tml> Forest Park Amusement Park


Forest Park Amusement Park

     Amusement Park Swimming Pool     Forest Park Amusement Park statue
Casino, Forest Park 1909 Postcard     Night scene on the lake, Forest Park Postcard 1909     Forest Park Giant Safety Coster, the most elaborate and largest coaster in the United States 1909 Postcard     Steeple Chase Roller Coaster, Forest Park, IL     Finish on Steeple Chase, Forest Park, 1911 Postcard     Scene from top of Chutes towards entrance, Forest Park
Click on photos to enlarge. 
 Photos: Courtesy of the Historical Society of Forest Park

"'White City' Here: Work Begun Thursday on Great Amusement Park at Des Plaines Avenue and Harrison St." Oak Leaves. 11 November 1905.

     Next season Oak Park is to have a "White City" at its very doors.  The Beach Amusement company, which has bought of E. A. Cummings the seventeen acres on the west side of Des Plaines avenue just south of the Aurora electric line, broke ground on Thursday for what its promoters claim will be the most magnificent amusement park in the world.  A large party of Chicago, New York and St. Louis capitalists came out in a special metropolitan elevated car and the first spadeful of earth was removed with some ceremony by President Grosse of the village of Harlem.  The party included Oliver L. Brown of Chicago, president and manager; George P. Benson, secretary and treasurer; H. E. Rice of St. Louis, one of the owners of the Globe theater, manger and director of works; Joseph Biggs, superintendent of construction, who built many of the world's fair buildings at St. Louis; F. R. E. Woodward, director of publicity, who has served in a like capacity for the White City enterprise during the last year; and representatives of the firm of Kirby, Pettit & Green, the New York architects, after whose plans the park will be built.
     The Beach Amusement company was organized last year by men who had conducted such enterprises at Coney Island and elsewhere, with the intention of building a park on the lake front, but the site proved undesirable and the Des Plaines river site is the result.  It is said that the land alone cost about $100,000 and that the plans call for an outlay of $1,500,000 between now and next May, when the enterprise will be open to the public.  The natural grove of oak trees will be preserved as far as possible, a lake will be made in the center and the buildings will be elaborate and beautiful.  An immense electric rainbow, visible from Chicago, is one of the projected attractions, from which idea the name of Rainbow park is being used temporarily for the enterprise.  The company has offered a prize for a name, however, and the 20,000 answers will be opened and the name chosen soon.
     This site has been selected because of the remarkable convergence of transportation lines at this point, the Great Western, Illinois Central, Wisconsin Central, Metropolitan, Aurora, Lake street elevated, Suburban and four other lines of surface railroad, all reaching direct or by transfer, within a block or tow of this point.  The park will certainly rival the White City and will be a great stimulus to the improvement of transportation facilities for South Oak Park.

"Forest Park is Open: Amusement Enterprise Starts in - Lights put out by Mishap or Miscreants First Night." Oak Leaves. 13 June 1908.

     Last Saturday was the day of that long-waited-for event in Forest Park history, the opening of the grounds of the Forest Park amusement association, and the occasion was marked by the presence of several thousand Chicago people, the number being grossly exaggerated in the Chicago papers.  The weather of the week has been rather unfavorable to the enterprise and many of the concessions and special features have not been in readiness for the public.  Nevertheless the attendance since the opening has been such as to encourage those interested and to give confidence of financial success.
     The first evening's pleasure was marred somewhat by the malicious or accidental short circuiting of the strong electric current that is furnished by the drainage district for the lighting and operating of the park.  At 11:15, while there was still a considerable crowd in the grounds, there was a sudden flash and then the whole scene was plunged into darkness. Had the mishap occurred an hour earlier it must have caused untold confusion and possible damage.  As it was, lanterns were soon brought and all made their exit from the park without accident.
     President McCormick and a party of Sanitary district officials were present at the time and, made suspicious by the many threats and obstacles that have been put in the way of the district in its attempt to bring its current to the park, hastily arrived at the conclusion that the short circuit was the work of vandals, and the story was soon in circulation in the city papers that three men had been seen under circumstances that lent substance to the charge that they had been tampering with the wires near Hannah street.  It was said, too, that it was discovered that a chain had been thrown across the wires and sawed back and forth until the insulation was worn away and a short circuit effected.
     Mr. McCormick immediately announced that he would authorize an offer of $1,000 for the apprehension of the miscreants, and the park management added another $500 to the account.  So far, however, there have been no results, except the speedy repairing of the trouble, and the belief has gained acceptance in some quarters that the damage was purely accidental.

