Where Romance and History Meet - www.heartsthroughhistory.com/

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Grabbing the Brass Ring

No, this post isn't about getting published or corraling an agent, despite the title. It literally is about the brass ring on a carousel ride. (Come on - this is a "historical" blog, right?)
My favorite carousel is the one in San Diego's Balboa Park.

This particular carousel was built by the Herschell-Spillman company in 1910 during the hey-days of carousels in the United States. It is wood (rather than its fiberglass counterpart today), with handcarved animals. Along with horses, there are also ostriches, lions, tigers, bears, and a dragon. Amazingly, it has all but two of its original carvings.
Carousels go by several different names: round abouts, flying horses, and merry-g0-rounds. Many of the first carousels built here in America were built by furniture craftsman--immigrants from Italy, Germany and France. The history of carousels, however, dates as far back as 500AD and possibly farther. In the 1100s, Arabian and Turkish soldiers used a similar device for combat practice and strengthening exercises.

The Balboa Park Carousel has something else that is hard to find on the west coast--the brass ring game. Although the eastern United States carousels more commonly have this game, only two carousels in the west have it. I'll admit I'm spoiled. I can't imagine a carousel ride without this game. It adds to the fun immeasurably--especially if you are competing against your brothers and sister. The object of the game is to grab the ring that extends from a holder. (Thus you must chose an animal on the outer ring of the carousel and one that doesn't go up and down.) Among the numerous iron rings there will be one or possibly two brass rings. The iron rings can be discarded by tossing them at a target --a clown or a bucket. But if you are lucky and grab the brass ring, a prize will be awarded at the end of the ride. Most often it is a ticket for a free ride.

Carousels have been used in many books and movies. Here is a small sampling, compliments of Wikipedia ~


The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funk. The carousel in the story is magical.
Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury. The carousel has the ability
to make its rider grow older or younger depending on the direction it travels.
The Lost Boys. Two young men go to California and find themselves fighting a gang
of teenage vampires.
Carousel. A musical (also on Broadway) where the main character is a carousel barker.
The Sting. The carousel is the front for a prositution business.
For many, the carousel is a romantic, nostalgic link to our rich history. I'm glad to see that many are being restored to their original splendor.


Charlene Sands said...

Hi - oh I loved reaching for the brass ring at Coney Island in NY, years and years ago. I never got it! I was only 7 and my older sister, with longer arms and more courage would always get it. And she got a FREE ride! Great memories!!

Donna Marie Rogers said...

I've never seen a carousel with a brass ring, but it sounds like a lot of fun! Great post, Kathryn. :-)

Barbara Monajem said...

I love carousels, but I'd never heard of the brass ring before. Very cool! Thanks for educating me. :)

Carol Townend said...

I love them too! They have one in Kew Gardens at Christmas time, and this year my daughter and I went on it. It is a French one that has been lovingly restored, with an old-fashioned musical organ. (You may guess who was the oldest person on it! ;) But there were no brass rings that I could see! Next year I will be sure to look carefully...

Kathryn Albright said...

Thanks for posting, Charlene! I always wondered about the Coney Island Carousel. I'm planning a trip to NYC and that is one place I hope to visit!

Kathryn Albright said...

Hi Donna! Thanks for stopping by! The brass ring makes the ride so much fun! (Can you guess I've never outgrown it?) Hope you are staying warm up there in the frozen north!

Kathryn Albright said...

Hey Barbara!
Great blog yesterday on FB about old recipes! Made me hungry just reading it.

Kathryn Albright said...

Hi Carol,

Kew Gardens--okay I'm going to have to look up where that is and check out the carousel there. Sounds wonderful. I've never ridden on a French-built carousel. Although they are used for entertainment now, I enjoyed learning that it was not always so, and that the knights of old learned their skills by them. Thank you for posting!