Article by Dan Marquardt
Although Riverview amusement park in Chicago, Illinois closed in 1967 when I was only one year old, I still became a big fan of the amusement park from reading my parents' copy of Chuck Wlodarczyk's book "Riverview: Gone But Not Forgotten". This book is still available at www.riverviewpublications.com. When I was a kid, I would read his book over and over until the pages fell out.
My parents went to the park many times in their youth and told me how much they loved going there. The amusement park was located in Chicago on the northwest corner of Western Ave. and Belmont Ave. The park was open from 1904 through 1967. There were a few pinball machines made that I feel were partly inspired by Riverview.
I saw a Williams Comet when it was new in 1985 and it has been one of my favorite pins ever since I first played it. The action in the game was top rate for the time and I still love the pin's graphics and sounds.
I always felt the Comet pin was based on the Comet roller coaster at Riverview. Here are the reasons why:
1. The coaster cart shooting into space in the backglass is launched from an amusement park with the Chicago skyline in the background. The Chicago skyline detail can be seen on an upside-down angle in the top right corner of the backglass.
2. Chicago's Sears Tower (now called Willis Tower) and the John Hancock building can be seen in the red silhouette on the cabinet side art. Riverview was gone by the time these buildings were constructed. I thought Williams took some creative license with the Comet artwork, as if Riverview had never closed.
The font logo on the pin's center ramp graphic, below the coin box door (in the brochure), and the keychain plastic are all and exact match to the font on an original Riverview Comet ticket.
The popularity of Comet brought two sequel coaster pins from Williams - Cyclone in 1988 and Hurricane in 1991. A Comet ramp returned in both Cyclone and Hurricane.
In 2002 at Pinball Expo in Chicago, the designer of Comet, Barry Oursler revealed some details about Comet which confirm the connection. The game was indeed created after the Riverview coaster attraction of the same name and in fact it was going to be called "Riverview". However, it was decided nobody outside the Chicago area would know what Riverview was, so the name was changed to Comet instead.
The tour through Aladdin's Castle featured a maze of screen doors, a mirror room, a room with slanted floors, a floor with round discs which twirled when stepped upon and a large rolling barrel that you passed through.
It also had an outdoor passageway with air hoses under the stairs, bumper rollers resembling a large slide and a "magic carpet" ride over rollers that led to a slide out to the exit.
Here are the reasons I feel the translite art was partly based on Aladdin's Castle:
1. The dimensions of the buildings on Funhouse and Aladdin's Castle are very similar.The eyes on the large face of the Aladdin's Castle building moved left and right. Tim Meighan, who is a Riverview enthusiast and pinball collector, informed me that at a Pinball Expo seminar he attended in the late 1990s, Pat Lawlor said that he got the idea for Rudy's moving eyes from Aladdin's Castle.
2. The Funhouse building looks like a castle more than a house. Note the castle towers and castle battlements (roof line) on the Funhouse building are similar to Aladdin's Castle's exterior.
3. There is a small "Welcome to Chicago" banner on the left side of the Funhouse translite, next to Rudy's elbow.
4. The entrance and exit doors to the front passageway on both buildings are in almost the same spot and the door canopies are almost identical.
5. The left front passageway door area on Funhouse shows a woman's skirt being blown up by the fans in the floor. The floor fans on Aladdin's Castle were in the exact same spot . Take a look at the woman's skirt being blown up on the Aladdin's Castle model in Ed Fruh's model - it is exactly the same as the Funhouse translite detail.
According to Riverview historian Ed Fruh, the fence in front of the Aladdin's Castle was a very popular hangout with young men who enjoyed watching the young women wearing skirts walk over the floor fans' blast of air.
Bally started an arcade chain in the 1970s called Aladdin's Castle. The arcade chain grew to over 360 locations by 1989 when it was sold to Namco. Some of the Aladdin's Castle arcades still exist and are now owned by Namco Cybertainment.
Tim Meighan explained that while a parachute ride was not exclusive to Riverview - the structure for Coney Island's Parachute Jump ride still exists in Brooklyn New York - the
There is also a crude version of Aladdin's Castle on the right of the backglass. The tall round towers with pointy tops and large face on the facade were based on the Riverview funhouse.
Tim also said the two armed ride with open-top cars that people are riding (the nearer car having the bulb-scoring elements on it) is a mix of two different rides at Riverview; the Roll-O-Plane and the Strat-O-Stat. There appears to be a small side view of the Chutes tower in the center of the backglass. I would have to see the detail in person to confirm that it is the Chutes tower.
