If I haven’t yet convinced you Hollywood Park was the best thing that could happen to a Chicago kid during the 1950s and ’60s, this photograph should do the trick. We had, right in our neighborhood, the Hollywood Kiddieland amusement park.
It was no week-long carnival that came and went under the cover of darkness. I’m not sure when it opened, but at the 1948 zoning hearing for the proposed Lincoln Village Shopping Center, Hollywood Kiddieland was mentioned as being adjacent to the undeveloped parcel.
In the late sixties, ride tickets cost 20 cents each, six for a buck. Earlier on, Kiddieland offered free tickets in exchange for the cardboard caps from glass milk bottles. My mother saved them over the winter, and she never had to remind me to drink my milk. Each glass went towards more rides.
Opening day we arrived at the Kiddieland ticket booth with our pot of gold–a large, clear plastic bag bulging with milk bottle caps. On summer nights, we stayed so late my mother made my sister and me change into pajamas in the car because we fell asleep before she made it home. We lived six blocks away.
Birthday parties held at Kiddieland meant free pickup from the birthday child’s house on a big red fire truck. At least I remember it being big. I’d hear the jangling of the bell before seeing the fire truck coming down the street, and though the sound was a sad reminder that I had never been invited to a Kiddieland birthday party, I always ran out front to catch a glimpse of those lucky kids who looked as though they were sitting on top of the world.
I also remember the first time I went to Kiddieland–we never called it Hollywood Kiddieland–without a parent. I arrived in a pack of sixth and seventh-grade boys and girls. We roamed the grounds, all of us pretending to be much too old for baby rides. We hung out at the arcade and the batting cages, then played a round of miniature golf, but what I really wanted to do was ride the Ferris wheel one more time.
About that other, larger and more famous Kiddieland? Until 2009 it was located in the Chicago suburb of Melrose Park. Back in 1950 they sued Louis Klatzco, the owner of Hollywood Kiddieland, in a bid to gain exclusive use of the Kiddieland name.
Big Kiddieland, which had been operating in Melrose Park for 13 years, claimed little Kiddieland, which must have been open nearly that long, copied their name to take advantage of their success. Why Big Kiddieland waited so long to sue Little Kiddieland is a mystery, but Klatzco won and got to keep the Hollywood Kiddieland name. Oh, did I mention Klatzco was a Chicago cop, a captain? In court he claimed he no longer owned Hollywood Kiddieland. His wife, two sons and sister-in-law did.
In 1955, the five Acciari brothers bought Hollywood Kiddieland. Their purchase included 18 rides and the refreshment stands. They added the arcade for the 1958 season. The original owner kept title of the land, plus the batting cages and miniature golf course.
For forty years the Acciari family also owned Roma’s, the pizza joint that was on the corner of Sheffield and Webster. I sure wished I had known that back in the late 1970s and early ’80s when I used to eat Roma’s pizza regularly. I would have told the Acciari family how much I loved Hollywood Kiddieland.
I talked to Karl Reins, Jr., who worked at Hollywood Kiddieland as a teen. He told me his father also worked there for a number of years and did the demolition job when the park closed in 1975. Karl remembers it all fondly: his co-workers; the neighborhood kids who hung out at the park; and the owners, who, Karl recalls, made a big difference in the lives of the underaged kids who worked at Kiddieland.
If you enjoyed Hollywood Kiddieland, check out the Facebook page I hung out at Hollywood Kiddieland. It’s mostly a group of people who worked there as kids and they’re sharing their memories. They’d like to hear yours.
Photo credits: Thanks to Gorillas Don’t Blog for permission of the top, third and bottom photos. All other photos courtesy of Linda Trotier.
Sources: My thanks to Karl Reins, Jr.