I went to Six Flags Over Georgia just one time and was so traumatized by the experience I never went back.{span class=”print trim”}

Kennedy, Thornton rgb

Thornton Kennedy

It had nothing to do with the roller coasters or the other rides. I didn’t get lost or kidnapped. There was no food poisoning. None of the characters terrorized me.

Rather I saw a grown man melt down in a parking lot. I decided then and there, at the tender age of 6 or 7, that if this was part of the amusement park experience, I’d rather not.

It holds true to this day.

The Six Flags Over Georgia in Austell opened in 1967. It was the second location, the first being in Texas. Even though they had the same name, the six flags represented the flags that flew over Georgia: Spain, France, Great Britain, the United States, the Confederacy and the state of Georgia. I guess Texas, too, had seen six flags fly above its soil at one time or another.

My oldest brother’s birthday is in July, and our father decided to take him, a few of his friends and my middle brother and me to the amusement park to celebrate. A quick note here: out of respect for my brothers, I don’t use their names in these columns per their requests.

This decision was out of character for my father, Alfred Kennedy. To put it delicately, he doesn’t do well in public places. As the head of the Atlanta Opera for many years, his idea of an appropriate summer activity was bringing us to rehearsals at the Woodruff Arts Center in Midtown.

It was a long day at Six Flags, and things started going south as the day drew to a close. My father couldn’t find my brother and his friends. He’d find a few, tell them to stay put, then go off to find the others.

It took a while to get everyone in one place. As the youngest, I had to stay on the bench that served as the meeting spot the longest.

When he finally had everyone in one place, he lectured us about staying together even though our day was done. As we walked across the huge parking lot, my two brothers started fighting.

I was hot and tired, so my father picked me up and tried to get his other two sons to stop yelling at one another.

Suddenly he stopped and looked around in a circle. He spun around, confused.

What he said isn’t printable and should not have been heard by young children. He marched up and down the rows of cars with me in his arms, a little group of my brother’s friends trailing, and my brothers about to start physically fighting. He kept walking and looking, occasionally telling my brothers to be quiet in a less than pleasant way.

The blue station wagon with the wood paneling was lost.

After a while, we all walked back to the entrance of the park, and our father started arguing with the park employees about the car as if they were somehow responsible. He left us there to find it on his own, angrily storming off into the sea of vehicles.

We waited on the sidewalk for what seemed like an eternity.

He eventually found it with the help of a park employee and a golf cart, but he was not happy. We drove home in near silence. The only sound was the tires on the asphalt and my father muttering to himself, under his breath, something about him never doing this again.

Even though it wasn’t meant for me, I heeded his advice.

Buckhead resident Thornton Kennedy is the president of PR South, a public relations firm, and a former news editor of this paper. He can be reached at tkennedy@prsouth.net.

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