Lost Oregon: Hydro Tubes

September 9th, 2009

During the early ’80s, a wonderful and dangerous fad swept our state: hydro tubes! These were fiberglass, fully enclosed water slides — commonly found at our better regional malls. I’ve had trouble finding online information about these long abandoned local attractions, but I believe they were located at Eastport Plaza, Washington Square, Janzen Beach, and Holly Farm (Oak Grove). Stacy also remembers a hydro tubes attraction in Keiser and chances are there were others in larger Oregon cities (Eugene had one at their Valley River Center). I don’t remember the exact location of the hydro tubes I visited for the first time, but it was probably Washington Square one since it would have been the closest to McMinnville. I do remember going back to the hydro tubes once for my birthday and the splash pool was located inside of a mall, so that might have been the Eastport Plaza location. I think I got one of those huge donuts at Rose’s afterwards. Why I remember details like that I don’t know.

In contrast to the fun of sliding down these heated tubes, they offered many dangers that would eventually lead to their downfall. I recall serious misalignment between tube segments, resulting in frequent scrapes and bruises. Why these defects were not resolved with sanding or grinding I don’t know. Maybe there was shifting problems after construction due to the weight of water and people? The other issue I remember was variable water flow. Sometime, halfway through a trip down a tube, water would suddenly disappear; leaving you high and dry only to get violently swept away once the water started flowing again and other sliders came barreling down. And then there was always the embarrassing prospect of losing your swim trucks from misaligned tubes. This was really more of an issue for girls than boys who had to contend with flimsy tops fashionable at the time, throwing into question the wisdom of having the splash pool open to public view (at least in the case of Eastport Plaza). God knows how many women experienced their first taste of public humiliation due to swim wear malfunctions.

I tried to dig up some newspaper articles detailing the decline of hydro tubes here in Oregon, but only found something from Eugene’s Register-Guard circa 1984. In that article, it mentions the State of Oregon’s Health Division issuing a warning about the risks for slide injuries. The article also cites instances of people being knocked unconscious and lacerations requiring stitches. I remember lawsuits as being the death of Oregon’s hydro tubes. By the time I was in college, most of the Portland locations had closed. By the late ’90s, I think all of them had been dismantled. Today, one can head north to Washington and find the offspring of our hydro tubes at Great Wolf Lodge, a huge indoor water park offering a more polished (and safer) version of the water slides I grew up with.

Despite all the dangers hydro tubes presented, I still have fond memories of them. The warm water flowing through these translucent tubes on a cold February night offered an exotic escape from the dull grayness of an Oregon winter that didn’t offer much in the way of excitement for kids. Do you have any hydro tube memories?

Entry Filed under: Randomness

38 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Brian  |  September 18th, 2009 at 2:02 pm

    Wow, just hearing the phrase “hydro tubes” brings back memories, even though I never went to any of them.

  • 2. Rachel  |  November 28th, 2009 at 8:28 pm

    Growing up in Portland, I too have fond memories of the Jantzen Beach hydrotubes! My sister and I were just commenting on them and wondering why why why they’re gone. My kids would LOVE them.

  • 3. Rick  |  March 7th, 2010 at 4:40 pm

    Great memories! I grew up in Portland, and a recent memory triggered questions about their demise. In fact I just found your site after googling “hydrotubes.” I have similar fond memories (at East Gate), but never experienced any of the problems you mentioned. I went sometimes with family, sometimes with friends, and once even on a school trip. I was in 6th grade, and decided not to wear my coke-bottle glasses–which left me almost blind going down the tubes. When I had to go to the little boys room later, I accidentally ran into the wrong one! I can still hear the screams. Other than that humiliating moment, it was all good times. Another casualty of our overly-litigious society.

  • 4. Mike  |  March 17th, 2010 at 3:43 pm

    Hey thanks for the write up! I was googling for the hydro tubes too and this is the best write up I found.

    I remember the tubes @ Washington Square too. And its funny you bring up the misaligned tubes because I run through the problems of running hydro parks in Portland and the misaligned tubes always comes up in my head as being something you would have to fix. I remember, as a kid, going down the tubes and running over one of the misaligned tubes and thinking they should get that fixed! At this point I would know which tube slide down.

