Fritz thought about how to expand his operation. Upon learning that a local newspaper was giving away gasoline-powered miniature cars to children as subscription premiums, he noted the names and addresses of the individual winners and soon followed up with offers to purchase the miniature cars. These became an additional attraction, along with the increasingly popular Pony Rides.
By the mid-30s, Fritz had given his little park the name "Kiddieland." This was before the era of the Kiddieland name being used for amusement parks for young children. It was the first known use of the name "Kiddieland." However, his attempt to register the trademark failed, the name eventually was used generically in reference to the type of park he envisioned - an amusement park with rides geared primarily toward children by the nature of their size and the speed and action of the mechanical rides.
Art Fritz has been credited with "launching a whole new development in the outdoor amusement industry." By 1940, Fritz had added the German Carousel, two Miniature Steam Locomotives, the Little Auto Ride, the Roto Whip in 1938, and a Ferris Wheel in 1940.
The 1940s brought the era of World War II and, as one might expect, delayed further growth and development at Kiddieland until the post-war years. Still, Fritz believed parents always found a way to bring their children out to the Park to make some memories and escape their problems of the day.
The Little Dipper was a light-hearted, breezy ride through a figure eight-track. The train tackled curvy descents and swift turns, racing at moderate speeds, making riders scream and giggle simultaneously. The car chugged through a whirlwind 700-foot-long track in about a minute. From a peak height of only 30 feet, the first drop wasn’t too steep but was still exciting enough for a little tummy tickle. The quick swoops, fast curves, and sudden switchbacks were jaw-dropping.
Six Flags Great America in Gurnee, Illinois was able to salvage the "Little Dipper" from Kiddieland in Melrose Park when it closed in 2009. The video below is of its twin sister, which is now operating in a Marshall, Wisconsin, amusement park.
Take a ride on the "Little Dipper" roller coaster. This is the twin sister of Kiddieland's Little Dipper that was first in Kiddy Town at Harlem and Irving Park Road from 1953-1964. Then Hillcrest (Amusement) Park in Lemont bought the Little Dipper and it was running for their 1967 season. 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). The Little Amerricka Amusement Park is still open. The "Little Dipper" was renamed the "Meteor" and was operational for the 2007 season. Videos by David Ellis.
Ride the "Meteor" (Little Dipper) in the first-person view
in this video by David Ellis.
in this video by David Ellis.
Ride the Little Dipper in the first-person view
in this video by David Ellis.
Ride the Little Dipper in the first-person view
in this video by David Ellis.
By 1950, Fritz expanded his dream of the perfect place for families to bring their children to have fun and laugh. Seven kiddie rides were added to the park; the Merry-Go-Round, a hand-carved wooden carousel that greeted guests as they entered the park and the Little Dipper, a small wooden roller coaster, one of only two in the U.S. There were several maintenance and storage buildings constructed as well.
By this time, Fritz's daughters and their spouses, the second generation, were well involved in the park's operation, and the park's growth and development continued throughout the 1950s. Some existing rides were replaced with others.
In 1962, the original Pony Ring was removed, the Scooters were installed in its place, and significant additional expansion to the park was made. By the late 60s, several thrill rides were purchased to appeal to older children and teenagers. Kiddieland was beginning its evolution into a family amusement park. At this time, Kiddieland was operating with about 20 rides and attractions. In 1967 Fritz died unexpectedly before he saw the Polyp, the last ride he purchased, installed and operating at Kiddieland.
Grandma Fritz (Anne) and the second generation continued to operate the park for the next ten years. Some of Fritz's grandchildren, the third generation, was also involved in the park's operation by this time.
In 1977, Kiddieland was purchased by three of Fritz's grandchildren and their spouses. Two of these families and their children, the fourth generation, were the Park's last owner/operators. The late '70s marked a change in the vision of Kiddieland's future. The growth and development were in the direction of "Fun for the Entire Family." Additions in 1978 and 79 included a game building and the Mushroom Ride.
Early in the 1980s, park growth and development continued with the addition of the ever-popular Race-A-Bouts gasoline-powered antique car ride that intertwined with the north loop of the train tracks and encompassed two small ponds. The original game building that was added in 1978 was replaced with a larger, more accessible building, and the Volcano Play Center was designed and built. This area was a play area designed to help enhance a child's motor skills with net climbs, a ball crawl, tube slides, and a kid-powered Raft Ride. These elements were built into and around a scaled-down realistic replica of a volcano and also included one of the most remembered and mentioned Kiddieland rides, the Hand Cars. The last major addition to the park in the 80s was the Galleon, a high-swinging, brightly lit pirate ship that was installed in 1986. Late in 1987, Anne Fritz, the wife of Kiddieland's founder, died.
