Some very special ponies are galloping back into Coeur d’Alene this week.
They are the 20 brightly painted horses in a 1922 Spillman carousel that delighted so many children in Coeur d’Alene. The vintage merry-go-round was a favorite attraction at the former Playland Pier which entertained Coeur d’Alene locals and visitors on the waterfront from the 1940s to the 1970s.
The ride was originally located a few blocks west of the present-day Coeur d’Alene Resort, where Independence Point now stands.
Now, after traveling the country, and taking a few twists, turns and due to the generosity of many, the ponies are running again as the carousel opened last Friday in City Park, just west of The Coeur d’Alene Resort.
The carousel grand opening was the highlight of the 1st ever Family Day in the Park and Fancy Flea Market on Friday, June 9. Thanks to Idaho Central Credit Union, rides were free all day from noon to 7pm.
And as the carousel turns once again, Marlo Faulkner was definitely there to rekindle some childhood memories.
“All of us kids in the Fort Grounds considered Playland Pier our personal playground,” Faulkner remembers. “Mr. Sommers, who ran the Pier and lived in a little house next to the Bumper Cars, knew us all by name: Marlene, Donna, Betty, Susan, Butch, Cliff, Jeanie and Bobbie. He granted us special favors, especially for the Merry-Go-Round when it didn’t have many passengers during odd times of day. All we had to do was to find him, and a pass was ours!
“I loved the horses but the tiger was my favorite. The calliope music combined with the mirrors, the painted backdrops, the tented top and the whirl of the ride combined with a view of the lake to transport me into a magical land. It will be like reliving my childhood to have it back in the neighborhood.”
It’s taken many hands to move the carousel back to CdA. The generosity begins with John and Pat Foote, who spent $250,000 to purchase the carousel and gift it back to the city in 2011. Bud Ford pledged $200,000 and Ryan Johnson of Element Architecture provided the building design and United Renderworks donated the building rendering. The CHS classes of 1947, 1950, 1958 and 1960 contributed with help from Jim Pomajevich and Clyde McCaw.
Kathy Sims adopted the first pony. Sunrise Rotary, Kiwanis of CdA and Eagles Club all provided donations. Welch Comer provided the artwork and design and Little Tree Storage hosted a year of free storage. Young Construction custom built pony storage racks and the City of Coeur d’Alene provided help particularly from Mayor Steve Widmyer and CdA Parks & Recreation Director Steve Anthony.
According to the Coeur d’Alene Carousel Foundation, the Playland Pier Merry-go-Round will be open seasonally from May through October and for special community events throughout the year. Rides will cost just $2. More at www.cdacarousel.com
It had been built by Stillman Engineering Corp. in North Tonawanda, N.Y., during the golden age of carousels. During the early 1900s, trolley companies installed carousels at the end of their lines to generate ridership on the weekends.
The popularity of carousels died out during the cash-strapped days of the Great Depression.
Mr Somers, born around 1894 in Spokane, operated traveling carnivals around the Western states.
He saw an opportunity in Coeur d’Alene in the early 1940s. Thousands of young men and women came to the region because of the war effort. On leave, many went to Spokane, but many also went to Coeur d’Alene to lie on the beach, eat a hamburger or ride the tour boats.
In an advertisement he placed to find carnival rides, Somers said there were 40,000 enlisted men and 12,000 officers at Farragut and other regional installations. Rocks and dirt were used to fill in the waterfront and Somers put up buildings for concessions and games. Playland Pier opened in the summer of 1942 and operated from Memorial Day to Labor Day.