    The Washington Square park was closed (I can’t remember when) and in its place was the biggest Electric Castle’s Wunderland around. I remember they had free games in the back (I’ve never seen another Wunderland to offer free games) that you could play when you ran out of nickels. I remember the smell and the sound of the machines humming when I walked in.. damn I miss the 80s.

    Random thoughts; still glad to see Malibu Grand Prix still around after all these years!

  • 5. Mike  |  March 17th, 2010 at 3:44 pm

    Ohh one last note: a bank now occupies the spot where the old hydro tubes were at Washington Square.

  • 6. scotty b  |  April 16th, 2010 at 10:18 pm

    ya i was just telling my friend about the old hydro tubes that was in eugene, i dont know what year they closed but i know i was really young and thought that the whole tube was full of water, and that you had to hold your breath all the way down. anyway i cant believe this shit is on here later

  • 7. Matt Sloan  |  July 11th, 2010 at 11:19 am

    Hi! I went to the Washington Square Hydro-Tubes in the year of 1985/1986 as a small child. What a park! I remember how popular it was. The location was behind what is now the Macy’s Parking lot. Right below the Target to the left. I remember them dismantling the tubes in 1987 or so. (Formerly Meier and Frank.) I was sad. Dad said it was because people were getting injured.
    My dad would give us the chance if we got good report cards in school. I remember him taking us. The building was a steel one with neon lights on the outside “Hydro-Tubes”. There was a 50 ft tower with 3 or 4 tubes coming out at different levels. They had a pizza restaurant too. I remember hearing 80’s music playing- the one I really remember is Nu Shooz ‘I Can’t Wait’ blaring over the speaker looking up at the tubes through a large glass window inside the building. There was a structure of hot red colored beams holding up the tubes. I saw the tubes and all the shadows of people going down them. I remember there was another Hydro-Tubes I think off of Cedar Hills Blvd. at what now is a bank. My dad told me then that those were too unsafe for us. Great memories of the 80s. Some one has to have photos!!

  • 8. bjnd  |  July 27th, 2010 at 11:29 am

    The other issue is that the chlorine gas was so thick that I could barely breath for about an hour after I left on of those places.

  • 9. Lisa West  |  July 28th, 2010 at 9:04 pm

    OMGosh! I am soooooo glad I found this info! I can not wait to show my friends and family. I thought I was seriously going crazy when I would tell people about the wonderful memories I had at both the Hydrotubes and the Arcade!!! Even my mom does not remember them and SHE took me there :) ha ha ha!! So, THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK you to all who posted so I can show them that YES @ Washington Square there were HydroTubes and and Arcade where the bank now is!!!!

    Ahhh…… and if someone has a picture.. THAT would be even better!!!

    Ldub97229

  • 10. Heather  |  August 11th, 2010 at 4:21 pm

    Thanks for sharing the memories! I fondly remember the Washington Square hydrotubes (even though I never got to try them out). I was devastated when they were torn down, my parents promised I could go when I was older. Stupid lawsuits, what’s a few bruises and lacerations to kids?

    Oh, and those giant Rose’s doughnuts were something out of this world! Another great loss to the Washington Square experience.

    In later years, I did get to visit the amazing and incredibly expensive Wild Waves in Federal Way, Washington. They had fantastic waterslides (not completely enclosed). They’re closed for most of the year of course. Lots to do and many happy memories of this place. I’d like to go back someday.

    Good news for waterslide lovers: A park is being built in McMinnville at Evergreen Museum that will include waterslides and a wave pool AND it will be open year-round. :-) Currently scheduled to open next year. Check it out at www.waymarking.com.

    Too right Mike, the 80’s were so much fun! Following decades are much too moody. Thanks for specifying where the tubes were in Washington Square. I can still picture them, but couldn’t remember where in the mall they were located.

