Friday, February 24, 2017

Kiddieville (Amusement Park), Niles, Illinois. (c.1936-c.1966)

Amusement Park Name History: 
Kiddieville (Amusement Park), Niles, Illinois (ca.1950 – ca.1966)
East Maine Miniature Rides, Niles, Illinois (ca.1939 – ca.1949)
East Maine Miniature Train, Niles, Illinois (ca.1936 – ca.1939)

Long ago, the property at the very north end of what is now Golf Mill shopping center was owned by farmers John and Anna Schwinge (pronounced 'swing'). He owned the 80 acres bounded by Greenwood on the west, Golf road on the north, the Bruhn farm on the south (approximately where Emerson Street is now) and crossed over Milwaukee Avenue.
Sometime around 1935, Anna Schwinge was approached by a carpenter from the northwest side of Chicago named Herbert Fritz (a relative of Art Fritz, the founder of Kiddieland in Melrose Park, Illinois in 1929), who had purchased a miniature train in Chicago. He didn’t have room for it in the city, so Herbert offered to purchase 10 acres from Anna. It was a nice location, on the northeast corner of the Schwinge's property, which was located at the southeast corner of Golf Road and Milwaukee Avenue (Milwaukee Avenue was the only paved road back then). Anna agreed, and by the following summer, the “East Maine Miniature Train” was selling Rides for 3 cents to all the area families and travelers from the City. There was a story about Herbert Fritz attending the Bruhn-Pries wedding in the late 30s and took the entire wedding party on a midnight train ride. The train track was a huge oval running north and south along the east side of Milwaukee Avenue up to Golf Road at the north end of the property.
Over the next few years, Fritz and his wife, Laura, bought and built new rides, including pony rides. Three years later they changed the name of the park from “East Maine Miniature Train” to “East Maine Miniature Rides.” Their son, Herby Jr., joined the armed forces in 1942 and after his tour of duty ended in 1946, he joined in the family-run business.

The business began to flourish as G.I.s came home from the war and started families. They added a merry-go-round, a boat ride, a Ferris wheel, a small car ride, a tilt-a-whirl ride, airplane ride, fire truck ride, rocket ride, and finally added the miniature roller coaster. The name was then changed to “Kiddieville” soon after.
Many of the local children and adults were employed at Kiddieville. The miniature railroad was expanded with more train cars and a longer track, which by then, had encompassed the entire ten-acre park.
There were plenty of jobs to be had there, from selling tickets, walking the ponies, operating a ride, or working in the concession stand. Some of the rides were rickety and unsafe, and Herby was sued a few times by riders claiming injuries.
Herbert sold the park in the mid-1960s and it eventually became the location of the “Children’s Bargain Town, U.S.A.” toy store (now the Toys R Us) and “Finks Links” miniature golf course and properties. 

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D.

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