frankie's forest park
Frankie's Forest Park was one of five amusement parks that served the Dayton, Ohio area and was located at State Route 48 (Main Street) and Needmore Road just north of the Dayton city limits.
Forest Park opened in 1928 as a small park featuring a small zoo by Villie Markey. Markey apparently owned the land as early as 1902 but it is unclear whether he had an amusement park on the site before 1928. The first building constructed on the site housed a collection of exotic animals donated by Fred Patterson of NCR who acquired them during an African safari.
In 1936, the park was purchased by Frank J. Schaufler and he leased a total of 109 acres. He added a race track that was leased to another individual to hold stock car and midget car races. In 1947, a new entrance gate debuted as well as the Looper and a Century Flyer miniature train ride.
In 1950, a series of fluorescent lighting was added to the midway. Also under construction that year was a new dance hall that could be utilized year round. The Circle Ballroom consisted of canvas walls. Bands were exclusively local talent.
Rides and attractions over the years included a Ferris wheel, carousel, scooter cars, roller coaster, a Frolic, miniature train, Tilt-A-Whirl, a Looper, the Forest Park Speedway, a Kiddieland with 12 rides, a picnic grove, restaurant, game room, an arcade, a shooting gallery, six game concessions and six eating and drinking stands.
In 1958, the parked closed and was razed the following year. In 1960, the Forest Park Shopping Center opened on the site.
Excerpt from the Dale Huffman column for August 10, 2009 published in the Dayton Daily News….
The Fat Lady’s Laughter
It was a time when the trolley bus turned around at Forest Park. There were a few stores there, and a small zoo and a horse you could ride.
At dusk, when Forest Park opened, there was the sound of meshing gears growing in volume and turning into ludicrous laughter. Perched on the roof top like an overweight bird, the mechanical fat lady rolled from side too side, and from her voice box came peals of bubbling, giggling, growing laughter. It would grow in volume, its sound reigning over the park, her domain stretching out of the park and into the adjoining neighborhood.
It was our first home. We were in love. We had a kitten. We had each other and we had the fat lady. She laughed each night until 11 p.m. when the park closed. She became a part of our family. Her laughter never let us down.
Today, many years later, the sometimes empty smile I wear is not a sign of advancing years. In the back of my mind I am listening to the fat lady’s laughter.
Former Forest Park neighborhood resident
Frankie's Forest Park Photo Album
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Photo credits: Top: soaphs file, T.Rhein, park archive.