Today's blog I thought would take us back to childhood. If you lived in the Chicago Land area like I did, you would probably by familiar with Kiddie Land in Melrose Park on North Ave and First.
I remember going there as a very young child. Kiddie Land was the ultimate in amusement parks for young children. The rides were geared to the younger children. I remember going there with my mother. What a wonderful treat that was. When you drove near the huge candy striped pole with the kids hanging on it, it just about made me jump out of my skin with excitement. I remember the first thing that I always wanted to do was to ride the train. It was big enough that an adult could sit in it. It took you all around the park. You went around and there were different things for you to see, but the biggest excitement came towards the end of the ride when you would go through this long aluminum tunnel and everyone would yell or scream. The sound reverberated and it was such a thrill just being part of it. Then it was onto the merry go round. I remember making sure to get on the horse that would go up and down. It was surrounded by a metal spiral gate. As you went around and around , you anxiously looked for you parent to wave to. The one vivid memory I had of the park was the boats...it is sort of funny when I think back on it now, but back then, I was a child, I was afraid of getting into the boat for fear that I might fall into the water. When I became an adult, I would look at the water which might have been about 8 inches deep...made me laugh like crazy. I remember riding around and around in the boat and pulling on the rope to ring the bell. It sure didn't take a lot to amuse us...now did it. I remember back then, in the 50's, you needed to purchase tickets to be able to ride anything. there were the games to play and of course the treat of cotton candy.
I remember years later when I became a teenager...I used to be taken there on dates. We would go into the arcades room and play the skeet ball for the tickets and of course my dates would try to win the stuffed animals for me. We would ride the Bumper cars and of course, the tilt a whirl. After we went there, we would go near by and go-carting! It was a real different experience to go there when I was a teenager.
Years had gone by and when I had children of my own, we returned for days at Kiddie Land. We would take the girls on all the rides from the rocket ships that you could face each other and shoot away with the attached guns or the mini roller coaster just for kids. As they grew older they advanced to the Ferris Wheel and bumper cars as well...but their favorite was the roller coaster named the Little Dipper. They would ride that over and over. They extended the ride section by then and put in this rocking ship that took you way up into the air from one side to the other. I remember the first time going on with them...I literally thought we might fall out. I wouldn't believe there was even such a ride, non the less that children could ride it. I looked over at my daughters who were in the middle and they were just laughing and having a grand old time! Next to that ride was the old time jalopies that ran on a course. It was always fun to watch them ride that with their father. There was the octopus...that was one ride that I really avoided like the plague, but my girls loved it. It was never just a couple of hour visit to Kiddie Land...It was an all day adventure.
I even recall taking the Girl Scouts there as an outing. It was a real test in stamina on that day.
More years had passed and now Kiddie Land had wrist bands that you could purchase so that the kids could ride all day long. That was an expensive entrance..Entry was $23 for adults and $20 for children ages 3-5 before 5pm, $3 less after 5pm. This seemed a little steep to me until I noticed that children under 3 are free, you could get $3-off coupons at Jewel and beverages were FREE! What a nice touch, especially on a hot day! And how refreshing to not spend an arm-and-a-leg to get in, only to be nickel-and-dimed-to-death on consumables while inside.
. It was amazing to sit on the same train with my granddaughters some 40 years later as we went around the circle on tracks. As I rode the train with them, I could view all the changes....The building around there had grown 3 times the size. They were packed in next to each other. You could now view the malls around the area. So different than when I was a child. But the excitement was the same. By now they had added a gym-like area. The children could climb on these army like ropes and play. I faced the boat ride now with laughter as I placed them into them and instructed them to ring the bell. Life at Kiddie Land had made a complete circle. From me to my daughters to my granddaughters. If that property could talk...it would speak of much happiness and joy, laughter and occasional tears. It was a comfortable place to be. It was the highlight of the summer to go there and see the smiles on the children's faces. We walked every inch of that land many times over. We met Clifford the Dog there with our grandchildren. We experienced it all. I awaited the time that perhaps I would be able to take Great Grandchildren there...but alas, Kiddie Land was closed. We hoped that it would be bought and reopened, but unfortunately, it was bulldozed to the ground in 2010. A Costco now stands where this historic amusement park once stood and entertained children for decades. I feel like Bob Hope in the end here when I say...Kiddie Land...Thanks for the Memories".