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Thursday, May 21, 2009

When the sun sets on Memory Lane

How are your childhood memories holding up these days? Mine are taking a beating! No, not just because I'm getting older and less inclined to remember things from 30+ years ago, but also because the places with which I associate my memories are vanishing.

Yesterday's announcement that Kiddieland would be closing down soon made me awfully sad. Kiddieland seemed magical to me when I was growing up. It was inexpensive and close to home, and yet almost as exciting as our annual vacation in the Wisconsin Dells - and that was pretty darned fun. When I began taking graduate level classes at Dominican University in River Forest a few years ago, one thing that made the long commute bearable was a glimpse of the multi-colored, glittering lights of this childhood wonderland. My siblings and I have many a tale to tell about happy nights at Kiddieland.

Did you have a favorite ride or attraction? Those cool dune buggies with the horns that really worked? The tiny little cars you pumped with your hands, using a circular wheel? The tractors? The miniature Ferris wheel? Were you one of those lucky kids who had a birthday party at Kiddieland, complete with transportation in a fire engine? Feel free to post your comments and memories below.

Without getting too personal, my high school just shut its doors after 43 years (the school opened the year I was born and shut during the year of my 25th reunion - NOT that I'm taking it personally!). While I attended high school, I lived very near to the abandoned "Adventureland" amusement park, and currently live close to the eerily silent "Santa's Village" complex. In today's paper, I read a story that must have shocked many a resident of Des Plaines - Sim's bowling alley will shut down in the next few weeks, another victim of foreclosure during tough economic times. My parents often reminisce about days at Riverview, and the many elegant ballrooms, stores and theatres in early 20th century Chicago - many of them gone.

You can't escape what some call "progress," but how do you share the memories and relive these simpler pleasures that brought you joy? You may enjoy perusing a series of books called "Images of America," many of which cover subjects specific to Chicago and the surrounding suburbs. For example, there are volumes on: Chicago's State Street Christmas parade, Riverview Amusement Park, various ethnic groups such as Czechs and Italians, Route 66, and suburbs such as Glenview and Palatine. To find these volumes, just go to our Catalog and search "images of America." The "Voices of America" series has similar titles.

The Internet is another place to relive your favorite childhood memories and meet up with like-minded people. For example, the sad news about Kiddieland made me curious to see how some of the old rides are holding up - and sure enough, there's a Flickr photo sharing group just for pictures of the park! Visit it here, it will make you smile.

Looking for something livelier than photographs? You will be amazed by The Museum of Classic Chicago Television, aka "Fuzzy Memories." If you remember the 7 year plus waiting list to get on Bozo, if you remember the old "Dispensa's Kiddie Kingdom," "Empire Carpet" commercials, Svengoolie or the simple fact that it was "North West Federal Savings time, 63 hours a week!" you have to check out the Fuzzy Memories of this online museum. You'll also find video snippets from locally aired national shows, like "Don Kirshner's Rock Concert," which kept me up WAY too late on many weekends, and what can best be described as local oddities, like the "Starbeat Presents What's Happening" jingle! The archives at this site are constantly growing and there is always something new to make you laugh out loud and transport you to days gone by.

Need help locating information on your childhood haunts and memories? Just ask as the Reference Desk, we're always happy to help. Oh, and if anybody out there knows - what' s going to happen to The Depot pizzeria once Sim's closes? I LOVE that pizza!!!! Thanks to Web site Mildred's House of Signage for the beautiful photo of the Kiddieland sign.


  1. Ah Kiddieland! Grandma and Grandpa treated our family to a trip there this last Sunday, and wow, it DID it ever bring back memories. It still has that vintage charm, though perhaps not a vintage price tag at $23 per adult / $20 per kid price tag...) My two year old loved the "choo choo" and the flying elephants. The four year old loved the merry-go-round and the vintage car ride - she rode the bike you "petal" three times.

  2. The North Avenue (at First Avenue) Kiddieland was the biggest Kiddieland in my youth. It was further away from where I lived so we didn’t go there too often. However, I remember the kiddy land on Harlem north of Irving Park. It closed when the bigger KiddyTown opened just south of it. Dad would drive out there often, maybe not every week, but maybe twice a month. Then too we’d go to the Hollywood Kiddieland on Lincoln Avenue next to Lincoln Village Shopping Center. It had a bigger little train that even the adults could ride comfortably. Later on there was a Kiddieland on Skokie Blvd. south of Golf. It had a wild mouse ride. Of course, we lived about six or seven blocks away from Riverview Amusement Park. Dad and I always walked there at least once a year. Eventually, when I was in high school, I started working at Riverview, first at the concession stands and then at Skeeball and at other games. The Chicago area once was home to a lot of kiddielands. Some of my friends love rollercoasters (Riverview had five or six, depending on how you count them) and travel to amusement parks all over the country with ACE (American Coaster Enthusiasts). Chicago was home to a lot of candy companies too.
    ~Toozer’s Dad

  3. Santa's Village and Kiddieland both bring back memories. I went as a kid and as an adult taking some nieces and grandnieces. While neither place was as thrilling to me as an adult (and quite a bit more expensive) the kids with me thought it was great. (And these were seasoned amusement park kids who had been to Disney World more than once.)

    I also remember Riverview as a wonderfully sleazy park with all the carnies shouting down the midway and the roller coasters and the chutes and other rides. Radio stations often offered free admission and you paid for individual ride tickets. They just don't make them like they used to certainly applies here.

  4. Bowling alleys are another blast from the past. I grew up on Chicago's south side so Sim's was not a part of my childhood, but my Dad was in a church bowling league on Friday nights, and since Mom worked evenings, Dad would pack my sisters and I into the station wagon (another thing you rarely see these days)and we would run all over the bowling alley while Dad tried to bowl and keep track of us.(Not an easy task) We got cokes with every beer frame!

  5. I wonder if bowling alleys are going to disappear like other pop cultural staples? I joined a bowling league when I was in 4th grade. Our team was named The Gutter Balls (not our choice) and we quickly lived up to our name, coming in dead last. I got better as I got older! Bowling was always a cheap, fun date in high school and college, too, and it seemed to be making a comeback a few years ago. A friend of mine is a waitress at a bowling alley in Phoenix, AZ and that place is always hopping!

  6. Speaking of bowling alleys and team names ... my Mom and Dad and two younger sisters were part of a bowling league some years back. Because their last name was Keate, and there were two pairs of bowlers, they named their team the Parakeets. (pair - of - keates) I wonder if bowling is still a cheap date?


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