Joyland Amusement Park

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City/Town: Wichita, KS
Location Class: Amusement Park
Year Built: June 12, 1949
Year Abandoned: 2006 Season
Status: Demolished
Photojournalist: Billy DixonDavid LindeJohnny Fletcher

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First, let me open with special thanks to the following in their assistance researching Joyland:


Joyland Park was founded by Lester Ottaway and his sons, Herbert and Harold, to serve as the home for a miniature 12-inch (300 mm) gauge steam locomotive that Herb Ottaway had purchased in Fort Scott, Kansas, back in 1933. The train had been part of a defunct amusement park in Fort Scott and was originally built by the Miniature Railway Company of Elgin, Illinois, between 1905 and 1910. By 1934, Herb Ottaway, who worked as a race car builder, had fully refurbished and restored the steam locomotive and cars and began transporting the miniature train to county fairs in western Kansas and eastern Colorado. Ottaway soon built a track for his miniature locomotive around the Manitou PhotobucketSprings, Colorado racetrack and operated the train there for some time. The current location of Joyland Amusement Park came into existence on June 12, 1949, primarily to give Harold’s miniature locomotive a permanent home in Kansas. The park was originally located at 1515 East Central in Wichita (between New York and Mathewson streets) but soon moved to it’s current location at 2801 South Hillside.

After Lester Ottaway’s death in the mid-1950s, his three sons, Herbert, Harold, and Eddie, continued running the park as a family operation. In addition, the original miniature train retired with the Ottaway family and was replaced with the first-ever C.P. Huntington miniature train. This train carried serial number 1 from the factory.

Joyland had over 24 working amusement rides, including:

Roller Coaster/The Nightmare:

PhotobucketJoyland’s 1949 era roller coaster, a Philadelphia Toboggan Company coaster designed by Herbert Paul Schmeck, is one of the last surviving original wooden roller coasters and is one of 33 surviving roller coasters of only 44 original coasters designated as an ACE Coaster Classic. Originally called simply Roller Coaster but for a short time in later years was renamed the Nightmare, it had a 2,600 ft  track span, 75 ft drop, and 50 mph top speed. It had the distinction of being the only remaining roller coaster in North America using vintage rolling stock with fixed lap bars.Photobucket

Its highest point was a 75 foot first drop, near trees through valleys. It turned around in the rear of the parking lot then had several bunny hops plus a surprising last drop. The film King Kung Fu was filmed on location at several locations in the Wichita area, including at Joyland. One scene in the film features several minutes of footage shot on the Roller Coaster.

The Ottaway brothers retired from the amusement park business in the late 1960s and sold the park to Stanley and Margaret Nelson. The Nelsons were the driving force behind Joyland Park for over 30 years and a large percentage of the park’s current rides.


Wacky Shack:

One of the most prominent structures on the Joyland property was the Bill Tracy designed “Whacky Shack” dark ride, added to the park in 1974, came to fruition during the Nelsons’ time as owners. Though there are a few Whacky Shacks still in use across the country today, this classic two-story dark ride was the prototype and the closest one can find to Tracy’s original designs.
During the early 1950’s, the Dodgem Car ride was the popular ride at Joyland. When park designers decided to merge Kiddieland it seemed to be a logical decision to install the original park’s Dodgem Car ride at Joyland to double the ridership. If one was good, two had to be better! In actuality, the second ride did not increase ridership so it was removed and replaced with a new attraction. The Wacky Shack!

In place of the bumper cars the park installed their first darkride. This darkride was a one-story fright house type ride common in the 50’s. Stan Nelson, owner of Joyland (now retired), did not recall who built it but thought that the Philadelphia Toboggan Company may have been involved. This ride in turn would be updated with new gags when it was converted to a safari type ride with lions, alligators, snakes, and scary things. Parts of this version of the dark ride survive in the current Wacky Shack.
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While the ride opened with standard darkride cars, they were eventually changed to rotating type Pretzel cars to add some additional surprises. As at some other parks, maintenance concerns and people with motion sickness ultimately forced the park to weld the cars to stop the rotation. The classic Pretzel cars would also be replaced. Bell’s Amusement Park in Tulsa, Oklahoma built the replacements. Bells used fiberglass body shells supplied by Lake Winnepesaukah along with Bells own chassis design. Bell’s also built cars for themselves for their own Wacky Shack twin “Phantasmagoria”.