In the spring of 1995, some reshuffling was done to accommodate guests' wishes for a bigger, better place to eat in the park. The Sky Fighter and the Umbrella Ride were relocated to the area previously used by the miniature gasoline-powered Tractors in order to make room for a new Food Court. At the same time, other renovations included rebuilding the old Popcorn Stand into an all-new Pizza Stand, and rebuilding the old front game building so that it now houses the Water Race Game & Can Alley Games along with the Guest Services booth.
|Among its attractions was a fire engine, which was used to pick up birthday party guests at their homes and deliver them to the amusement park.|
In 2004, a dispute developed between Shirley and Glenn Rynes, who owned the land that Kiddieland occupies, and Ronald Rynes, Jr. and Cathy and Tom Norini, who owned the amusement park itself. The landowners sued the park owners, claiming that the park had an improper insurance policy and that fireworks were prohibited in the lease. The case was thrown out in a Cook County court and later in an appeals court.
In 2008 the Kiddie Swing ride was installed at the entrance to the Volcano Play Center next to the Dip 'N Drop.
The landowners declined to extend the lease on the land in early 2009, and Kiddieland closed at the end of the 2009 season. In late June 2010, it was announced that Kiddieland would be demolished. Kiddieland had over 30 rides and attractions and was Chicagoland's oldest family amusement park when it closed forever.
Kiddieland's Little Dipper roller coaster was bought by Six Flags Great America and is still in operation today.
Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.
CLICK ON PHOTOS FOR A FULL-SIZE VIEW
|Photo by: Walter Rieger|
|Photo by: Walter Rieger|
|Six Flags Great America in Gurnee, Illinois was able to salvage the "Little Dipper" from Kiddieland in Melrose Park when it closed in 2009.|
Visit our Souvenir Shop on your way out.
Great article, thanks. Do you know what happened to the fire engine? I remember it picking me and a few friends up for my birthday sometime in the late 50's- early 60's I believe. Might have some old Polaroids of it.ReplyDelete
That sounds amazing. ☺Delete
Both are owned by a private collector in the western suburbs.Delete
I worked there during high school. What happened to the flying saucer ride & the boat ride (aluminum,with 4 steering) & what company made them???? ThanksDelete
So many wonderful memories riding the Tilt-A-Whirl and the Polyp, playing Skeeball and stopping for a lemon Italian ice before or afterward with my Dad, who grew up in nearby River Forest. It was such a special place.Delete
Too bad certain family members had to ruin it for everyone...not the dream their father had...ReplyDelete
It was the owner of the land that ruined it by not renewing the lease.Delete
I refuse to shop at the Costco on that property. Goes against my grain. Kiddieland was just awesome growing up. My kids were only able to experience it for about 4 years before it was closed down. That was a sad day indeed. Kiddieland was a true GEM!!!!!!! So sad that the family couldn't agree to keep it going. Greed got the best of them!!!!!!!!!!!! SHAME!!!!!!!!!ReplyDelete
The people that owned the land refused to extend the lease, NOT the family members.Delete
It was family members. Read the story. "In 2004, a dispute developed between Shirley and Glenn Rynes, who owned the land that Kiddieland occupies, and Ronald Rynes, Jr. and Cathy and Tom Norini, who owned the amusement park itself."Delete
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Neil is correct, of course. I was tentatively approached to appraise the property for the landowning family members but that never went ahead. I've been involved in a few other situations where dad thought it'd be a good idea to give the land to one kid and the business to the other, creating a landlord-tenant relationship between siblings (and eventually cousins, as I believe was the case here). Not a great idea.Delete
Me and my 1 year old son were the last on the train! So sad. Never Costco! NeverReplyDelete
It was going down whether or not Costco came in after.Delete
The article doesn't mention it, but the train ride was reduced to about half its former length at some point. It used to go all the way around where the golf range was.ReplyDelete
I remember the really really really long train ride!Delete
I looked up Kiddieland on Historic Aerials. From photos provided I think the Kiddieland train started as the shorter ride. It was extended to the golf range. Then it was shortened to it's original length.
