Monday, April 02, 2007

Springlake

Related Article: Springlake via Arcadia
(Book-signing set for October 23 at Full Circle Books, Oklahoma City)



Click here to read about my Arcadia book on Springlake

Norman Thompson generously sent me a whole CD full of Springlake images (more than 300) that had come his/his family's way following the deaths of Roy Staton, and, later, his son, Marvin Staton. Roy Staton was the founder of Springlake in the 1920s, with beginnings around 1918 but not as the park it became. Except for the newspaper articles at the end, all of the images in this post have been supplied by Norman and I'll not distill that most excellent contribution by posting Springlake images from other sources even though many others are available. I express my sincere gratitude and thanks for the allowance of posting these pics! After granting the privilege, Norman and his family donated the original images to the Oklahoma City Metropolitan Library System to allow for as wide a dissemination as possible for Okc history buffs to enjoy ... now, that's the kind of OKC guy that I'm talkin' about! BIG TIME HAT'S OFF to Norman for setting the example for all of us to follow!

NOTE: You can see lots more of Norman's Springlake pics than the 60 or so pics I've posted here at Norman's Photobucket Springlake pics.

Update Note: OETA's 2-minute Centennial video clip collection now includes a Springlake Video and it appears to include several of Norman's pics which are posted here! Cool!

Admission to the park was free and rides and the pool were on a pay-as-you-go basis, i.e., if you just wanted to picnic by the lake, etc., there was no charge. Although the much-more-than-an-amusement-park no longer exists, its memory is honored by the presence of the Metrotech educational facility in its stead on the west side of Martin Luther King Boulevard and north of NE 38th Street and thereabouts and, as well, in the memory of some of us old geezers. An aerial image from the Oklahoma County Assessor's website of the Metrotech Campus appears below (where the amphitheater, a car from the Big Dipper, and a few photos remain of the park):


A snippet from an article at www.okhistory.org gives this overview:

Oklahoma City boasted three amusement parks in the mid-twentieth century: Wedgewood, Springlake, and Frontier City. In 1924, after his spring-fed pond in northeast Oklahoma City had been open to swimming and picnicking for six years, Roy Staton built a swimming pool there. Later expanding his park, he bought many of the rides from the defunct Belle Isle Park, built a ballroom, and in 1929 added the Big Dipper roller coaster, a fixture in the park for almost fifty years. The height of Springlake's popularity extended from the 1950s into the 1960s, and the park attracted top entertainers of the era including Johnny Cash, the Righteous Brothers, Roy Acuff, and Conway Twitty. A large riot that erupted in 1971 in the park, between whites and blacks, frightened away potential customers and hastened Springlake's demise. A change of ownership, poor maintenance, and fire led to the park's 1981 sale to the Oklahoma City Vo-Tech Board, which closed Springlake for good.
Roy Staton envisioned the park as being something very special, which it certainly came to be. An excellent article by William Boone, Springlake Park: An Oklahoma City Playground Remembered, appears at Volume 69 1991, No. 1, of the Chronicles of Oklahoma, pp. 4 ~ 25. That article give the history much more fully than this post will. Unfortunately, the article is not on-line, as far as I know, but I'll quote from it as this post develops referring to it as William Boone, Springlake Park.

For now, have a gander at the cool pics which Norman consented that I publish here. The "easiest hard part" was selecting only a bit more than 60 of the 300+ that he kindly provided ... nice kind of choice! Maybe I'll add others later, but these 60+ pics should be enough eye candy for now. The "hardest hard part" was to remember the demise of the park and how that came to be. But, both the "good" and "sad" memories are real and part of Okc's history.

Enjoy these images from days gone by!

Click on any pic below for a larger image

Roy Staton





The Beginning Postcard and A Photo Celebrating the End





Aerial Views From Days Gone By















The Arcade





Babes In The Mirror





One Of The Free Picnic Areas





An Outdoor Picnic Area By The Lake



In The Pool ... Little Girls ...



