Over the years, I've enlightened and entertained my half-dozen readers with thrilling tales of Lakeland, the popular amusement park that opened just east of Memphis in the early 1960s. It had rides and games and a racetrack and the Huff-n-Puff Railroad, and all sorts of other entertainment. All in all, a marvelous place for kids of all ages, as they say, until it closed in the late 1970s.
One of its most popular attractions was the "world-famous" Brussels World's Fair Skyride, which carried visitors high over the biggest lake in Shelby County. Sometimes that ride offered special delights — such as that memorable afternoon when freak winds blew the skyride off its tracks, leaving riders stranded over the lake and trees for hours. You can read all about that here, in one of my previous columns.
When the park closed, most of its bits and pieces were auctioned off (though to this day I'm still not sure what happened to the Huff-n-Puff railroad cars). And I don't know where all the skyride gondolas ended up, but I did find ONE of them when I revisited the old park location years ago. Stripped of its bright paint, it was gathering dust inside a barn off Canada Road.
Well, I have an update. My pal Walter Drissel has recently spent considerable time exploring the woods around Lakeland and turning up all sorts of interesting things (which I'll share with you in future blog posts). He found that the old aluminum skyride car had been refurbished, repainted, and moved to a children's playground just behind the Lakeland City Hall on Highway 70. A brass plaque on the gondola gives credit to Dan Abernathy's Custom Auto Paint for the restoration, so I thought I'd give them a mention here. They did a fine job.
So go there and see for yourself an interesting relic from a place that was, at one time, promoted as "The Disneyland of the Mid-South."
PHOTOGRAPH BY WALTER DRISSEL