Goodbye, Kiddieland, Et Tu, Kiddytown!

The last of the largest amusement parks for children in Chicagoland is now a memory.  Family owned and operated since 1929, ©pixeljones_2009Kiddieland closed forever September 27, 2009.  The family was split on what to do with the park and land; the land being primo real estate.  This dispute between the two sides of the family has lasted for years.  The property is located in the Chicago suburb of Melrose Park.  Kiddieland occupied the corner of 1st. Avenue and North Avenue right across the street from Maywood Park racetrack.  I can just imagine the dads that dumped the wife and kids off at Kiddieland and headed across the street to bet on the ponies.  My wife took my daughters there many times when they were young.  I never stepped foot in the place.

Don’t start thinking bad things about me for not ever going there with my kids as I was at work (or maybe across the street).  And I never made it there during my childhood either.  I don’t think I knew it even existed.  We had our own scaled down version of Kiddieland called kiddytown_lil_dipper_thbKiddytown in our neck of the woods.  Kids that were lucky enough to have their birthdays in the summertime used to treat the entire block to a birthday celebration at Kiddytown.  We were picked up in a miniaturized version of a fire engine, courtesy of the park, and whisked away to a magical afternoon spent riding child-sized amusement rides.  The only info on the internet of what became of Kiddytown mentions their Li’l Dipper roller coaster.  When Kiddytown’s days were over in the mid-60′s the coaster was sold to a small amusement park in Hillcrest, Illinois and when that park closed it was sold to an amusement park in Marshall, Wisconsin, Little Amerricka.  (I don’t get the spelling either!)  The photo above shows one of the only views of Kiddytown that I was able to find.  It was taken from the roof of the Wieboldt’s  department store directly south.  Click on it for a full version but it’s not very good.  There’s something about shooting a picture of a white roller coaster on a cloudy winter day with snow on the ground in black & white that just doesn’t make it.

I surfed over to the Little Amerricka site to see the Li’l Dipper.  It was the first roller coaster I ever rode and was eager for the nostalgia seeing it again in all its white and steel glory.  Well, not quite.  It turns out that the former owners of the ride sold Little Amerricka the plans for the coaster, not the original coaster.  The wood structure of the coaster looks like the treated wood you’d use on your patio deck.  Then it dawned on me that after 53 years the wooden parts would probably have rotted or been eaten by termites!  I guess the cars are the original but I don’t remember.  And the new owners renamed it the “Meteor”.  Sigh, another childhood memory lost.

Again time marches on and things change.  The property that Kiddytown once inhabited is now a bank and parking lot.  A little to the southeast was at one time reserved for a Howard Johnson’s restaurant.©Francis_Miller_Time_Inc Across the street from Howard’s was a drive-in restaurant named Bon-Bon’s; think they had car hops, too.  And a bit further south was the Harlem Avenue Outdoor Theater.  All of these places are gone.  The latter two replaced by strip malls. Ugh!  My Americana is vanishing at a fast pace; I wish I would have taken more photos.  But one of the last relics of my childhood had survived for some time.  Though the company had been out of business for years, their signage was still around because nobody wanted to pay the price to remove these behemoths.  They were huge so they had staying power!

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16 Responses to “Goodbye, Kiddieland, Et Tu, Kiddytown!”

  1. I will miss Kiddieland.

  2. Your memory is not all lost, only the name. We right the now named Meteor at Little America all the time and it is great. You can definitely feel the past every time you ride it. They did a great job putting it back together. The only picture you have looks just like it, except for the white paint. I would believe with the hard, Wisconsin winters treated wood was the best option to keep it up and running for many years. Little America is only about 20 minutes west of Madison, just north of I94 and only a couple of hours from where this once was. That ride and other rides from the Scrambler to the Tilt a Whirl remind you of the how things used to be when fairs came to town. Great job on your web site keeping memories of lost parks like this one alive.

  3. Nice! I lived near Kiddytown. Had one of those birthday parties with the firetruck picking up my friends, too! I remember working (helping out) collecting tickets for the train. Spent a lot of time there. The picture could have been taken near the end when the rest of the park was dismantled. And the view across the street is of Starks Warehouse. Another frequent haunt of mine. Plenty of army surplus stuff to play with and just about anything else the owners could get their hands on to sell. The owners were from the Rose family (as in Rose Records). Thanks for the memories!

