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LJWorld.com weblogs In the Dark

No More Joy in Joyland

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...the taste of sno cones, cotton candy, and popcorn mingled with late summer dust in the air......the smell of grease, the creaking of metal and wood, turning round and round and repeatedly glimpsing the grin of the clown......waiting, holding dad's hand, summer sun beating down making sweat trickle down my back until the cowboys finally duel it out on "Main Street"......feeling that rock of fear in my stomach burst into a thousand fragments of excitement as I make it onto the Tilt-a-Whirl, alone, for the first time......evening creeping slowly in until the incandescent bulbs burst to life, outlining the gentle curves of the white wooden roller coaster...I grew up in Wichita. I was a kid in the 70s. Like those of my generation and those a generation or two before me, I remember Joyland in its prime. I read today in the LJWorld that this once-beloved place where my father and I spent many a summer afternoon and evening is now overgrown with weeds and the target for vandals. It is soon to be sold and most likely razed for an office park.I remember hearing, though I cannot confirm, that the roller coaster was one of the last operating wooden coasters in the US. My friends and I congratulated ourselves every time we survived the coaster without catastrophe, considering all the stories of dry rot and termites we heard over the years. There was also the rumor of the reckless teen who stood up at the top and fell to his or her death. I think this cautionary tale had more impact on our behavior than those horrid accident films we would see later in driver's ed.I can't ever forget the mechanical maniacal grin of Louie the Clown, forever in motion, keeping time to the Wurlitzer at the carousel. Louie is apparently missing, whereabouts unknown, the object of a lawsuit. Even though he haunted me as a child, I hate to think of Louie being dismantled or discarded, that painted grin chipped or just...gone.Over the years I have been to many amusement parks. However, any time I have a dream set in an amusement park, it always resembles my faded memories of Joyland. I haven't lived in Wichita for 20 years, and only go back once or twice a year, so it's not as if this news is life-changing. But somehow, knowing that the place is going, going, gone is yet another reminder of how impermanent the past truly is. Unsettling to think a fixture of my childhood no longer exists.

Comments

NotMrRight 5 years, 5 months ago

Born and raised in Newton, Joyland was only a quick drive away in our 1950 Ford. No place was more fun for a kid to go.Then things got even better --- we moved to North Wichita! Closer to Joyland!

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LisaGreenwood 5 years, 6 months ago

Oh my gosh...how could I forget the Haunted House? Probably mild by today's standards. But such a thrill to ride in the dark next to a cute boy on those school-sponsored nights!And I immediately recalled the scent of burlap and the slightly giddy feeling from flying down that giant slide when I read mom_of_three's comment. I honestly think that was my favorite thing, even when I got older. Probably because it always had the shortest line and immediate gratification.I'm sure I've forgotten much more...thanks to all of you for adding to the memories.

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nurse 5 years, 6 months ago

Oh yes, I forgot! Did anyone ever get the experience of riding the wooden roller coaster at Elitch Gardens in Denver! Wow! Another great amusement park memory...

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nurse 5 years, 6 months ago

Lisa, thanks so much for reminding me of Joyland fun. You described it so perfectly - it was almost like I was there right now! My brother, sister and I grew up in a very small northeast KS town, but our bestest aunt and uncle and favorite cousins lived in Wichita! We spent many a great time at Joyland in the late 60's! As a child, I thought going to Wichita was like a dream come true - Joyland, the huge swimming pool off of Central, and Cowtown! Another old maid auntie was a cook at Cowtown and so we got to spend quite a lot of time there and also eat that yummy fried chicken, homemade biscuits, etc! Sure don't get to enjoy that any more..... Anyway, thanks for the walk down memory lane...

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AjiDeGallina 5 years, 6 months ago

Growing up, we used to have contests to sell school carnival tickets to the Boyles Joyland in Topeka. I remember thinking I was so cool riding on the bat-swings. I also remember the little boat ride with the mucus like green water that smelled like a sewage plant. I sort of miss it all. I also remember grandpa taking me to the one in Wichita and that clow freakin scared me.

