In an age of mass-produced plastic everything, I’m often moved by lost-art craftsmanship. When I was a child, carousels had hand-carved, hand-painted horses that went up and down on very visible mechanics to the raucous Calliope song.
There are probably only 150 antique carousels in North America. The Binghamton area has six of those. That’s pretty incredible considering that Binghamton has a population of about .01% of North America.
The entire Binghamton area grew up in the 40s, 50s and 60s with paternalistic companies like IBM and Endicott-Johnson shoes. Endicott-Johnson was famous for training immigrants. No one ever got laid off from IBM. IBM even had a country club for their employees and as an IBM child, I swam in that pool and sledded on their golf course in the winter.
George F. Johnson, an Endicott-Johnson founder, actually grew up in a very poor household. As a successful entrepreneur, he bought six carousels and donated them to area parks on the condition that children never pay to ride them. When there was talk of removing or replacing these old relics, apparently one or more of my childhood classmates put up a fight. They won.
These six hand-made carousels are still running every summer and they’re still free to ride. Restoration of the paint has also been undertaken. I took this picture twenty years ago before they were restored.
Extra points if you know the poem from which the title of this blog is taken.