my uncle owned the golf range and I can remember my aunt talking about Mr. Fritz. We went to Kiddieland many many times when I was a kid. Loved my uncle's mini-golf too. Good memories!Delete
Awww man, I wish this place still existed !ReplyDelete
I wish it was still there. Just an FYI the Little Dipper was bought and moved to Six Flags Great America in Gurnee where it's still operating today when the park is open.ReplyDelete
That's cool, have any other rides been preserved?Delete
I have heard that a few of the rides at the re-newed Santa's Village Azoosment Park are repurposed Kiddie Land rides.Delete
Kiddieland rides at Santa's Village Azoosment Park: Midge-O-Racers (1954-2009), Space Age Ride, an Umbrella Ride (1966-2009), and the Whip (1938-2009).Delete
My son's first rollercoaster ride was hear. Actually first rides were there. I still remember him pumping away on that hand powered train cart thing...can't remember name. But he was having such a great time.ReplyDelete
The Hodges Handcar was manufactured in Indiana and patented in 1934.Delete
Can you get links to the commercials? I was on one with my family. We were on the train!ReplyDelete
Does anyone else remember the little hand crank cars that went around a track? I didn't read any mention of them or see any photos.ReplyDelete
They were called Lava Run Hand Cars in their "second life" on the 2002 map, when I took my kids there. But when I was little, in the 60s, they were propelled differently. I loved the original ones - the later ones just weren't the same!Delete
Yes, my favorite ride was the hand cracked little train carts. I put an image in my profile pic to share!Delete
I remeber the little boats in the water. That was a fun ride. I have a picture of the sign.Delete
Growing up summers were special for friends and myself going to Kiddieland. We lived in Elmwood Park and travelled through the "forest preserves" which would lead us right across the street from the park. Fun times! The thrill of going there and riding all day is etched in my memory. Such a shame it had to close, greed no doubt.ReplyDelete
It was closed due to a family feud, as stated in the posted story.Delete
Land owners wouldn't renew the lease... second to last paragraph of the story.Delete
As stated in the story: "In 2004, a dispute developed between Shirley and Glenn Rynes, who owned the land that Kiddieland occupies, and Ronald Rynes, Jr. and Cathy and Tom Norini, who owned the amusement park itself."Delete
There is a book series at WALMART.COM about growing up in Elmwood Park & River Forest and working at Kiddieland. It's called "The bb gun wars of the 1980's" It really brings Kiddieland alive.Delete
This article brought back such fond memories of us with our chikdren at Kiddieland. They were always asking to go. Too bad it had to close.ReplyDelete
My deceased husband enjoyed working at Kiddieland for several years while he was in high school. He had a great time helping the children on and off the ponies and rides. He always remembered the experience with joy and fondness.ReplyDelete
We knew Tom Norini from Boy Scouts and we could tell he was sad that it was closing. We had fond memories of going there, the funniest was that my son (age 5 or so) thought we said we were going to KITTYLAND and he was sorely disappointed that there were rides there instead. He got over it, but it a fond memory,ReplyDelete
Funny. I used to think that was the way it was spelled...Delete
I have so many amazing memories of Kiddieland. My father worked here for a number of years and we spent a great deal of time at the park. Love the history re-cap so sad it had to end. Truly sad ending...ReplyDelete
The Pipeline really scared the crap out of me.ReplyDelete
Does anyone else remember a ride consisting of small hand crank cars that went around on a train track? You'd turn the crank with both hands and it would drive the car around the track. I seem to remember a ride like this from back in the early 60's but I don't see a picture of it here.ReplyDelete
Yes, it was called the Hand Cars. It was immensely popular. It was situated just behind the Flying Saucers and in between the Tractors and Roller Coaster.Delete
It was definitely there later than that...I started going in around 1978 and it was there for at least another 5 years...I remember when I got a little older I always wondered what happened to that, I used to love those when I was little!Delete
The sign was partially saved by the Village of Melrose Park and installed on the Melrose Park Library's north wall, at Broadway (19th) Ave. near Iowa St.ReplyDelete
Back in 1953 my family visited Kiddieland. The only thing I remember was my father talking me into riding the Little Dipper I was only 5 years old and scared to death. Later I brought my children and then my grandkids in the last month open. Four generations of happiness.ReplyDelete
Luckily I have hanging in my office an entrance to north Ave directional sign. bought it from an antique dealer that bought all the signs at the auction.my parents took me there and I took my kids there.ReplyDelete
Back in the 60's there was a Kiddie Land on 95th (where Evergreen Plaza is now) Then they moved to 87th west of Harlem near the over pass. It was also known as Kiddie Land. Next time I heard the name it was in Melrose Park. Are all these the same people or have they only been located in Melrose ParkReplyDelete
