Old Chicago


Old Chicago
Bolingbrook, Illinois
Memories

Here are some of the memories of Old Chicago that have been sent to me.  To add yours please email me and I'll add them as well.

Paul, My name is Cody, and I have some memories and photos of “Old Chicago” that I thought you might get a kick out of.

 As you will see in the photos, I was pretty young back then. I’m not sure how much I remember, and how much I was told… but, this is what I got. My dad was Shane (The Wizard of Norwillit) Dekens, and he worked at Marshall Brodien’s House of Magic inside the Old Chicago Mall.

Marshall Brodien, as you probably remember, was Wizzo the Wizard from The Bozo Show. So, Wizzo The Wizard was my Dad’s boss! That was pretty cool. I don’t remember seeing “Wizzo” that much (at least not in character), but my clearest memory was of Cooky The Cook (Roy Brown). Me and my Mom (Carol Elsey/Dekens), used to have to drop off, and pick up my Dad from work every day (we lived in Kankakee). So I used to go to “The Mall” every day! ‘Cooky” used to appear at “The Mall’ quite often, so I got to know him pretty well (in character only), and even got so familiar with him that he knew me by my first name! For a 3 year old kid, to be on a ’First Name Basis’ with Cooky The Clown... it just doesn’t get any better than that!!

I was too little to ride any of the rides, but I do remember that The Haunted House was so scary that I had to go back out the In Door less than halfway through! I also remember.

  Thank you for keeping the memory of “Old Chicago’ alive. I really enjoyed your website. Please feel free to contact me anytime.

You can see the pictures Cody sent along with this memory here.

My brother and sister (now in their 50s) both worked summer jobs at Old Chicago running the rides.

I still remember my brother talking about the time (and the NUMBER of times) the Toboggan roller coaster would malfunction. This ride had a vertical chain lift through a tube to bring the coaster to the top before releasing to the inertia of the track. But the cars would routinely get stuck near the top of the tube. He mentioned SEVERAL times that he would have to climb the ladder of the tube to comfort the passengers until the ride was ready to resume.

I also distinctly remember my brother having to work the days they closed the park for the filming of “The Fury”.

Good memories. Kelly (Plainfield)

Great website! Thanks for the walk down memory lane. I was very young at the time but do remember my mom taking me to my first concert there which I don't see listed. It was Herman's Hermits..I then developed a crush on Peter Noone!

Again, great job! --Michelle  

Good afternoon!!! I found your site about Old Chicago and have LOVED looking through it. I was only about 7-8 years old when my family would drive up from Central Illinois to go to Old Chicago. Being that young, I don’t have a lot of vivid memories, but I remember just how huge it all seemed.

I remember one visit, Clayton Moore was there as the Lone Ranger. He was signing autographs and handing out “black masks” (cardboard with elastic string) to everyone. The thing that was memorable about the visit (besides getting to meet the Lone Ranger!) was that this was during the time where he was trying to be stopped by the owner of the LR character from wearing his mask and making appearances as the character. So, although we got cool looking masks, he actually wore dark sunglasses (because we all know the Lone Ranger cannot be seen without his mask!). This makes me think it had to be toward the end of Old Chicago – maybe 1979?

Thanks for providing a place to enjoy some memories! Christy, Danville, Illinois 

Hello. My name is Kevin. I am 43 years old now. I grew up in Aurora Illinois.

I went to Old Chicago when I was 5 years old. It was at Old Chicago that I got on my very first roller coaster. I don't remember the name of the coaster, but I remember it being almost high enough to almost touch the top of the building, and being very fast. It was an adrenaline rush I will never forget.

I went back a few years later. By that time Old Chicago was out of business, but the building remained. Across the street from Old Chicago was an Outdoor Water Park that I went to. And I had a very good time. At that time Old Chicago was nothing more than a cool Landmark to stare at and remember the good time I had there at the Fairgrounds.

Today the property is a Car Auction Lot with a lot of cars in the parking lot. I am a frequent visitor to the area when I go to my favorite restaurant near by called The Golden Corral. The only evidence that Old Chicago existed was the street name that it was on. Old Chicago Drive. That is my memory of Old Chicago and I'm very happy to have had the experience there and share it with someone else. God Bless You and Take Care. Your Friend, Kevin. 