... Hunks ...



... Wanna Be Hunks ...



... And Big Girls ...















Of Course, There Was The BIG Dipper











Later, The Little Dipper Came To Be



Concerts & Famous People

According to William Boone, Springlake Park, the amphitheater held about 2,000 and hosted such performers as Roy Acuff, The Beach Boys, Johnny Cash, The New Christy Minstrels, Minnie Pearl, The Righteous Brothers, and Conway Twitty. Note that is not the same area as "The Pavilion" which was an indoor facility hosted 1940s (and perhaps earlier) patrons to dancing and "big bands" like Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, and Artie Shaw – that building became converted into the Fun House and other items, in the 1950s, I think.










Local TV Personalities Were There

Miss Jane



3-D Danny (Williams)



Foreman Scotty



Tom Paxton



Contests





People Just Having Fun ... Cooking, In This Example


For a time, parts of the park were open year-round, but, by the end of the 1940s, the park was open from Easter Sunday until Labor Day, opening with what it boasted was the state's largest Easter Egg Hunt!

Easter Egg Hunt







Bumper Cars



Tilt-A-Whirl



Shake Rattle & Roll



The Milky Way



Merry Go Round



Petting Zoo



Ferris Wheel and Ride 'N Laff



River Boat



The Lake





Super Chief


The Pool Again and Sun Bathing Areas










Sad to say, even after 1964, the swimming pool was for Whites only. That fact naturally led to protests, as rightly it should. William Boone, Springlake Park, describes the sad days which are part of our lore:

Springlake was affected not only by the legal an social changes of the time, but also by a particular change in the city's demography. Once located in an all-white section of the city, the park figuratively became a white island in a black sea. Prior to the 1950s, Oklahoma City's black residents lived mainly on the city's near northeast side, south of Twenty-third Street. By the mid-1950s black families had moved northward into the immediate vicinity of Springlake park. Ruthie Forshee, a black woman residing on Springlake Drive in the mid-1950s, remembered watching the park's Independence Day fireworks display from her yard. She was not welcome to participate in a celebration to commemorate her nation's freedom.

No longer reluctant to enter the park after 1964 (with the passage of 1964 Civil Rights Act), blacks began to enjoy the same attractions white had enjoyed for decades. However, there remained an area of the park where blacks still were not welcome. Although many whites were willing to share the park's midway with blacks, sharing the swimming pool was quite another matter. Clearly, Staton could not lawfully deny blacks access to the pool, but if he let blacks in, he risked losing many white patrons. Faced with a dilemma, his choice of action did not come easy.

To avoid a clash between whites and blacks over the pool issue, Staton closed the pool to everyone except the members of an exclusive Aquatic Club, an evasive policy he soon abandoned. When Wedgewood Park opened its pool to everyone, Staton had little choice but to lift the membership requirement. Finally integrated, Springlake's pool, open since 1924, closed forever after the 1967 season. It became a Sea-Acquarium, where dolphins frolicked in water once reserved for humans. The lost revenue from the swimming pool would be sorely missed in the years to come.


With racial integration of the swimming pool no longer an issue, Springlake's management hoped that black and white patrons wold learn to enjoy the park together. Their hopes were in vain. After only a few years, the unwillingness of the races to mix peacefully spelled disaster for the park. The headlines of the city's newspapers told the story.

Springlake's gates swung open on April 11, 1971, admitting visitors to the park's annual opening on Easter Sunday, just as they had done for the previous forty-five seasons. Park officials had no reason to believe that the crowd would be anything other than peaceful and orderly. According to one newspaper account, trouble began late in the evening when a rumor spread through the racially-mixed crowd that a white youth had been pushed by a black youth off the Big Dipper. The rumor triggered one of the worst civil disturbances in Oklahoma City's history.
These being the 2 lone graphics in this post not supplied by Norman Thompson, it tells all that needs to be said or seen about once happy, then sad, days gone by -- but see the note following the headlines graphic:

Oklahoman Front Page 4/11/1971 (larger image not available)


Since writing the original post a few days ago, it has come to my attention that The Oklahoman's account, above, may have been seriously exaggerated and, perhaps, some parts imagined and not true. If I learn more about that possibility, I'll certainly state what I learn here, but it certainly is true that our market contained only one newspaper at the time and that it was very powerful.

