Thursday, November 05, 2015

Vintage Children's Fairyland Postcards!

Welcome to the 11th post featuring Ken Martinez's collection of vintage amusement park postcards! We'll be visiting a place that I have never seen - Children's Fairyland in Oakland, CA. Here's Ken:

Children's Fairyland, Oakland, California

Children's Fairyland opened in 1950, and is located in the city of Oakland next to Lake Merritt. The park has many storybook sets which contained "talking storybook boxes" that you could purchase a plastic key for. When you turned your key in the box, audio would play telling the story of the fairytale/fable portrayed in the storybook set. Walt Disney also visited here and incorporated ideas from Fairyland into Disneyland.

The original entrance to Fairyland was through "The Old Lady in the Shoe" structure. I remember my mother purchasing tickets at the window in the heel of the shoe. Adults would have to squat to get through the entrance. While the shoe still stands, the newer "Fairy Gates" entrance is just beyond the shoe today.

This storybook set features the home of Peter Rabbit. I love the simple small and intimate architecture of these sets. Children's Fairyland had and still does have small animals in their storybook sets and exhibits, like the rabbits seen here.

The Happy Dragon has been at the park ever since I can remember. As a little boy, my mother would hold me up as I pulled his leather tongue, which would activate a speaker so he could tell a story of Fairyland. The Happy Dragon is still vocally active to this day.

This storybook set features the home of the Three Little Pigs. Can we assume that all three of them live there, because the brick house is the only structure that can withstand the wolf's huff and puff?  I love the white picket fence and crooked roofline.

The Jolly Trolly train opened in 1954. I remember riding this train along the shores of Lake Merritt and through the parklands surrounded by the city of Oakland. I also remember sticking my head out the oval windows of the cabs as shown in the postcard. The train reminds me of a cross between the Casey Jr. Circus Train and Toonerville Trolley. It still runs along its track today and looks basically the same as it did when it first opened.

As a child I remember sitting here at this storybook theater many times to watch the marionette performances at this little theater. It just seems so small and old fashioned now. The size of things certainly seemed bigger when you were a little kid.

Fairyland was the park I visited regularly as a very small child, since we lived in the Lake Merritt neighborhood in the early 1960's. Because of that, this place holds special memories for me. I hope you enjoyed your visit to Children's Fairyland. The park is still going strong to this day, is a source of local pride, and has kept most of its original spirit and feel. If you plan on visiting, just remember that no adult is admitted without a child and no child is admitted without an adult.

Information source material: Official site of Children's Fairyland, Oakland.

I DID enjoy my visit to Children's Fairyland! Thank you as always, Ken Martinez!


Nanook said...


I too enjoyed my visit to Children's Fairyland. The postcard views in this group are particularly sharp with bold colors. It's nice to hear the park today continues to have the charms of its past and is a going concern. (I wonder if leather tongues are burn-proof...)

Thanks for sharing.

TokyoMagic! said...

I love the fact that these vignettes still exist and that they haven't been replaced with roller coasters. That puppet theater building in the shape of an open book reminds me of the Winnie the Pooh attraction's facade in Tokyo Disneyland. Thanks for sharing more of your collection with us, Ken!

Chuck said...

Ken, thanks so much for another visit to my own youth! These bring back a flood of wonderful memories of Sunday afternoon visits in the early-to-mid 70's.

So many vignettes come back to mind - the Owl and the Pussycat, Willie the Whale, the Country Mouse and the Town Mouse, Captain Hook's Pirate Ship, The Walrus and the Carpenter (featuring live sea lions), the Crooked Little Man's House, Jack and the Beanstalk (part of which was visible from the parking lot), Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary, Mary Had a Little Lamb, the Thumbelina tunnel, the Dragon Slide, and my favorites, the Alice Carrousel and the Alice in Wonderland tunnel (and I didn't have to look any of that up, either - that stuff is firmly established in my personal ROM).

They were wonderful in the way that they were designed with small children in mind, and I don't mean that they talked down to kids in any way. The environments were built to be experienced and explored and enjoyed by small people who are in a stage of life when that is so important to their development. I can still remember the joy of running along a series of stepping stones in a stream that ran through a cave under the statue of the Turkey that Lived on the Hill, climbing aboard a beautiful pea-green boat and spinning the ship's wheel next to a statue of the Pussycat as the Owl looked down from the rigging. Or sliding down into the Rabbit Hole, wishing I could find some way into the garden through the little door painted on the wall at the bottom. Climbing to the crow's nest of Captain Hook's ship and playing in the sand below. Building up the courage for that first looooong slide down the dragon's back.

