Sentimental Sunday – There is No Joy in Joyland Today…

by Sherry Stocking Kline
Sunday, September 5, 2010

There is no Joy in Joyland.

On Sunday, July 18th, I received an e-mail forward from a cousin that said “Stan Nelson, owner of Joyland died today.”


So I checked Wichita Eagle’s website at and found this article by Beccy Tanner “Joyland a theme in Nelson’s life”.

My cousin’s email also included the link to a  photo slide show by Mike Hutmacher, Wichita Eagle, with photographs of the long-closed and now sadly in disrepair Joyland.  ( Click Here to view the slide show, complete with calliope music.)

It was the sideshow that prompted this post…

The slideshow begins, and there it is, Joyland.  Larger than life when we were children; the stuff of dreams. There’s the bridge we used to run over to get to the magic inside. Now it’s covered with wind-blown leaves.    Deserted.

And there are the rides. What’s left of them.  Where is the Merry-go-Round with its fiery steeds? And where are the bump-em cars that we drove fiendishly into all our friends with all the the precision of drunken sailors?   Both gone.

The Tilt-A-Whirl, part of it, remains, looking like deserted teacups from a giant’s forgotten  tea party.

Can’t someone please rescue the train…

And the  little steam engine train that could (and did) take you around the park, in and out among the trees, over a little bridge, and by your family picnicking in the pavilian, while all the while going rackety-clackety-clack, and Whoooo-uh-ooooooo when it came to a crossing .  The train, a favorite ride, sits waiting for passengers to go again. (Oh, please, can’t someone rescue the train?)

And the roller coaster.  Falling, faded white boards.  Surely this can’t  be the terrifying ride that traumatized me so when our eighth grade class went there on a field trip that after one ride up, down, and around on the rattly track I wouldn’t  climb back on it , not for all the tea in China and not even for the chance to sit with the cute little green-eyed, blond-haired boy that asked me to go again?  Surely this short, faded pile of wood isn’t the same one.

And there’s the ferris wheel, minus the little ‘people buckets’ that swayed and swung as you went up, over, and around and around, terrifying twenty-something young-mom-me, holding onto my tiny daughter for dear life, afraid to look down.

Joyland.  Even the name brings back a kaleidoscope of memories: the night my nephew, Daryl, just barely younger than I pitched a fit so instead of staying home with a sitter, we all got to ‘help’ his folks chaperone the youth group, falling asleep in the back window of a car on the way home letting the stars lull me to sleep.   (No seatbelt laws then and no seat belts, either.)

Church picnics, family picnics, and ride-all-night-nights…

There were church picnics and family picnics and ride-all-night-nights-for-$5.00 church nights. And my goodness, look at the sign, a ticket for a nickel.  The rides are gone along with the prices.

And while the rides may be gone, and the grounds may be deserted, we still have the memories.

Thank you, Mr. Nelson….

6 Responses to “Sentimental Sunday – There is No Joy in Joyland Today…”

  • Lovely tribute and memories, enjoyed reading it, sad, sentimental, and moving. Thanx

  • I love the way you write Sherry, I swear I could smell the popcorn and taste the cotton candy. In Indianapolis where I grew up, we had Riverside Park. Uncle Sid would take all of his nieces & nephews there once a year and we looked forward to our annual night out with him like nothing else. Thanks for bringing back some fond memories!

    • Bless you for stopping by, and for the very kind words. It was with a great deal of sadness that I viewed the photographs of the park that once held so much magic for myself as a young child and then later as a young mother watching my children enjoy the rides.

      I love your “One Month of Wisdom” blog! How much work went into that, and the inspiration that must have come to you while writing it, and how wonderful that you’ve shared that inspiration with others

  • Marcia Simmons:

    Such memories! My family’s home was probably a half-mile from Joyland and my elementary school (Sowers) was just across the street. I recall listening to the roller coaster and all of the other park sounds as I fell asleep on many hot summer nights. The Joyland pool was the best in the city and I loved those school fundraisers and Beech Employees Club days at the park. My last visit was during a high school reunion. I recall classmates telling their children stories of their own childhood Joyland days.

    It was very difficult to see the photos with the park in such disrepair, but it was fun to recall the memories. Thank you!

    • Thank you for stopping by! It’s so nice to hear from you, too! I’m not sure if I had heard the sounds of Joyland each night that I would ever have fallen asleep! It was always so exciting to go there as a youngster, and such fun to take our children later, so it was very difficult to see the park in such disrepair, too.

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