In June 1971, the following ad was run in The Oklahoman 3 times that I saw this morning (4/5/07), similar ads in June 1972 and July and August 1974, and perhaps other occasions that I did not notice.


Whether the Oklahoman article was true, false, or something in-between, its impact was done. One who was there on the night of the riot has been kind enough to write a note telling of her personal experience that night. Her report is this:

I was 21 years old and was working one of the games that night with another girl. Everything was great as usual, but then we heard people screaming and the next thing we knew, there were hundreds of people running everywhere, carrying boards, hammers, everything they could pick up that wasn't nailed down. My co-worker and I were in shock. We tried to get our door down, and, of course it got stuck ... we were terrified. Just at that moment a large black man jumped over our counter, never looked at us, shut down our door and went out the side door. The girl and I huddled as far back as possible, she with a claw hammer and me with a can of spray paint! LOL! We were going to do some damage to someone if they came in on us! LOL!

We stayed there until someone came to get us. I will never forget the sounds of those riot sirens as long as I live, nor will I ever forget the black man that closed our door for us. We were so scared ... I dont think we even thanked him. The police led us out of the park through two lines of blacks they had lined up. Some of us girls were shaken and crying, some of us were just still trying to figure out what had happened. We were later told some white kids had pushed a black kid from the roller coaster and that it had set the blacks off. I still dont know the truth, to this day. I just knew that was the final blow for my beloved Springlake which I had been visiting since I was 5 years old. I saw so many stars there as a young girl and teen. I still miss it so. I still cant understand WHY people just cant get along. My favorite thing was the penny arcade. I miss it so much.
So, there you have the eye-witness account of Joan Ivers who, to this day, still doesn't know the full story of what happened ... but she knows that her happy days at Springlake had come to an end. She was not alone.

William Boone, Springlake Park notes that Mr. Staton developed health problems and spent the last few of his life in a nursing home. In 1977, the park was sold to Dale Thomas, but, after a 1981 $250,000 fire to the park's old dance pavilion, then arcade building, that was all she wrote. As said in the beginning, the park was sold to the City in 1981. It is now the the premises of of a fine Metro-Tech education facility.

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41 comments:

jeff said...

When I moved here in 1977, to attend college, I was discouraged from going to Spring Lake. I was told, repeatedly, it was not safe for an average white guy and besides, the Big Dipper was a disaster waiting to happen! Sadly, I took that advice. I suspect the advice I received was accepte wisdom to most average white people during that period. White flight for 30 years. Hopefully we've left that era behind.

Norman said...

All the blacks that I saw at Springlake were peaceful. I was more concerned about the white thugs there. I never saw any trouble there. Everyone had a good time.

Doug Dawg said...

Thanks, Norman,

Since I wasn't there that night, I can't say ... but given the "white" sentiment to integration, I wouldn't doubt your report to have credence. You give an eye-witness account which I take to be credible.

That said, something was clearly amiss even if the Oklahoman's report was exaggerated or bloated as to its recitation of the facts. I'm still looking for independent sources which may shed some light on this event ... though they may be impossible at this late date to find.

OkieKAS said...

Hey Doug! I can not even begin to tell you what an absolute thrill it is to view the Springlake photos!

Many blessing to Norman Thompson for his generosity in sharing them! They are truly amazing. Many blessing to you for all your efforts in recording the rich history of Oklahoma.

Oh my gosh - Foreman Scotty ......grin..... and the pic of the elderly couple with the skillet.....the parking lot full of vintage cars............the big dipper......through the 40's into the civil rights era......60's , 70's and etc.....I took a very long journey through each and every photo, I laughed (outloud) at some of them and shed tears over others. (April 11, 1971) Just that site, alone, depicted generations of life in Oklahoma. Actually, it depicts Life in America.