I watched many a show in that marionette theater, too, and it always seemed huge to me. Funny how your perspective changes as you inflate with age.

We must have had at least four copies of those golden keys that worked the sound boxes. We'd get to the park, realize we'd left it at home, and have to buy another one. Eventually, we came up with the brilliant idea of leaving one in the glove compartment of the station wagon...and then still had to buy a key one more time when we rode to the park once with friends.

A first-season episode of "Batman: the Animated Series," "Mad as a Hatter," has a scene that takes place in a "Storybook Land" park that has a couple of obvious homages to the Alice vignettes at Childrens' Fairyland, an Alice-themed maze of cards and a statue of the Mock Turtle. I remember watching the episode one afternoon in college, getting really excited and trying to explain it to my bewildered girlfriend, who had never been west of O'Hare International Airport. She married me anyway.

Thanks again, Ken. I can already tell this is going to be a great day!

K. Martinez said...

Nanook, Glad you enjoyed. I love this particular series of cards because of the coloring. There's something about the standard chrome postcards of the 1950's and 60's that make them my favorite era to collect.

TokyoMagic!, It's nice that some of the older parks are able to retain their original spirit and charm and still be able to do well. I have seen photos of the Winnie the Pooh storybook façade at Tokyo Disneland and actually like the idea because in the film the audience would follow Pooh along as he hopped from one page to another.

Chuck, I always enjoy hearing about your memories. It's like we're right there along with you. I do remember the dragon slide you mentioned. It was humongous from a kids POV. I also remember having those keys but sadly those were lost years ago. Thanks for the info on "Batman: TAS". I have it on DVD so I'll definitely have to check that episode out.

Stay tuned. Willie the Whale, the Alice in Wonderland carousel and several others will be making an appearance in this series of Fairyland postcards down the road. And yes, today is going to be a great day!

JG said...

@Ken and Major.

Thanks so much for sharing your memories of this little park. It reminds me very much of Storyland in Roeding Park in Fresno, which was my childhood equivalent. I think the Fresno park had the same keys and story boxes. What a great idea.

It's good to hear that so much of the park is in good shape and relatively well preserved, that's a grand thing in this age.

I haven't seen Roeding Park now for many a long year, I wonder how it has fared. I hope as well as this park, but doubt it. That neighborhood has sort of "de-gentrified" over the years.

A brief digression here, but maybe apropos. Remember when we were kids, Mom loved the new frozen foods, (oh Boy TV Dinners!). Now, we've gotten over the thrill of that new technology and are going back in droves to authentic food and cooking.

I wonder if the next generation will turn away somewhat from smartphones and social media and look back to more traditional ways of having fun because the buzz has worn off of the electronics.

Aah, probably not.


K. Martinez said...

JG, People of all generations seem to have become addicted to their social and electronic media. I doubt the general population will go back. It's too integrated into our lives now.

I was talking to a friend about the joy of finding a treasure in a junk shop or a mail order where we used carefully cut out an order form from a magazine page, write a check, mail it to the company and wait for the item to come in the mail. There was a certain excitement and built up anticipation from waiting (4-6 weeks for delivery) for the item to arrive in the mailbox. Now you can go on or eBay and find just about anything you want and with a couple of clicks, buy and pay for it in a matter of seconds and receive it in 1-2 days. With today's technology it just comes too easy.

Anyway, glad you enjoyed these and they sparked memories your own childhood memories of Storyland in Roeding Park, Fresno.

Major Pepperidge said...

Seems like these postcards were a hit! I am so glad that this little park is still around. Ken, did you ever go to Happy Hollow in San Jose? We used to take my niece and nephew there a lot when they were little. It really is a park for small children, but I liked the old fashioned feel. Plus it had one of the few Danny the Dinosaur trains still in operation.

K. Martinez said...

Major, No, I never made it to Happy Hollow in San Jose. It would've been cool to see the Danny the Dragon train in operation. Again, thanks as always for the opportunity to share my collection with your readers.

Dean Finder said...

We had those story keys at the nearby zoo (Turtle Back Zoo in West Orange, NJ). They were shaped like elephants. Mostly, I remember fighting with my brothers over who got to use it next.

There's a more modern version of those keys in the zoo today.