Wednesday, January 06, 2016
It's a new year, and I have a new batch of vintage amusement park postcards, courtesy of Ken Martinez. This is part SIXTEEN, if you can believe it! Here's Ken:
AstroWorld - Houston, Texas
AstroWorld was opened on June 1, 1968 by Judge Roy Hofheinz, former county judge, Houston mayor and Houston Astro's team owner as part of his Astrodomain, which also included the Houston Astrodome next door. It was located directly across the highway from the Astrodome with access via bridge. It started with eight theme areas: Alpine Valley, Americana Square, Children's World, European Village, Modville, Plaza de Fiesta, Oriental Corner, and Western Junction. These are postcards from the park's early years before Six Flags took over operation.
This was AstroWorld's equivalent to Main Street, U.S.A. but was referred to as Americana Square in most publications. It even had an emporium store. It was at the first theme section guests encountered as they entered the park. AstroWorld was designed by Randall Duell and Associates, the same firm that designed the first three Six Flags parks, Magic Mountain, Worlds of Fun and both Great America parks.
The Alpine Sleigh ride reminds me a lot of the Matterhorn at Disneyland. The dark ride carried riders in and out of the mountain through various scenes including one with an operating snow machine.
Here's the May Pole ride. I think it's the same flat ride as the Frosty's Snow Ball Ride that existed in the old Santa's Villages in Scotts Valley, California and Dundee, Illinois. Also visible are the Astroneedle, an Intamin tower, and the Astroway, a Von Roll sky ride which had terminals in the Oriental Corner and Alpine Valley sections of the park.
This is probably my favorite postcard I have of AstroWorld. Pictured is the "Swamp Buggy Ride" which is a themed Chance Toboggan ride dressed up as a tree trunk. Very unusual! Fun Island was a Robinson Crusoe themed area where the Swamp Buggy Ride and Wacky Shack were located.
The Bamboo Shoot, an Asian themed Arrow flume ride located in the Oriental Corner section opened during the park's second season. Note the ride spotter at the top of the drop and the 610 limited train in the backdrop. The 610 Limited was the train that traveled around the perimeter of the park.
AstroWorld seemed to have trouble managing the park's high standards in its early years, so eventually Six Flags took over operation and added the "Texas Cyclone" wooden roller coaster (rated #1 by Rover Cartmell), which drove up attendance. As years passed, the park seemed to be treated like a step-child by the modern Six Flags chain without having any of the great headliner state-of-the-art attractions added to its roster like the other parks in the Six Flags chain benefited from. It usually was given the older used rides and leftovers from the other Six Flags parks. It was finally closed and demolished in 2005 after Six Flags was offloading several of its parks it acquired during expansion. If anyone remembers, Six Flags was going to sell off Magic Mountain during this time period as well, but finally decided to keep it operating and in the Six Flags family chain of parks. I hope you enjoyed your visit to this lost but not forgotten theme park of the 1960's.
Information source material:
The Great American Amusement Parks, copyright 1976 by Gary Kyriazi
Funland U.S.A. copyright 1978 by Tim Onosko
I love these early views of AstroWorld! Like so many other parks, I wish I could have seen this one before Six Flags took over. It looks like the original design had a lot of charm, and like guests could have had a lot of fun there!
Thanks as always to Ken Martinez for sharing his collection and for all of his research! We'll have more from him very soon.