Sunday, December 29, 2019

Brown Derby (Amusement) Park, Thornton, Illinois. (1930s-1960s)

Brown Derby Park was opened sometime in the mid-1930s by Fred Pliscott, this small amusement park had three major rides, one was the wild and crazy "Lindy Loop[1]," and five kiddie rides, including a merry-go-round.
The Lindy Loop Ride (named for Charles Lindbergh) made by the Spillman Engineering Company in 1929.
The canopy-topped ride featured cars resembling old-fashioned sleighs mounted on crescent-style rails.  Each car held two passengers facing each other. The "restraint" consisted of a single leather strap that hooked into a metal loop at one end of the seat. As the car moved over the track (similar to a Tilt-a-Whirl with peaks and dips), the car would slide freely along those runners. A pedal at the riders’ feet engaged a clutch to flip the car upside-down.
Looks Safe.
A modern version of "The Looper" 

John Petro was Brown Derby Park's Ride and Concession Manager. The park had ten games of chance, a penny arcade, two refreshment stands, a shooting gallery, a dance pavilion, a theater pavilion, an athletic field, and a picnic area.

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D.


  1. My family lived and worked at Brown Derby Park from 1957 to 1960. We ran a pony ride and petting zoo (Animaland). My dad and outside investors were in negotiations to buy the 10 acre park but were outbid by the Material Service Corp. who ran the allegedly "Worlds Largest Limestone Quarry" (by acreage.) The park used to be a farm and the outbuildings were repurposed for use by the picnic grove; the barn became the dance hall,the hay bale shed became the beer pavilion, and the chicken coop the outdoor kitchen. In the 20's the Brown Derby Lounge was built. A substantial, brick, 10,000 sq ft restaurant and bar was built with a large sunken dance floor, glowing stars on a vaulted ceiling, and a good sized stage suitable for medium sized bands. It was rumored to me to be a popular speakeasy with plenty of "B-Girls" working there. Its remote location allowed plenty of time to hide the liquor when a line of Elliot Nesses police cars was spotted coming down Halstead street to raid the premises. Around the same time a tacky , six unit "motor court"(cheap hourly rate motel) was built across Brown Derby Road from the lounge so that weary patrons and their "dates" could rest a bit before travelling home to Chicago, 5 miles north. The lounge was last used on New Years Eve in 1957 for a show by Jump Jackson and his band.Posters advertising the show were still on the walls when the quarry took over. The park's customer base was not so much for drive-by customers. The money was made catering to small to medium company picnics of 200 to 500 people. All companies had annual company picnics in those days. The attendees picnicked on the 100 or so picnic benches, played bingo at the bingo stand, ate catered meals from the kitchen stand, played baseball at the baseball diamond,listened to some local up and coming rock band in the dance hall, and rode the assortment of rides. When the park closed, Fred Pliscott took most of the rides to San Diego and started a kiddieland there, and the Lindy Loop was moved to a location outside of Joliet. They moved Brown Derby Road from winding thru the park to skirting along the south and west perimeters so they could extend the quarry westward. John Petro continued renting kiddie rides for picnics and other events for another 10-15 years in the south suburbs. The park is now part of a 300 ft. deep quarry. I still keep one of Johnny's kiddie rides set up by my barn to remind me of the "Good old Days.

    1. My dad was in a terrible car crash on Halloween of 1956. They came down brown derby road high speed and careened through the picnic grove and skidded across Halstead into the gate and pillars of the horse track. The driver died.


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