 

I remember very well when Old Chicago was built and demolished. I lived in Bolingbrook for 20 years starting in 1971. I just always had the impression that the place seemed very “hollow” and the noise from the amusement park was just strange sounding. It seemed dark, noisy, and we only went once or twice. The specialty shops were interesting, but I don’t think their sales supported the mall. I heard that they wanted a Sears or J. C. Penney to anchor the mall, but they wanted to have their own entrance but the mall wouldn’t let them. Everyone had to come through the main entrance to Old Chicago.  - Karen

I worked one summer at Old Chicago Amusement Park in Bolingbrook, IL while attending the College of St. Francis in Joliet, IL.  Working on a double-major in theater and music, I applied to work at the park during a summer break and was hired to do a number of "jobs" at Old Chicago.  (I graduated in 1979 - so I most likely worked there summer of 1978.)
  • I ran the spotlight during the magic show.
Kids loved to torture the costumed characters... they banged on the "big" heads, stuck their fingers in the eye sockets, tripped the characters, etc.  My job was to stop them... and sometimes threaten to kick them out of the park if they didn't leave the costumed characters alone (remember Luigi, the pizza maker, Sparky the firedog, etc.)

My uncle worked on the construction of Old Chicago and it was his first job.  There was a picture of him in the Harold News climbing the dome to install a hand rail.  We talk about it a lot and he remembers a lot about the construction.  My uncle also gave us tickets for the VIP party before the grand opening.  I was 8 1/2 at the time and telling a kid at that age he can look at a new amusement park but cant go in sucked.  I also remember a lot of hanging wires.  My uncle said they had no business opening the building that night. - Bryan S

Far as the dunk tank’s uniqueness, there were several things. Physically, it was huge about 12 foot tall I would say. It had 4 seats and 4 targets… though I never saw more than 2 people in it at any given time. The water was over 5 foot deep, so when they got dunked they actually had to tread water and swim back to the ladder. This was all visible through the full Plexiglas front.

The part that made it so memorable to a 19 year old guy was the dunkies. Though there was an occasional guy, it was 90% 18 year old attractive girls in very skimpy bikinis. Intermixed with them were some smoking hot girls. I was at the park quite a bit because my girlfriend lived close buy. I frequently got myself into trouble with my girlfriend while strolling past the dunk tank. The dunkies were all very flirty and loud. In the early opening of the dunk tank the girls in the tank had no microphone, the ones out front did. There were usually three of them out front. They would conspire among themselves and flirt up all the guys around their age. If a family went by they were very appropriate and sweet. If a group of 18 year old guys or guys with dates went by, they were brutal. It was an outpouring of comments that were intended to have double meanings. They would often pick on a group and ultimately zero in on one guy in the group. “Hey you think you can make her wet? I’ll bet she’d love to go down for ya.” Another popular tease was that the girl that gave you the balls and took your money would stand by you and yell “HARDER!!!” After every miss. Often they would all join in and chant it together.

Since you could not hear the dunkie till after they put microphones by them, they were all about hand gestures. Here again the family crowd would see waves and motions as to say come on or yawns and other gestures of boredom.. Guys the dunkie girls age could expect to see that and occasionally be flipped a mean or even sexy finger in between That game was easily one of, if not the biggest turn on of my youth. I was addictive. I could go on and on.

The Old Chicago Dunk Tank

The Old Chicago Dunk Tank

The Old Chicago Dunk Tank

 

I just stumbled upon your site and it has brought back many memories.

I remember that Marshall Brodien had a magic shop at Old Chicago. He's the same Marshall Brodien who went on to be Whizzo the Wizard on the Bozo T.V. show. He was also the magician who appeared in many commercials selling his T.V. Magic Cards. He sold the shop to Billy Bishop, another Chicago area performer and magician.

I had just worked with Jimmy Troy, the performer who fell to his death in Old Chicago, a few weeks earlier at a shopping mall outside of Milwaukee. Clyde "Buddy" Farnum, former manager, is still around. I think he lives in New York state somewhere.

I once auditioned for a television commercial that was shot at Old Chicago. The camera crew began setting up for the commercial after the park was closed. The park was transformed into an old county fair grounds with sawdust on the floor and all the amusement rides as a background. The commercial was for a soft drink called "Quirst." "Quence your thirst with Quirst" was the slogan. I appeared as a clown among a group of children. With special effects, a can of "Quirst" was beamed from a spaceship right into my outstretched hand as the children looked on in anticipation for their treat of the soft drink.