  • 11. Serge  |  August 20th, 2010 at 4:34 pm

    Hyrdo Tubes! Hydro Tubes! Hydro Tubes! That’s right! I forgot what they were called. Thank you to whoever initially posted this. You have filled a missing link in my memory, but unfortunately my head is now swimming in imagery from the mid 80’s. And Hydro Tubes were definitely an image from that time period.

    It was a time when you could go to the Washington Square Mall, and on a postage stamp section of the parking lot, would see a firefighter’s practice tower of a building with blue tubes coming out of the top (Oh, how I wished I could slide down a tube like that from my bedroom on the second floor, to the first floor of our house). You could shed your pastel clothes for Jantzen swimwear and slide down structures that were put together with less painstaking detail than a hamster tube maze (more on that later). And lets not forget that this was a time when waterslide safety was in it infancy stage. In other words, the only rule was no running on the cement. You did, and you fell hard. Notice that that rule has nothing do to with slides.

    From what I remember, the locker rooms were situated before the ticket booth in a hallway. And not only that, but both were in the path of patrons who were exiting the tubes and walking to the stairway back up. In essence, there was no starting point. Just jump on the moving carousel. Couple that with that fact that generic hand stamps were their only form of security, and that you would have to repeatedly get your hand re-stamped at the booth because it would smear. It didn’t take us very long to figure out that this would be advantageous for us. Never put the locker rooms before the ticket booth; never mix hand stamps with water.

    Before we would even leave the house, we would take one of my sister’s Disney, or Strawberry Shortcake, or whatever stamps and mark the backs of our hands. After we arrived, we would go straight into the locker rooms, change, get wet from the showers, and then purposely smear our stamps. Next, we would jump in the Congo Line, stick out our hands to be re-stamped, and we were “in.”

    I don’t remember how many flights were in the tower staircase; but my shins remember me running, slipping, and falling on those cement steps many times. I remember the top of the tower being dark, lit only by what seemed to be the underwater lights at the start of the tubes. There was usually a lifeguard at the top whose responsibility was to make sure that only four kids went down the tube at once and not five. If it was slow, I don’t think they even had a lifeguard up there. That’s when you could take a running start and dive into the tube. Remember when you could go headfirst down a water slide? And if the conditions were just right—maybe nighttime or cold outside—the opening of the hydro tube was full of steam. Kids would disappear into the tube leaving only echoes of laughter and screaming. It was magical…or maybe it was just chlorine gas that filled the tubes.

    There was nothing extraordinary about the tubes, other than they were enclosed and leveler was not used to link them together. An enclosed tube meant one thing: take more risks. It not like you are going to fall out. Back in my Junior High days, I perfected risk-taking one summer at the non-enclosed waterslides in Walla Walla, Washington. You know, back when waterslide safety was in its embryonic stage. Before they had rules, crossing your arms over your chest, rubber mats, foam helmets, or whatever they use today; it was all about wet skin on wet fiberglass. And the least amount of surface area meant speed.

    You would cross your ankles and ride on one heel and your shoulder blades. Your hands would go palms down under your rear to prevent any resistance from the fabric of your shorts. Right before you slid down a dip, you would thrust outward and get great air. Of course it hurt when you landed, but you got great air. And if a foot or leg happened to clear the outer lip of the slide, that was even better. Later on around in 1999 I tried to use my skills on the Toboggan Racer at Blizzard Beach in Disneyworld. I somehow got the least amount surface area even though I was given a Toboggan Racer issued racing mat. I caught some air and the next thing I heard were whistles being blown from lifeguards in every direction. They had a “how did he do that” look on their faces. Those lifeguards, who weren’t even in kindergarten at the time, just got a taste of 1985 water sliding.

    In the enclosed tubes, you could spin in any direction; stop and cause a log jam; or go as fast as you could to get air and ricochet off the ceiling of the tube. But with a limited number of hydro tubes, there were only so many things we could think of to entertain ourselves. Before there were elaborate resorts like Atlantis, the Washington Square Hydro Tubes had their clear blue slides slithering overhead through its glorified snack shack; as patrons ate, had birthday parities, and played video games below. The seed was planted; it was not going away. Never mix clear blue slides going through a restaurant with suburbia kids with nothing better to do.

