Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Fairyland Park...and the Carousel of Happiness!

Fairyland Park...
Do you remember Fairyland Park?  You do if you were a child growing up in American Fork, Utah in the 1960s and 1970's.  The park was a magical place filled with giant fairy tale and storybook figures.  The picture on the left shows the Pied Piper of Hamlin. It was located on the campus of the Utah State Training School...now called the Developmental Center...a school for the developmentally disabled.  The superintendent of the school, Dr. Vernon F. Houston, believed in doing everything possible to enhance the lives of the residents.  He developed a campus recreation program, with dances, outings and other sports.  The park was created during his tenure.  When it was complete, it contained both a miniature railroad...complete with a tunnel...and the merry-go-round from the old Saltair Resort.  Grateful parents erected a bronze statue of Houston at the park entrance.

A schoolhouse and castle.  Swings in the background.

I have so many fun memories of visiting Fairyland Park.  Grandma Zetta worked in the laundry at the school, so we came quite often.  I have had a real hard time finding photos of the park.  With the help of some of the members of the American Fork Facebook Group, we managed to come up with a few.  Recently I found the grainy photos in my high school yearbook.  The student body officers were photographed goofing around on some of the attractions.

This was Peter Pumpkin Eater's house.

Giant wedge of swiss cheese. 
I was afraid of getting stuck in the holes.
Not for the claustrophobic!

The Old Woman's Shoe was a slide.
A few people have mentioned that it "smelled funny."
Probably like feet!

I am having a hard time remembering all the structures in the park.  Besides the ones pictured...my favorite (for a scary shiver) was Red Riding Hood's Grandmother's house.  When you looked in the window, there was the wolf in Granny's nightgown.  Terrifying!  If you are from American Fork and can remember other storybook items...please let me know in the comments.  Do you have photos you could share on the Facebook group?  I know everyone would love to see them.  There is nothing left of Fairyland Park now but the sign.

Everyone's favorite was the carousel. 
It has a long history all it's own.
A fairy tale of sorts...

"The Carousel of Happiness"
Charles I. D. Looff

Once upon a time there was a man named Charles I. D. Looff, a master carver and builder of hand-carved carousels and amusement rides in America.  According to Wickipedia, Mr. Looff...who was born in Denmark...built the first carousel in Coney Island in 1876.  During his lifetime, he designed and manufactured over 50 carousels, several amusement parks, numerous rollercoasters and Ferris wheels.  He built California's famous Santa Monica Pier and was known for creating the Coney Island style of carousel carving.

Saltair Resort...located on the Great Salt Lake outside of Salt Lake City, Utah.

In a 2006 article in Carousel News and Trader Magazine, Roland Hopkins writes, "In 1910, Charles Looff delivered the grand 4-row carousel to the Saltair Park outside of Salt Lake City.  The park was built on a pier over the Great Salt Lake and proudly referred to by its owners as the 'Coney Island of the West.'  Thus it was fitting that they would choose a Looff carousel, as it was Looff who produced the first carousel for New York's Coney Island amusement park in 1876."

The Saltair Looff Carousel...
"The grand Saltair carousel was placed prominently on the pier to be the first attaction people would see as they arrrived at the park by train.  This proud placement may very well have saved the ride from the numerous calamaties to come."

Carousel Riders...

From the Carousel of Happiness web page:  "During its 49 years of operation, the Saltair carousel survived fires and windstorms.  Once, it was the only attraction to survive a devastating park fire unharmed.  After a windstorm, during which the roller coaster was blown over onto the carousel, it was rebuilt with 2 rows of animals from the original carousel.  In 1959 the park was declared bankrupt and Utah's governor gave the Looff carousel to the Utah State Training School in American Fork not far away."  Residents of the school and nearby communities enjoyed the carousel for another 27 years.

In 1976, the horses and carousel were repaired and restored.

In 1975-76, the carousel was completely renovated and its animals repaired by the staff and students of the vocational training section of the school.  The students stripped up to 30 layers of paint from the animals and found one horse with the date "1872" engraved in the wood.  The last time I rode the carousel was in 1972 at a Drama Club party...George and I shared a "romantic" ride just before a rousing game of "Kick the Can."  The restoration hadn't been done at that time.


