A Big Piece of Chicago’s Kiddieland Is Now In La Porte, Indiana
I was one of those lucky kids. My childhood was fun. I grew up with a great group of kids in my immediate neighborhood. My elementary school was half a block away, so no having to ride a bus. Since this was Chicago, the Lake (Michigan) was on the east side of downtown. And we had two amusement parks, one in the heart of the city (the legendary Riverview, on the northwest side of town) and Kiddieland was just to the west in Melrose Park.
I remember my parents taking me to Riverview, but it closed after the 1967 season, and I was really too young for most of it.) But Kiddieland was the coolest place on the planet for a little kid. This video gives you a pretty good idea of what the place was all about. For an eight-year-old, this was heaven. Everything was for my size and age.
(LiberTchick via YouTube)
My favorite rides were the choo-choo train and the bumper cars. They seemed gigantic back then, but I bet now they would look tiny. I remember when I finally was old enough to go by myself on the bumper cars, without mom or dad - ah the feeling of independence. I also loved "driving" those old-time cars that rode on a track like street cars. Kiddieland is where I tasted cotton candy for the first time and enjoyed many other rides.
Not to make this sound sad, but nothing lasts forever, and the value of the land was more than the heirs of the park could say no to, so Kiddieland closed after the 2009 season and is now a Costco, and the former horseracing track, Maywood Park, is, well, nothing. (quick side note: If you go to Google Street View and set the timeline for 2008, it has this eerie hazy cheesecloth-like filter effect, like a hazy look back into the past.)
But there is a happy ending to this tale. The historic miniature railroad, complete with the little locomotive and kiddie train ended up in La Porte, Indiana at the Hesston Steam Museum. This museum is just a couple of miles southeast of Four Winds Casino off I-94, on the Indiana side of New Buffalo. (I also read the little roller coaster is still running at Six Flags Great America, in Gurnee.)
If you have kids, how many of those kids love Thomas the Tank Engine? This is a dream come true for any kid who loves trains. And some of those kids grow up and keep on loving trains. I have a friend who loves trains as an adult and is a member of several train safety groups in addition to the fun stuff like this at the Hesston Museum.
(Memories by Wayne via YouTube)
I've said it many times. Winning the lottery would be nice, but my real fantasy would be to time travel. And this would one of the stops.