"Early Morning Fire is Very Dangerous." Forest Park Review. 27 July 1918.

     "Forest Park," one of the largest amusement parks in the vicinity of Chicago was partially destroyed early Thursday morning, when a roaring blaze licked up on building after another and caused an approximate loss of $200,000.00.
     The fire is thought to have originated in the boiler room of the skating rink, and rapidly spread to adjoining buildings.  A great throng of people, attracted by the long blast of the fire whistle, and by the glare of the flames, hurried to the scene and rendered every possible assistance.
     Feeble water pressure prevented the Forest Park department from rendering effectual work.  A call for help brought the Oak Park department here within ten minutes of the discovery of the blaze, but their work was hampered by lack of juice, resulting from the burning of the power house and lighting station of Sanitary district of Chicago, which prevented an effective battle with the flames for nearly two hours.
     Valves were finally reached and opened and more water drawn from Oak Park, thus making it possible to keep the flames from reaching the beautiful big ballroom, the pride of the west side.
     The destruction of the swimming pool and skating rink is the greatest loss and will be keenest felt.
     Among the buildings destroyed or damaged, so as to be out of service, aside from the rink and pool, are the Sanitary District's sub station; a new big freak show that was to have opened for business on Thursday afternoon for the first time; the skeeball alley; the "Terror of the Ocean"; the "Leap and Dips" and about 400 feet of the "Giant Coaster."  The roof of the Japanese tea room was slightly damaged, while the bowling alley, the chop suey restaurant and the ice cream parlors were damaged by water and smoke.
     The population of Forest Park was divided into two distinct classes, Thursday, after day break-those who attended the big blaze and those who peacefully slumbered through the attendant confusion.  Those who were awake wore superior airs and obligingly elaborated on the night's venture.
     Not a little amusement was occasioned by the report in Chicago papers telling of the heroic rescue of "Daisy," the Shetland pony belonging to the Heinze family.  Marga, the eldest daughter of Paul Heinze, the manager of the park, is credited with having led Daisy to safety at the risk of her own life.  Daisy was saved, and Marga is pleased-but Marga regrets that some one "beat her to it."
     She enjoys the distinction of being a heroine, however, and smilingly told a representative of the Review that she had obligingly posed for a photo with her arms around Daisy's neck, which picture appeared later in one of the Chicago dailies.
     Many and sensational are the rumors as to the cause of the fire.  Every thing from a German plot to a vengeance plot has been offered as a solution to the mystery.  Mr. Heinze stated to the Review that while he doesn't suspect any plot, he is going to ask for a full inquiry.
     The Public Service company, the Chicago Telephone company, and the Sanitary District people were busily engaged in making repairs at day break Thursday and the park opened as usual at 1:00 o'clock in the afternoon of the same day.
     There was no insurance on any of the property lost.
     Mr. Heinze desires to extend thanks to the Forest Park Fire department, the Oak Park fire department and to the many citizens who rendered invaluable assistance.

Macy, Madge "Looking Back a Bit: The Forest Park Roller Coaster" The Forest Park Review.  26 September 1973.