Growing up in rural OK, a once-a- year class trip to Springlake was really something to look forward to, and I can recall when the racial issue happened and we were no longer allowed to go there.

Amazing sitting here, today, laughing and crying over those photos and feeling equally proud and heartbroken over what foolishness people are compelled to exhibit, is stunning.

Thank you for the pictorial trip down memory lane. I am one very proud and honored Okie. O K I E ! it is, indeed, one of the greatest roads I ever had the privilege of traveling.

Thanks for the Memories!

--Kathy Spivey
Chickasha, OK

*OkieKAS

Carla Williams Noffsinger said...

I grew up in Moore. We spent many a happy hour at Spring Lake. It was such a shame for the closing. I never saw any trouble myself. We always heard bad stories about the Big Dipper, but that was the first ride we would hit. I remember my cousin wetting her pants once on the tilt a world, we laugh about that to this day. As far as my family was concerned it was just good clean old fashioned fun for the whole family. My cousins would come up in the summer from Southeast Oklahoma and Spring Lake was the top of the list of places to go. Thanks for the good memories. I had wrote a story about Spring Lake on my page at OurStory.com and I had a few pictures I had got from another site.

Anonymous said...

My great grandpa was John Thomas Staton, he was the brother of Roy Staton. My grandma Joyce Staton was born in a house in the park. I grew up with stories of trips to the park. My favorite is the one of my mom going to Spring Lake on a school feild trip. She had told the kids it was her grandpa and uncles park, but they didn't believe her. When they got there, my mom was greeted by her uncle Roy and all the kids jaws dropped! There are tons more. I'd love to find pictures of the 'white house' that my grandma was born in. If anyone can help, please do.

-Cherastina

Doug Dawg said...

Thanks, Cherastina,

I've looked through the many pics that Norman Thompson supplied to me to see if I could find a "white house" which appeared to be a residence. I found one.

I don't know if this is what you're looking for or not, but it does appear to be a "white house" and so maybe it is. Click here.

I've e-mailed Norman about your request just in case he might know something.

Hope this helps.

Doug Dawg said...

Cherastina, here's an uncropped image of the house I linked to in the above comment: Click here.

aquabot said...

I love the Spring Lake regional park so did my dad, Its really a cool place to spend time with your loved ones. It's big and has camping, fishing, picnic areas with barbecues. Also those trails are great for walking and hiking which any teen like me always adores...

Anonymous said...

May dad ran the train for many years at Springlake. As a result, I practically spent all my summers there. So many memories. I still love looking at photos and trying to find things on E-Bay related to the park. I even got to pet "lassie," when she appeared at the amphitheatre...!!
Roger Harris - Ada, Oklahoma

Anonymous said...

When I was a kid in the mid 50's
my uncle who lived in Oklahoma City
would reserve one of the picnic
shelters and our family from far
and wide would converge on Oklahoma
City and we would have family
reunions at Spring Lake. It brings
back wonderful memories of my youth
and the fun times riding the rides
and boating on the lake.

It is however sad that the park
had to close under such
malaphoric conditions, but I can
also recall there were many such
places that suffered the same
fate, all because a bunch of folks
could not learn to do what God has
commanded them to do, to get along
with one another.

Doug Dawg said...

I want to thank all who have commented, above. Several of the comments are being used in the Arcadia book I am just finishing up, "Springlake Amusement Park." Personal recollections really tie it all together. Thanks, again!

aquabot cleaner said...

this is awesome. it is so refreshing to see this lake again. For me it's like going back in time.

Doug Dawg said...

Thanks, aquabot cleaner! Much appreciated.

Anonymous said...

Doug, when and where can we purchase your book?? Let us know as soon as details are available! I'll be one of the first in line to buy!!

Doug Dawg said...

