Another One Bites the Dust

Memories of Libertyland prevail as the park fades into the past

By Aaron James

[singlepic id=44 w=320 h=240 mode=web20 float=right]1976 was a banner year for Memphis. It was the year I officially became a teenager, Elvis played what was to be his final Memphis concert at the Mid-South Coliseum, the Lawler-Dundee feud was at its zenith, and President Ford presided over dedication ceremonies for the new Main Street pedestrian mall downtown. I think there may have been some event of national significance that year too, but I can’t for the life of me recall, because ‘76 was also the year my very own amusement park opened right down the street!

I remember telling my friends, as we anxiously awaited opening day, “Man, I’m going to Libertyland every five bucks I get!” A few years later, my high school sweetheart’s mother bought us a pair of season passes. Every Saturday day was spent playing skee-ball, feigning machismo on the Pippin, and stealing kisses on the Flume Zoom. (Every Saturday night meant dinner with her family at Bill and Jim’s and rockin’ the Back in Black at Summer Skateland, both of which are also now gone, but that’s another story.)

Although I later came to see the writing on the wall, Libertyland closed while I was traveling the country in pursuit of slightly 
more substantial adventures. I was 
1,200 miles away, in a tiny upstate NY hamlet of less than 6,000, when the Pippin was sold. I know this because even their tiny paper ran the story of the two guys who paid $2,500 for what they thought was just a car from Elvis’ favorite roller coaster, flabbergasted to discover they had gotten the whole kit and caboodle. Now that I once again find myself right down the street, the flood of memories vie for my attention as I try to share the following update:

According to information provided by City Councilman Jim Strickland, the work schedule is as follows:

The entire former Libertyland site was to be cleared by 01-15-10.

The youth building, cattle barns, arena, petting zoo, and horticulture building are to be cleared by 03-15-10.

The Pipkin building, swine barn, fair office, and fair shop are also to be cleared by 03-15-10, but as part of a separate contractual phase.

All demolished sites are to receive seed and sod by 04-30-10.

Although graphically included on the phasing map as part of “Package #1” demolition, the old fire station at the corner of Southern and East Parkway was still standing at press time. As you can see in the photo, many of the trees on the former Libertyland site have been saved, although there was no effort to protect the roots from compaction caused by the heavy machinery, which places their continued health in jeopardy. There is no mention in Jim’s information of the Creative Arts Center building, nor is it graphically included on the phasing map. Demolition of the Coliseum is currently on hold, with its long-term fate still uncertain. According to the web site “savethepippin.com”, they currently own the actual Pippin coaster, and how the City proceed with this delicate issue remains to be seen.

For a more complete recounting of the history and demise of Libertyland, visit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Libertyland, 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zippin_Pippin,
and http://www.rememberlibertyland.com/.

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1 Comment

  1. Although I have fond memories of the Zippin Pippin, I’m glad to see it finally put out of its misery and the Fairgrounds allowed to be developed.

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