The Tornado. The Calypso. The Twister. The Roto Jet. The Wild Mouse.
These were a few of the rides that once whirled and twirled under the open sky in northwest Oklahoma City at Wedgewood Village Amusement Park. The park left memories that continue to take on a life of their own today, former park owner Maurice Woods said.
Woods, 81, said he's not surprised so many people haven't let go of the past he created. He said he often is approached by people who have stories of the park, who remember the smells of Dub Adams' Hickory Kitchen and summer days spent splashing in the Olympic-size swimming pool, still used by an apartment complex today. There is a Web site created by a fan who says he can draw a map of the park from his childhood memory. And hardly a day goes by someone doesn't ask Woods about the park.
"I miss the fun of the amusement park,” Woods said, "but I don't miss the headaches.”
With an average of 3,000 people a day visiting the park from 1958 to 1969, and more than 100 employees each season — many who were teenagers working summer jobs — Woods has little trouble recalling stories of the park.
"We gave Wedgewood Village T-shirts to our employees and there was a time to have a Wedgewood shirt was a sign of having arrived, so to speak,” Woods said.
As he spoke about the park at a north Oklahoma City Luby's Restaurant, a stranger playing bridge overheard his interview in progress and pitched in her own story.
Barbara Armstrong, 82, of Oklahoma City said her daughter, Claudia Armstrong, was 8 years old in 1960 when she chipped a tooth and knocked another tooth out on a handrail while riding the Tornado. She said Woods called her at home to tell her about the accident.
"She's worn caps ever since and today she's a dental hygienist in Dallas,” Armstrong said. "I've got lots of good memories of Wedgewood. You wouldn't want to hear them all.”
Dave Aitken, 48, now of St. Louis, grew up in Oklahoma City. He created a Web site as a tribute to the bygone park.
"I was such a Wedgewood fanatic,” Aitken said. "My mom would drop us off because she knew we loved the place and it was $1 to get in on Saturdays.”
Aitken said he remembers before the park closed in 1969, asking his father to call Woods to ask why he was selling the Tornado at an auction. His dad handed the phone to the son, who was crying over the sale.
"I asked him why he was selling the Tornado,” Aitken said. "He said it was just time for it to go.”
The Web site gets about 200 visits and 20 e-mails a day from people who remember stories about the park — from the Safari Boat rides in "Jungleland,” to the bumper cars.
"There are people who have never even been to Oklahoma who love to research amusement parks and roller coasters,” Aitken said.
Wedgewood was first a golf driving range at NW 59 and May Avenue in 1954. Woods is a 1950 University of Oklahoma graduate with a business administration degree who loves golf. He remembers watching children sitting in cars while "daddy hit golf balls,” and had the idea to bring in rides.
Wedgewood Village Amusement Park