It’s rare that a small amusement park can withstand the test of time. As new technology and branding drives the masses to mega parks like Disney and Universal, there are still quaint attractions dotted around the United States that seem to withstand the test of time. One of which is Children’s Fairyland in Oakland, California.
Children’s Fairyland has been a tradition in Oakland, California since 1950! Constructed at a cost of $50,000, this was considered to be a huge investment considering Disneyland had not yet opened and the market was not yet proven of a project of this caliber. The history of this quaint California landmark is lovingly detailed in the book Images of America – Children’s Fairyland, which I just received a copy of from Arcadia Publishing.
Originally, the park was to have elaborate costumes for the employees working there. Sensibility prevailed and they ditched the idea seen above for more practical employee uniforms. When Children’s Fairyland first opened, they have a total of five employees: the director, two guides, an animal keeper and a gardener.
The park is known for its iconic fixtures that represent children’s storytelling. One of the most recognized is Willie the Whale. Inspired by the children’s song from the 1950s, Willie sprays water from his spout every few minutes. This idea has been copied many times in other children’s storybook parks over the years.
What I love about Images of America – Children’s Fairyland is the amount of detail shown in the book. Seen above, this is the inside of Willie the Whale from a photo taken in 2006. Just down his throat is an aquarium filled with fish!
The history from Children’s Fairyland is incredible. Seen above, a clown phone booth was created by Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Company. Why, you might ask? They wanted to teach children how to properly use a telephone back in 1956. The booth was removed in 1975.
Animals have always played a huge part in the park. In the early days chickens, rabbits, peacocks, and even monkeys were allowed to roam freely throughout the park. Today, they are all housed in cages.
What I love most is the amount of live entertainment available in the park. Children’s stories come to life through talented actors, musicians and puppeteers. Bob Mills, seen above, was hired by Walt Disney to perform magic at Disneyland. He later came to work at Children’s Fairyland in Oakland. This is what I love about this park! It has taken a lot of dedication and love to keep an institution like this afloat for 65 years. If you’re a theme park history buff, you must pick up a copy of Images of America – Children’s Fairyland by clicking the link below!
Images Reprinted from Images of Modern America – Children’s Fairyland by Randal J. Metz (Arcadia Publishing, 2016)