    Skin. Misaligned fiberglass segments. Boney angles like elbows, wrists and knees are what get scraped; not round padded areas, right? I made many passes over the restaurant, feeling every crease and edge to reassure myself. I’d hate myself if I didn’t do it. It was time. I started my decent. I couldn’t even enjoy the first part of the slide because of either giddiness or nervousness. I started to slow myself down. As I approached the restaurant, I sat up, pull down my shorts, and pound my fists on the floor of the slide, hoping to get everyone’s attention audibly. God, I hope they all looked up. I almost choked with laughter. That was probably the fastest any of them saw a moon raise and set overhead. At this point, I don’t remember if I had an exit plan or if I needed to come up with one in the next 10 seconds. Either way, I did, and it worked…many time over.

    When one reaches the end of the tubes, you are deposited into a small deep pool churning with vortexes upon vortexes. You can either lie flat and skim across the pool or let the current pull you under. An injury I saw many times—and experienced myself—was getting the back of your head smacked on the last few inches of the edge of the tube. Due to body positioning, vortexes, or both, something would yank your head back and knock you silly. I wonder if anyone got knocked out, and due to the churning water, could not see them at the bottom of the pool. And that was my exit strategy. Not the getting knocked out part, rather the churning water part.

    After disrupting family lives from above, I came in for a landing and let the current pull me under. I swam vigorously against the crosscurrent through sliding lanes, dodging bodies as they came crashing in like cannon balls. Once I reached the side, I sat there underwater for a moment as more bodies were deposited into the pool. I came up for air and acted like just arrived. I wanted, so badly, to look back at the people in the restaurant through the windows and see the expressions on their faces—mothers agape, kids giggling—but I couldn’t. If I did, then they would know that’s the kid who did it. And I was the one who did it…over and over. Loud noise, moon, swim crosscurrent, and do it again. No one suspected.

    We were nearing the end of our day, and I was full of self-worth and accomplishment. But further back in the recesses of my mind was another idea, and I was running out of time. The risk was greater personally, physically, and publically. No time for practice runs; we gotta go. I started my decent. As I approach the section of slide that was like home to me now, I did all the same rituals, except I was face down. I winced the for the next two to three seconds—which felt like two to three minutes—hoping nothing would get shredded on the uneven grooves. No laughter; no giddiness. I made it through in one piece. I again waited in the pool and emerged moments later. I felt like I got away with another bank heist. That was the last time the tubes or I saw each other.

    I wonder where that section of hydro tube is now. In the desert, in a waterslide graveyard? Being reused as a kiddy slide in some second rate water park in Illinois? Or a piece of some overpriced abstract art?

    C’mon, let’s go across the freeway to Virage Racing!

  • 12. Matt  |  September 4th, 2010 at 12:34 am

    Great memories of the 80’s! I will be going to the Washington Square Mall Architectural Archives and see if we can get some photos for this website of the Hydrotubes. I’m surprised nobody has any photos after all the parties and people that went (possibly because the mall wants to forget the lawsuits at the Hydrotubes.)

  • 13. Marcy  |  December 15th, 2010 at 6:22 pm

    Wow…talk about being flooded with nostalgia. I too, tried to find information about the hydrotubes and come up with very little.

    I’d only been to the Washington square tubes once or twice and thought I’d totally forgotten the visuals of the place. Your descriptions are all so good that I can see the place in my minds eye again…wow..talk about easy carefree days sigghhh.

    Sadly, I remember talking about them with my cousin who lives in Portland, when I noticed one day that it seemed they had all suddenly vanished. She said that a kid had been killed at the Eastport plaza site when the tube he was on broke underneath his weight and he fell through. So they probably did close because of lawsuits. Suddenly too. One day there and the next gone it seems. Freaky.

    Anyway, I would LOVE to see photos, any luck yet ?

