BACKTRACKING

 

Kiddieland – A Memory for a Dime

 

by Terry Hogan

 

I have long wanted to do an article on Kiddieland, but I had no real recollection of it nor did I have photos.  The Galesburg Public Library provided the photos and I relied on the help of a few friends for the recollections.  I hope you enjoy their memories and perhaps recall a few of your own.

 

Kiddieland was located on North Henderson Street in Galesburg.  The notes with the public library photo collection (available on the Internet), indicate that some of the photos were taken around 1972, suggesting it was still operating around that time.  This is later than my friends and relatives recall.

 

Kiddieland was a little bit like a county fair midway that didn’t move away.  For years, it was a mainstay of entertainment and fun for the young.  Its beacon would light up the sky at night, reminding children of what they were missing. My wife recalls sitting on the farmhouse porch and seeing the spotlight in the eastern night sky.  Another recalled “…many summer nights, seeing that beacon in the sky, and wishing, wishing, wishing I could be at kiddieland.

 

Several recall the bumper cars with delight or otherwise.  They had a common theme.  The bumper cars were the method of choice to “get even” with your brother or sister.  Joel Pounds, now a successful toxicologist, remembers clobbering his younger brother’s bumper car with “…a good clean solid hit” that “…knocked him clean out of the car”. Who among us would not have taken such a pleasure in striking revenge on a sibling for actual or perceived wrongs? 

 

On the receiving end, Linda Brown Tammen remembers her sister, Sandie, as being a very aggressive bumper car driver. Linda recalls that her sister “…scared the #$%@ out of me”. Perhaps it was just her sister’s motivation. Probably not surprising, Sandie recalls that the bumper cars were her favorite ride. Both sisters survived Kiddieland.  Linda is now a grade school teacher.  Sandie is an estate attorney, applying her aggressive driving skills on the roads of New Jersey and New York.

 

The Ferris wheel was another favorite of the older kids.  The seats were easily rocked to make life miserable for a younger brother or sister, or perhaps a “date”.  But another recalls a more poetic Ferris wheel.  Every Saturday night during the summers, she and a friend would be routinely taken to Galesburg for a swim in the pool, followed by a trip to Kiddieland. “I have wonderful memories of riding the Ferris wheel with the star lit sky all around us, my eyes still burning from the chlorine at the Galesburg pool.” 

 

Although the Kiddieland Ferris wheel was but a dwarf compared to the original at the Chicago’s World Fair, it appears to have brought pleasure in several forms. Galesburg’s own, George Washington Ferris, would likely have been pleased to find his invention, making memories, in his home town.  

 

And then there is the sad birthday story.  As a family birthday outing, the family went to Lake Storey for a picnic, featuring “Mom’s fried chicken” to be followed by a visit to Kiddieland.  However, in the reverie of birthday celebration at Lake Storey, the brother and sister ran in opposite directions around a large oak tree. They ran into each other.  One ended up with a black eye and a bad headache.  Kiddieland was cancelled and they returned to the farm. They were “devastated”. It is interesting what we stow away to remember 40 or so years later.

 

However, parents sometimes were right.  One recalls that her parents kept discouraging her from spending 10 cents on the boat ride.  But she would not relent, and finally she got to spend her dime. As she now acknowledges, “As my parents predicted, it was, in today’s lingo, quite ‘lame’.”

 

In the current world of $3 for a gallon of gas, it is nice to recall the day when a Kiddieland ride was only 10 cents and a $1 would make a good outing.  A niece recalls that she used to save up money, not in the context of dollars and cents, but rather in how many Kiddieland rides.  In today’s language, we’d call those earmarked funds, I suppose.

 

I suppose given Galesburg’s history as a railroad town, it was inevitable that a train ride would be an integral part of Kiddieland.  It apparently circled the perimeter of the park and was a ride of choice for the younger customers. It looked like quite the ride.  I wonder if it is still providing fun and pleasure to young children in a park or museum.

 

On a personal note, for these types of recollection stories, I often ask my mother about the subject.  While we apparently never went to Kiddieland when I was young, she did offer up that the owner was Saylor Conard.  Saylor apparently married my mother’s cousin.  He owned the Galesburg Amusement Park (Kiddieland) from 1961 to 1972, when it closed.  It was a family owned and operated business with plenty of work for the entire family.  Prior to Saylor Conard, Robert Green was reported to be the operator of Kiddieland for about ten years (Wilson, 2005). 

 

Step right up.

Only 10 cents a ride. 

One thin dime.

Just 1/10th of a dollar.

Make a memory.

 

References

Hogan, Louise N. 2006. Personal communications

Hogan, Louise Brown. 2006. Personal communications.

Pounds, Joel. 2006. Personal communications.

Sherman, Sandra Brown. 2006. Personal communications.

Tammen, Linda Brown. 2006. Personal communications.

Upper Mississippi Valley Digital Image Archive. 2006.  Internet- found at

     http://www.umvphotoarchive.org/cgi-bin/browseresults.exe?CISOROOT=%2Fgales

Wilson, Tom. 2005. Kiddieland filled children's dreams, memories. Galesburg Register                Mail, May 14, 2005 edition.

 

Acknowledgements

Photos courtesy of the Galesburg Public Library.

I appreciate the kindness of those cited who shared their memories with us all.