Behind the door of every old building there's a story waiting to be revealed...
Saturday, September 26, 2015
From 1943 to 1980 the corner of North Alamo Street and Broadway was home to Playland Park, one of the first real amusement parks in San Antonio. Today all that remains is a vacant lot surrounded by chain link fence and the remains of the original gate into the amusement park. Soon the Alamo Community College District will begin construction of a new support operations facility on this property.
James E. Johnson had come to San Antonio in 1941 and opened a penny arcade followed by an amusement park in Brackenridge Park. Due to George W. Brackenridge's stipulations about no park usage by for-profit businesses he was forced to relocate. He re-opened in 1943 at this corner. The first year of the park's existence was difficult; World War II was raging and shortages of everything, including spare parts for the rides, were commonplace. It seemed frivolous, but the park finished its first year with a successful profit.
Following the war Mr. Johnson constructed a wooden roller coaster and named it "The Rocket". It was full of thrills and chills! Many San Antonio natives have fond memories of riding it during their early years. When the park closed in 1980 an amusement park in Pennsylvania, Knoebels, purchased the Rocket. It was disassembled with each piece carefully labeled and numbered. It was reassembled at its new home and re-named as The Phoenix. It is still running today!
I visited the park once in the mid-1970's with a group of people. They were gushing about the rides and the park, but I could only politely respond as I had visited Disneyland on many occasions and this little park just didn't measure up to me! But to them it was the place to come for rides, mid-way games, and a little fun. It was a place that represented another era in entertainment and time over came it as preferences changed.
In addition to the Rocket, the park offered rides for children and adults, a place to picnic, a fun house known as the Dipsy Doodle, a midway with games, miniature golf, and a small chapel that featured a religious movie. There was more: a shooting gallery, an archery range, a penny arcade, a fortune teller, and of course, refreshments were available. After the park closed and the Rocket removed, the buildings were allowed to deteriorate and were removed sometime in the last few years.