Thanks, Anon,

Arcadia tells me that the book will be in stores for sale on October 13, I assume (but do not know) at the usual book retailers. I'll post more about this as I find out.

Anonymous said...

I'd love to see some old pictures of my favorite ride -- The Wilde Maus!

Doug Dawg said...

Thanks, anon. I don't have any Wild Maus photos ... that ride was added after the property was sold by Marvin Staton to the last park owners. If I should come by one, I'll add it.

Anonymous said...

Actually the Wild Maus was added in the early '60's so I think the younger Staton still was the owner. In fact I think it was removed before the park was sold to Dale Thomas. There is a picture on the Metro Tech web site that shows part of the Maus. It was my first Mouse ride and a great one.

The color picture that shows the Big Dipper's lift hill from the top with the train at the bottom is reversed from what it should be. The train made a right turn on to the lift and a left turn on the way back to the station.

Doug Dawg said...

Thanks, anon, for info about the Wild Maus. And you are correct about the color pic, I just didn't catch it until you mentioned it.

Anonymous said...

I pre-ordered my book from Amazon, and I’ll be very anxious to get it!!

I'm the one who wrote above asking about the Wild Mause (always my fave ride!) As a member of the “younger” set, I only remember the park in its declining years, the mid- to late-1970s. I, too, remember hearing horror stories about the Big Dipper (people falling off, someone dropping a baby from it—anyone else remember that one??) I only rode it once, and that was enough for me! It felt SO rickety! I remember the fun house, Little Dipper, Calypso, the train, the sky ride, the little cars (weren’t they right at the entrance?), and that horrible, beastly ride, the Turbo!

Anonymous said...

It would be neat if there were an OETA documentary produced about Springlake... Doug, you would be a perfect source/resource for a project like this! Any chance this type of show might be made in the future??

Stephen Orr said...

I worked at Springlake as an employee in 1967. I ran the rides on the East end. The big dipper, spook house, an upside down farris wheel, and the bummper cars.It was a fun place to work. Stephen Orr

Barry said...

I loved the Fun House at Springlake. I would stay in there for hours sliding down on the burlap sacks and trying to stay on the spinning wheel. Also loved the Wild Maus (sp). Scared the daylights out of me everytime. Saw Conway Twitty, Johnny Cash, David Nelson (brother of Ricky)with the Flying Walendas. Tre' cool !! Too bad those days had to end. Great memories of wholesome American fun.

Anonymous said...

I used to go to Springlake with my family in the 70's and enjoy many a family outing at the park. My favorite roller coaster to this day is still the Big Dipper.

Anonymous said...

I too, visited Springlake Park during my high school days. Our Putnam City Senior Class Picnic was held there in 1962.
Roger Miller was also an entertainer that performed at Springlake. Danny Williams was with Roger on one of the appearances. Danny knew me, but did not know Roger and I were friends. Danny tried to warn Roger that I was a cop, but he was really surprised when he found out that Roger and I were friends. Springlake was a great amusement park and entertainment spot in it's day.

Shelly Watson Iles (went by Shirley back then) said...

I loved Spring Lake! I moved away from there before the bad things started happening there so I only had good memories of it.
The Funhouse was my favorite part.
The Rooms where you came in with the weird mirrors and where it looked like you where going uphill but were going down or the opposite, were cool. The moving barrel that you walked through and if you fell down a monkey on top laughed at you. The slides were the best though. The wood slides that you went down on burlap bags. Even adults could do it. There's only one place I have seen that reminded me of those slides though not near as good. There is a park in San Francisco that has large cement slides that you can go down on flattened boxes. Of course the waxed wood was better to slide on.
I love the pictures that you have. I think some of the pool must have been take before my time (I was born in 1947) because there was something that I don't see in the pictures that may have been put in later. That was a kind of a wheel type thing that you held onto while you sat around it. You pulled it around until you all went flying off.
I've seen lists of people who performed there FREE. I've never seen "Jan and Dean" on that list but I saw them there.
I was afraid of most rides there were guys who talked me into riding the Big Dipper, Tilt-a-whirl and the Ferris Wheel. I even went on the Wild Mouse once. Can't believe I lived through that one!
Anyway, thanks for the walk down Memory Lane! Shelly Watson Iles

Anonymous said...