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Bassetlover 5 years, 6 months ago

What a great blast from the past! In the early 60's, my family lived six blocks from Joyland for about two years. When the weather was nice, my siblings and I would sneak over to Joyland after school, financing our secret rendevouz with dimes shaken out of our piggy banks. The Cups and Saucers beckoned us as soon as we went through the magical gates, and then we summoned our courage to venture over to the Haunted House and ride through it's darkened abyss, holding onto each other in mortal fear that the monsters inside would really grab us.I learned how to swim in the massive swimming pool at Joyland. Took my first leap off a high diving board there, my fear of heights instantly shattered. And yes, that fabulous wooden roller coaster! As we would walk towards the park, still several blocks away, we could hear the screams from the riders on it's rickety rails. Two summers ago while on a busines trip to Wichita, I decided to skip out on an evening event and I asked the concierge at our hotel how to get there. I was giddy with anticipation the closer I got to Joyland. Talk about a burst bubble.....the humongous pool had been concreted over, the red and white roller coaster had long been dismantled, and not a single Cup or Saucer or Haunted House in sight. The entire park was surrounded with a chain-link fence and was completely locked. It was a ghost town. I was kicking myself for taking that little trip down memory lane, though I was not naive enough to think Joyland would stand still through time for the generations that would follow me. Thanks for this blast from the past. Almost 50 years later, Joyland remains my favorite childhood memory. If my mom only knew all the trips we made there without her permission.......

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mom_of_three 5 years, 6 months ago

Also grew up around and near Wichita in the, ah-hem, 70's and 80's, and have lots of memories of Joyland. Our school used to have a night at Joyland, with reduced tickets. And Joyland also used to give away tickets for good grades with some of the local tv stations. Didn't get to ride the roller coaster until I was 11, but always loved the big slide. the water bumper boats didn't arrive until I was a teenager, but rode them later at a company picnic. It survived a long time.

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prospector 5 years, 6 months ago

Joyland was good for Wichita. The proximity to the sewage treatment plant reminds me of a trip to a port-o-potty. A check of the wind was prudent prior to venturing out there.The wooden Fairyland roller coaster was moved and is in use at Western World(?) on I-35 on the north side of Oklahoma City.

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Matthew Fowler 5 years, 6 months ago

Hutchinson had sort of a "mini" amusement park called "Clown Town" that I remember visiting.

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The_Original_Bob 5 years, 6 months ago

I went to Joyland a few times in the 80s. Let's just say my memories of the place aren't the same. It really went downhill. Dodging gunfire is only fun if you don't get hit.

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Ann Gardner 5 years, 6 months ago

We lived in Wichita until I was 11 and I also remember that clown as something you wouldn't want to meet up with in a dark alley. Does anyone remember Kiddie Land, which was the other big Wichita amusement park in the '50s and '60s?

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oldvet 5 years, 6 months ago

dklamet... It was called "Fairyland Park". My dad's company had their annual summer picnic there every year and it was the high point of our young lives every summer. Plenty of food, pop, watermelon and, best of all, free rides all day. It was located at 75th & Prospect. If you google map that address it still shows the park's name but the satellite view shows some type of new development there.

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trombeck 5 years, 6 months ago

Lisa --Reading this brought back a lot of memories for me. I grew up in the Wichita area, too, and my family made a yearly pilgrimage to Joyland every summer. (For the record, I found the clown equal parts intriguing, entertaining and creepy.)The place seemed so huge when I was a kid. I often wonder how big it would seem if I went into that space now. Thanks for sharing.Terry Rombeck

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Sheila Hooper White 5 years, 6 months ago

Didn't there used to be some sort of batting cages, slide, mini golf on 23rd across from Hobby Lobby? I seem to remember something like that. I'm a life long Lawrencian and have seen many places come and go. The arcade by Perkins, the putt-putt golf, the skating rink, Royal Crest bowling alley. It's sad we just don't have anything like that here anymore and that you have to drive to Topeka or KC.

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Linda Hanney 5 years, 6 months ago

There was also a Joyland in Topeka. It is long ago closed. We didn't grow up nearby, but our children would have similar memories as you. The little amusement park provided many jobs for young people in the summer too.

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David Klamet 5 years, 6 months ago

Does anyone remember Fairland Park in KC? My memories of it make it a far more magical place then any modern amusement park could ever be.

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tangential_reasoners_anonymous 5 years, 6 months ago

Lisa,I recall a conversation in my college days about childhood "fixtures." For most of us, the places and spaces of our youth had survived the years. For one among us, though, the story was much different. Having moved repeatedly during his childhood, his family had occupied a number of homes. And, like many of us, as a young adult he had gone in search of them... only to find that none remained. All had become parking lots.

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