Thursday, February 23, 2012

Kings Island - August, 1974


I borrowed the following photos from my girlfriend's father who took these during a trip to the park in the summer of 1974. At the time, Kings Island was in its third season after relocating from Coney Island. The Brady Bunch had filmed an episode there the summer before, the Partridge Family the summer before that. The photos show a different time at Kings Island, 38 years in the past. Aside from the 70's nostalgia of the "snapshot" envelope they came in with the film negatives included, they show a Kings Island much different from the one today.

While I love Kings Island and think it's still a great park, there's something missing from it today that you see in the photos here - the ornate decoration, the attention to detail, the feeling of americana, the lack of corporate branding, etc. At one point, Taft Broadcasting branded the entire park facility as an experience, a total resort destination. They had a full fledged zoo, heavily promoted their campground and its amenities, their own hotel and golf courses. Today, the zoo is gone, so is the campground, the golf course is under different ownership and while the hotel still carries the Kings Island name (but features different owners), it has a 2.5 star rating on Google.

I'm not implying that park has gone down hill by any means, Kings Island is still world class and a leader amongst seasonal parks, but where did the feeling in these photos go? Where's that sense of the classic American amusement park that they brought from Coney Island? Is it just nostalgia from a dated photo in a time that I was never alive to see? If I took photos of the park in August 2012, would someone look back 38 years later and feel the same way?

- Landscaped main entrance.

- Royal Fountains and their surrounding landscaping.

- International Street, the main entrance to the park. Note the sidewalks and streetscaping in front of the buildings that really gave you the feel of being on the street.

- View from the 50 ft. platform of the park's Eifel Tower, which is now closed. In the foreground is the "Scooby Doo" (known today as Woodstock Express), followed by maintenance shops and the parking lot.

- The replica Eifel Tower and the dolphin show stadium in the foreground.

- View from the park's skyride, which was imported from Coney Island.

- The Kings Island and Miami Valley Railroad.

- Overview of the Wild Animal Safari station. The monorail is now in service at Jungle Jim's in Fairfield, Ohio.

- Parrots on display in what was once an entire zoo themed area of the park.

Special thanks to Pat and Clare Brunner for contributing these photos!


  1. These are great. I miss that "old" park. Hanna Barbara Land, the dolphins, the safari monorail, those old cars that ran on tracks just under the tower...ahh to be a kid again.

  2. Wow those took me back to my childhood. I remember being so excited about going that my brother and sister and I couldn't sleep the night before then having so much fun the next day that my face hurt from smiling so much. Thank you for sharing these.

  3. Thanks for posting these photos...they bring back good memories!

    J.D. aka standbyme

  4. @JLaFary - exactly.

    Thanks for posting these. I too miss the old KI days - it was definitely a miniature Disney in those days, in many ways. Kinda sad to see it gone.

  5. You asked "where did the feelings in these photos go?" To me, it's most of the "little things" that are the biggest difference when you compare todays KI to KI back then. Who does most of these "little things?" John Doe employee does and when you treat said employee like a number instead of a person, it is reflected in the park. A well seasoned veteran of the maintenance department put it best when he once said, "At one time this was a fun place to work."

  6. I love looking back and seeing the differences in the park. I still wish the sky ride was there though :(

    I have a bunch of old pics up on Facebook from the first 10 years of the park that I found digging through an old drawer at my fiance's house :)

  7. What Aaron said above is SO true. I remember how everything was SO CLEAN. It may seem like a little thing, but all of the staff seemed to take much more pride in their jobs. When management takes care of their employees, it shows.

  8. Though I get a lot of nostalgia from my memories of the park when I was very young, in the 1980's; the "Smurf Ride" and riding "The Racer" backwards for me the park reached it's peak when in ownership by Paramount. It still kept much of the Hanna Barbara wholesomeness that we all grew up with but the "themes" I feel made the park grow but it brought in the new with out forgetting the old. It's fun to visit the park with other long time veterans who also call that coaster at the north end of the park Top Gun.. because it will always be Top Gun! These are the same people who HAVE to ride the ship every time they visit and know just where to go to get that blue ice cream (though it's been 25 years since you could take your ice cream to the dolphin show!)

  9. My friends and I were so disappointed when Coney Island was scavenged and most of the rides were moved to the "new" park. Not only was it farther away, but Kings Island lacked the homey feel and shorter lines of Coney. We knew most of the people who went there and, if we did meet someone new, we could be sure they didn't live hundreds of miles away. I am glad "old Coney" has been rejuvenated.