THE CURIOUS THING ABOUT CURIOSITY

Curiosity is a curious thing. That nagging need to know causes us to drive an extra forty miles just to see what is over the next hill, to stay up an hour or two later than we know to be prudent because there are only two chapters left in the book, and to order that gadget just because there might be a chance it will really do what they claim it will.
For me curiosity has been a foundational element of my life as well as an endless source of trouble. With good intention I will strap my backside to the chair and begin research on a specific topic. Along the way something is discovered that piques the interest and in an instant the concentration, the focus is gone and I am off on a rabbit trail.
As an example, one evening I was writing the encyclopedia entry for Red Fork, Oklahoma when a notation about Crystal City amusement park in the Route 66 guide book penned by Jack Rittenhouse in 1946 caught my attention. So, I finished that entry and decided to research Crystal City amusement park.
As it turned out Orcutt Park with its roller coasters and concession stands was the first of these parks to open in Tulsa. The year was 1911.
Fast forward a decade. In 1921 the Electric Amusement Park opens in west Tulsa to great acclaim. There were rides and a dance hall, a miniature train and swimming, concessions and shows. In 1922 the park expanded through the contracting of operators of carousels and Ferris wheels.
It proved to be a short lived venture and in 1925 a bankruptcy forced the closure of the park. In 1928, remodeled and expanded, the park reopened under new management as Crystal City with the giant Zingo coaster as the center piece.
This endeavor lasted until 1956. With closure the rides were dispersed to other parks, including the Lakeview Amusement Park in Tulsa, and the on the site rose the Crystal City Shopping Center in 1958.
There I was, intently focused on the task at hand when in my research a link to information about Hague Park in Jackson, Michigan grabbed my focus by the throat. Hague Park wasn’t actually in Jackson, it was at the end of the street car line in Vandercook Lake. I knew this because my grandfather had been the owner of a concession or two at the park, one of which was the bathing beach, and I still have one or two of the old wool bathing suits. Well, in the blink of an eye I was off on a rabbit trail.
My grandfather, and the fact I never met the man, is what started me on the quest to cast the light into dusty dark corners of history and write books as well as feature articles. More specifically, is was an old photograph of my grandfather and Henry Ford on the front porch of the family homestead on Hinckley Boulevard that set me on this course.
Most kids born in the mid to late 1950s like I was were raised with the ideals of the 1940s. I was raised as though it were the 1920s and 1930s, largely the result of the fact my grandfather was past his 60th birthday when my father was born. Even more amazing is the fact he lived long enough to see both sons, my uncle is just a bit older than my dad, married and with kids.
There was little talk of family history in our home. The past was past. This is now. Focus on the now if you want to have a future. That was the general drift of the direction I was pointed.
So, when my grandmother passed away in the early 1970s, and we began cleaning out the old homestead on Hinckley Boulevard, it seemed as though I had discovered King Tut’s tomb. There were letters written during the Civil War, and rolls of blue prints (my grandfather was a prolific inventor and had associations with men like David Buick during the period he launched his auto company in Jackson), political material from when my grandfather ran for road superintendent during the 1950s and patent applications, congressional reports on the conduct of the war and treatment of prisoners dated 1864 and travel journals of drives to California from the late teens.
Tragically, there was little time to dig deep and even less time to grab souvenirs. There was work to do and if I wanted to dig through the trash it could be done when the job was complete. And so a great deal of history went to the dump and some went to museums but my curiosity was set afire.
To a large degree, this is much of what I know of my grandfather –
Frederick P. Hinckley was born in July 1866 at Michigan. Fred Hinckley (given age 4) was listed as a household member living with Jas. D. Hinckley (given age 40) on the 1870 Census on 22 June 1870 at Adrian, Lenawee County, Michigan.1 Frederick P. Hinckley (given age 14) was listed as the son of J. D. Hinckley (given age 50) on the 1880 Census recorded 8 June 1880 at Jackson, Jackson County, Michigan.2

At age 21, Frederick P. Hinckley married first Hellen Abbott, age 19, daughter of (?) Abbott and Elizabeth (?), on Wednesday, 5 October 1887 Jackson, Jackson County, Michigan.3

The 1900 US Census enumerated him as Fred P. Hinckley (given age 33), the head of household at 304 West Morrell Street, Jackson, Jackson County, Michigan, on 1 June 1900. Also living in the household was, his daughter, Fern Hinckley (given age 11) . Fred was employed as a Machinist.4

The 1910 US Census enumerated him as Fred P. HinckleyHinckley (given age 41), his daughter, Fern H. Hinckley (given age 21), his mother-in-law, Elizabeth Abbott (given age 78) .5

The 1920 US Census enumerated him as Fred P. Hinckley (given age 53), the head of household at 410 Hinckley Road, Summit Township, Jackson County, Michigan, on 6 February 1920. Also living in the household was his wife, Helen Hinckley (given age 51). Fred was employed as a Manufacturer of Machinery.6

At age 58, Frederick P. Hinckley married second Eugenia White, age 37 on Thursday, 25 September 1924 at Detroit, Wayne County, Michigan.3

The 1930 US Census enumerated him as Fred Hinckley (given age 63), the head of household Summit Township, Jackson County, Michigan, on 6 April 1930. Also living in the household were his wife, Eugenia Hinckley (given age 42), his sons, Wiliam Hinckley (given age 4 years 5 months) and Robert Hinckley (given age 2 years 2 months) . Fred was employed as the Proprietor of a Maunfacurer of Air Machines.7

Frederick P. Hinckley and Eugenia Hinckley lived in 1936 at 612 Hinckley Boulevard, Jackson, Jackson County, Michigan.8


Even though the deadline is looming over my head as a guillotine, even though my intentions were to focus on pertinent research, the curiosity about what information about the park and my grandfather could be gleaned from this website temporarily blinded me. Now that is another curious thing about curiosity – even though you know there will be a price to be paid later it is impossible to resist the urge to see what …

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jimhinckleysamerica

Jim Hinckley's America is a grand adventure on the back roads and two lane highways. It is an odyssey seasoned with fascinating people, and memory making discoveries. As made evident by the publication of fourteen books on subjects as diverse as diverse as Ghost Towns of the Southwest, The Illustrated History of the Checker Cab Manufacturing Company, Travel Route 66, Backroads of Arizona, and The Route 66 Encyclopedia, I enjoy sharing adventures and helping people plan for their own memory making journeys.

Thank you, shared adventures are the best adventures.

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