Friday, December 15, 2017

Kiddy Town Amusement Park, Norridge, Illinois. (1953-1964)

Kiddy Town was located at the north side of the Harlem Irving Shopping Center, 4250 N. Harlem (at Cullom Avenue) in Norridge, Illinois. They opened in the summer of 1953.
An aerial view of Kiddy Town looking north. Harlem Avenue is on the right with part of the Harlem & Irving  Shopping Center shown at the bottom. Long gone Howard Johnson’s is shown at the bottom right. At the top right is the 35 foot electric Kiddy Town sign located at the intersection of Cullom and Harlem Avenues. The sign has a clown pointing towards the 450 parking space area with his other arm waving patrons in by way of flashing neon lights. This photo was taken in the off-season sometime in the late 1950’s.
Some of the rides were the Tilt-a-Whirl, an Allan Herschell Co. Merry-Go-Round, 
Philadelphia Toboggan Co. Little Dipper (purchased it for $6,000.00 and installed in 1956), Mangels Co. Whip, Boats and Sky Fighter, Herschell Kiddie Tanks, Eyerly Co. Midge-O-Racer, Handcars, Gasoline powered Cars, a Tractor ride, a 5 car Ferris Wheel, and a Miniature Train with twin diesel engines. Pony rides were also available at the 5-acre park.

The kiddie train had a 150-foot curved tunnel, bridge and elaborate depot for the 2,000-foot miniature railroad. The Ferris Wheel was “kiddie sized” with the riders locked into cages for the duration of the ride. The Handcars were self-propelled cars on little train tracks; a rider would sit on the car with their leg stretched forwards and their hands paddling a bicycle peddle-like device.

On the weekends, sometimes a small red fire engine with “Kiddy Town” written on its side would sound its loud siren telling all the children in the neighborhood that some lucky kid is having a birthday party and they’re all going to Kiddy Town. Their first ride, of course, would be in the fire truck. Each year in September the organization of the Bakers Club of Chicago would rent the whole park and treat as many as 500 orphaned children to a day at the park. Besides the rides and hot dogs, the children would receive specially baked cakes and cookies. Sometime in the early 1960’s, Kiddy Town closed down and sold all the rides.

As many other Chicagoland "Kiddie Parks," Kiddy Town had a fire truck which was used to pick up birthday party guests at their homes and deliver them to the amusement park. When the truck wasn't picking up party goers, it was used as a ride in the park. 

Hillcrest (Amusement) Park in Lemont, Illinois purchased the "Little Dipper" wooden roller coaster for $6,000.00 but it cost them $66,000.00 to move it. It reopened in 1967 in Hillcrest Park where it thrilled youngsters until that park closed in 2003.

The "Little Dipper" was bought and moved to a small amusement park in Wisconsin called Little Amerricka Amusement Park (formerly Little A-Merrick-A) in Marshall, Wisconsin (owned by a family named Merrick) when Hillcrest Park was closed in 2003. The Little Amerricka Amusement Park is still open. The "Little Dipper" was renamed the "Meteor" and was operational for their 2007 season.


VIDEO
Take a ride on the "Little Dipper" roller coaster, now named the "Meteor" at Little Amerricka Amusement Park in Marshall, Wisconsin.
Ride the "Meteor" in first-person point of view.

Kiddy Town was replaced by the Unity Saving Bank and their parking lot. Now the location is a Panera, Chipotle, Forever Yogurt, Red Robin Sports Authority, X-sport Fitness and Mattress Firm.

Visit the Gift Shop.



Photo by Carol Houfek.



Photo by Walter Rieger.
Photo by Carol Houfek.

The Little Dipper Roller Coaster. Photo by Walter Rieger.

This photo was taken after Kiddy Town’s final season from the roof of the Wieboldt’s Department Store in the Harlem Irving Shopping Center. The last ride to be moved was the Little Dipper roller coaster. The Little Dipper was a mirror image of the Little Dipper at Kiddieland in Melrose Park, Illinois. Across Harlem Avenue at the top of the picture you can see Stark’s Warehouse (open 7 days a week). Stark’s had a warehouse of army surplus stuff to sell.
The last ride to be taking down and moved was the Little Dipper roller coaster in 1966. Hillcrest (Amusement) Park in Lemont, Illinois purchased it for $6,000.00 but it cost them $66,000.00 to move it.
By Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

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