We shot the commercial over two week-ends from very late until the early hours of the morning. I eagerly awaited the commercial to air but unfortunately the makes of Squirt, filed an injunction over the similarities of the two names-Quirst and Squirt. The judge ruled in favor the Squirt and the commercial never was aired. I got paid for the two nights work but was very disappointed that the commercial never aired and I never got paid the "resididuals." Those payments that come to a performer every time the commercial gets shown on T.V. I do however still have one can of "Quirst" as a reminder of those two special nights spent at Old Chicago.  - Donald W.

Being from nearby Lemont, I remember going there several times as a teenager. I never went into the amusement park area, because the plain cement floor and lack of sky made it seem too sterile and unnatural. The constant loud, discordant noise from this area was also discouraging.

I did, however, enjoy walking through the mall with my friends. I was always intrigued by the detail of the storefronts and how well designed everything seemed, especially those nearer the front entry. I also recall the entryway, with its "hanging gardens" (large brass-type fixtures that contained draped ivies, hung at varying heights and intervals). At the time, I thought they were among the most beautiful things I had ever seen, and to this day, I have had hanging ivies in every place I've lived. I was also impressed by the "cobblestone streets", and wondered at the time how long it took to build them, with what must have been hundreds of thousands of individual stones. Now, they are all probably in a landfill somewhere.

The only store that I seem to recall is a Wendy's restaurant in one of the mall "corners". I remember that it had a unique second floor eating area that you reached from a spiral staircase. The eating area looked out over the mall area, and you could sit in it and watch people walking through the mall. I would go to Old Chicago just to eat there. I believe it was the first Wendy's in the Chicago suburbs.

I remember driving there with a friend one evening, in summer of 1978, only to find just a handful of cars in the enormous parking lot. We turned around and went home. That was the last time I saw Old Chicago "alive".

Once it was boarded up, I expected -- as did most people -- that it was just a matter of time before it would reopen. When we saw the walls coming down, it was quite a shock. Now the area nearby is festooned with cement warehouses as big or bigger than Old Chicago was. The site itself is a series of car auctions and auto sales centers.

Long before we met, my husband worked on the subdividing of the Old Chicago property after its demolition, and he says that by then, all that was left was a big hole in the ground.  - Reja

I grew up in Downers Grove, and now I'm married with 2 kids living in Woodridge . . . so we're still in the area . . . and my heart still skips a beat every time I see the damn, huge "auto" place there now, (where they hold the car auctions). It makes me sad - but I still remember that building standing there . . . with all the magic inside!!

What I haven't seen on the internet, nor your site on Old Chicago, is something called (if I remember correctly), "The Four Seasons" ride. It was a ride, kinda tucked in the back corner, next to the smaller roller coaster . . . it was on a track that took you through winter, spring, summer and fall. (I remember loving that ride for some reason!) Anyone ever write to you about that?

ALSO, I remember seeing SEVERAL concerts there . .. I remember seeing Ricky Nelson there . . . and Willie Aames . . . and I KNOW I saw others too . . . I'm a few years older than you from what I gather in your articles, I was 9 when it opened and 14 when it closed . . . . and I got my first kiss there! I think there was also a part near the back area (on the complete opposite wall of the entrance), where they showed old movies - like black and white stuff, Charlie Chaplain, Three Stooges, etc. . .. but that is such a DISTANT memory . . . it's so vague!!

ANYWAY - SORRY, I don't have one picture of those old days . . . SO wish I had . . . but it was GREAT seeing all the ones you displayed, and the pictures of the old stores, as well!! (I remember a poster store in there too - as "Saturday Night Fever" was huge back then - and we were always looking at the Bee Gees posters, Shawn Cassidy posters, etc.!! LOL!!) I remember a "Fortune Teller" machine too - which was really cool to us kids, sitting out in one of the dark corners of the mall area!! I DID see a picture of her on another site one time . . . so it's out there!!

Well, I didn't mean for this to be a novel!! Sorry!! You just touched upon one of my FAVORITE childhood memories . . . and I got on a roll!!  - Pam

I just found your website and it brought back some great memories.  I lived in the south suburbs of Chicago and went to Old Chicago probably 5 or 6 times before it was torn down.  I was amazed that the park didn't make it, as it did ease the cold winters of Chicago.  Seeing the site reminded me that there was some film footage shot there in the movie "The Fury" from the late 70's.  I don't know if you knew about it.   - Dave W.

