Granite State of Mind, #38: Storyland, Glen
Storyland opened in 1954, the same year as Disneyland. One of the two theme parks became the insatiable predatory juggernaut of family entertainment, while the other remained a quaint, humble, mildly creepy attraction in the sleepy hamlet of Glen amidst the White Mountain National Forest. As the story goes, Bob Morrell, a veteran of the US Army 10th Division skiing soldiers in World War II, was living in Germany with his wife Ruth when they befriended an old woman named Frau Edith Von Arps who made little wooden figures of classic children's characters. From this improbable origin grew the idea to build a place where children could visit their fictional friends. And build it they did, against the advice of realtors and bankers and just about everyone they knew.
All New Hampshire children know Storyland. It was a traditional summertime pilgrimage from our youth, whether we were seacoast kids or north country kids or upper valley kids. We all trundled off to that brightly-colored, fantastical, oddly terrifying environment where Humpty Dumpty and Goldilocks and other fairy tale denizens would leer at you from behind chipped and peeling paint jobs. We'd eat ice cream and clamber through the Shoe the Old Woman lived in and Cinderella's castle, all the while deeply aware that we were frolicking in a landscape designed for our parents' less incredulous, more willing-to-be-entertained generation. There's a hokey earnestness to Storyland; your grandmother trying a little too hard to interest you in coffee cake or a butterscotch candy. It's time travel for $33.99 per person.
They've updated it, adding more rides and attractions, but the basic character of Storyland remains, lacquered wholesome nostalgia underpinned by the bittersweet knowledge that the kids would probably rather be playing video games and are mostly humoring you by having their picture taken in the pumpkin carriage or pirate ship. The sophistication we liked to think we had at ten, our kids like to think they have at five. Ain't nobody got time for plastic animals and paddleboat swans any more.