     My first visit to Chicago was in 1908, sixty-five years ago.  I was eighteen then and visiting from Des Moines.  The things that impressed me most were the huge downtown Marshall Fields, the 16 story Monadnock Building (a skyscraper!) and the roller coaster at the Forest Park Amusement Park.
     This was the first carnival I had ever seen with electric lights instead of gasoline torches.  There was a deafening noise from the throngs of people, laughing and calling, from barkers and shills, from bells and gongs and every conceivable noisemaker.  The tantalizing smell of hot buttered popcorn, the peanut shells underfoot, the red and white boxes of Crackerjack, and the hot dogs drenched in mustard added to the festivity.  There were newly invented ice cream cones, leaking, melting, sticky.  I ate my first cotton candy, a blob of beautifully colored air bubbles.
     I will never forget the roller coaster.  It stood alone, huge, very high, as tall as a three story building it seemed.  The curving, dipping course was outlined in electric bulbs.  The framework seemed like golden laths criss-crossed against the sky.  It was magic.  We stood patiently in line with a hundred others before we got our seats in the little cars.
     The long ascent began, climbing higher and higher until we could see over the park, the village, then the lights of the far away city.  We whirled and rattled and bounced around the curves at great speed.  I enjoyed the short dips and the quick recovery.  And then came that vast drop.  Down, down we went, almost perpendicularly.  How could those little matchbox cars hold to the tracks?  I thought we were descending into a maelstrom, a whirlpool, and as my stomach reached the ground long before I did, I thought of being rushed down into hell.
     I reacted as sea sick people do: afraid they are going to die, and then afraid they are NOT going to die.  I clung desperately to my companion, no breath left for screams.  In our little car, my companions yelled in a frenzy of ecstasy; I hoped only for the end, whatever it might be.  I suppose this great dip took only a few seconds, but during that brief span I experienced a terror I have never since felt.
     When at last we jolted to a stop, people piled out of the cars clamoring for more tickets.  But there were a few like myself, who half-fainting, had to be helped to the blessed surface of the good earth.  My fears were well-founded.  People really did fall out of those cars, and eventually the large number of accidents caused the roller coaster to be condemned and torn down.  -- End
(Ed. Note: When it was in operation the, Leap-the-Dips roller coaster had the steepest run in the world.  After her visit, Mrs. Macy married and has been in the Chicago area ever since.  At 84 she is still actively involved in church work, writing, volunteer work for the Veteran's Hospital and running a household.)

Deuchler, Doug "Memories of the Forest Park Amusement Park: From 1907 until 1922, this entertainment showplace defined excitement with thousands of lights and a plethora of wild rides." Wednesday Journal.  29 November, 1989.