A Screamo pin is on location in Pennsylvania at the Pinball Parlour. Their website is www.pinball-parlour.com.
I contacted Mike Eady whose Pippin was featured in the book. Mike told me that Pippin may have been based on the Riverview coaster, but there is no definitive proof. He said pinball historian Dick Bueschel made the connection between the ride and the pin.
Mike also said because there are no real coaster graphics on the pin and that "pippin" was a popular slang term at the time (meaning a person or thing that is admired) he has his doubts that the Pippin pin was inspired by the Pippin coaster at Riverview.
Like Pippin, there are seven other pinball machines that had the same names as rides and attractions at Riverview but have no obvious connection to the park other than the title of the pin.They are:
Besides the Comet, Funhouse and Screamo possible connections to Riverview, I also found some other pinball related information about Riverview.
Although Riverview had been gone for two decades or so, the Williams factory at 3401 N. California Ave. where Comet and Funhouse were designed and built was only a few blocks from where the amusement park had been located. Perhaps memories of the park were partly the inspiration for Comet and Funhouse.
Bob Smitka took and collected many detailed photographs of Riverview and he took a rare picture of one of the arcade buildings at the park. He told me that Riverview had three arcade buildings filled with games and amusements.
Tim Meighan told me that unfortunately there were no pinball machines on location at Riverview.This was because pinball was illegal within the city limits of Chicago from the end of the 1930s until January 1977 because pins were considered gambling devices by the city officials.Tim searched for pins whenever he visited the park in the 1960s but had no luck finding any.
Riverview historian and expert model builder Ed Fruh has built detailed models of many of the park's structures. All his incredible Riverview models can be viewed at homepage.mac.com/lmcshane/Ed_Fruh/Menu9.html. One of the custom HO scale models he built is an arcade building which was called Pennyland.
It was located at the base of the Chutes tower and Ed told me some interesting facts about the arcades at Riverview such as how the restrooms at the park were located at the back of the arcade buildings. The reason for this was that the park's visitors would have to pass by all the games and amusements to reach the restrooms. Large curved mirrors were placed at the entrances to the arcades. When visitors stopped to look at their distorted images in the mirrors, the park's owners hoped they would then enter the arcade and spend some money. A man looking into a large curved mirror detail can be seen on the right side of Rudy's cheek in the Funhouse translite.
In the mid-1970s, a giant indoor amusement park and mall was built in the west suburbs of Chicago.
Old Chicago amusement park was located in Bolingbrook, Illinois and it was only open from 1975 through 1980. It suffered from a lack of attendance that did it in fairly quickly. I don't know why, I loved going there every chance I could.
The main roller coaster was called the Chicago Loop. It was only the second modern looping coaster ever made and the first one built for an indoor amusement park. I have great memories of being able to ride the Chicago Loop coaster for as long as I wanted the last few times I went before they closed. Attendance had dropped so low by then that there was no one waiting to ride the coaster, so the operators would let me ride it over and over without having to get off the ride.
Stern's Roller Coaster Tycoon pin, built in 2002, paid a small homage to the Chicago Loop coaster at Old Chicago. One of the Roller Coaster Tycoon's coaster ramps was named the Chicago Loop - the same name as the main steel coaster at Old Chicago.
When the Chicago Loop ramp target is hit, the dot matrix display graphics even show two coaster loops, and there were two loops on the real Chicago Loop coaster. I think someone on the PLD/Stern design team must have been a fan of the Old Chicago amusement park and put the Chicago Loop tribute into the game.
Rollercoaster Tycoon also takes us back to the main subject of this article - the Riverview amusement park. Another Riverview ride was called Flying Turns and Ed Fruh built a model of it.
Flying Turns also "turns" up in Stern's Roller Coaster tycoon on the right ramp as one of the rides you need to construct.
So, even 35 years after it closed, Riverview's rides were still appearing in and influencing pinball designs.
One final item of Riverview memoriabilia with a pinball tie-in concerns the Pinball Hall Of Fame in Las Vegas.
Before it opened, Tim Arnold revealed his intended design for the museum which included a private event room and an area called "Kill! Kill! Kill!".
This latter space was to house a special gun game which fired real steel ball bearings, but lack of space in the building eventually chosen meant the gun game had to be kept in storage.
The gun game in question came from... Riverview and was called Gun Fun. It was hoped to be included it in the new, larger home for the Pinball Hall Of Fame when it moves later this year but zoning regulations may mean this little piece of Riverview remains out of view for the time being.