he started screaming, “I can’t take it, I can’t do it! Let me off!”

The dock worker yelled “kill the ride”, the button was hit and the ride powered off. By the way, it gets really quiet when all the machinery that runs FITH suddenly stops! Staff started clearing the dock, the ride was evacuated and it was several minutes to get the ride up and going again. The other guests were pretty upset at that guy and the employee that evacuated that train had to tell that trainload of people that they could be first in line when the ride came back up in order to keep them from verbally assaulting the poor guy who was too big for the ride.

I still have my training manual for FITH. There are evacuation doors throughout the ride, including the doors in some of the show buildings. I will post later about the ride being divided for maintenance and evacuation purposes. Again, I hope this was at least somewhat entertaining, thanks for reading!

SDC Memories/ Park History / Memories of FITH
« on: March 05, 2023, 07:55:47 PM »
Hi there fellow SDC fans! I've been a lurker on this site for years, but today I felt compelled to finally share my thoughts. It was the recent closing of Fire in the Hole that inspired me to start posting. As someone who grew up going to SDC multiple times a year, I have so many fond memories of the park, from the train conductors/robbers to Flooded Mine and, of course, Fire in the Hole.

As a kid, Fire in the Hole was the only coaster in the park, and it was a big deal. I remember feeling so excited and a little scared every time we got in line. But it wasn't until I got a job at SDC that I really fell in love with the ride. I started out at the Great American Plunge, but my heart was set on working at Fire in the Hole. Eventually, I made my way over there and worked my way up to lead.

Working at Fire in the Hole during that era was an amazing experience. I'll never forget our "first day of work orientation" at the saloon. We were taught that guest safety and relationships were the most important things. And while safety is always a priority at SDC, there was something special about the way it was emphasized during that time. We were also taught to talk to guests as if it was 1880, which meant coming up with clever responses to modern-day questions. It was a fun part of the job and really added to the immersive experience of the ride.

In the coming weeks, I plan to share more stories from my time working at Fire in the Hole. I won't share anything that would put SDC in a negative light, but I hope to give you all a glimpse into what it was like to work at such an iconic ride during a great era of SDC. So stay tuned, fellow fans, and thanks for indulging me as we celebrate the memories of Fire in the Hole together.

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