  • 14. admin  |  December 27th, 2010 at 6:15 pm

    New hydro tube post:

    http://www.wildfreshness.com/?p=782

  • 15. camerones  |  April 13th, 2011 at 3:42 pm

    i went to the hydro tubes at washington square, eastport (may have been mall 205? over near clackamas town center?) and the keizer ones.

    they were total germ factories, they smelled toxic, and the splash pool was full of blood and snot. the cement stairs were deee-sgusting, and most of the teenagers that worked there were shiftless assholes.

    but it was still fun.

    one memory i haven’t yet seen: the tubes were named after rivers in the pacific northwest. you could ride the deschutes, the snake, or… well, there were others.

  • 16. Shelly  |  June 16th, 2011 at 6:39 pm

    I remember those!!! We use to live in Hillsboro. I think we went to the one at Washington Square….awww…the good ol’ days!

  • 17. Joseph  |  July 19th, 2011 at 2:19 am

    I love these memories. There are times I wish I could return to the long lost days of my youth. I would spend so much more time and dig so much deeper into life back then, chronicling my life’s path to keep sacred to share with my children and other lost youths from those times.

    Along those lines, anyone else remember The Kite Man public service announcements and others from those times?

  • 18. admin  |  July 19th, 2011 at 11:34 am

    Just missed the return of The Kiteman (http://www.pacificpower.net/kiteman). I guess the original TV footage was lost. I totally thought I would find it on YouTube. Back to HydroTube related stuff…has anyone been to the Evergreen waterpark down in McMinnville yet? I guess they have pretty good HydroTube-like slides. I would be interested in hearing a review if anyone would like to post here.

  • 19. Aaron  |  July 24th, 2011 at 1:44 am

    I walked by the hydrotubes at Eastport on the way home from school every day as a kid. I assumed it was just a lack of interest that finally shut them down.

    The demise of the “Organ Grinder” nearby left me more depressed though. That was a real loss.

  • 20. Victoria Bevan  |  October 2nd, 2011 at 3:06 am

    So many times I ‘ve been given the your crazy look, many times I remember the water suits they had you wear, I was only 5 but for years I wondered if iI was the only one that remembered. I ‘m still looking for pictures if any one sees one.

  • 21. Will  |  October 5th, 2011 at 1:05 pm

    Good to see that there are people who remember these things. We had hydro tubes in Michigan as well. The one I remember was located in Lakeside Mall in Sterling Heights. Those were good times.

  • 22. Bernade  |  November 5th, 2011 at 1:00 am

    Hydro Tubes at the old Cinema World theater near Valley River in Eugene. I was about 12 or so, and my brother (2 yrs older) my next door neighbor, my age, and other friends and I LOVED going to this place. Only 2 tubes with minimal curves and action, and barely any pool at the bottom. A rinky-dink arcade and snack shop was also on site.

    Greatest memories - I wore holes in multiple suits due to the friction on my butt and hip bones sliding down the tubes. Where was the “hydro” in theses slide tubes? Hitting the back of my head super-hard during one slide. I was definitely out of it and couldn’t see directly in front of me… literally my vision was pixilated and blurry - a mini concussion? My brother waited with me almost an hour before we could ride our bikes the 3+ miles home that evening. Probably 1982. Never told my parents or anyone as I wanted to be able to continue to go hydro tubin’!

  • 23. Curtis  |  April 3rd, 2012 at 3:13 am

    some more info with pics and adds
    http://portlandism.blogspot.com/2011/09/slip-slidin-away.html

  • 24. Crystal  |  June 5th, 2012 at 5:40 pm

    I just drove by Washington Square where the old hydro tubes were…. Excellent memories!!!

  • 25. Mike  |  October 20th, 2012 at 4:25 pm

    I remember going once to the Eastport Plaza ones once. I was still pretty little at the time, so they scared me to death because they seemed big, fast and rough to me at that time. I remember they would snake their way down above the building where some of the turns would put you up sideways on the slide wall and then go back inside where it would suddenly turn strangely dark, where you would immediately experience a sharp, sudden drop. I also remember that people could slide down them pretty much any way they wanted back in those days; i.e. head first, kneeling, etc. If they were built back today, there’s no way they’d let you get away with anything like that. They’d make you go feet first every time. And if you decided to be a rebel and do any of the above anyway, they’d probably chew you out and then kick you out of the place after a couple of times.
    These slides probably wouldn’t seem very scary to me now, since I regularly do the big, vertical drop slides, and love roller coasters; particularly those at Six Flags Magic Mountain. But I wish I had another chance to give the Eastport hydrotubes another chance before they were gone. If only I could build a DeLorean to go back in time with and have a ride.

