Does anyone recognize the scene in this vintage photo from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette archives?
Index: The year was 1985.
In June 1985, the War Memorial amusement park was gearing up for its summer patrons when Arkansas Gazette photographer John Sykes stopped by the Fun House.
His black-and-white photo of CW Forrest preparing for the haunted house ride on June 24 appeared at the top of page 1 on June 25, on a caption announcing a scorching disaster: Temperatures in the ’90s.
Today, the Little Rock Zoo parking lots near the Jim Dailey Fitness and Aquatic Center occupy the city-owned land where Forrest worked, which is part of War Memorial Park. This name dates from 1948-49. For two decades from 1924 – when it was the site of the Arkansas State Fair – the area was Fair Park.
Some of the amusement park buildings from 1985 were relics from the 1924 fair, as was the name of Jonesboro Drive nearby; and the busy Fair Park Boulevard runs west. The district is definitely becoming a place of entertainment where carnivals and even a circus are set up. Fair Park had permanent concessions and rides as early as 1929.
So the name Fair Park persisted after the National Cattle Show moved south to Roosevelt Road.
In 1942, the city gave Fuzzell’s United Shows a five-year lease at Fair Park. TA “Tom” Fuzzell bought about $ 30,000 worth of equipment, including an Arkansas Gazette waving carousel called The Jumps. (Restored, Over the Jumps is at the zoo today.) Fuzzell’s carnival was popular, and his lease continued.
Park patrons from the 1950s to 1980s remember the slightly spooky haunted house. Also, there was the Rock-o-Plane; the Tilt-a-Whirl; circular rides in mini-cars and fire trucks; bumper cars ; the Snow Kones; arcade games; a less sophisticated carousel with ponies that just rocked up and down; and “Old Loveable Sally,” aka Laughing Sally, a coin-operated, dressing-gown fortune teller doll in a display case that let out a raucous, looping laugh.
The amusement park declined and was closed in the 1990s; its equipment was auctioned off in June 1998; and the site has been redeveloped for parking.