Each time Thomas Lindley strolls through his parent’s house in Oklahoma, a special wall of framed faces takes him back to being a little boy on vacation in Branson.
“That wall is the story of us,” says Lindley, who lives near his folks in Broken Arrow. “Those 30 tintype photos represent 30 years of making memories with those I love the most – three decades of laughter I can still hear when I close my eyes.”
Thomas’ parents, Don and Juanita, always insisted on taking a family photo first thing on each trip to the park. “We’d walk in and know the drill – photo first, then go have fun!
Thomas didn’t realize how much the tintype tradition and annual season passes would mean to him once he grew up and became a father himself.
The one they lost was Thomas’ beloved grandma “Nanny.” Of all The City trips they’ve taken, he holds extra tight to the memory of one special Christmas at Silver Dollar City ---Nanny’s last.
“We knew she was getting sicker, so the entire family came up with a plan to make one more trip to Branson with her,” he says. “We got her a motorized scooter and she was able to see all of the Christmas lights and watch the parade with her family. She was such a trooper! The weather was so cold that year but we didn’t care at all. It’s almost like our hearts melted and warmed us right up!”
The Lindley family lost Nanny later that year. Through their grief, they found comfort in knowing they’d pass down her traditions and her love of the park. Thomas and Martha now have three children, ranging in age from 6 to 12. Their oldest, Tommy, might just be a Silver Dollar City superfan.
“When people would ask him what he wanted to be when he grew up, he’d tell them the mayor of Branson and the boss of Silver Dollar City,” Martha laughs. “It’s safe to say that our Silver Dollar City traditions will be safe someday with Tommy.”
Tommy, of course, is featured in the tintypes but has started his own Silver Dollar City traditions. Now 12 years old, he’s carried a special backpack named “Puppy” to the park on each visit since he was one. He collects a special pin or keychain on each trip and attaches it to the bag.
“Poor puppy,” Thomas laughs. “You can’t even really tell it’s a dog anymore because it’s so covered in buttons. But, that’s part of Tommy’s story. It’s a good visual reminder of how important the park is to our own kids.”
There’s another item always stowed away in a “Puppy” pocket – a crocheted Baldknobbers hat Tommy got from one of The City’s shops years ago. He lost it one time and the family went on a wild goose chase to track down the crafter to get another one.
“We have so many little stories like that from our years coming here,” Martha smiles. “The people here will do whatever they can to make sure guests have a good time. You don’t forget things like that!”
Thomas can vividly remember being Tommy’s age and how Silver Dollar City felt like “his park” too.
“We’d plan one big trip each summer to Branson and we’d look forward to it all year long,” he remembers with a smile. “We’d plot out our day, which always included a ride on Fire In The Hole and a trip down to Marvel Cave. I’ve been coming so long, I actually think I’ve witnessed stalagmites and stalactites growing together!”
Their children are growing faster than those marvels in the cave, so the Lindleys make sure Santa keeps up his own tradition – giving the kids the gift of season passes.
“It sounds cliché but they’re the gift that keeps on giving,” she says. “They will excitedly get that pass and look forward to the entire year and all the festivals. When you think about it, there’s absolutely no doubt about it, the gift of time together is the greatest gift of all – an opportunity to add more memories to our wall.”