Opened: April 1964
Manufactured By: Amusements Unlimited, Inc.
Ride Model: Swingin’ Gym
One of the oddest (and perhaps most dangerous) attractions to ever call Lagoon home was probably the Flying Swings. To describe the ride, I’ll defer to excerpts of emails I’ve received from those who experienced the attraction at Lagoon and other places around the world.
“…most people just scratch their heads when I attempt to describe this ride to them. Basically, there was a small row of cages. The cages hung by two (or was it four?) arms, and the arms had little counterweights at the top. The riders would move back and forth in the cage (no restraints), and the car would swing higher and higher (all the time staying level), until it went over the top. It was fantastically exciting, and I’d do it over and over with my mate. The problem was the cages would keep going once it went over the top, flinging exhausted riders about the cage, resulting in scraped knees and elbows if you didn’t hang on. There are still several operating in Europe.”
“They were not electrically powered, but the riders moved them by moving from one side of the cage to the other. The riders stood, and if they could get enough momentum, the cage would make a complete revolution. The cage stayed parallel to the ground. I was very young, but I remember my sister going on it and thinking, that looks like too much work.”
“People that rode it weren’t just given scraped body parts, some actually got broken bones and concussions because of the strong forces. They are banned from most American parks, but they still show up at church picnics in my area regularly.”
“I remember doing the Swingin’ Gym at the Indiana State Fair midway in the early ’70s with a neighbor pal.
We really got it rocking. You only had so much time to get the thing going around, so it was up to the operator to give you a good throwing launch.
If you ever run into a Swingin’ Gym, watch them for a while to see which one works the best. The middle two cages most likely work best, since the end cages tend to flop around and take you out of your plane. You can show me the latest, computer-designed roller coaster, but the Swingin’ Gym remains my all-time favorite ride.
From what little bit I can find on the Swingin’ Gym, it looks like it might have been made in Chesterton, Indiana. This is up near Gary and the steel works, which makes sense with the beams and all. My guess is that insurers shut down the ride.
When people talked about this ride, the lore always included something like, ‘I heard one time the door fell open and the guy slipped out halfway. When the cage swung down, it sliced off his legs against the base.’ This could be true, since you had to plant your feet and grip the sides of the cage with your hands in order to make the Swingin’ Gym work. The ‘cage’ was basically a steel floor with stamped-in no-slip grip. The sides were something akin to super-high gauge chain link fence or something. Think in terms of ¾-size factory freight elevator and you pretty much have the box. Anyway, if you lost your grip during the ride, you got tossed to the floor and it truly was difficult to get up. Mix in an incorrectly latched door and you’re gonna have real problems.
To stop the Swingin’ Gym, the operator would pull a mechanical cable attached to a brake that essentially hit the underside of the cage. Same principle as dragging your feet to stop yourself on a swingset. Very basic stuff, all of it. Man, was it beautiful.”
In the photo at the top of the page, it looks like the Flying Swings were first installed near the old playground in Mother Gooseland (about where Dinosaur Drop and Ladybug Bop are today). When the Midway expanded northward and the Julian Bamberger Fountain was installed in 1965, the ride was placed just west of the fountain (in the current location of Space Scrambler). The number of seasons it operated at the park is unknown at this time, but an aerial photo of the park that year shows it north of Opera House Square, where Jet Star 2 is now.
Although a fairly small amount of Swingin’ Gyms exist (especially in the U.S.) those who loved this ride really loved it, as you can see in the comments on a page dedicated to the ride at Amusement Ride Extravaganza. Follow the link and you’ll also find more info on the ride, more photos and an advertisement from the manufacturer.
Lagoon Hopes For Sunny Days. Deseret News, 28 Apr 1964.
Message to author from Gary via The Farmington Star (defunct MSN Group), ca. 2004.
Flying Swings. Email message to author from Hank E., 9 Jun 2004.
Another reason why 1001 Nacht was closed…and more info. Email message to author from “ckimbro”, 12 Jul 2004.
Swingin’ gym. Email message to author from Keith P., 7 Dec 2004.