     "The Forest Park Amusement Park was such a wonderful place," says 83-year old Edna Blank.  Now it's virtually forgotten, but in its heyday it was more famous than its rivals, White City and Riverview.  "The park was quite large," Blank recalls, "but it was very well laid out.  There were lovely flowers, shrubs and statues.  Everything was so pretty there and many of the rides became quite famous.  I will never forget when I first visited the park with my family.  I was only about six years old and we were still living in the city then.  We rode the el to the end of the line at Des Plaines and got off just as it was getting dark.  I still have vivid memories of how dazzling it all was.  All the roller coasters and the huge entrance towers were all outlined in electric bulbs.  What a sight!  Of course, this was about 1912 when electricity was something new and special."
     Everyone who remembers the large and popular Forest Park Amusement Park, which was open between 1907 and 1922, usually comments upon the thousands of electric lights, which could be seen for miles around.  For the 15 years the park was open, to many Chicagoans Forest Park was not a town.  To them "Forest Park" was a huge collection of rides and attractions.
     The main entrance was at Des Plaines Avenue near where the entrance ramp to the westbound Eisenhower Expressway is now located.  There were two massive five-story "Chinese Towers" on each side of the long gateway building which were lit up with outdoor electrical lighting - very unique for the time.  The south tower housed the "emergency hospital" (first aid station) and the north tower contained the park offices and an apartment.  There two little girls who were Edna Blank's childhood playmates lived with their father, the general manager of the Forest Park Amusement Park.
     The first floor of the long gateway building which stretched the length of Des Plaines between these towers contained both a roller skating rink and a swimming pool.  The second floor housed the dance hall.
     "The big entrance gate on Des Plaines made you feel like you were coming into a castle," says 85-year old Barbara Pellman.  "It was always so thrilling.  We lived on Circle so of course we just walked over, but the els were always loaded with people when they arrived."
     The entire amusement park extended for 22 acres between Des Plaines and First  avenues, and was about the width of what is now the Eisenhower Expressway.  Dr. Frank Orland of the Forest Park Historical Society says this site was chosen because to city dwellers "that was way out in the wild woods," but there was very good transportation.  Few families had automobiles at that time, but there were plenty of streetcars, and the Des Plaines el station was right at the edge of the park.  This stop was the end of the line, just as it is today, and the "turn around" was directly behind the roller coasters.
     Various rides came and went over the years and often were given new names; the roller coasters included The Whip, The Grand Canyon and Leap-the-Dips, which was Barbara Pellman's favorite.  But the most infamous of all was  a fast rough ride called the Giant Coaster.  It was the highest and steepest roller coaster in the world, and it was reported that passengers flew out of it more than once.  But the Giant Coaster was later billed as the Giant Safety Coaster, so it appears that some attempts to improve safety were made following early casualties.  It's curving, dipping course was outlined in electric lights.  Edna Blank recalls that the first "hill" on the Giant Coaster was actually the steepest.  "We were living over near Jackson and Beloit at the time, and you would always hear the screaming if the windows were open."
     Unlike many roller coaster which were dragged by an endless chain to the highest point on their framework and then depended on gravitation for their propulsion, the Giant Coaster boasted electrically driven cars with motormen.  But if it started raining the traction was not good and sometimes the motormen couldn't make the hills on their first try.  They would have to back up and take a few more full-power runs.  
     Another popular ride, The Wheel, would make modern insurance agents blanch.  This was a huge circular-shaped, raised wooden floor that spun around at ever greater speeds while its passengers would fly off with the increasing velocity.  Helen Luhman remembers that despite the long dresses of the period, "after a ride on The Wheel a few times, we'd to home with floor burns on our rear ends."
     On the "Shoot the Chutes" passengers rode in large, flat-bottomed boats which were released from the top of a five story slide.  When they splashed in the huge lagoon at the bottom everyone in the front seats got soaked.
     One of the most bizarre and exciting attractions was called The Pneumatic Tube.  This was a huge-sized variation of the capsules used today for doing drive-up banking transactions.  "It was thrilling and scary," Edna Blank recalls.  "You got into your car in the above-ground station.  You were all caged in and in nearly total darkness as you were blown or sucked through the tube by terrific blasts of air till you came out the other end across the park.  These long passages formed part of the framework for the Shoot the Chutes.  You'd be going so fast through the Pneumatic Tube and just when it looked like you were about to crash there was a spooky green light in front of you.  Then the doors would suddenly burst open.  Your ride was safely over."  The entrance station to this enormous corrugated tube was still standing until the 1950's when construction on the Eisenhower Expressway began.
     Many old-timers remember that for a couple dollars "a guy and his girl could have a big time" all evening.  Couples often had their photographs made on postcards while posed sitting in a hugh silver moon.  If patrons got tired of the rides, for a nickel they could buy a stein of beer in the Beer Garden or sit in the Picnic Grove and enjoy a concert.  The band shell was located near the north end of Waldheim Cemetery where the eastbound Eisenhower- Des Plaines exit ramp is now.  The popular park band played everything  from excerpts from "La Boheme" and "The Second Rhapsody" by Liszt to up-to-date ragtime and vaudeville hits.
     "In those days parents never got baby sitters," says Barbar Pellman.  "The whole family would go to the park together.  My parents would have a beer or some wine and listen to the band while we had sarsaparilla.  A lot of organizations would have basket panics and we kids would get a lot of fee ride tickets on those days.  My parents both belonged to singing societies and we were so proud to hear them perform."
     The Dance Pavillion was often referred to as "Dreamland" during the early years of the park, possibly because of the contemporary tune "Meet Me Tonight in Dreamland."  Here both young and old would try out the many new dance fads of the era, such as the "Turkey Trot," the "Hesitation Waltz" and the "Castle Walk."  During the First World War there were huge celebrations at the ballroom for the first "boys" who enlisted for service "Over There."  Barbara Pellman remembers masquerade balls at the dance pavillion with "great prizes."
