Kiddieland Amusement Park
“Kitty Corner from Milham Park”
If you grew up in or near Kalamazoo during the 1950s or 1960s you might recall a small amusement park “kitty corner” from Milham Park. It wasn’t much… a half-dozen rides and a refreshment stand or two… but Kiddieland Park kept youngsters (and their adults) entertained for more than two decades.
Milham Park Midway
The Kiddieland story begins in April 1946, when Leo O. Dundon closed his mobile home park at the southwest corner of Kilgore Road and Lovers Lane and filed articles of incorporation with his son Carl for the Milham Park Amusement Company. In June that year, the Dundons opened the Milham Park Midway, a small amusement park with a refreshment stand and a miniature two-coach narrow-gauge steam train. The model steam engine, which ran on a 1,000-foot circular track, was built by a railroad mechanic in Wichita, Kansas. The Dundons purchased it in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and spent the better part of a year refurbishing it. Their enterprise soon became a popular, albeit noisy, attraction.
Leo Dundon’s miniature railroad at Milham Park Midway c.1946. Kalamazoo Gazette photo, courtesy, Ronald Dundon
The Milham Park Midway remained open through 1949, although not without its share of problems. Members of the Portage city commission were irked by Dundon’s use of the “Milham Park” name. Milham Park users objected to the “excessively” noisy train whistle, the “nuisance” barker with his loud PA system, and the park’s inherent hazards. A 1948 train “derailment” sent several riders to the hospital.
Kalamazoo Gazette, 1950. Kalamazoo Public Library
Cool Farm Dairy
During the years that followed, the intersection of Kilgore Road and Lovers Lane became quite the happening place.
Milham Park had become a favorite picnic spot and enjoyed liberal patronage. Cool Farm Dairy moved its operation to the southwest corner in 1950, and established an immensely popular ice cream shop and dairy bar. Their chocolate milk and homemade red raspberry and vanilla ice cream were local favorites.
Postcard view of Kiddieland Park c.1960. Author’s collection
Kalamazoo Gazette, 28 May 1964
In May 1950, Blanch Hoyt and Harry Taylor announced the grand opening of Kiddieland Park, a new enterprise next door south of the dairy that emphasized “safe, clean fun for kids.” Unlike the former Milham Park Midway, Kiddieland Park featured rides and amusements specifically designed for very young children. The old fashioned noisy steam locomotive had been replaced by a sleek (and perhaps safer) miniature diesel streamliner style train, along with a merry-go-round, a boat ride, a “rocket” ride, a fire engine, and other such rides, all geared toward children under eight years of age.
Kiddieland soon became a major attraction. Rides were just a dime. A hot dog and root beer from Rosemary Carpenter and Jean Kilgore’s nearby C&K Root Beer stand would set you back 20¢. Frosty mugs of bubbly root beer were 5¢ and 10¢, and their ‘Beef Bar-B-Q Brunch’ was just 45¢. A miniature golf course was added during the mid-1960s and the live pony rides quickly became a popular feature.
Kiddieland Park operated largely unchanged under various owners through the 1971 season before closing. Cool Farm Dairy closed its doors there in 1979. In 1982, the Portage city council approved a tax break for Trestlewood Associates, which set the stage for the development of the Trestlewood office complex that now occupies the space where Kiddieland Park once stood.
From its grand opening in May 1950, through its final days in September 1971, Kiddieland Park kept children of all ages happily entertained. In those days, a peck of popcorn, an ice cream cone, a mug of root beer, and a ride on the miniature “choo choo” were the stuff that dreams were made of.
Written by Keith Howard, Kalamazoo Public Library staff, May 2022. Revised January 2023.
“10 permits for week in Portage”
Kalamazoo Gazette. 4 May 1946, p.7. “Milham Park miniature train’s riders may be largely adults”
Kalamazoo Gazette. 23 June 1946, p.11. “Jottings (sheriffs officers received a complaint…)”
Kalamazoo Gazette. 24 July 1946, p.24. “Complains of noise”
Kalamazoo Gazette. 26 July 1946, p.4. “Midway’s noise brings protest”
Kalamazoo Gazette. 15 July 1947, p.7. “Seven injured in miniature train mishap”
Kalamazoo Gazette. 16 May 1949, p.11. “Business Opportunities (miniature train)”
Kalamazoo Gazette. 16 October 1949, p.40. “‘Kiddieland Park’ opens”
Kalamazoo Gazette. 29 May 1950, p.9. “Kiddieland Park to remain open”
Kalamazoo Gazette. 3 September 1951, p.15. “Police hand out tickets, all for fun”
Kalamazoo Gazette. 20 June 1956, p.15. “Business Briefs (certificate of copartnership)”
Kalamazoo Gazette. 7 February 1966, p.24.