• warning: Parameter 2 to ed_classified_link_alter() expected to be a reference, value given in /home/soloneconomist/www/www/includes/common.inc on line 2968.
  • warning: Parameter 2 to ed_classified_link_alter() expected to be a reference, value given in /home/soloneconomist/www/www/includes/common.inc on line 2968.

Riverview Park

Going to Riverview was a big deal.
In the late 1800s, the area was used as a shooting range by a group of German immigrants who fought in the Austro-Prussian War, AKA the Seven Weeks’ War. Germans fought on either side of that quick but brutal conflict over real estate. By the early 1900s, however, the old guard died off and the new guard decided to turn it into a park, and then an amusement park.
By the time the Fleck family lived in their flat at 1520 Melrose St. on Chicago’s north side, Riverview Amusement Park was a full-blown big time attraction the likes of Coney Island. Dwight D. Eisenhower was the president of the day, and George Washington was the president on the quarter it cost to get in and on the other quarters needed to buy tickets for the rides. Five dollars was a month’s food, and there was no place in the family budget for entertainment.
But then there was Two-Cent Tuesday.
Even at that ridiculous discount it would cost a family of five like ours a dime to get in, an amount still not in the budget. But that bookkeeping didn’t factor in the precinct captain. Say what you will about Richard J. Daley, his minions took care of the neighborhoods. Among the favors they doled out were an occasional roll of tickets for free admission and rides at River View Park on, you guessed it, Two-Cent Tuesday. The equivalent today would be to vote for the right candidate and get a free, all-expenses paid trip for you and your family to Busch Gardens or Disneyland. The Romans invented keeping the masses docile with great spectacle, but the Chicago Democratic Machine brought the art to new heights.
To get there, we walked a block south from our apartment on North Ashland, and then turned west for a mile hike on Belmont Avenue towards the Chicago River, North Branch. Pagoda towers sporting red, white and blue stripes held up a large arch over the entrance. In a reserve that had been a shooting range carved out of the forest for old soldiers of the Kaiser just a few decades earlier, a fantasy land of old world (before political correctness) entertainment awaited.
There were so many cool things packed into the 74 acres that it’s hard to pick a spot to start. “The Bobs” roller coaster was perhaps the most famous attraction of the day. Its 11 cars were jerked 85 feet up a rickety ramp before being loosed for a downward plunge that hit 50 mph. The “Shoot-the-Chutes” was another, a ride that introduced the masses to the concept of a free fall.
At the time, I was way too little for the coasters and drops, but there still was plenty for the preschool set. As detailed last week, I especially liked the Bump’em Cars and their nautical relative, the Water Bugs. Either way, you got to push on a gas pedal and steer to run into someone. Actually, I had a love-hate relationship with them. Because I was deemed too little to go alone, I typically got paired up with an older brother. If you were an only child you got to go alone, but if you had a sibling you got paired up and you both gave up a ticket.
Saladin’s Castle was the best value. For one ticket you got to navigate the maze, walk through the room of mirrors, slide down a chute, walk through a rotating barrel and more.
And then there were the foot-long hotdogs, the cotton candy, the bearded lady...
It was overwhelming.
By the time this coming presidential election cycle is through, it’s said that the various candidates and special interest groups will spend billions of dollars. Maybe it would be better if we just sold the position to the candidate that delivered the best carnival tickets. Which one do you think that’ll be?