As the years went on, some changes crept into the ride. Stan related- Tracy was into thrills, not maintenance. The two dips that were originally built into the ride were removed and replaced with level track. The barrel that the cars traveled through in one portion was built by the park but it never worked quite right so it was removed. Another minor problem was that of operators losing track of the cars in the ride. The first solution was a simple one, don’t send in a car until you see one come out! In later years, a computer prevented the cars from getting too close together, if they did the ride would stop, the lights would come on, and the doors opened. The ride would also shut down if someone got out of the car and ran ahead.

He also thought that Bill Tracy never received the recognition that he deserved. He had a great imagination and a knack for scouring the local area for just the right materials for a ride. If he needed old looking wood for a ride, he would search for an old building being torn down. No sense in creating that look when the real thing could be found. While no one knows where the late Tracy may be today, Stan is confident that he may be redesigning the Pearly Gates or did he get the contract to make Hadies a whole lot scarier?


Tilt-A- Whirl:

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Herbert Sellner, a woodworker and maker of water slides, invented the Tilt-A-Whirl in 1926, at his Faribault, Minnesota, home. Over the next year, the first 14 Tilt-A-Whirls were built in Herbert’s basement and yard. In 1927, Sellner Manufacturing opened its factory in Faribault, and the ride debuted that year at the Minnesota State Fair.
Family legend states that Herbert experimented with a chair placed on the kitchen table. Herbert’s son Art sat in the chair, and Herbert rocked the table back and forth.
The earliest Tilt-A-Whirls were constructed of wood, powered by a gas motor, and featured nine cars. Today, the ride is constructed of steel, aluminum and fiberglass, is powered by seven small electric motors, and features seven cars.


The Log Jam:

PhotobucketThe Log Jam was Joyland’s water flume ride, built by O.D. Hopkins. It was without a doubt one of the most popular rides in the park. Park goers would climb into a log and ride down a river that had been built into the ground. The ride finished with a 35 foot hill splashing down into the water.

In 1997, the City of Wichita was hit with a massive rain storm and the park flooded. 2 Log Jam boats were also lost. One was recovered a few days later, the other was found in the summer of 2000 about 7 miles away in the Arkansas River!


Ferris Wheel:

PhotobucketManufactured by the Eli Bridge Company & introduced in 1949. Guests could board one of 16 carriages and take a ride around Joyland’s 60ft tall Ferris Wheel. At night, a giant blue star lit up from the middle. Unfortunately on April 16th 2004 Federal safety investigators were examining Joyland’s 55-year-old Ferris wheel to find out why a girl fell from the ride and was seriously injured in a mid-April mishap, according to the Wichita Eagle.
A lawyer working for the Wichita park submitted a private ride inspector’s report indicating that the Eli Bridge Co. wheel was in good working condition when examined on April 20, the paper said.

In the April 16 incident, Elizabeth Schmitz, 13, fell some 30 feet from the wheel and suffered injuries to her head, face, arm and leg. The girl’s father told the paper that the seat’s safety bar opened and when she reached for it, she fell.


DODGEM — Classic Bumper Cars:

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The name “Dodgem” actually does mean something. The original concept of this ride was to actually dodge the other cars and not try to hit one another. If one was to take a hard look above the lights inside, you could still see orange “One-Way” arrows that were originally supposed to be followed.


Old-West Town Square:


Games:


Other rides that were included around Joyland are:

  • Round Up — a circa 1960 Hrubetz High Speed Circular ride
  • Zumur – A Chance Rides Wave Swinger!
  • Paratrooper
  • Scrambler
  • Skycoaster

The park also had  land rides, including Dune buggies, Horse drawn carriages, Bulgy the Whale, and other Herschel Children’s Rides.


