RedEye

The closing of Riverview

Children would beg their parents to drive by slowly-- especially at night--so they could savor the lights, watch one of the Pair-O-Chutes float to the ground from an Erector-set tower and listen to the squeals of terrified riders on the roller coasters. It was Riverview, a place where, in the words of well-named entertainer and television pitchman Dick "Two-Ton" Baker, you could "laugh your troubles away."

Opened in 1904 on what was the German Sharpshooters club at Western and Belmont Avenues, Riverview began with three rides on 74 acres and the promise of "an avalanche of novelties, a whirlwind of surprises." Over the years the novelties and surprises grew, and the park became a second home to generations of youngsters.

Toward the end there were 120 rides, including six roller coasters, plus a midway complete with freaks and barkers and kewpie dolls.More than 1.7 million people visited the park in 1967, nearly as many as watched the Cubs and White Sox at home that year combined. But it was not enough to save the park. On this date came the announcement that Riverview had been sold to developers for more than $6 million. Aladdin's Castle and the Pair-O-Chutes and the Tunnel of Love and the Flying Turns and the Water Bug and the Rotor and the Ghost Train and even the revered Bobs would be flattened, gone, history.

In truth, Riverview, though still profitable, had in its final years lost some of its sparkle. By the mid-1960s, some troubles could not just be laughed away.

"Midst all the dripping nostalgia over the demise of Riverview," wrote the Tribune's Herb Lyon in his Tower Ticker column, "one sorry fact stands out. It was sold to industrial interests primarily because of the unprecedented leap in juvenile delin-punksy this past season. In fact, it was a tinder-box nightly, with violence lurking behind the rollercoaster fun--and is one more casualty of the way things are."

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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