The Norman Transcript

May 4, 2014

Amusement parks,daily Frito Chili pie:Life was pretty good


The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Don’t know about you but those social media throwback Thursdays are becoming something to look forward to each week. It’s bad enough that we watch the clock on Fridays. Now, we’re all anticipating Thursdays.

A photo post this past week got things churning. The Chuck Wagon cafe on Ponca Street, across from Central Junior High, got the comment bar humming. It was an off-campus lunch spot, long before anyone thought school lunches should be healthy. It later became the Cubs Den.

Benny Gatewood, the local Coca-Cola distributor, sold Cokes, burgers, candy and gum out of the tiny block building. Mostly, however, he sold Frito chili pies. He took a small bag of Fritos, cut them open sideways and dropped a scoop of chili and some onions in there. Put a fork in it, Benny.

For seventh graders, it was often their first non-cafeteria lunch away from parents. Kids who smoked stood in the alley that separated the school from the Catholic church. Fr. Trout often came out to chase the kids off the rectory lawn, using words that were not part of his weekly sermons.

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A few weeks ago, someone posted a reference to Wedgewood Park, a long gone amusement park in northwest Oklahoma City. It was one of at least three amusement parks where families took spring and summer outings in Oklahoma City.

Wedgewood Park seemed smaller compared to Springlake and Frontier City. Springlake had a great roller coaster, a cable car ride that carried kids out across a lake and a funhouse with wacky mirrors.

The Springlake park was originally a spring-fed pond where Roy Staton built a swimming pool in the 1920s. He added a ballroom and the Big Dipper and enjoyed big-name musical acts in the 1950s and 1960s.

Many times, we’d ditch class on pretty days and head to the park. Ironically,

the property was sold to the vo-tech district in 1981 and became a school.

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Wedgewood Village closed in 1969 and later became an apartment complex. It was located at NW 63rd and May Avenue in Oklahoma City.

It began when Maurice Woods noticed wives and kids were sitting in the cars waiting for the men to finish hitting golf balls at his popular driving range.

Woods put in a few rides to keep them occupied and it took off. (The name came from hitting a sand wedge and a wood). In 1961, he installed The Tornado, a 75-foot tall roller coaster that competed with The Big Dipper across town.

The only one of the three parks to survive is Frontier City, the western town themed park that started at the Oklahoma City fairgrounds in the 1950s. It moved to its own location in 1958 and has operated under various seasons and owners since them.

Andy Rieger

editor@normantranscript.com

366-3543

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