  4. Hi – I’m too young to remember Kiddytown, but here’s a postcard of my mom’s that I scanned.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/15381845@N04/4271630641/sizes/l/

    • Erica RIzzio, Tampa FL Says:

      Hi! What a thrill to see that postcard! KiddyTown was my Grampa’s amusement park and I’m just now (yeah, all these years later) trying to “trace my roots.” So, thank you.

  5. Steele Magnet Says:

    Thanks for the information. Before Kiddytown there was a train park called Kiddypark and they had G16 trains made by the Miniature Train Corp of Elmhurst, IL I own some of these trains and am restoring them. The very first park was in the 4800 block of Harlem.
    Does anyone know about that park or have any pictures?
    It had a ferris wheel, tilt a whirl and a
    G16 train. This was before Kiddytown.
    A G16 train is the same train as KiddieLand in Melrose Park ran.
    G16 trains can be regauged for 14, 15 and 16 inch gauge by changing the wheels.
    Little Amerricka is spelled that way because the owner’s name is Lee Merrick.
    Love a trip down memory lane.

  6. Warren, Los Angeles Says:

    OK how about Mrs Murphys ???? And the Huge Bowling Alley near where the Community Store and Mayflower stood ??
    And Holloway House Cafeteria ??? I remember the night my wife and I and a few friends watched Starks burn down. All the ammo went off !!!!!

    • WHat about Happy Day Stables and the coral lanes bowling Alley next to the Medinah Horse troop stables near Lawrence and Cumberland? When Turnstyle burned down you could hear all the cans of hairspray exploding.

  7. Does anyone have photos of Starks Warehouse, Halloway House cafeteria or Holiday Bowling alley? I grew up there and do not have photos. thank-you!

  8. Erica RIzzio, Tampa FL Says:

    Gee, I hope you’re still reading your blog comments. I’m not even sure you’re still online now. But…I’m the granddaughter of the original owner of Kiddy Town (Harold Greenwald) and remember riding a min-train?? Anyway, I was thrilled to stumble on your ramblings about my Grampa’s park. Thank you so much, especially the picture!!

    • radiojunkie2006 Says:

      I’m sure I rode every ride in the park except for the pony ride; that was for the girls. ; ) My favorites were the gasoline powered tractors, Li’l Dipper roller coaster and the hand cranked train. The birthday parties were celebrated in a covered patio area. I don’t know if the cake was provided by the park but the ice cream was. It was served in an individually wax paper wrapped brick about 3x2x1 inches and on a hot day in July would quickly melt into vanilla soup!

    • There are more pictures on facebook somewhere.. I ran across some by accident some time ago . Sorry I do not have the link.

  9. Steele Magnet Says:

    We have the Kiddypark train up and running in Iron River, MI.
    What a great piece of history. I rode the train when I was a kid.
    Also remember bags of broken cookies at Maurice Lenell and
    Aunt Jemima’s(not politically correct today) and The Hub!!

  10. I grew up (0-10) in Chicago. Around Marmora and Fullerton and near Riis Park. In 1957 my family moved to Norridge . My dad was a welder and mechanic and worked at Mars Candy in Oak Park. He also did welding and ride maintenance at Kiddytown. I spent hours upon hours in Kiddytown, not only with my dad but also by myself and with friends. I can never forget the game arcade. Played some of the greatest pinball machines ever. Remember the loud clunk sound when you’d win free games?? The Holiday Bowling Alley was farther north on Harlem and Lawrence. Anyone remember Nino’s Pizza across the street from the Holiday Bowl? One the the first McDonalds was also on Harlem (west side of the road) between Montrose & Lawrence.

  11. The bank is now part of the HIP which became a mall and enclosed everything including the spring/summer time favorite little village laid out with real working stop lights for little little kids to learn about crossing the street. You also did not mention Thompson’s bakery which had the very best pastry.. or the Lyon and Healy store which became Rolling Stone records. What about Starks Warehouse? who did not buy things from them? Or… Turnstyle store at Harlem and Foster? The Thirsty Whale in River Grove? I think Kiddietown has a facebook page… I have seen other pictures fit on there…
    Thanks for the post.

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