In 1986, a buyer purchased the ride to sell its animals at auction.  The school's residents were devastated as the ride was dismantled and taken away.   Luckily, a man named Scott Harrison was on hand to purchase the carousel frame.  He wanted to take it to his hometown of Nederland, Colorado and restore it to glory.  Harrison made no effort to recreate the original animals, but spent over two decades carving a fanciful menagerie of 38 wooden animals.

The "Carousel of Happiness" in Nederland, Co.

Museum of Idaho

If you enjoyed learning about the history of the "Carousel of Happiness" and you live in the Mountain West, the Museum of Idaho, in Idaho Falls is currently hosting an exhibit called "Carousels: Art and History in Motion."  The exhibit runs from Jan. 25 to May 27.  My granddaughters have seen it and loved it...especially loved riding the full-size carousel!

I love visiting the museum at Christmas...they do a vintage Christmas display and have a room filled with gingerbread houses!

Thanks for letting me share my childhood memories!


Geoffrey Hatfield said...

Hey Mom,

I just read your post. I love that park. Lori and I used to go there for picnics and to look at the temple. I always wondered about the weird old statues that were there. I think they are all gone now.

You blog brought back vague memories of Saratoga Springs Waterpark. I wonder where that was and if it was as cool as I remember. I remember it had a Donald duck looking ride. It was beat-up and crappy then, I almost think City of Fun Carnival bought it and tried to restore it.

Perfectly Printed said...

Carousels are so much fun! This park looks similar to one fairly close to my home...Fairyland in Oakland, Ca. I visited the park once we took a Brownie troop there.....they had a blast! Love learning the history of your Fairland Park. I wonder if they are related some how. I may have to do a little research of my own own!


Tammy's in Love said...

Well, you know my obsession with visiting the historic carousels wherever we travel. I loved your happy memoires stories of visiting the pre-Disney theme park. In the Wisconsin Dells there was an attraction known as Storybook Gardens,similar and adorable.

Margaret said...

Wow! That reminds me of Storytown USA in upstate NY. I went there when I was very little. You were guided by Little Bo Peep and Goldilocks into the Old WOman's SHoe, etc. Wonderful memories. BTW we live about an hour from Manhatan and when my husband is working near Brooklyn, he will still make a stop into COney Island to go on the famous Cyclone rollercoaster! Maggie

~Damita's Pretty Wrap~ said...

What happy memories and great pictures :) Thanks for sharing. xx Holly

Patti M said...

Shirley you tell the best stories....I love carousels...I always chose the sea horse if they had one or a white horse with flowers.
Hugs...Patti M : )

LBP said...

Our one and only amusement park closed in 1985 when it was flooded. How I miss it! Just the sound of the carousel and the screams on people riding the roller coaster would get me excited.. What fun memories you brought to the surface today!



LBP said...

Our one and only amusement park closed in 1985 when it was flooded. How I miss it! Just the sound of the carousel and the screams on people riding the roller coaster would get me excited.. What fun memories you brought to the surface today!



Melody said...

Love Carousels; Enjoyed your story.
I'm also excited about the Easter Swap. Email me. :)

VintageBettys said...

I missed this post. WOW! When I was a child in school I hated history...now I find it fascinating! I love when I learn something new and interesting :) My mother painted a few large carousels....they are beautiful! We also had a park here in N.J. we called it storybook land :)

keri said...

Shirley, I'm Keri Lunt Stevens -- a reporter at the Daily Herald. I'm writing an article about Fairyland Park and would love to print some of these photos with the article. Do you have permission to share them? Or can you lead me to someone who does? If so, please contact me at kstevens@heraldextra.com or (801) 344-2556. Thanks!

Pops said...

Shirley, EXCELLENT information and research. The photos are priceless. Thanks for taking the time to assemble these resources.

Your pal,

Steve Anderson

Pops said...

Shirley, EXCELLENT information and research. The photos are priceless. Thanks for taking the time to assemble these resources.

Your pal,

Steve Anderson

Ashley Bishop said...

Today I went to Quail Cove park and I kept my eyes open hoping to see a gnome hiding somewhere, a little left behind treasure of Fairyland Days. It was eerily enchanting walking through the park and wondering what it was like in years past, full of whimsy and wonder. I enjoyed your post, thank you so much for sharing!