  • 26. Harold  |  January 8th, 2013 at 1:06 am

    Hey, what about the fun bungee jumping from the crane on 82nd Avenue in Portland in the 80s?

  • 27. Allan  |  March 25th, 2013 at 10:35 pm

    I saw Corey Feldman at the Eugene Hydro Tubes. I later figured out he must have been there during the filming of “Stand By Me.”

  • 28. Roger Kasner  |  June 25th, 2013 at 7:00 pm

    My 1980’s band, Napoleon’s Mistress recorded the jingle for the Hydro Tube corporation…they had locations nation-wide. A friend driving cross-country in the summer of 1985 heard the jingle on local radio stations in the mid-west.

  • 29. Lisa  |  March 13th, 2014 at 7:13 pm

    I Loved the tubes. I loved the cinimon rolls at Roses the monkey at the Organ Grinder the ice cream at Farrell’s the Enchanted Forest the Lloyd Center had cinimon bear and live reindeer, carmel corn would sent the air the Pixy ( land, village, forest ? ) Waddles and when Rose Festival was free to roam and 82nd was the place to cruz. Where we would play hide and seek and kick the can pushing every minute of sunlight latter and latter. When summer time ment picking in the fields gorging on berries and still playing outside when you got home. I remember Vic 20s and AOL 8 tracks and 45s cassette tapes. I realize I have blabbed and rambled but Thank You. I Thought I was Crazy. Oh Pop Shop Pop, Ramblin Rod, Portland Wrestling, and Senn’s Dairy ( the chocolate milk to die for ) Pop Rocks, Now and Latters Franz Bread the smell, $.10 tacos at Taco Bell . Oh and when 20/20 wine coolers came in 2 liters. I’m just memory laneen. I hope some of these places can bring a sparkle of joy to someone else also. Lis xox

  • 30. Mike  |  June 4th, 2014 at 11:25 am

    I was one of the owners in Eugene and the regional manager of all of the other facilities in the Portland area. After hours was a blast with the employees riding all night…It was a fun ride…:-)

  • 31. Andrea  |  March 24th, 2015 at 5:36 pm

    I nearly drowned at the Jantzen Beach one in ‘83 or ‘84. Came down out of the tube and there were so many people coming down behind me I was trapped under the water. I was 11 or 12 at the time and was a strong swimmer, especially underwater, but the pressure of the water from the tube and the constant stream of bodies made it impossible to surface. That did it for me and water slides! One near death experience is PLENTY!

  • 32. Yvette  |  April 5th, 2015 at 8:18 am

    Not only do i remember the family trips to eastport plaza from Salem but my cousins husband was the architect for one at eastport plaza not sure about others. And one of my good friends l just met two yrs ago had broke her at that very one in her early teens. It just shows how lives are intertwined before we are even aware of it. :^))

  • 33. Ryan  |  February 17th, 2016 at 2:11 pm

    I have such great vague memories of the hydrotubes..I lived in Wilsonville but not sure which one I would have gone to. I remember the smell of the chlorine and the warmth of the water. I also remember being really concerned that I would lose my tickets which I recall were on a bracelet like thing and had 10 “tabs” that were removed each time you went down the tubes. I don’t recall ever getting hurt or scratched but I was 8 when we left Oregon for Florida in 1983.

  • 34. Tiffani  |  June 28th, 2016 at 11:03 pm

    I loved the hydrotubes. I wish I could take my kids there and share the memories with them.

  • 35. robyn Hernandez  |  January 13th, 2017 at 6:40 pm

    I have fond memories as well of the early hydrotubes located at Jantzen Beach mall. I remember my Mom driving us from Vancouver WA across that big bridge to visit. My Mom would get me my wristband and I would go do my thing. I also remember the merry go round in that mall. There were only three places you could find me back in the day. At hydrotubes, the Arcade or at the skating rink. I was lucky, as many times as I visited the hydrotubes I never had any serious issues or accidents. Only once they had to pull me out with that long pole thing from the suction of the water jet gates pulling me back as I attempted to swim out to exit the landing pool. I am 39 now, I was born in 1977 and really enjoyed growing up as a kid in the 80’s!!!!! Great Memories!