I remember crying as a kid because my brothers and sister tried to get me on the Big Dipper. We always heard rumors of flying out of the cars and people dying on it. I finally had the nerve to ride it one day and thought I was gonna die too cuz I rose from my seat down over the hills. The next year the park closed down and now I am proud to say that I was able to ride the Big Dipper and survived...lol
Thanks for the website...it brought back a lot of memories!
Brad Cass

Anonymous said...

In 1968, when I was in 8th grade at St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Stillwater, we went on our end-of-the-year class trip to Springlake Amusement Park. What fun we had going to the BIG CITY and to Springlake! I loved the Tilt-a-whirl and the Ferris Wheel. I rode the Big Dipper, but was scared the whole time! What fond memories I have of that class trip some 42 years ago! Maureen Moore

Anonymous said...

Our large Baptist church would have a yearly summer gathering at Spring Lake on a Sunday afternoon and night. That was a safer time when mom and dad gave you a fist full of quarters and let you and your brothers and sisters go it unsupervised. I had my Sunday school buddies to hang out with. It was so much fun. The fun house was the best. Then the dark ride with the large gorilla. The nickel arcade was called The Casino. It had some items in it that would be rather priceless today. I remember it had some really old Kinetoscopes and mutoscopes. I read where it had a fire so much of that was probably destroyed. I remember the chicken that played a piano when you dropped in a coin. I think a light bulb came on and it pecked out a tune on a toy piano. It's reward was a few pieces of grain. I felt sorry for the poor thing. We all know the rides and they all had mythical back stories. At least every one of my friends knew someone who saw someone get mortally wounded during a track or other horrendous failure. I was not aware of the racial problems that it had. I just know they built a prison style guard tower and mom would not let us go any more. That was sad because our other park, Wedgewood, had already closed. It was not until my high school years that Frontier City came into its own. I remember going out there and it had like 5 rides total. It had a tower ride that was more scary that anything out there today.

Mike Fry said...

Doug, thanks so much for posting these and writing your book about Springlake. I remember as a young child going to the Arcade and viewing these old French postcards of scantily clad women. There were many machines which allowed you to do this, it seems. I was only 8 or so, so it was a thrill. It was so exciting! And there was a game where you shot this big bear and it would go back and forth if you hit it. I think about that arcade also, and the big slides it had inside it, and the mirrors. It seemed like Conway Twitty played there every weekend until he got famous. The grass was always so green in that ampitheater area also. So nice to sit on the hill and view the concerts or events.

Kristina Highland said...

Yes, it did happen on the Big Dipper. My dad witnessed the white kid pushing the black kid off the coaster and after all of that happened, my dad hurried to the area where the black kid fell to his death and took some pictures. We still have those pictures of the black kid laying dead on the ground.

Anonymous said...

WOW what a sight this is and I'm glad I found it. Brought back a lot of Nostalgic Memories. I was Born in 1947 and grew up going to Spring Lake with my 2 older sisters every summer. I lived at 2138 North Jordon across the back fence from Mike and Joyce Staton. Never new they were related to the Statons that owned the park. They were best of freinds. I loved the Penny Arcade and all the games. Enjoyed the 4th firworks. I remember as a teenager seeing "Sam Sham and the Pharoahs" with a couple of cousins I took to the park. Front row and what fun. Still talk about it when they play on the radio. I now live in Dallas never new about the riots until I read this site. Too bad. It was a great place to Swim and hang out. I swam there with my wife of 45 years and kissed under the towels to the "Kissing Tone from KOMA". Wow. What Memories. Very sad to see it closed. It was an OKC icon.
Marvin Herrin

Doug Dawg said...

