History of Playland Park
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play6t.jpg (7865 bytes) Playland Park
2222 N. Alamo
San Antonio, TX 78205
1940 - 1980

  Location of Park (close view)
Location of Park (far view)

In 1985 I made my first trip to San Antonio, TX to visit my Dad. At the time I didnít care anything about roller coasters or amusement parks. I was 11 years old. Now 13 years later I love roller coasters. I want to visit every amusement park possible and am interested in history of the old parks.

play4t.jpg (7819 bytes)In that summer of 1985 while riding around San Antonio with my Dad I saw a sign in front of a field of overgrown weeds and grass that said "Playland Park". I didnít think anything of it at that time. Now, several years later as Iíve become more involved in roller coasters Iíve realized, "Hey, that abandoned park I saw in San Antonio as a kid is where The Phoenix came from!" Unfortunately Iíve been unable to find anything about The Rocket or Playland Park on the Internet. Since The Phoenix is such a popular coaster Iíve decided to do a little research to find out some history of The Rocket and the park it came from.

Go here for some memories of visitors to this site

plposter.jpg (27048 bytes)

 

 

Rides and Attractions
 

 

List of Attractions known at this time:

 

10 Adult Rides, 6 Kids Rides
Picnic Grounds
Fun House (The Dipsy Doodle)
Penny Arcade
Shooting Gallery
3 Refreshment Stands
20 Games
Golf course
Archery Range
 

List of Rides Known at this time:

The Rocket -- (1947-1980) Built in 1947. At its opening it was hailed as "the largest roller coaster in the world." The first hill measured 78 feet and there was some 3200 feet of track. Playland Park closed in 1980 leaving The Rocket standing silent.

In 1985 Knoebels from Elysburg, PA undertook the huge project of dismantling the ride and moving it to Pennsylvania. Knoebels staff began taking the ride apart in January 1985. The dismantling proceeded smoothly through February and March. Just three months later, on June 12th, the renamed Rocketís (The Phoenix) orange train made the first successful trip around the reborn coaster. It opened to the public on June 15th to rave reviews and has been consistently ranked as a top ten coaster ever since.

Click here for pictures of The Rocket on this site.
Click here for pictures of The Rocket on Paul Young's Site

Carousel -- (1940-1980) This 1917 C.W. Parker carousel turned in San Antonio's Playland Park from 1940 until the park's closing in 1980. From 1981 to 1985 it operated at Bellís Amusement Park in Tulsa, Oklahoma. In 1988 the carousel was auctioned off in pieces. The San Antonio Carousel Foundation is currently in the process of buying and restoring all the original pieces. Space has been allocated in Hemisfair Park for the historic ride to operate once it is restored

Ferris Wheel

Bumper Cars

The Zoomer -- Sort of a Tilt-A-Whirl on an inclined plane

The Ghost Train

The Rolloplane

Calypso -- (19??-1968) A scrambler on an incline, which was more intense than a regular scrambler. Was moved to Hemisfair in 1968 and then sold.

Octopus -- (temporary)

Tilt-A-Whirl -- (temporary)

Bubble Bounce -- (temporary)

The Hammer -- A calypso (temporary)

Musik Express -- A Himalaya ride

Minerature Golf -- The miniature golf course had an around the world theme with a Dutch windmill, a Big Ben and a steel Eiffel Tower as obstacles. The Eiffel Tower can be seen today in the turnaround of the handcars at the Kiddie Park at Mulberry, just down Broadway from Playland's site.

Fun House -- The Fun House(aka Dipsey Doodle,) was an exceptional attraction. It was not the kind of funhouse like at so many European parks where once you enter it's like a large, well lit gymnasium floor where there are a variety of attractions to freely chose from: human roulette wheel, slides, cakewalk,  revolving barrel, et al.

No, this fun house  was the kind with an entrance and exit and all of its features were experienced sequentially.

It was constructed of cinder blocks, so the pitch black hallways you felt yourself through had no cracks of light, nothing but black.

After you entered, you felt your way through a switchback of black hallways, until you come to a very dimly lit room surrounded by doors. You would try door after door, until you found the one that opened into a hall surrounded by a revolving barrel lit up by blacklight. The walkway did not revolve, but it sure felt like it did( like the barrel in SFOT's original Cave ride.)

Back into blackness, you did several more turns, then daylight! You exited the facade momentarily so spectators could watch compressed air blast from the floor and scare the hell out of you and blow up girls dresses back when they wore dresses at amusement parks. Also out front you crossed a section of floor that would collapse as you crossed it.

Then back inside to blackness. Some of the hallway walls had rows of foot long rubber "fingers" sticking out from the walls at ankle level, making it feel like your ankles were being grabbed if you walked close to the wall. Somewhere in this part was a moving floor(back and forth) in the dark.

Your hallway turned a time or two, then was a big elevated section of moving floors you had to climb over with the help of handrails, and you could jump up and down on the top middle section. There was light in this hallway because right after the "bridge" you turned left and entered the well lit mirror maze. It was a large maze, with the front open to the front of the building so spectators outside the attraction could again watch people, this time going through the maze. Once you found the exit to the maze, you are back in blackness. Halfway down the next passage you step on a sensor, and a lit up blacklight monster scene lights up and makes noise right next to you.

At the end of the hallway at the turn was a turntable maybe two feet wide you could stand on and rotate.

After another turn or two, you entered the anti gravity room. Actually the entire room was slanted and the walkway went across, back , and across the room again. Then another dark hallway and you entered the room of crazy mirrors. For the first time in the attraction, you actually got to chose the order of fun house mirrors you looked at, and the amount of time you spent looking at them. Some made you look tall and skinny, others short and fat, or a little of both.

After that you exited the front of the building again to spectator scrutiny, but the path went back and forth several times, with compressed air blowers at all the turns(operated by an attendant, who was trying to surprise you,) and also had side by side pairs of boards going forward and backward opposite each other, cakewalk style.Then the path went behind a waist high walled off corner that had a floor that felt like it was being pounded on from underneath. There was one more set of air jets, and you exited onto the midway through the turnstile.

There was a "laughing Sally" to the left of the facade so that her insane laughing was always audible when you weren't inside.

Park History

Owner: Jimmy Johnson
Manager: Jack Johnson

They always put on a big July fourth fireworks extraveganza with a lot of on the ground spinning sparkling displays along with the aerials.

The park was rarely crowded except on pay one price days, which happened several times a year in conjunction with local spermarkets, etc.

Pictures

Here are some other pictures of the park area:

Sources

Thanks to the following people who responded for my request on rrc:
Richard Bonner
Paul Young
Richard Travis

Some information came from the following web sites:
Knoebels
San Antonio Carousel Foundation

Thanks to the following people who responded to my e-mails:
Kelly Irvin, Public Relations Manager, San Antonio Parks and Recreation Dept
Nancy Dean, City of San Antonio

Thanks to the following people who provided information by phone:
Exclusive Broker, San Antonio (real estate agent)

Note:  All information on this page has come from several different sources and is correct to the best of my knowledge.  If you find any mistakes or have more information, please contact me

 

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