This week’s Sepia Saturday shows a miniature train with children on board. I’ve decided to use this as my jumping off point for a few amusement park photos.

These first two vintage snapshots were purchased years ago. I have no idea where or when they were taken, but I’m guessing the 1930s. I’ve always thought the one poor boy is upchucking his cookies after the ride.

Click on either image to see them larger.

Looking at these little cars I think back on the Disneyland ride Autopia and how desperately I wanted to drive the cars myself. As I recall, when Disneyland first opened there was a lot of dirt near Autopia. Disneyland was far from complete when I first visited around three weeks after its opening. I remember the sign which showed how tall you had to be to actually ride in one of the cars by yourself. I was way too short. It wasn’t until I’m guessing 1962 or ’63 that I finally was tall enough to go zipping around the track without a parent in the car. In those days you were actually able to steer the car within the cement “trough” that wound round and round. Later they more or less nailed you down on a metal beam that meant you didn’t do any steering. You were left just pushing the gas pedal. By that time driving one of these cars wasn’t nearly as exciting as simply driving a real car in Los Angeles traffic. Ahh, simpler times.

This last photo is of me in the early 1950s, possibly at Fairyland in Oakland, California, though I don't think they had rides. So actually most likely at Balboa Park in San Diego.

Children's Fairyland, U.S.A. was the first theme park in the United States created to cater to families with young children. Located in Oakland, California on the shore of Lake Merritt, Fairyland includes 10 acres of play sets, small rides, and animals. The park is also home to the Open Storybook Puppet Theater, the oldest continuously operating puppet theater in the United States.
Fairyland was built in 1950 by the Oakland Lake Merritt Breakfast Club. The sets were designed by artist and architect William Russell Everritt. The park was nationally recognized for its unique value, and during the City Beautiful movement of the 1950s it inspired numerous towns to create their own parks. Walt Disney even came to Fairyland often to get ideas for Disneyland. (SOURCE: Wikipedia)
I have fond memories of Disneyland and Fairyland. I look at this little girl with the butterfly wings and wonder what became of her.

To see more images from an amusement park visit Tattered and Lost Ephemera.


  1. How mean of them to take away the steering, that woud be much more fun. It must have been ‘Health and Safety’ reasons. I’m sure children’s playgrounds allowed us to be far more adventurous when we were young.

  2. What an interesting post, and your pictures are just fantastic! The one reminds me of the days when going to the carnival or the county fairs had the operators dressed so neatly and not so scary looking...even the rides often seemed a bit better than some I see today!

  3. I also fondly remember the autopia ride. It was so exciting to actually be able to drive your own car. I was fortunate enough, like you, to drive pre-tracks. What freedom that was.
    Great post. Oh, and that poor kid in the first photos. He does look like he's lost his cookies.

  4. I've never heard of Fairyland before. It must have been a fun destination point. I enjoyed your photos and info.

    Kathy M.

  5. Imagine being at Disneyland before it was even complete! When I watched Mickey Mouse Club on TV, my favorite day was when they showed film footage of the rides at Disneyland. I couldn't imagine a better place to go.

  6. Yup, there was lots of dirt, but it was still magical to me. Whenever we'd drive by my folks would have to distract me so I'd look out the other side of the car or they'd hear me whining for hours.

    Here's a shot of the early park:


  7. My experience of amusement rides is restricted to town fairs and amusement parks at the seaside. I have to say I was a 'chucker-up' on anything I couldn't control. That's why i stuck to the dodgems.

  8. Some wonderful photographs. There is a great unity about pictures of little children enjoying themselves at fairs and the like : whichever country, whichever continent, they smiles are the same.

  9. You reminded me of a postcard that I have of little Disneyland cars. It was sent to me by my Girl Scout leader back in the 1950s. I have never been to Disneyland myself.

  10. Bumper-cars were always my favorite. Glen Echo Park outside of Washington DC.

  11. Lovely old photos. I had never heard of Fairyland - I enjoyed the part where Disney came to get ideas! Just imagine!

  12. I almost took that road, the amusement parks! A coworker had lent me some pics of a park that doesn't exist anymore. I'll have the opportunity to use them later, surely.

    I remember bump cars at La Ronde, Montreal's amusement park on St Helene Island. Those were fun!!

    Great post!!