Thanks, Marvin, for that great comment. The importance of this place to Oklahoma City is highlighted by the fact that you've been away -- apparently for many years -- but still had Springlake on your mind long after you've moved. Yes, it was indeed the place for many to be and enjoy the pleasures of life as kids and as adults. Thanks again for you comment.

Bobby Cox LaMascus said...

The comment from Marvin Herrin, my first cousin, along with his sisters, all grew up to young teens on the Northeast side of OKC; later, sad to say and just at that generation's time, we were part of the "white flight" from that quadrant of OKC.
I was still a young teen but I recall another park called "Blackhawk" located around 23rd and Eastern Street at the time and before I-35 was built through that area. Blackhawk had a good sized pool, nothing as big as Springlake's pool, and a dancing area. Remember some pretty tough kids growing up around oil patches and hanging out at the Blackhawk but it was almost gone as I was growing up in the 50's. Thanks Doug, Bob LaMascus, born and raised OKC living in Tulsa since '83.

Sarah said...

That "wheel thing" in the funhouse might have been one of a kind. It was a motorized wooden disc about 25 feet or so in diameter, raised about a foot in the center, and polished to a high shine by the seats of many thousands of kids' pants. Kids would rush to find a seat anywhere on it, as near the center as possible, and try to stay on the disc as long as possible. When it started revolving, kids would slide off because of the centrifugal motion and land gently up against a low wooden barrier, curved to catch them. The disc would spin faster and faster until maybe only the lucky kid who placed himself right in the center of the disc would be able to hold on until the end of the ride. To make it more interesting, there was a series of tack-head sized metal pieces spaced a few inches apart running in several rows from the center to the edge. These were wired to a low voltage electrical source with a control switch at the operator's station. If he felt the kids were having too much luck in clinging to the wheel, he could send a little jolt of current through them. Us old pros wouldn't get our bare skin near them, but the new kids would lift their hands when they felt the shock and off they went!

These days a ride like that would probably have more lawyers on it than kids, but I fun every time I went there trying to stay on that darned wheel and laughing like crazy when I was thrown off.

Mary Stone said...

Wow, all the comments do get a big smile. I remember a friend of my father's son ran the tilt a whirl in 1963 or 1964 and some friends and I went on it several times and got really sick, but caught our breaths and were off again to the arcade and fun house which was most everyone's favorite I think with the slides and all and the potato sacks and racing each other down, then going home and being dizzy from being in the room that the floor seemed to tilt or the walls of something. Anyway it was always a blast and I, like most everyone was scared to death of the big dipper, especially the last car whom everyone said would jump off the track. Only rode it once, that was enough for me! Love this website. Saw Bobby Vee in the ampitheatre and we screamed to the top of our lungs. Good ol' days. Loved Springlake. Wish my grandchildren could have experienced it.

Terry said...

I'm 58 now, But when I started at Springlake I was 13 of age my dad would take me to work. I was with Marvin Station and his wife the son of Roy Station. I worked for them untel I was 17. I was there the day of the race riot (1971) because me and my boss Ted Beville was pulling money out of the root beer stand when we was aproch by 6 people, they got around us wonted us to drop the money bags. We did and about that time Bob and the K-9 dogs (salt & pepper) got them about the time they was going onto the Fince with the money. Springlake was a City of its own until that day, Okc annexed it in to Oklahoma City. I have a lot of history of Springlake. It was my 2rd home. I remember I was one of the workers that test ride the big dipper morning on week ends. And too do yall remember Marvin Station own 14 flag drive-in when I turn 16 he had me and some of the workers to go out there and cleanup the lot to get ready for the night. 14 flags was located south part of town on western. But I loved and miss Springlake and I miss all that I know

Steve said...