You can see the Old Chicago section of The Fury on the Old Chicago Videos page.

Loved your Old Chicago website!

I've been reminiscing lately.  I remember seeing Willie Aames and Paradise at Old Chicago, back in 1979.  How I loved him.  I think Alicia Bridges was performing there the same night too, before Willie Aames - I never heard of her but I liked "I Love The Night Life" that she sang the night that I saw her.  My favorite ride was The Four Seasons where it would get cold when you rode past winter.  I remember the old cobblestone streets throughout the mall and the Old Fashioned Wendy's (when they had the old ads on the tables).

Thanks for posting all those pictures on your website!  I loved browsing through your site.  What great memories!  - Debbi

From 1974 - 1980 I lived in Downers Grove and Old Chicago was a couple miles down I-55 in Bolingbrook. In addition to working in the games department in the summer of 1979, I went to Old Chicago many times.

My most fond memories of Old Chicago are of the Windy City Disco Movement. It was the only place around where teenagers could go to dance to the latest disco music. It had a great dance floor. I took many dates there. It was located in the southwestern corner of the amusement park.

There was a bookstore that always carried the latest issue of Billboard magazine - not easy to find, especially in the suburbs. Being a diehard music chart follower, this required frequent trips down there before I could afford the pricey subscription.

And of course there were the rides. The Chicago Loop, there was a Tilt-a-Whirl and a Scrambler though I'm sure they had different names, and the Enterprise.

I now live in Minneapolis/St Paul and only seven miles away from me is the Mall of America. Every time I'm there (frequently with 13 and 12 year old daughters), I remember Old Chicago. Because in many ways, Old Chicago was the predecessor to the Mall of America. It was the same idea, but without anchor stores, it couldn't survive. But my Old Chicago memories will always survive. And they are all good!   - John J.

I enjoyed reading your page on Old Chicago. One question! The ride that you call The Enterprise, the one that went around in a circle as it rose until you were just about upside down, wasn't that ride called "The Windy City"? I had very specific memories about that name and of course the Chicago Loop, as they were my first rides of their kind.   -Laura Smith

I believe it was called the Windy City Screamer.  I called it the Enterprise because that is the name that the manufacturer of that type of ride called that model.  Thanks for reminding me and it has been changed.



I went to Old Chicago many times. I remember that a friend of mine won tickets from the Loop for New Year's Eve. we had so much fun there. I was little for my age and they didn't want to let me on the Chicago Loop, but since my dad was with me they let me. I don't remember that much else about it though, but I do remember that right next to the ticket booth there was a novelty shop that sold all kinds of crazy stuff, & we bought fake dog poop there for our teacher's birthday.  - Annette M.

I have fond memories of Old Chicago. That was were I got my first job in 1977 at the one and only game that was upstairs “Fascination”. It was tic tac toe with balls that you would roll up to the top of a machine and they would fall in a hole and light up a screen on the front of the machine it was twenty-five cents per game. I worked with a guy there named “Justo”, don’t know whatever happened to him. You would win tickets and you could turn them in for prizes (like the now Haunted Trails/Chucky Cheese).

I moved from that game to the amusement park office downstairs. I worked with Greg Rice and a Mr. Brandolino. I met some of the stars that came to put on concerts – the big ragu (Laverne and Shirley), Peaches and Herb and a few others.

I could hear the “Loop” the roller coaster going and when it jumped the track and got stuck on the top just before it would go down the first hill, I would get several calls from workers that said “Loops jumped”. I would have to call maintenance and the manager on duty to go and check it out.

My brother Richard worked there as well as a game manager. I also met my first husband there William Carlson, he ran the rides. I had a lot of fun at that place and was very sad when it closed down so soon after I started working there. The memories will never be forgotten.  - Renee L.

I remember going to Old Chicago a few times and loved it. We went there on a Saturday when Karl Wallenda walked the tightrope near the dome during a weekend engagement. I was disappointed on its closure but realize it was very much a product of its time period, yet I feel it will eventually be regarded as ahead of its time as well.  - Myron J.

