“Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone?”
Don’t let this happen to the Tulsa Skyride!
The line quoted above is from the old song “Big Yellow Taxi” written by Joni Mitchell. I have not heard Mitchell’s recordings of the song, only the one at the link. The lyrics are dated and mildly political. Apart from any controversy over the lyrics, she nails it with, “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone?” It’s come true way too many times.
It happens a lot of times when things are taken for granted. People think that many of the things and places that they like will always be there. Until they’re not.
Tulsa is well-known for its stunning collection of Art Deco architecture. But how much Art Deco was torn down (perhaps for a parking lot, like the song says)? In 2008 when the National Preservation Conference was held in Tulsa, attendees were dazzled at the sight of Tulsa’s Art Deco. However, they also lamented how many of Tulsa’s Art Deco gems were lost to demolition. Those irreplaceable structures are gone and not coming back.
Tulsa’s Art Deco is a big part of what makes Tulsa special. Imagine how much stronger Tulsa’s Art Deco portfolio might be had ways been found to save classic Art Deco structures rather than tear them down.
When more and more things that make Tulsa special and unique are lost, Tulsa becomes less special and more ordinary.
Friends of the Skyride
The Tulsa Skyride has a lot of friends. These include people who grew up going to the Tulsa State Fair and always riding the skyride. They’ve grown to love the skyride and cherish all the memories they have of their experiences on the ride. Others include former Bell’s employees, some who worked the skyride and some who just appreciated the skyride. Other friends of the skyride include post-Bell’s crew members and others who have performed work on the ride in a variety of capacities. The skyride has friends who have traveled from afar to visit the Tulsa State Fair and ride this skyride because the skyride they used to enjoy is long gone (for example, San Antonio’s much-missed skyride). The Tulsa Skyride’s friends also include all the families that have been enjoying the skyride year after year until the pandemic hit. Friends of the Tulsa Skyride are like a big, extended family, united in their appreciation of this Tulsa treasure.
And then, several weeks ago some of the Tulsa Skyride’s friends alerted me that the skyride was endangered and needed my help. “But wait! I can’t take this on right now! I don’t have the bandwidth…”
About the Author and Photographer
All photographs appearing on this site are by Steven Wilson unless otherwise indicated (there are none by anyone else on here yet).
I grew up going to Bell’s Amusement Park, Six Flags Over Texas, and Astroworld. My first ride on a carousel was before my first birthday.
I was a small child when my parents took me on a Von Roll skyride for the first time. It was the Astrolift at Six Flags Over Texas. I loved the whole Von Roll skyride experience starting with that very first ride. The second Von Roll skyride I experienced was the one in Tulsa.
Throughout childhood and beyond I went on to ride Von Roll skyrides across the country, from Massachusetts to Southern California and from the state of Washington to Florida. I’ve also ridden Von Roll aerial tramways in New York City (the original Roosevelt Island tramway), Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and Bogotá, Colombia (along with the adjacent Von Roll funicular also at Monserrate).
As time went by, more and more Von Roll skyrides disappeared from the United States. The lost skyrides included some that had special meaning to me, such as the Astrolift at Six Flags Over Texas. All of these losses pushed me to begin documenting the remaining Von Roll skyrides in detail through photography and videography.
I am happy to illustrate this site with some of my documentary photography of the Tulsa Von Roll skyride to promote the skyride, educate people about the skyride, and raise awareness of the skyride.
I graduated from:
- Bishop Kelley High School, Tulsa, OK
- University of Tulsa, College of Engineering, Tulsa, OK (Bachelor of Science degree)
- Georgetown University, Washington, DC (Master of Science degree)
I am bilingual in English and Spanish.
Marriott’s Great America Books
J.W. “Bill” Marriott, Jr. kindly contributed a foreword to my California’s Great America book. I have also authored a companion book on Six Flags Great America. The books are illustrated histories of the two parks originally built and operated by Marriott. The book covers are below. I am not including links for buying the books because I am not using this Tulsa Skyride site to sell books.
Documentary Photography and Videography
Although I’m just a serious amateur photographer and videographer, I’ve been honored to have some of my photos and videos published.
One of my photos was selected to be part of the prestigious Driving America exhibit at The Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation in Dearborn, Michigan.
Other photos of mine have appeared in:
- Amusement Today
- Architectural Record
- Carnival Magazine, including the March 2013 cover photo (scroll down to see the March cover)
- RollerCoaster! magazine
Some of my video footage has been shown on the Discovery Channel and even a 2003 episode of the television series Ripley’s Believe it or Not! (some of the monorail footage is mine).
Television Movie Roller Coaster Rider
I was a roller coaster rider in the made-for-television movie named Thrill that aired on NBC. It was a fun and enlightening experience to ride the Giant Dipper at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk more than one hundred times while seeing first-hand how a movie is made. It was especially interesting interacting with the stunt crew and actors involved in the climactic chase scene. This included stunt professionals jumping onto our moving coaster train followed by an onboard chase moving from car to car. Supporting stunt professionals were seated strategically throughout the train amongst the “regular” coaster riders. They assisted the stunt pros doing the onboard chase.
Setting a Guinness World Record for Riding Roller Coasters
I also was part of a team that set a Guinness World Record for the riding the highest number of different roller coasters in a twenty-four hour period. Our record attempt was covered in a documentary that was shown on the Discovery Channel. Thanks to some help from my mom, footage of me on Bell’s Zingo during the Tulsa State Fair was part of the documentary.
[More to come…I’ll wrap this up somehow.]