Recapturing the magic of childhood

by Julie Frayn on July 9, 2012 in  Bric-a-brac

Do you have a favorite place? The Zoo, Disneyland, anywhere that makes you feel like a kid every time you visit? I do. It’s Heritage Park Historical Village in Calgary. The Park is only a year younger than me, and I’ve been visiting it since the ‘60s. It is a part of me, has filled my life with visual and sensory memories. I loved it as a kid, loved it as a parent, and one day will love it as a grandparent.

I love it so much that I took the first opportunity to work there.  Coming to the Park every work day is like playing hookey from real life.

But do you know what happens when you work at a place that you loved as a child? Some of the magic wears off. You become inundated with the mundane side of business. You know too much. It’s like pulling off Spiderman’s mask, learning the magician’s secret, tugging on Santa’s beard.

Why did I love it so much? Where did that magical feeling go? One day I stood at my office window and tried to recapture it. The best way for me to express myself is, can you guess? Yeah, it’s writing. Here are just a few of the feelings I remember. A bit of the magic of what Heritage Park is as published in the July edition of the Heritage Post.

Steam Train at Heritage Park

The ease in your mind when you cross 14th street and drive past the big H and nod knowingly at that symbol of fun and family and youth and history and timelessness and enjoyment and effortlessness that promises a wonderful day to come.

The growl in your stomach when you walk past the bakery door left ajar to allow some cooler air inside and you are drawn into the moist sugary heat because you simply must have fresh baked bread or a cheese bun or a cookie or a butter tart.

The anticipation that makes you jump when you hear the train whistle and the whump whump whump of the steam and the wheels as you realize that if you don’t hurry up you will not get on board in time and you simply must make that train.

The joy of the wind in your face when you sit in the open air of the last car on the train and round each bend of the track as you go around the park as many times as you like because there is no time limit to your ride ticket.

The thrill in your heart when you round the top of the Big Eli Ferris wheel and your stomach flips as you crest at its apex and momentarily feel as though you are free falling down the other side.

The chill down your spine and the accompanying sense of eeriness when you climb the stairs of the Prince House and wonder if the ghost stories you’ve been told since you were a child could be true.

The smile on your face when you see the piglets rutting in the muck and squealing with apparent glee and when the ducks waddle to the fence and quack a greeting as if they are happy you are visiting with them that day.

The satisfaction that ripples through you when you exit the gates and head to your car and drive away towards home replete with the sense that any day spent at Heritage Park is a day well spent.

Yeah, now I remember. I really love this place.


{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Jester Queen July 9, 2012 at 1:45 pm

Wait. You had me at that picture of the train. Right. Four tickets to Calgary, please! We have our passports!


Julie July 9, 2012 at 4:01 pm

If you were to come, please let me know! I will show you Heritage Park, and we could sit on the patio of our lovely restaurant and have a beer. Or two.

Mitch July 9, 2012 at 5:20 pm

I also visited the park as a child and field trips to the Canmore Opera House in school. Carson & I were season pass holders for at least 5 years when he was a bit younger and we spent a ton of time there. It really was the best value for a season’s pass in all of Calgary. We would eagerly await opening day and be there whether it was raining or shining. Riding the train, the ferris wheel, eating sausage rolls and cinnamon buns from the bakery, enjoying the scenery aboard the SS Moyie and our favourite, watching the piglets carousing in the muck! It truly is a magical place that leaves you with memories to hold fondly.


Carolyn July 9, 2012 at 6:14 pm

Oh, the Canmore Opera House, I remember that as well. Our Mom remembers it the most… but I’m fuzzy on the details, something about a piece of it going home with her, in her leg. I think. :)

Julie July 9, 2012 at 8:13 pm

Mom and her friends had season’s tickets to Alberta Theatre Projects when they used the Canmore Opera House (back when it was at the top of the now non-existent hill). Leaving one production, she brushed up against the log wall and a huge chunk (not a sliver) stuck in her leg…. Fun times.

Carolyn July 9, 2012 at 6:12 pm

Heritage Park was and is my favourite too… my memories of our childhood are not as clear as yours Julie, so I don’t remember being there much before I took my own children… one, two or three sons, with Grandpa, with Grandma, with you and your kids… we did various things at the park every visit, but the three things we did without fail was a train ride, visit the candy store, and eat cheese buns… when they added the current midway, things just got even better! I must have thousands of photos of the boys at the park, from birth to present day. Jonathan and I spent the most time there when he was little and his brothers were in school. He made me ride that caterpillar with him over and over, such smiles! I remember one time we had just finished visiting some of the animals when the boys noticed the “Mountie” outside the jail… we must have talked to him for an hour, he was just a kid himself, but was wonderfully patient my boys questions and stories about their Grandpa… We also held family seasons tickets for many years… with the boys being men now, well, I guess I’ll just look forward to taking my own Grandchildren. :) Thanks Julie, for the smiles.


Julie July 9, 2012 at 8:15 pm

Funny how the food, or the smell of it (especially the bakery) is what most remember. Charlie still demands cheese buns regularly. Do you remember going with Mrs M. and her girls to the Aboriginal Days and watching those amazing hoop dancers? We sat on the gone hill near Midnapore Station. That’s the hill we used to roll down.

J Timothy Quirk July 9, 2012 at 7:48 pm

What wonderful memories you have and to think you have the opportunity to “play hookey from real life”! When you see the smiles of the visitor’s faces, I’m sure that makes the magic come alive once more and every day!


Julie July 9, 2012 at 8:16 pm

It is very cool. I do spend most of my time in the office with my back to the window, but when I do get out there, you can feel the magic and see it in the kids faces. That never changes.

Elizabeth July 9, 2012 at 10:54 pm

Reading your description of how you felt as a child visiting this special place brought back memories of so many things in my childhood. Lovely memories and feeling, smelling sensing and tasting and hearing them brings them home again.


Julie July 10, 2012 at 1:04 pm

Glad that you got to revisit those lovely memories, Elizabeth. Thanks for stopping by!

Mikalee Byerman July 10, 2012 at 10:00 am

Thank you for making me realize I did the right thing by NOT opting to take a job in Disneyland. My dad worked there as a character in the early ’60s, and my grandmother was one of the original seamstresses. So you can imagine my drive to work there, too — yet I resisted, wanting to keep the magic alive!

Beautiful reflections, Julie…


Julie July 10, 2012 at 1:05 pm

Thanks, Mikalee. Which character was he? Or do they rotate? That would be hard to resist, but I’d hate to know what’s under Mickey’s mask. It would totally ruin everything. :) Here there are costumed interpreters, but no masks, and they are amazing actors playing historical roles. Very cool.

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