Moment: Watching the wheel go round and round

Moment: Watching the wheel go round and round

June 1st, 2015 by John Rawlston in Local Regional News

Coolidge Park Carousel attendant Bud Jones works at the popular vintage attraction recently.

Photo by John Rawlston /Times Free Press.

It's a normal day inside the Coolidge Park Carousel building.

Next to the fountain where children cool off on a warm, late-spring day, large fans create a breeze in the domed circular centerpiece of the beautiful park.

After a few children and adults choose which fanciful animal to ride on the antique carousel, Bud Jones rings a bell and everything starts going around and around. A whir of motion, music and color stirs nostalgia in the adults while it brings delight to the faces of the children who ride.

Coolidge Park Carosel attendant Bud Jones takes up tickets as he works at the popular vintage attraction Wednesday, May 27, 2015, in Chattanooga.

Coolidge Park Carosel attendant Bud Jones takes up...

Photo by John Rawlston /Times Free Press.

At age 75, Jones has retired. Twice. But he still has a part-time job taking up tickets and helping people ride the Coolidge Park Carousel. In his previous careers, he helped people ride to the moon, and then he worked as a professional killer for a short time.

Jones retired from the space program, working for Chrysler and building valves for NASA at Cape Kennedy for use in the rockets that sent the Apollo astronauts to the moon. When that ended, he moved back to Chattanooga, his home town, where he worked for a pest control company for a little while. Now he faces an easier task.

"It's a good retirement job," he says as he takes a break on a bench outside. "I get to meet a lot of people -- people I haven't seen in years. You'd be surprised how many come in here. A lot of kids. Sometimes it gets a little bit hectic on the weekends, but it's not too bad."

Built in 1895 in Pennsylvania, the carousel operated in Ohio and New York, but most famously at Grant Park in Atlanta for decades. When it closed in Atlanta, Chattanooga became its new home. A company called Horsin' Around, then located in St. Elmo, had been in business for a while, offering people a chance to learn to make carousel animals. All the carousel animals were replaced by newly carved animals made by students at Horsin' Around. (The company is still in business in Soddy-Daisy.)

Jones says adults seem to be the biggest fans of the antique carousel. "A lot of kids are afraid of it, the small ones, until they get on it and realize it's fun."

Many adults remember riding carousels in their youth. Jones rode the one at Lake Winnepesaukah. Many adults travel from Atlanta to see the old Grant Park Carousel, and some former Horsin' Around students come by to see the animals they carved. Jones has worked at the Coolidge Park Carousel for four years, making him a seasoned veteran of the attraction.

"We had a couple of people who worked here, but they couldn't take the motion, going in circles. They lasted about a day. Some people, it does bother them. I'm a little dizzy anyway, so it doesn't much matter, I guess."

Photo Moment is a weekly column by the Times Free Press photo staff exploring seldom told stories of our region.