Reopening & Closing :

The park was showing its age with many attractions requiring extensive repairs when the Nelsons shut it down in mid 2004. However, in 2006 the Seattle Based T-Rex Group, who were instrumental in turning around a pair of small parks in Washington State, leased the park from the Nelson family and temporarily reopened it with plans for a complete refurbishing. Nevertheless, financial problems continued to plague the old park.

The Wichita Eagle reported that Joyland would not open for the 2007 season. Also in April 2007, the Support Joyland advocacy group was started to draw public interest in the historic amusement park.


Joyland -Then & Now:


Lawsuit:

In 2007, Michael Moodenbaugh and Robert Barnard, the former operators of Joyland Park who had planned to reopen the park faced a new lawsuit filed by Star lumber Supply Company. Inc

Star President and CEO Chris Goebel said the lawsuit stemed from unpaid debt due to his company for materials used on the amusement park’s wooden roller coaster. Goebel said Star had been partially paid for the work but was still owed nearly $10,000. Star initially tried to go through a collection agency, he said. “It isn’t a huge amount, but it still makes you angry,” Goebel said. “I’m just lucky we weren’t involved with the Wild West World situation (Which is a whole other story).

Actually, Goebel said, Star was paid a small amount it was owed by Wild West World before owner Thomas Etheredge filed for bankruptcy in July. Blaming the City
Moodenbaugh and Barnard comprised “T-Rex Group”, a privately held real estate development business that specializes in amusement park turnarounds.

Barnard, who said he was no longer with T-Rex, claimed Joyland’s difficulty in getting an application for an amusement park permit was to blame for the park’s troubles and debt that followed. The city had stated that it had wanted Joyland to comply with its requirements before a permit would be issued. “What it really comes down to is the city refuses to deal with us,” Barnard said. “Star Lumber was a great vendor. We had a lot of great vendors and we appreciated their support. It’s unfortunate that it happened. “Moodenbaugh could not be reached for comment. His former attorney, John Woolf, said he hadn’t spoken with Moodenbaugh since helping the group complete a lease-purchase agreement with owners Stan and Margaret Nelson, who own the park.

Barnard and Moodenbaugh have said they owe more than $150,000 to several vendors but planned to pay the bills had the park reopened.


Historical & Misc Photos:


Joyland Visions – Tour the park:


Louie the Clown:

One missing piece of Joyland meant far more to a former employee who was caretaker of  the famous Joyland  clown and organ for 15 years. Damian Mayes was 4 years old when he first met Louie, a nearly life-size carved clown who enchanted -and sometimes frightened visitors of all ages as he played the park’s automated Wurlitzer.

Mayes said when he was 15 and doing renovations for the park, owners Stanley and Margaret Nelson would let him take the clown home when the park closed in the winters. Mayes would apply a fresh coat of paint to Louie’s grin or add to his whimsical attire. PhotobucketBut his labor of love is now missing  along with the organ. The clown was just one of the items listed as damaged or taken from the park. The Nelson’s stated that the clown  may have been taken out of state. Mayes said it’s hard to tell if reported Louie spottings in Wichita were of the original clown or a replica. He said he hasn’t seen the original Louie in a few years.

The Wurlitzer organ with Louie the clown at the keys, was a Mammoth Military Band Organ, also known as a Wurlitzer Style 160. It was the largest of the Wurlitzer’s early band organs. The organ was built around 1905 by the DeKleist Musical Instrument Works and was sold by the Rudolph Wurlitzer Company. It contained 486 wood and brass pipes and used two perforated paper music rolls.

The Ottaways added Louie the Clown Organist, an automated clown who sat before the organ keyboard and “played” the instrument. Louie the Clown and the Mighty Wurlitzer had been a fixture at Joyland ever since. It created a sound that resonates through the entire park. The Joyland organ was one of only two Mammoth Organs still in existence and, until the park closed, it was the only one in public view.