There was another Amusement park which operated until the late 50's. This was Black Hawk Park, located on N.E. 23rd at Grand Blvd. The Interstate 35 project, took a chunk of this park, and as well, they were suffering from the racial problems that are commented on here. It closed for good, sometime prior to 1961. I recall seeing the park sitting vacant, and going to ruin, for some years before it was dismantled. In it's place, an apartment complex, that has had big problems with maintenance and upkeep to this minute. Our train, from the Oklahoma Railway Museum, passes by the back fence to this project, sadly enough. Right past where the roller coaster once stood.
Steve Davis, City

Steve said...

About the closing of the park:

Dale Thomas, Owner of Thomas Shows, was then the owner. Dale lived in the old Staton house, adjacent to the park. The fire, at the Arcade, had already come and gone. There had been a fire, too at the Staton, home, with a fatality, as I recall. At any rate, one day while driving to pick up State Inspection Decals for my service station, then at 91st and Western, I passed the park.

One of these very small plastic signs at Springlake and Lincoln read Garage Sale with an arrow. Curiously, I followed down Springlake, near the picnic pavillion, another small garage sale sign. I wheeled in, and there in the pavillion, Thomas and associates, were selling the entire park, piecemeal, via garage sale! It could have brought much much more at auction, however, It appeared, they were trying to avoid publicity of some nature. At any rate, I bought gate and Amphitheater signs, kiddie cars, the hy-stryker, and many other items, some of which were regrettably left behind. But most, I still have today! Thomas sold the horses off the carousel, then the lighted sconces and paintings, then the turntable and mechanics, finally all that was left was the huge electric motor. He offered to give it to me, if I'd take it...but how?? It was huge! The Wild Mouse went to Peru, as did the train. Other rides went hither and yon. A friend bought a ride and used the wood and steel to make a building, which stands behind Frontier City.
The Big Dipper, was sold to a guy from Arkansas, he hauled it away, a small trailer load at a time, three or four trips a week.
One day, while I was there, watching from the Fun House, they were pulling timbers out of the big hill, all of a sudden..CRASH!!!!
The whole big hill collapsed in a heap! With a big cloud of dust and dirt! The guys escaped almost certain death, by taking shelter in the mechanical shed that housed the machinery to pull the coaster up the hill. Wow! What a deal that was!! Those two guys crawling out of the huge pile of wood and timbers.
I wound up having keys to the place for a time, and it was fun going through the place, most of which was boarded up. But the fun house was still accessable, and the long metal slides. We grabbed some sacks and slid down, about half-way...as the slides were rusty by that time...Took several trips to get just one working again, and then it was just not as before. Of course the power was off, and the rest was like a scene in an old Twilight Zone episode.
Well, the one big reason, that Thomas closed the park. Do you know, that since Springlake, was a municipality unto itself at that time, that OG&E had a different arrangement, on selling them power? They paid a flat fee of $1,500 a month to OG&E, whether or not one light was turned on. If current was used, the bill could be much much more!!! That's pretty stout for 1980 even. Thomas explained this all to me and showed the bill!!!

Thomas who was in the TRAVELING carnival business, ran shows, in parking lots, county fairs, etc. He was accustomed to such, and being gone the next day to another locale. Springlake, and it's obligations, and inherent problems, were just too much for the new owner.

There are many items buried in a big pit, located just South and West of the lake about 125 feet. Part of it is covered now by a building that is shown in the aerial view. Scooter cars, the old original Big Dipper cars, big wheels, of ride tickets, big electic motors mentioned earlier, and much much more! Some day a future archaelogist may dig into this...what a treasure!!!
My Favorite memory of this swell place, was sitting in the observation area near the pool. There were bleachers, and you could sit and watch the antics going on below at poolside. It was nice and cool there, day or night.
All for now,
Steve Davis OKC

Anonymous said...

All this is great! I see that OKC boast of having "3" Amusement Parks in it's history; Springlake; Wedgewood, and Frontier City. All of which were segregated. But there was another park,not mentioned, which was located at N.E. 23rd St. and I-35, called Blackhawk Park. This was the only amusement park in OKC that Blacks could attend, in the 50's and early 60's.