Monday, August 31, 2009

Vintage Roadside Visits: Thrill-Ville USA

In 1974, one of Oregon's most unique mom and pop amusement parks closed. Pixieland, located near Otis along the central Oregon Coast, had captivated guests for just 5 short years. Around that same time in Salem, Oregon the Vettrus family decided to add go-karts as an extra enticement to their RV park. What followed was roughly 30 years of amusement park entertainment at what would soon become known as Thrill-Ville USA.

Sadly the park ceased operation at the conclusion of the 2007 season. While it's undeniable that we've lost another piece of roadside history we would like to thank the Vettrus family for three decades of memories.

We've noticed that over the past two years the park has been slowly emptied of rides and other fixtures. With our complete fascination with advertising mascots and their unique histories (as evidenced by our fiberglass "family" of six) we had been hoping for a chance to stop by and take a closer look at the mighty Thrill Man while he was still perched proudly on top of the sign.

Below Thrill Man greets another summertime sunset.

While the park is closed to visitors (the KOA at the rear of the property is still going strong) we were lucky enough to meet Vince, a long time employee of the park, at the gates. After talking with him about our interest in learning more about both Thrill Man and the history of the park, Vince kindly spent some time showing us around.

Remember how much fun these giant slides are? At over 50' tall all this one needs is a new coat of wax to get back up to speed.

A 1971 Jet Star Coaster that once thrilled riders in Santa Cruz, California. We're looking forward to seeing this one find a new home.

Another of the classic rides. A 1949 Rock-O-Plane. Amazing to think about just how many people have ridden this one over the past 60 years.

One of our favorites at the park. "Bulgy the Whale" is another of the great rides looking for a new home.

What amusement park is complete without its own train? We loved the streamline style of the Thrill-Ville train.

One of the biggest draws at Thrill-Ville was the giant waterslide. Standing 55 feet tall and hurtling riders down 350' of fiberglass tubes the waterslide now stands eerily quiet.

One of the things that really caught our eye were the few remaining painted signs. While items like rides and fixtures generally find new homes, many times wooden signs like these are left behind. It's easy to see why - they're worn and faded and understandably a ride needs clear signage. For us, the true value of these types of signs is simply their history. They give us a look at a time when talented sign painters created simple signs by hand.

Another great sign listing the rules for go kart ridership.

A wider look at the Jet Star Coaster - The Ripper.

Ok, we'll admit that when we asked if you remembered how much fun giant slides were we had an ulterior motive :-) Here Mrs. Roadside conducts a highly-controlled experiment in order to confirm that indeed giant slides are still awesome.

The remaining rides are currently offered for sale. If you have an interest in anything let us know and we can give you further information. Prices range from $19,000.00 for Bulgy the Whale to around $100,000.00 for the Jet Star Coaster.

Also, please remember that the park is closed and not open to visitors (there are several No Trespassing signs along with security patrols). The park is no longer safely set up for guests and we'd hate to have someone get hurt - that wouldn't be good for anyone!

Jeff & Kelly
Vintage Roadside


Tina said...

I just KNEW this is where you were going, ha! We never went here when it was operating but now that it's semi-abandoned we couldn't resist stopping in last summer on our annual visit to their neighbors, The Enchanted Forest. I bet the guy we talked with was Vince--he knew a lot about the park in it's heyday. We have a string of photos, too, on our flickr stream. My fave was the kiddy carousel, also from Santa Cruz. :)

Vintage Roadside said...

Tina - Vince was great to talk with! I'm looking forward to seeing your photos. If you've got room in your back yard the carousel is currently for sale:-)

sweetjeanette said...

Ahhh... takes me back. When I was (much) younger, there used to be a theme park sponsored by a gas company I think... They had a theme song and everything. I still remember when at the top of the ferris wheel, you could see the drive in movie in the distance.
Thanks for a tour down memory lane.

Vintage Roadside said...

Jeanette - Thanks for sharing your memories of the park. How neat to be able to see the theater from the ferris wheel! Where was the park located?

wendy said...

Speaking of Thrill Ville and T shirts I had one I got at a thrift store and wore out. Wish I had one now.

R. said...

Thank you for sharing this! I'm glad people are interested in documenting great unique attractions like ThrillVille before they are completely gone.

I grew up in Salem, and have lots of fond memories of TV. My favorite is how they used to play 40's music through the old-school PA system (Think Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy) all day... and the smell of the water evaporating off the walkways while I waited for what felt like HOURS in line to get to the top!! I can't believe it's only 55'... in my mind's eye it's at least a hundred! :) The idea of the smell of chlorine and warm wood brings a smile to my face.

My last visit was when I was 17 and dragged all my friends there at spring break. We rode the coaster a bunch of times, and played on the bumper boats (which smelled a lot more like pond water and gasoline). I worked at EF next door one summer too (a Salem kid rite-of-passage if there ever was one!), and on slow days we could hear the coaster (and people screaming!) all the way in the English Village - which definitely made cleaning the windows among all the creepy animatronic puppets a little less unnerving. :)

Anyway, thank you for sharing! :)

Unknown said...

We went here when I was younger my whole graduating elementary class went I just moved back to oregon I left for army in 99 and now everything has changed this sux I wanted to visit my childhood memory lane again but its all gone