     "When we were kids," Edna Balnk recalls, "we went to the amusement park all the time, but especially Tuesday afternoons when they'd let all the grammar school children in for free.  We'd get there early so we could watch all the chorus girls and various other performers rehearsing.  The park always provided plenty of live entertainment.  The concerts from the band shell were the best."
     According to Dr. Orland, during World War I the Casino building actually functioned as a U.S.O.-type hall for the entertainment of the soldiers.  "Until that time," says Orland, "the showgirls were not allowed to dance in 'shorties'.  But with the war came the need to amuse 'the boys,' so such controversial costumes were permitted."  The Casino was also the site of many school graduations between 1907 and 1922, says Orland.
     There were numerous carnival barkers who ran games of chance, too.  Barbara Pellman says she especially remembers a game called "The Chinese Bowling Alley,"  The prizes were hand-painted oriental dishes.  "My brother and sister and I all got together and played till we won our mother a complete tea set," she says.
     Though most people recall that the park was never rowdy or dangerous, newspaper reports of the 1910s cite "unbridled gambling and pick pocketing" along the game midway.  Many of the barkers employed a "shill," a person who seemed to win steadkily and effortlessly.  When he departed laden with loot, "suckers" would be induced to play the game in hopes of making a similar hall.  The shill would return his load of teddy bears and kewpie dolls at the rear of the stand a number of times throughout the evening.
     Every season there were new novelties and attractions.  One year there was a Wild West show.  At other times there was a giant turtle, some goat races, and "Alligator Joe" and his "educational alligators."  For a while there was a spectacular demonstration of submarine warfare called "Terror of the Ocean" during the World War I years.  A "Chinese Exhibition" depicted "life in an opium den" and showed the tortures perpetrated during the Tong War.  Sometimes during the day there would even be special exhibits in the ballroom.  Edna Blank remembers that around 1915 when she was in the fourth grade she went there on a class field trip to see a live display of "all varieties of chickens."
     Another very popular attraction was the Fun House, which was initially called "Gump's Mad House" after a comic strip hero named Andy Gump.  There was a hall of distorting mirrors, a rolling barrel visitors had to crawl through, and a spot where sudden air blasts would lift ladies' ankle length skirts up as high as their knees.
     The park also boasted a full-sized theater called The Park and a steam locomotive that circled the grounds.  There was a freak show with such oddities as "authentic hootchie-kootchie dancers;" Zita, the bearded lady; a six-legged calf: Bo-Bo the "rubber man;" and a "Hindu snake charmer."  There were Gypsy fortune tellers and palm readers whenever a Gypsy caravan was in the area.  Usually they would set up their camp in the then wide open fields where Sears is now located at North and Harlem Avenues.
     "There was lots of great food at the park, too," says Barbara Pellman.  "There was a Coney Island-style hot dog stand that was a hang-out for teenagers.  Hamburgers were not very well known in those days.  But everyone bought lots of ice cream, cotton candy and carmel corn."
     In spite of its popularity, the Forest Park Amusement Park's heyday came to an end in the early 1920s.  There were many reasons for its demise, including mounting pressure and complaints from funeral parties in the adjacent cemeteries.  Undoubtedly the park's throngs of laughing, shouting people, the constant bells, gongs, band shell concerts and roaring roller coasters were extremely inappropriate for the bereaved families who also disembarked at the Des Plaines stop.  In those days there was a special hearse car on the elevated which would transport a casket and an entire party of mourners to the end-of-the-line cemetery stop where a regular horse-drawn hearse would complete the trip to the grave site.
     "One of our favorite expressions when we were kids and we would hear about the cemetery staffs complaining," says Barbara Pellman, "was 'they're all dead over there-they can't hear us.' "
     "There was always a lot of trouble from the cemeteries," says Edna Blank.  "You can't blame them.  There was always such a racket at the park.  All the funeral processions had to pass right by."
     Also, during the early 1920s the Forest Park Amusement Park suffered some serious financial setbacks.  When the 18th Amendment created prohibition and the Beer Garden and Casino were no longer able to sell alcohol, the park's profits took a major nosedive.  But most people say it was the big fire of 1922 which really finished it off completely.
     "Many people said the blaze was set by a disgruntled employee," says Edna Blank.  "You heard lots of rumors.  But nobody knows to this day how it started.  But it sure was a spectacular fire!  The flames engulfed the huge oily wooden roller coaster framework and spread rapidly.  In those days the Water Works blew the alarm to summon the volunteer fireman.  Everyone knew that certain signals meant various things.  That night the repeated whistles woke up the whole town and we could tell from the long blasts this was a very big fire.  We could see it from our house because the skies were lit so brightly by the flames.  Everyone got dressed and ran to the fires as fast as they could.  My brother was in such a hurry he tore off his nightshirt and jumped into his bathing suit.  He didn't waste any time putting on his clothes.
     "After the fire," Blank says, "the rest of the park and its attractions were torn down or sold, depending upon their condition.  The huge, hand-carved Merry-Go-Round, my favorite ride, was not badly damaged and I guess it ended up in some amusement park."
     A few years ago Cora Sallee of the Forest park Historical Society heard from a theme park called Liberty Land in Memphis, Tennessee, that the original 1907 Forest Park Amusement Park carousel is "alive and well" and still a popular attraction there.  New Liberty Land postcards show this magnificent old merry-go-round looking much the way it did in photos from Forest park dating over 75 years ago.
     For anyone who remembers the now long-gone Forest Park Amusement Park, a casual ride down Des Plaines avenue can trigger vivid recollections of its special joy and magic.  It was a time when life seemed simpler and more carefree.  "That amusement park was my old stomping ground," says Barbara Pellman.  "I'll never forget all the good times we enjoyed there."

