By Debbi Elmore
Once upon a time in south Wichita, there existed not one – but two – fantasy lands for children. Joyland, on south Hillside, was designed for older kids while Kiddieland, on Harry, was made for little tykes.
While much has been written about Joyland, it’s clear that the 30-acre Kiddieland complex inspired lasting memories, too.
“I loved Kiddieland and all my life my dad used to imitate me saying ‘Kiddieland! Kiddieland!!’ as a little girl,” remembers Sharon M. Ailslieger.
“I have memories of going down the big slide over and over, said Cindy Nold. “I’m sure I rode everything. Kiddieland was a special part of my childhood and time with my daddy.”
There were child-sized versions of a stagecoach, train and cars; boat rides, swimming pools and a haunted house with a spinning tunnel that kids had to crawl through to get out; roller skating, miniature golf and roller coasters – one for bigger and one for littler kids.
“The little roller coaster scared me worse than any other roller coaster I had ridden, seemed like it bounced around a turn. I love to ride all roller coasters today….so it didn’t stop me,” added Barbara Hansen Reynolds.
“Yes! The small roller coaster, in particular,” added Robin Rives McAdoo. “And then the sad give-away of colored chicks at Easter that some (usually older boys) would drop from the top of the roller coaster. Not a pleasant memory, but a vivid one.”
Patrick Flanagan and his sister lived only a couple blocks away, so it was a handy destination. He recalls how secure the design was, with only one entry gate and fences around each ride. There were arcade games and Flanagan says you could win a trinket and be thrilled all day.
Craig Thompson remembers a Noah’s Ark with animal cutouts you could climb, pony rides, little rail cars powered by hand cranks and gas-powered cars you could drive on a track with an overpass and underpass.
“I fondly remember riding the miniature ponies,” Tim McDonough said. “The boats in the circular tub, ringing the bell.”
Others also recall the hand-cranked rail cars. “I liked the hand-cranked trolley car things. You sat on them and hand-cranked your way around a track. I have never seen another ride like it,” Jerry A. Seery said.
The Wichita Eagle reported the following on Saturday, April 21, 1962:
“The 30 acre sports center recreation area at 3833 East Harry will operate this season under new management. It was sold during the winter by the four Consolver brothers, George, J L., B. G. (Tex), and N. C., who started it in 1945. The new operators are Meadowlark, Inc., a corporation composed of area business and professional men. The property includes two miniature golf courses, a driving range, a kiddie amusement park, two swimming pools, and a skating rink.”
The Wichita-Eagle Beacon reported on Sunday, March 10, 1968, the announcement of preliminary plans for construction of the Wichita Mall on the Kiddieland site, with construction to start that summer.
Many of the Kiddieland rides were dispersed elsewhere. Some went to Joyland.
“The old giant slide that was there is at our church camp south of Arkansas City,” said Flo Harvey.
Flanagan chuckled as he recalls the Kiddieland clown, which would talk when you walked by. Of course, he and his buddies would walk back and forth to keep it talking. Just the sort of thing that made it “an awesome place for kids.”
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