Vandalism:

Since the park closed in 2006 it has been subjected to numerous incidents of vandalism and looting. Nearly every building in the park is covered with graffiti and the administration offices have also been destroyed.  Margaret Nelson was quoted as saying “We’re sick. Our hearts are sick. It’s not easy, Just not easy.
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Joyland has suffered in recent years more than 20 break-ins and from vandals. The last break-in the park suffered was especially brutal. Police arrested two men in the case. “They were really reckless,” Nelson said. “They turned over ticket booths, broke into the office, threw furniture out the windows. “They also spray-painted swastikas into a hangman’s noose and other graffiti on buildings.  The vintage “Last Warning — Do Not Stand Up – Sit Down” sign was stolen from the top of Joyland’s nearly 75-foot-high wooden roller coaster in 2009.


Fire! :

The opera house at Joyland was famous for its puppet shows, its classic movies, and its entertainment.  The park had hosted many concerts, fried chicken dinners, and the coaster cars whooshed along its wooden tracks.

Today, the opera house is a charred ruin. Wichita Fire Investigators say there is a good chance that the blaze that broke out at 3:30 am burning the buildings that used to be part of the old western town at the abandoned park was intentionally set. “I don’t think there is any doubt that this fire was intentionally set,” says Fire Marshall Ed Bricknell. “We likely have a human hand involved in this thing.” Investigators went through the entire property and found several places where small fires were set. Bricknell said the building that burnt had mostly junk and old trash inside it. The fire created quite a scene across the city as thick, black smoke could be seen for miles. The sight even caused congestion on nearby I-135 as drivers slowed to see what was burning.


The Future of Joy land:

Stan and Margaret  have put the land up for sale and have begun selling some of the rides. “What’s going to happen? We don’t know,” Margaret Nelson said.  Stan is 85 yrs old; Margaret is 75. This time there is at least $2 million price tag.”It has to be cash,” Margaret  said. “This time there is no leasing or holding the note.”  The Nelsons are open to whatever buyer comes along.”We would love to sell it to somebody who wants to make it a park, if some company wanted to make it a corporate headquarters or another kind of park, we would consider that,” she said.   They have since sold the Paratrooper, the Round-up and the big truck ride.Photobucket

For now, the icon of the park, the wooden roller coaster, The Wacky Shack, & the remains of a few other rides are still on the site.

Margaret Nelson says she and her husband are trying to get Joyland sold and have a few prospects. They also had thoughts of a bike trail project to make the park more attractive. She considers them retired from the amusement park business. “I don’t think my husband knows that, though,” she says.  ” He’s been  out  there mowing for weeks.”

Stan says “It’s a far cry from what the park was in its heyday”.

Update: July 14th, 2010

Stanley Roger Nelson
Visit Guest Book

Nelson, Stanley Roger, 87, owner of Joyland Amusement Park, passed away Tuesday, July 13, 2010. Funeral services will be 10:30 a.m., Friday, July 16, at First Evangelical Free Church, with graveside committal service 2:30 p.m., Resthaven Cemetery. Visitation with family present will be Thursday from 5-7 p.m., at Broadway Mortuary. He was preceded in death by his parents and brother, Billy. Survivors include his wife, Margaret; sons, Roger (Christie) and Steve (Melinda) of Wichita; daughters, Valorie Hagerman of Topeka (William, Hutchinson), and Barbara Bachman (Matthew) of Centralia, KS; 17 grandchildren and 8 great-grandchildren. He was born June 24, 1923 in Mt. Vernon, NY. Serving in WWII as a navigator in the CBI theatre and honorably discharged, he settled in Wichita graduating from WSU. He started his career at Joyland selling tickets at the Dodgem where he met his wife and life partner of 59 years. She was working the Skeeball! Together with their family, they operated the park for more than 50 years. Being recognized by his peers, in 1972, Stan was the first Parkowner to become president of the International Assoc. of Amusement Parks and Attractions. As a result of his passion for the industry at large, he was instrumental in helping develop safety standards. It was a great life, giving children and families many hours of fun, entertainment, and memories. Memorials have been established with the ARC of Sedgwick County and First Evangelical Free Church. Share online condolences at www.CozineMemorial.com. Services by Broadway Mortuary.

