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Round Trip: 1942

February 1942. "Brownsville, Texas. Carnival ride." 35mm nitrate negative by Arthur Rothstein for the Farm Security Administration. View full size.

February 1942. "Brownsville, Texas. Carnival ride." 35mm nitrate negative by Arthur Rothstein for the Farm Security Administration. View full size.


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Spitfire memories

This ride is definitely the Spitfire manufactured by Frank Hrubetz of Salem, Oregon, and introduced in 1939. There were 10 planes around a big 45 degree inclined wheel mounted on a central upright pole. It was named after the successful British fighter plane used in WW2. Hrubetz was somehow related to the Eyerlys, who had a ride company across the street. When he came out with the ride, there was quite a stir in the family because Eyerly had come out with their somewhat similar ride (without the inclined wheel) called a Fly-O-Plane three years earlier.

I remember the Spitfire well and was about 6 or 7 when I first rode it at the Wapello (Iowa) Homecoming in the early to mid-1950s. It was the most daring ride (downright scary) I had been on and very noisy (gas engine would backfire). The ride could be rough or more gentle depending on the operator and the rider! Some operators did not follow instructions and really revved up the speed of the big wheel and made this ride go much faster than it was supposed to. Riders could change the angle of the wings and you could not only fly upside down, but go into a series of barrel rolls -- talk about "upchuck city"!

The ride was plagued with loading problems. On the original, the floor of the plane swung down and the rider used rung-like ladder steps to climb up into a seat with seat-belt. They then tried loading from a door on the side, but it meant moving a set of stairs each time the ride was stopped. In the early '50s the design of the planes was changed to make them look more modern, but the idea of a Paratrooper ride was becoming more popular and when Hrubetz came out with a self-contained version of the Paratrooper, that was the end of the Spitfire. Many Spitfire rides were retrofitted and became Paratrooper rides. The Paratrooper, in my opinion, is a lot tamer ride.

NOT a Fly-O-Plane!

What you are looking at there is a Frank Hrubetz "Spitfire". I've never seen one in person, but I have been told that the original Paratrooper was built on a Spitfire center, and that any remaining Spitfires have all been converted to Paratroopers.

Given my experience on the Fly-O-Plane at Lake Winnie, I'm willing to bet the Spitfire was at least as unpleasant, and it is probably a much better ride as a Paratrooper.

Think about the date

When you look at the date you have to think that at least some of the guys (there only seems to be one woman) riding would be hoping to be in the real thing in a few months or weeks. Or maybe the next day.

Eyerly Aircraft Co. Fly-O-Plane

One could manipulate a handle to make the planes roll. I don't think there are any of these rides in operation anymore. I think the last one was at Lake Winnie in Georgia. It might still be there. I've heard they were a real pain to maintain.

Eyerly rides were popular from the late 1920s until the 1970s. Many can still be found at amusement parks today including the Loop-O-Plane, Rock-O-Plane, Octopus, Monster, and Spider.

The Best Ride!

That would be so fun to ride! They have a ride similar to this at Cedar Point in Ohio. I don't know what the ride is called but it is fun! Also if you can can you find some old pictures of Cedar Point.


At least from what I can see in the photograph, that ride looks surprisingly well-maintained. Better than the ones I usually see these days. I wonder if it was well taken care of or if the ride just happens to be brand new at the time this was taken.

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