Monday, January 30, 2017

Playland Amusement Park at 79th Street and La Grange Road, Willow Springs, (now Justice) Illinois. (1950-1979)

When Playland Amusement Park opened in the mid-summer of 1950, it was in Willow Springs, Illinois, which was unincorporated then. The area is now Justice, Illinois. The park was located where the Sterling Estates Mobile Home Park is currently. Only a maintenance building remains today which continues to be a maintenance and storage building for Sterling Estates.
The park was a kiddie park operated primarily by the Rocco family. There was free admission to the grounds but you paid-per-ride.
The Rocco's are perhaps best known for being the developers and manufacturers of the Flying Scooters ride. Playland Amusement Park was a small showcase for Bisch-Rocco's kiddie and adult rides.
There were also several ride concessionaires in later years, some who moved to Playland Amusement Park when Riverview Park closed, including one person affiliated with the Adventureland in Bloomingdale, Illinois (advertised as Addison, Illinois).

The park itself was somewhat boomerang-shaped and looked more like a fair than an amusement park, with dirt and gravel walkways and no landscaping. The front and original section had mostly kiddie rides.
There was a great set of Lusse bumper cars and the chilling Pretzel Dark Ride. Also, this is where the last Bisch-Rocco Flying Saucer ride ran (a tilted, rotating platform with two additional platforms that rotated in the same direction, thus providing a whip sensation - see video below). A streamlined diesel train ran through a 300-foot tunnel.

Overall there were 30-40 rides during the parks life, including the Live Ponies, Kyle Express Train, Big Rocko, Octopus, Roller Coaster, Tea Cups, Carousel, Helicopters, Electric Street Cars, Lady Bugs, Little Rocko, Zig Zag, Ferris Wheel, Rollo Plane, Tilt-A-Whirl, Bumper Cars, Boat Ride, Jet Plane Ride, Swingin' Gym, Hand Cars, Sky Fighter Ride, Roto Whip, Cyclone, Mad Mouse, Zipper, Toboggan and the only Electric Bus Ride in the U.S.

The park closed quietly in 1979 with pressure from the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) expanding roadways. Sterling Estates' desire to buy the property and the competition from Chicago's newest parks, Marriott's Great America and Old Chicago Amusement Park, made the decision easy.


Playland Park 1969
Rare footage of Bisch-Rocco 'Flying Saucer' ride.

Ride example. Not from Playland.


Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D. 
Contributer: Roller Coaster Database


  1. Replies
    1. I grew up going there from a toddler to early college and date nights! I loved the place. It was close and affordable. One time my date and I went into the spook house and during the middle of the ride it stopped. People operating the ride starting making ghost noises and screams. After about five minutes I was about to climb out of the car when suddenly the ride started again. What a prank! Then we could hear the laughs as we were about to exit!

  2. Have so many mixed emotions Love going there as a kid worked there and got my friend a job Unfortunatley he was killed one night I was running the coaster he got lost in the moment and jumped over tracks and hit by coaster sad sad days followed But I always love that part as a kid in spring My sister and Brother and me with a handful of tickets eyes wild with excitement Paradise on the days we went So sad my last memory was my friends untimely death... Great photos I also ran every ride there on relief Mr rocco and his son were very nice to me always ..

  3. Really never knew this was where Sterling Estates was and used to see the maintenance building all the time, never knew it was once part of an amusement park, wish there was a side by side shot, before and after for it.

  4. Yes this place was a kids dream. I remember riding all those rides. The cars on the track. The water ducks. The spook house was super cool. That Mighty Mouse ride was like terror but fun. It was just so old school. You were walking on dirt paths and that was what made it fun.

  5. It wasn't so special during the day, but nighttime visits were magical. It really felt more like a carnival ... a bit bawdy, but so fun! The electric bus and t-birds ride were my favorites - mostly because other parks didn't have them. As much as I love carousels, theirs wasn't that special ... metal horses without the character of carved wooden horses. How many pennies were spent on the "movie star" cards in the vending machines? I know we bought a ton of them!

  6. I worked at Ford City in 1967 and 1968 when I was in high school, and several of us would go to Playland after work on a Saturday night. Playland had what seemed like a very 1940's atmosphere at night back then and was something of a glimpse into another time.

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  8. Remember it well! As special trip for Patrol Boys in 5th grade, Mr Novak set up a day just for us from Henry Ford II school in Chicago Ridge...1965

    1. I also went to Henry Ford in Chicago Ridge and went there on the Patrol field trip, but in 1966. Unfortunately, I have to agree with one of the other comments. I had been there many times at night with my family, and the lights and crowds made it exciting. I remember being very disappointed that day, as it had a completely different atmosphere. It was like peeking behind the curtain and seeing what I didn't expect to see. I never enjoyed Playland again after that.

  9. loved the t-birds as a kid....had my first date sad its gone

  10. I missed playland, I work with the ponies. Had so much fun. I wish it was still there, my grandkids will loved it.i met my first love there.

  11. I used to go there 1972-74. I don't remember a train in a tunnel. I'm wondering what happened to the tunnel? Did it get filled in at some point or is it still under the trailer park that is there now?

  12. Those really were the "good old days" When you're a little kid and your mom and dad took you there, it was the BEST.

  13. I remember going there back in 1969-70. My mom would take all 5 of us kids 11yrs to 5yrs old there and meet with Mr Rocco. I think he was a little smitten with my mom. He would hand my mom a bunch of tickets and she'd give them to us. We'd go on the rides, and Rocco and my mom would sit and have coffee. What a great time it was. So magical at night.


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