Published in The Wichita Eagle from July 14 to July 16, 2010

Read more: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/kansas/obituary.aspx?n=stanley-roger-nelson&pid=144070998&fhid=6078#ixzz0tiQpwk7p

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Ray
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Ray

Wow really great website and interesting. I live in Holland (The Netherlands) and i love your website.
Me and some friends have been to some buildings here wer i live that are abandoned.
Keep it up !
Much respect R. Geurtsen

Matthew tweedy
Guest
Matthew tweedy

This is a great write up of joyland! i was employed there in the late 90s and had so much fun working at the park. Stan was a real stand up guy and took care of the people around him. The only thing i see missing on here is the roller skating rink that was built in the late 80s early 90s. It sat near the entrance next to the roller coaster. It was later closed down and used as a storage building.. Great job too the team who put this together. Tweedy

Dennis
Guest
Dennis

I grew up in Wichita, and lived just north of the park. It was a great place and a lot of fun. It is a shame that it is in the shape that it is in now. Miss Joyland, have lots of good memories of this place

April
Guest
April

What a great website. Thanks for the updates. I grew up going to Joyland and have lots of fun memories as a child going there. As Susan said in the previous post I will never forget "Louie" and "Porky". I always thought it was amazing that he sucked the trash in! And I can still remember the tune Louie used to play. I remember when the wacky shack changed the front from the big dip to the straight across and how much I missed that quick drop as you came out of the doors. It was always such a fun… Read more »

Susan
Guest
Susan

I remember going to Joyland as a child in the 60s, as a teenager in the 70s taking my son there in the 80s and both son and daughter there in the 90s. We spent many a family gatherings and many Easters there. The roller coaster was my first roller coaster ride! I have alot of fond memories standing there watching "Louie" play the organ, putting many cups in "Porky" the paper eater, had my 1st frozen chocolate covered banana at Joyland! To see it in ruins, covered with graffiti and just simply being distroyed just breaks my heart. Bigger… Read more »

Briley Tuckwood
Guest
Briley Tuckwood

That's crazy you were talking about going there for Easter. I am currently almost 14 and my mom said she took my sister and I there one year for Easter. It's amazing to think how different people did the same think years apart. I really wish it would reopen so this generation of kids and teens could experience a true family park.

Brenda
Guest
Brenda

Really brought back a lot of good memories.We lived within walking distance of Joyland so spent many hours there.Swam until we were good and sunburned,then walked home.On Easter Sunday,they gave away baby chicks.Sunday afternoons were the gunfighters in the wild west town.July 3rd and 4th,Joyland had a fireworks show that outdid all others!!School parties were held there. KFDI radio held their listener appreciation party there. That was a biggie! When my brother worked there in 1974,he met his wife,who also worked there. I would love for Joyland to reopen,there are so many memories.I want my great grandkids to experience Joyland.

Doug
Guest
Doug

Thanks for all the hard work putting together this piece. I really enjoyed it. I have had a thing for failed parks since the early 90's, when I was at Boardwalk and Baseball in Orlando the day it was shut down unexpectedly.

Keep up the great work.. even if it wasn't in Oklahoma. (tic)

Tim Tuck
Guest
Tim Tuck

Excellent work. Made me feel like I had been to Joyland (what a good name!).
Really, really good.

AbandonedOK Team
Guest

Thank you Tim for the kudos! Glad you enjoyed it!

Karen Archer
Guest
Karen Archer

I took my children to Joyland also, it was a wonderful place! I was sad to read in the Wichita paper that Mr. Nelson passed away, was even sadder when reading comments posted under the article..one of the posters said it was going to be bulldozed. I so hope it's not true, it should be a historical landmark.

