I happened to eat dinner at my parents’ house this Sunday. As my mom was preparing dinner, I told her about the Jenison Park amusement park and about the unnerving name of one of the attractions (“Nigger Baby”).
I mentioned to her that I’d asked the author of the book that the map was in about the attraction’s name. He knew nothing about it. I figured that I’d have to go to one of Holland’s assisted living centers and find someone old enough to have gone to Jenison Park during its heyday.
I may still do that, but I’m not sure that I’ll have to.
Jenison Park isn’t the only place that had that particular attraction. Apparently you could find it in Indiana (where my mom grew up) even into the 1950’s. They had it at carnivals and even at fundraisers for the local Christian school system that my mom went to. In fact once she described it, I realized that you can still find it at carnivals across the nation.
Basically, you had a rack of hinged figures on a wall. You were handed a certain number of balls, and, if you hit enough of the figures over you got a prize.
Since the name of the game was “Nigger Baby,” you would be right to guess that the baby figures that you knocked over with a ball were painted black.
You could never have a game like that now, but as a child my mom never remembered anyone questioning it. Strange to think that something that blatantly racist could be part of the background noise of life. It makes me wonder what we might be doing now that I’ll look back at with shock in the future.