Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Whoopee Auto Coasters of Illinois (1929-1930)

A unique ride of the times, the Whoopie Auto Coaster, opened in July, 1929, in the southwest suburb of Lyons.
It was a wooden track built in an undulating, 'hill-and-dale' style; patrons paid an admission fee to drive their own cars over this track, approximating the thrills of a roller coaster. Located at 47th Street and Lawndale Avenue, the Lyons Whoopie track was built and owned by the Coaster Construction Company, which had similar tracks in Kansas City, Detroit, Milwaukee, and Seattle.
In partnership with a local businessman named John Skale, the company announced it would build a full scale park on 23 acres surrounding the track; plans called for the erection of practically every kind of device... the kind found in old school amusement parks and traveling carnivals.
It seemed a good idea at first. Car ownership had boomed throughout the Twenties. Yet, after a couple weeks operation, the novelty of the Whoopie Coaster wore off; then, it was necessary to stimulate patronage by giving two or more rides around the track for a single admission. And after the stock market crash that October, drivers would become much more cautious about wear and tear on their cars. It was soon evident that the Whoopie track was a one-season wonder. By 1930, the Lyons track had closed, its proposed full-scale park never built."
At River Road and Irving Park Boulevard in Schiller Park, Illinois, the Suburban Amusement Company used 200,000 feet of number one pine lumber to construct what it called an "auto coaster." For just ten cents you could enjoy the thrills of "mountain driving" in your own vehicle. The Whoopee Auto Coaster at Waukegan Road near Willow Road in Northfield delivered the same excitement over a "mile-long plank road."

The Whoopee Coaster
By Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

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