In 1926, in a cozy family kitchen in Faribault, Minnesota, a father by the name of Herbert Sellner entertained his young son Art by sitting him on a chair on top of the kitchen table and then, in an example of really bad parental judgment, rocking the table. This is according to Sellner family lore and, yes, Art lived to tell (and probably exaggerate) the tale. And even though to responsible parents everywhere, this sounds like one of the worst ideas possibly ever, the sight of young Art tipping every which way and laughing on top of the table did give Herbert Sellner a great idea.
Sellner is the inventor of the Tilt-A-Whirl, which debuted at the 1927 Minnesota State Fair. And even though to nearly anyone with the constitution of a person over the age of 16, the Tilt-A-Whirl sounds like one of the worst ideas possibly ever, it went on to become a feature in carnivals and amusement parks all over the world.
Okay, maybe you don’t feel as strongly about the Tilt-A-Whirl as I do, but I would almost rather be sitting in a chair on top of a rocking table than ride on one. But I tell Sellner’s story for a couple of reasons. First, it’s summer time, which in our house means we do a lot of running back and forth tipping this way and that until we’re so dizzy we don’t know for sure which way is up and we feel a little queasy.
I’ve now survived nearly two weeks of summer break. Don’t get me wrong. I love summer. I love baseball and swimming, fireflies and staying up late around a campfire. And, yes, I love spending all day playing with my kids.
What I don’t love (besides the Tilt-A-Whirl) is the fighting. I mean the “He hit me just because I was bored so I whacked him in the head first,” the “He won’t give me a turn on the video game I’ve just been playing for 45 minutes without a break,” and the “He’s cheating in the game we just made up that has continuously fluxing rules” kind of fighting.
So in order to spend as little time refereeing the impossible as I can, I keep them busy running every which way until they fall asleep. It was in this spirit that I recently took them to a water park across the river in Illinois that I’d never been to before.
The thing is, if you read this blog regularly, you may recall that I developed a stress fracture in my foot a little while back. It’s not healing quite like expected so seven weeks later I’m still wearing a clunky, and oh-so-attractive boot, which makes water-parking difficult. I did take it off for a while and floated around the lazy river thereby entertaining my almost seven-year-old for a good 30 seconds.
Fortunately, one of my teenage nieces graciously agreed to go with us and get tossed around in the wave pool with the boys, and ride the great big water slide with my nine-year-old. We all came home that evening sun-drenched and tired, but happy and not fighting. Much.
And this is the second reason I bring up Sellner. Because before he became the inventor of the Tilt-A-Whirl, he was first the inventor of the modern water slide. His Water-Toboggan was a large slide built on a beach and stretched out over water. Riders climbed to the top with a floating sled and then sped down shooting up to 100 feet across the surface of the water. I don’t know about you, but to me that sounds pretty fun.
Sellner’s 1923 invention thrilled beach goers everywhere and eventually gave rise to the modern water park. So it’s Herbert Sellner I have to thank for one great mostly conflict-free day of summer. And as long as I keep the boys tipping every which way in this Tilt-A-Whirl season, we should do okay. If I get desperate I suppose I could always put them in a chair on top of the kitchen table and rock them silly.