Rice, John.  "Coney Island of Chicago: Forest Park was one home to the 'Great America' of its day."  Forest Park Review. 22 April 1998.

     Forest Park used to be the "Coney Island" of Chicago.  Or, to put it in modern terms, we had Great America in our own backyard.  We had the highest and steepest roller coaster in the world.  We had water rides, underground rides and a carousel with hand-carved horses.  
     Where was all of this frivolity located?  Inside the Forest Park Amusement Park, which was built on land now occupied by the Des Plaines Avenue "el" station and the Eisenhower Expressway.  The 22-acre park extended all the way to First Avenue, and it was a sight to behold.
     When the park opened in 1908, it was ablaze in electric lights and the entrance on Des Plaines Avenue, flanked by two "great Chinese towers," made at least one patron feel like she was "coming into a castle."
     Inside there was a small locomotive to transport visitors around the park, not unlike the miniature train at Kiddieland.  The train could take you to any number of thrilling rides, or to a casino, a beer garden, a burlesque show...this was Disneyworld rated "R".  Crowds of train travelers from Chicago and tourists from around the world flocked to Forest Park.
     The idea for he amusement park came from men who had been associated with the building of Coney Island and other amusement parks.  They chose Forest Park because of "the remarkable convergence of transportation lines at this point."
     The el line had been extended to Des Plaines Avenue only two years before, so visitors could get off the train right at the park's entrance.  One million dollars was spent on the construction of the park, which involved an "army of workmen."
     Finally, in June of 1908, with much anticipation, the park was opened to the public.  Things did not go as planned that first night, though, as a short circuit plunged the park into darkness and patrons were guided by lanterns to the exits.
     Otherwise, business went smoothly at Forest Park during its early years.  The Forest Park Review reported that "most of the concessions are running and well patronized."
     The newspaper also headlined, "Gambling Wide Open."  According to the Review reporter, "Unbridled gambling, mixed with pick-pocket methods...which quickly fleece the unfortunate "sucker" is going on at the local amusement park in such a brazenly open manner as to fill the observer with amazement.     ...Non-interference by the Forest Park police and village officials is evidently part of the arrangement."
     The reporter concludes that, while the park's publicity department advertised good clean fun, con men were busily separating patrons from their money.  It's no wonder that some Forest Park girls, like Forest Park Historical Society member Cora Sallee, were not allowed to visit the park.
     But, apart from this dark side of Forest Park, there were the blazing lights of the midway and the many trhill rides.  The most unusual of these rides was The Pneumatic Tube.  It was a giant version of the device used by customers at a drive-through bank.  Patrons sat in a caged car, that shot through twists and turns in total darkness underground, propelled by forced air.  The 3,000 foot trip was made in less than three minutes.  Many of the riders were relieved to emerge safely from the above-ground station.  The tubes for this ride were later unearthed when the Eisenhower Expressway was built.
     The Leap-the-Dips roller coaster may have been even more thrilling.  It looked very much like the American Eagle at Great America.  The big difference was the lead car in the roller coaster had an engine and a motorman.  Instead of being pulled up to the top by a chain, the motorman drove the roller coaster up the incline and through the dips and turns.  According to witnesses from those days, not everyone emerged safely at the end of the ride.  Passengers sometimes flew out of their seats.  The large number of accidents eventually caused the coaster to be condemned and torn down.
     The park's water ride, "Shoot the Chutes" was also similar to the ones at Great America, in the sense that passengers were drenched at the end of the ride.  Customers sat in boats that raced down a five-story slide into a large lagoon.  As usual, the people in front got the wettest.  For total immersion, the park boasted a spacious swimming pool.
     Besides the rides, the park had a venue for rolling skating, a spacious theater, a ballroom and a penny arcade filled with games.  At the theater, productions ranged from band concerts and classic plays to chorus lines of scantily clad women.  According to the Review, "Many of the shows have allowed the girls to appear sans skirts.  With the approaching warm days there is no telling how far they may go."
