From coasters to coasting

SANDUSKY His days of climbing roller coaster tracks are over. After nearly 39 years, Charlie E
May 24, 2010



His days of climbing roller coaster tracks are over.  After nearly 39 years, Charlie Elswick is hanging up his tool belt to pick up a fishing pole. Wednesday marked his final day as Cedar Point's maintenance supervisor.

Dozens came to say goodbye to the longtime worker, who celebrated his last day with cake, coworkers and friends inside the park's maintenance department.

Standing beside work tables and drill stations decorated with cards and gifts, Elswick talked and laughed with the other employees, many of whom he has known for years.

"I've grown up with him. He was a lot of fun to work with," said coworker Gary Woodruff, who joined the maintenance department in 1972.

Woodruff recalled how Elswick has changed in the past 38 years.

"He's 40 to 50 pounds heavier," he said with a laugh.

Elswick, 62, of Sandusky began work at the amusement park May 12, 1969. He was put to work on many of the park's smaller rides, and small cars became his area of expertise.

As the years passed, Elswick was promoted to bigger projects, which led to the highlight of his career.

His favorite memory took place in the 1980s when the park's 330-foot-tall Space Spiral ride became stuck halfway through its ascent. About 14 people were trapped inside the ride's cabin, he said.

Elswick and a team of workers were called to climb the structure and find the problem. It took almost all day to get the cabin to the top, and the patrons were escorted down from the tower.

Days like that he will miss.

"Climbing rides ... it's the excitement of it," he said. "It's a big rush."

His favorite ride to climb at the park was Magnum XL-200.

"I can't climb no more like I used to," he said. "It's time to let someone else do it."

That someone could be Elswick's son, David, who also works in the maintenance department.

It was a family affair for almost 20 years.

Elswick's wife, Priscilla, also worked at Cedar Point for many years. She joined in the celebration Wednesday afternoon.

"I think it's good," she said about his retirement. "He's ready."

Elswick's plans include fishing, traveling and digging for gold and gems. He said he plans to return to the park to visit with his grandchildren.

"I'll probably be in and out," he said. "(My grandchildren) really love this place."

Woodruff, Elswick's longtime friend, said he will miss his coworker's attitude and knowledge.

"His skills -- he knows a lot of the old ways," Woodruff said. "I'll still see him after work. He'll probably pop in to see what's going on. I think he's going to miss the place, too."