I went in August of 1976 to the park so I'm sure some things changed. But here is what I remember:

After entering the park (which you entered by going down spiral concrete ramps that led from the mall level to the park level) I will describe the rides I remember in a Clockwise fashion. Obviously there were probably more "flat" and kiddee rides than I remember. But any of the big things I remember because my brother and I went on them.

If you looked into the park directly from the ticket booths the first ride in front of you was the Log Ride. It was a rather short ride and the water channels were made of cement instead of fiberglass which I remember as being weird. The ride was kinda boring; it meandered around and ended in a small hill (probably only about 25 ft). To the left of the log ride was the Chicago Loop which was the Corkscrew coaster. This was a standard Arrow model but since it was enclosed it made a really "neat" noise when it travelled on it's circuit.

Working around the outer circle (which the park was laid out in) the next ride was the Enterprise. This ride was placed directly against the wall; when the ride was elevated to its peak it was parallel w/ the exterior glass wall that separated the amusement park from the mall. I remember riding this since it was my first Enterprise and it actually scared me back then. The next ride on the circle (and it was directly behind the Chicago Loop) was a Chance Yo-Yo. Walking past this there was a large food stand and I believe some kind of show stadium. The next thing on the circle was "The Cat" rollercoaster. I remember it being flush against the wall and I remember it having the longest line we encountered all day. The only other ride I remember was a dark ride that was called "The Four Seasons". It was extremely lame as I remember. But what was neat was that the entrance to the ride was flush w/ the amusement park wall. In other words the track traveled under what must have been the walkway for the Mall. The day we went to the park it wasn't crowded at all and we did most everything in about 3 hours.

I remember thinking the layout seemed odd since a couple of ride entrances would be close together and then there would be patches of dead area filled w/ food shops and game booths. Something I read about in articles about the park and something I experienced at that time was the weird noises that the rides generated and that the indoor park contained. In the last few years of the park major bucks were spent (apparently) on sound dampers. When we visited it wasn't that all the rides were noisy. Rather the just echoed in a really strange way. The sound from the Chicago Loop was so distinguishable that you could tell exactly where the train was on the coaster even if you didn't look just by the "pitch" of the sound. I don't know any other way to explain this but I would be interested to hear if anyone else remembers this.   - Christopher 

I remember Old Chicago.

 Only visited a few times. In retrospect, I remember the park did have some cool names of rides. In addition to the Chicago Loop, I thought the Crash of '29 was a neat name for the bumper cars. I also remember the Four Seasons dark ride which I liked a lot. Seem to remember a YoYo as well. I remember getting sick on the Rotor, one of the very few times I got sick at a park. Took a rest and then went on the Tilt a Whirl and got sick again. Pretty stupid.

I remember they had these funny box like things hanging from the sky. Supposedly to dampen noise. The sky or lack there of was a negative. Wish they had skylights like Camp Snoopy at Mall of America. For an indoor park, that one does a good job of making you feel like you are outdoors, almost. Interestingly, the site still attracted me years later.

My two passions in life are parks and cars. I've been back several times for classic car auctions (the site is now a car auction), and in my brief stint as a car dealer, have been there to buy and sell. Still wish it was a park though, and better yet, wish some of the other outdoor parks in Chicagoland had survived.   - Jim W 

I visited Old Chicago in my youth. I believe I went two times. I think the first time was still while the park was in full swing, and the second was when it was in decline.

I don't remember much for sure--my impressions were very vague--but I seem to recall the park not being very crowded on my second visit. I don't remember the rides very well. I know they had a flat ride that I liked a lot. I think it was called the Bobs (I had no idea that there might be a coaster association with this name), and consisted of tubs that swung out freely as the ride went around on a track with some hills. Geauga Lake has one of these called the Yukon Yahoos, and Cedar Point also has one, possibly called Matterhorn. I loved this ride at the time.

I don't really remember the coasters clearly at all. I have the impression the Corkscrew got very close to the roof, but I don't really remember the ride experience at all. Oddly, the one thing I remember clearly is when a guy at the dunking booth was trying to get me to play by calling me "four eyes." This was located on one wall of the park area, along with some other games. This is when I remember the park not being very crowded, because there weren't too many other people for him to make fun of as we walked by. It's really the only visual memory I have of the place now, unfortunately.  - Dave S.




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Paul B. Drabek