Green Oaks Kiddyland, 95th Street and Pulaski Road (then Crawford Avenue) Oak Lawn, IL.Delete
Different Amusement Park:Delete
Fairyland Amusement Park, Harlem Avenue and 40th Street, Lyons, IL. (1938-1977)
I was able to take my kids there before it closed, "Daddy go back there!"ReplyDelete
Are there photos or any information as to the gas-powered cars they obtained in the 1930s?ReplyDelete
our parents took us to kiddie land in the late 50s, my favorite ride was the hand powered rail car, our boys went to kiddie land in the eighties, after a fun day at kiddie land we would go to baronies' pizza in north riverside.ReplyDelete
All the gems have disappeared.ReplyDelete
I went to school with young Glenn Rynes at WMA in Wheaton Illinois during the late 50's and early 60's. He said that his grandfather owned Kiddyland but I forgot all about it until now! 😊 I wonder how he is doing today?ReplyDelete
I had a buddy who lived in the house behind the Little Dipper,,,ReplyDelete
What a shame...places like this are what made America Great.ReplyDelete
Our aunt and uncle would take us there every summer. we lived in Bloomingdale and they lived in Itasca.ReplyDelete
where is the cage that you build momentum and go completely over?ReplyDelete
I use to work at Kiddytown on Harlem ave and Irving pk road, I remember the owner of our amusement park sending us to buy a ticket and stay there till park almost closed and then bought another ticket to see how many people would attend their park and he would compare attendance with our park. We also had a roller coaster that was exactly like theirs, and many similar rides. I use to operate the roller coaster, and the tilt a whirl, we also had Two fire trucks for birthday parties and ride through the Harlem Irving Plaza!ReplyDelete
Kiddytown presentation https://drloihjournal.blogspot.com/2016/12/kiddytown-amusement-park-1950-1967.htmlDelete
I had many good years of driving the locomotive train around the park, Kiddieland you will be missed.ReplyDelete
Thanks for the memories of many visits to the park.ReplyDelete
Lived in S.P. from 1959 to 1968 my memories till entertain me now that I am 65 years old...loved my childhood!ReplyDelete
My Mom took me there many times in the late 70s and early 80s. Good memories.ReplyDelete
My brother took me on the Tilt-A-Whirl. There was a 3 ride limit, but because it was slow, they let us go on 6 times in a row. When I got off, I thought I was going to throw up I was so dizzy! Great times!ReplyDelete
Our 8th grade class trip was to kiddyland. At the time (78) we were all feeling far to sophisticated for the "childish" rides. 2 decades later I tried to take my children there at least once a year, for a summertime fun day. It makes me sad that one families greed stopped the fun, for the entire population of children and "bored teenagers", who used to take the bus and walk to get to the park. It was a wonderful and safe place to let children loose to "direct the day" and a favorite summer spot that they all begged for year after year.ReplyDelete
I had not read this history Neil, until just now. Kiddieland was just one town over from my hometown and we were lucky, as a large family, to go several times in the 1960s.. And drive past it so very often. Lots of happy memories there. Except the Ferris Wheel which little me thought she would truly enjoy but instead terrified me and I kept screaming, "make it stop, make it stop!" Learned I am not so fond of heights.ReplyDelete
My parents owned a park in East Dundee starting in the 50's until the 70's. As you can expect all owners knew one another and would check out each others operations- all except Mr Fitz. Dad was proud of the fact that Mr Fitz made the effort to come and visit his.ReplyDelete
some fond boyhood memories here.ReplyDelete
The Kiddieland Steam Train is running at the Heston, Indiana steam museum. Has anyone seen the red Gasoline Train? Both were bought by a guy from the south suburbs near Homers Glen. He owned a trucking company and a bunch of Gas City gas stations. The red gas train has not been seen since Kiddieland closed. Please help with any info.ReplyDelete
We Use to take our kids there quite often, however they always wanted to stop when they heard the Train Whistle as we traveled or tried to sneak past on North Ave with only 2 lanes at that time and then tears flowed when we couldn't 1950'sReplyDelete
Was there often in the 1950's - my Uncle Gus would drop me and Aunt Nonnie at Kiddeland while he went to racetrack across the street.ReplyDelete
At one time there was a sign by the trains proclaiming it to be "The Longest Miniature Train Ride In The U.S.A". I think I heard it was 1 mile un length.ReplyDelete
left chicago in 1976, bicentenial. all i remember was the hand pedaled cars and the moms sitting on a bench. adventureland? dispensa's castle?ReplyDelete
140+ DEFUNCT ILLINOIS AMUSEMENT PARKS - https://drloihjournal.blogspot.com/p/defunct-illinois-amusement-parks.htmlDelete
My family went there and so did my kids love the memories I have and pictures still to this day .Thank you for such a great place for familiesReplyDelete