  • 36. robyn Hernandez  |  January 13th, 2017 at 6:42 pm

    Great Article!

  • 37. Angela  |  March 7th, 2017 at 2:31 pm

    Oh yeah. The hydrotubes! That was the pool party of my dreams, having a winter birthday. Unfortunately my friends were terrified by them and my mom made me quit and leave early because I was the only one that wanted to go on the slides after the first trip down, ha ha ha!

    We went at least one other time as a family, which is how I knew that’s where I wanted to go for my birthday. I must have been about ten, maybe eleven, but they closed while my sister and I both had ride bracelets saved in our jewelry boxes for later use. I don’t know how comparatively expensive the rides were, but enough that I only remember going twice. The ride bracelets had ten rides each on them and were waterproof plastic with each ride number a little tab that the attendants tore off. The one my sister saved was a different color from the one I saved, but I don’t remember what the colors meant.

    I believe I’m thinking of the Washington Square ones; they would have been closest to us, such as they were, with us out in the boonies. There was a restaurant attached that I’d normally be very excited by because we didn’t go out to eat much unless we were on a family roadtrip, but with the hydrotubes there, I could care less about the food. I’m sure it was comparable to Dairy Queen or some such.

    The staircase was impossibly long, from a 10-yo perspective. I want to say 10 flights, but everything seems taller when you’re small. Still it must have been quite high up to support such a long slide down, so maybe ten flights is correct. The walls of each flight were a different color in addition to being numbered, I think in reverse-rainbow order, so you’d know when you were getting close to the top. The lines were SO LONG because nothing attracts children like a combination of water and danger, lol. You crept along the line slowly freezing thanks to being in a wet swimsuit on a concrete stairway surrounded by painted concrete block.

    At the top of the stairs, the landing opened up to an area where the tops of all three of the tubes originated, where (probably teenaged) attendants took your wristband tickets and made you wait for their ‘go’ before you slid down. You sat at the top of the slide with the water gushing at your legs before getting the ok and pushing off. Surrounded by the blue glow, you were swept downhill in a series of turns, swoops, corkscrews and straightaways that rarely let you see more than five feet in front of you. It was gloriously warm and humid after freezing on that concrete staircase.

    Each of the three slides was named after a different Oregon river: the least perilous was the Deschutes to the far left, the mid-level McKenzie in the center, and the dangerous Rogue to the far right. I tried them all, but gravitated toward the McKenzie most. I wonder now if there was as much difference between them as I perceived. There was for sure a big difference between the Deschutes and the Rogue.

    The tubes were translucent, so you were weirdly lit from all sides as you slid down. Thinking how small I was at age 10 I now wonder why adults would have been allowed on them at all, but the reason I had a ride bracelet saved that I hadn’t used up yet at the time they closed down was due to an accident on my last trip down the McKenzie.

    The McKenzie leveled out to slow you down on the final approach, and I remember coming around that last corner and then just stopping as I watched the water rush past me and then apparently stop. Wondering where the water went, I turned around to look - just in time to see some dad-sized dude come around the corner after me, all the water his huge body had blocked from coming down the slide behind him.

    I flailed for a moment or two with my arms in emergency-oar mode, but of course I was doomed. His feet hit me square in the back, knocked the wind out of me, and sent me - probably both of us - to the bottom of the pool. By the time I came back up, I was done for the night. If I’d realized I would never go back though, because they would close before we could make another trip there, I honestly probably would have sucked it up and gone back until the bracelet was empty. That’s how fun they were.

    I miss those friggin’ things.

  • 38. Heather Chavez  |  September 20th, 2017 at 7:15 pm

    I to remember the water slides in Jantzen Beach Mall I went there is a kid in the 80s all the time I can’t find any photos to show my daughter that’s nerve-wracking.

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