Driving along Carter Lake Drive in East Omaha today, you might think the place has always been stark, boring, and a more than a little depressing. But that hasn’t always been the case. In the 1950s and 60s, the Kiddieland and Pleasure Pier at Carter Lake Park in Omaha, Nebraska, were a veritable wonderful of fun and good times.
Dreaming Up New Fun
After World War II, the City of Omaha became determined to capitalize on the land around Carter Lake. They opened it up for a lease to establish an amusement park to serve North Omaha that could compete with Peony Park, which was a private park on the western edge of the city.
That’s how the Carter Lake Pleasure Pier and Carter Lake Kiddieland came to be. Imagine the sounds of kids screaming in happiness as they whirred around in amusement rides. Visualize families ramming baskets full of food into their mouths in packed picnic areas.
But somewhere along the way, Omaha lost the Pleasure Pier and Kiddieland. There are very few mentions of it in the history of the city, and there is no trace of either one today. So, for the first time, here’s the history of Omaha’s lost amusement park.
Carter Lake Pleasure Pier
In late 1948, the City of Omaha Parks and Recreation Commission put out a bid for a business to operate an amusement park on the lake. Jim and Dorothy Carpenter submitted their plan, and were awarded a land lease.
Built along Carter Lake Drive, the Carter Lake Pleasure Pier opened in May 1949 on the lake’s edge. With 150,000 feet of land, the adult-oriented park advertised fancy landscaping, concession buildings, speed boating, swimming, boat rentals, airplane rides, and more. The adult rides included the Rock-o-Plane, Rolloplane, Fly-o-Plane, and an Octopus. There were also Drive-Ur-Self boats and a 40-passenger cruiser on the lake, along with a miniature golf course, archery, badminton, shuffleboards, and bike rentals.
Picnic facilities operated by the Pleasure Pier could hold up to 20,000 people. Along with a drive-in restaurant, there was parking for 1,500 cars.
Carter Lake Kiddieland
The Pleasure Pier was also the site of a Kiddieland, a child-centered amusement park. Originally, there were eight rides for kids, including a Little Dipper, an auto ride, a merry-go-round, pony carts, a ferris wheel, a boat ride, a miniature train, and a ride called a doodle bug. The Kiddieland eventually added a Midge-o-Racer and Bulgy, as well as a Hodges Kiddie Handcar and a live pony track.
In the 1950s, Kiddieland hosted daily 15-minute television shows that appeared on a local station. In 1951 it boasted eight concession games and 14 rides.
The park was offered for sale by the Carpenters in 1959. In 1960, it was reported that the Pleasure Pier and Kiddiepark were sold to H.V. Peterson, who planned to open a marina. That year, the park reported having a three-abreast merry-go-round, a ferris wheel, 16-car Lusse Auto Scooter, a Herschell Roller Coaster, boat ride, a kiddie auto ride, train, pony rides, and “speedway racers”.
After just a decade, Kiddieland and the Pleasure Pier were officially closed and auctioned off in 1962. Rides, concessions and restaurant equipment were all on the block, and the place lived no more.
By the time I was old enough to scour around the park in the 1990s, I could not identify any remnants. No signs of a restaurant, amusement park, parking for 1,500 cars, or a picnic area for 20,000 people are left.
The only thing that remains now are the memories of the visitors and workers who remember it.
Carter Lake Kiddieland and Pleasure Pier may have truly been fun for the whole family, and now they they are all gone.
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Special thanks to Cynthia Carpenter Walling and Yvonne Adams Bechtold for their contributions to this article!
Most of my sources for this information were from Billboard magazine. They include…
- (May 21 1949) “Carpenter Amusements announces grand opening”, p. 63.
- (July 23, 1949) “Outstanding Kiddielands: Jim and Dorothy Carpenter’s Moppetland in Omaha is just an infant – but it’s growing,” p 68.
- (April 7, 1951) “Omaha Ops Prep Pleasure Pier”, p. 63.
- (April 20, 1959) “Carpenter offers to sell park; to keep ride factory”, p 87.
- (June 20, 1960) “Carter Lake opens strong”, ”The Billboard”. p 71.