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, Kiddieland 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 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. 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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