Austin
Guest
Austin

The Wacky Shack looka very similar to the old phantasamagoria at Bells

Kevin
Guest

I used to live in Wichita and I used to go to Joyland as often as I used to go to Bell's living here in Tulsa. My family lived in Tulsa and my dad got transferred to Wichita for two or three years. Then we moved back to Tulsa. I remember seeing AND RIDING the Wacky Shack and I remember being disappointed that there was apparently a company somewhere who mass produced such rides. Ours in Tulsa was called the Phantasmagoria but I remember vividly, after having ridden both rides numerous times that they were practically identical on the inside… Read more »

Mike
Guest
Mike

Wow…this was tough for me to work my way through all of the "now" pictures. I grew up in Wichita, used to take our grade cards to Joyland and get so many free tickets for each 'A', so many for each 'B', etc. (late '60s, early '70s). Going to Joyland was such a treat, I remember dragging our folks by the hand down the sidewalks toward the main ticket booth…tons of good memories. Thanks for taking the effort to document this wonderful place!

AbandonedOK Team
Guest

Incredible! This is a great story! I wonder what would happen to our nations education system if more business still offered such a thing. When I was a child (early 80's) Pizza Hut gave you free pizza for reading books… Thanks for sharing Mike!

Cheryl
Guest
Cheryl

I grew up in the 70's & remember getting tickets for our grades. I always had good report cards!
So sad that it is closed and has been vandalized.

Tim
Guest
Tim

Look how many people Stan Nelson made smile.
Wouldn't we all like to be able to add that to our tally board of accomplishments during our life, when it is all said and done. Hats off to a guy that did it.That means more than all the money you could dream of. Rest In Peace Mr.Nelson.

( Thanks again for the great website and work .)

Kirstin
Guest
Kirstin

Love this and loved Joyland! I used to go every summer and spring! Nice piece! Thanks for the memories!

Beth Marshall
Guest
Beth Marshall

I work for an amusement ride mfg and this morning we receieved an email with some very sad news. Mr.Stan Nelson passed away last night at the age of 88. My prayers go out to his family and may Stan R.I.P. Thanks for the memories, Stan <3

psychosaw13
Guest
psychosaw13

Beth thank you for notifying us of this sad news.
if you have any more info please send our it our way.

R.I.P. Stan. Thank you for your legacy in the amusment industry & thank you for great childhood memories for all of us!

candace
Guest
candace

Hey Guys

I just wanted to say that this is a wonderful piece and the pictures are awesome. I ran across this site by sccident but I am glad I did. Great job!!

psychosaw13
Guest
psychosaw13

Hi Candace, We are so happy you like our site.
The best things come from somthing a person finds by accident (most of the time) 🙂

Tim
Guest
Tim

Hey Guys,
Awesome work.You are doing some very excellant research. I enjoy these no matter where you go. It is the good ol USA History btw- I thought Davey Jones was dead. Maybe he is just sittin around soakin up unemployment whilst being critical of those who are doing.
I just want to say thanks . This is my favorite website to visit. Again great historical documentation.

AbandonedOK Team
Guest

Thanks Tim for the kudos! Glad you enjoyed the post!

Brooke
Guest
Brooke

This is AMAZING! I wish I could see it in person!

davy jones
Guest

for a minute there i thought this website was about abandoned oklahoma places…oh wait, it is. way to stick with your roots boys. maybe next time you can go to alaska or oregon or rhode island or iowa or…

psychosaw13
Guest
psychosaw13

Excuse us sir for going a few miles north. I am deeply sadened you did not enjoy my weeks of research & our pictorials from a really awesome place some of us had not seen before. Perhaps you would like to visit a really exciting site such as this: http://www.cherokee.org/ if you want to stick with oklahoma roots. There are no super cool abandonments but you can learn about OK roots there. We like to consider this post as a "Not in Oklahoma special edition" There will be more posts coming from Kansas & well as other states in the… Read more »

Fiend
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Fiend

Zing! Maybe the great Davy Jones should try to do better than us, if you are so displeased.

bradley mcwilliams
Guest
bradley mcwilliams

my goodness, get over it! So they done a story on a Wichita park, if you don't like it, don't look at it. Go work out you anger issues somewhere else…

Bubba Jones
Guest
Bubba Jones

Go fuck yourself

Danielle
Guest

Amazing. I wish I would have been there!

AbandonedOK Team
Guest

Incredible job guys! This is one of those I will be regretting for not accompanying you for the journey….

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