     Another staged attraction, of a slightly different sort, was "The Terror of the Seas," a recreation of a battle between an American warship and an enemy submarine.  After the sub heartlessly sinks a hospital ship, the Navy runs the sub down and sends it to the bottom.
     For those who preferred quieter entertainment, the park had the wondrous Grand Carousel merry go-round with hand carved horses reflected in large rectangular mirrors.  After the demise of the amusement park, the Grand Carousel ended up in the Libertyland theme park in Memphis, Tenn. where it continues to carry 960 people an hour.  The Grand Carousel is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
     But all was not sweetness and light at the park.  Racial views of the time were reflected by the African Dip, a dunk tank that appeared to soak only African-American victims.  No literature exists concerning this attraction but a photograph shows tow black men perched above the barrels of water, with two white men hawking the balls.
     These days, anybody who staged such an attraction would need their head examined.  And, amazingly enough, the amusement park was used for psychological testing.  Dr. Perrin, a psychologist from the University of Chicago, ran his students through the Mouse-trap, a 12-sided human maze that stood on the park grounds.  Perrin would blind fold his students and send them into the Mouse-trap which had its exit in the center.  The passages of the maze were lined by walls seven feet in height.  Perrin considered the subject had learned the maze when he could go from the entrance to the exit three times by the shortest route.  He gave credit to park and its Mouse-trap in the paper he published on the "Study of the Human Learning Process in the Maze."
     During its years of operation, the amusement park was a boon to the Forest park economy.  The Forest Park Review stated that, "Nearly all the mechanics employed at the park are from Forest park, as are a large number of those who will be employed throughout the season.  During the season about 200 people are on the payroll at the park, while the company pays the village $2,000 for bar permit and amusement license."
     Despite all of its wonderful attractions, the amusement park began to deteriorate only five years after it opened.  The Steeplechase, a ride in which customers rode horses down an inclined rail, was torn down and the miniature railroad was sold.  In 1928 an early morning fire caused $200,000 damage.
     But the real decline of the park was not due to physical causes but by a law that prohibited the sale of alcohol.  In 1920 Prohibition brought an end to the Beer Garden, and at the same time law enforcement officials began cracking down on casino gambling.  Attendance began to drop.
     The final blow to Forest Park's great amusement park was a devastating fire in 1922.  No one knew how the fire started, though it was rumored a disgruntled employee set it.  Despite the efforts of volunteer firemen, the park was virtually destroyed.  Most of the attractions were torn down.
     Some that escaped the flames, such as the Grand Carousel, were sold.  The property was purchased by Ward T. Huston & Co., whose owner mysteriously, "could not remember just when he became the owner of the land."
     Forest Park's amusement park had everything: from animal acts to Gypsy fortune tellers.  In its later years, it attracted a slightly rougher clientele than the women and children who had first visited its wonders.  The Review reported various crimes at the park, including a vicious stabbing in a gambling dispute.  Fire, or no fire, the park's time had clearly run out.
     The Forest Park Historical Society has kept the memory of the park alive with a large collection of photographs and articles.  Their dream at one time was that someone might undertake constructing a model of the park.  The Society does not have the space to display such a model, so it would have to be displayed at some other location in the village.  But, the first question is, would anyone be interested in making the model?  Let us know.  It would be an appropriate way to celebrate the amusement park that once put Forest Park on the map.

Above is a postcard of Forest Park's old carousal which was slightly burned in the fire in 1922.  It has been renovated and is now at Libertyland in Memphis.  In July of 1980 the Grand Carousal, as it is now called, was listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

The carousal was built in 1909 by William Dentzel of Philadelphia, son of Gustav Dentzel, America's pioneer carousel builder.  It was brought to Memphis in 1923 and placed in the Fairgrounds Amusement Park.  Designed in the "Jester Head" or clown face style, this carousel is one of only seven Dentzel carousels in the South and the only one in Tennessee.  The elaborately ornamented wooden horses are entirely hand-carved.