A list of childhood memories goes for about $141,305 these days, give or take a boulder here, a park bench there, a Putt Putt golf course or a statue with a broken snout. The recent Kiddieland auction fetched that amount, online bidders choosing from nearly 150 items culled from the Lions Park grounds.
Hardly bringing up the rear was the Kiddieland caboose, all 15 tons of it, which sold for $28,000, the highest price paid for anything in the catalog.
“It will probably be the last thing to leave. It’s a heavy piece of equipment,” understated John Tipton, a member of the Lions Club Trust board. “It actually still has brakes on it, and the undercarriage is operational. It came off the tracks years ago, so it was placed away from the tracks.”
Other items grabbing the attention of high rollers were the Monkey Mayhem Barrel Ride, $16,250; the Go Gator Coaster, $8,750; an electronic sign near Bosque Boulevard, $7,250; two rail cars welded together, $1,800; light poles, $6,250; a Coast Guard Helicopter coin-operated ride, $1,300; three Putt-Putt courses, including purple fencing, lights and card stands, $700; a train shed with two garage doors, $1,100; and the Zoom Saucer ride, $2,300.
Asked if some winning bidders may donate items to the Lions Club for future use in a reimagined, remodeled Kiddieland, Tipton said he does not think so.
“I think people who bought them have plans for them,” Tipton said. “I can see those who bought rides putting them in other locations.”
They might bob, weave and buck elsewhere in Waco, Tipton said.
Neither Tipton nor Garner Auctions would identify bidders, though item descriptions and winning bids appear on the Garner Auctions website.
Financially strapped for years, the almost 70-year-old Lions Park at New Road and Bosque Boulevard opened only briefly last summer, routinely its peak season. Once a getaway for giggling preschoolers, young parents and teens sharing a date night playing miniature golf, the attraction succumbed to mounting bills, sagging attendance and the inability to remain adequately staffed.
The city of Waco announced in July it would lead the way on an effort to rehab Kiddieland from the ground up, and pledged $2 million toward revitalization.
It was decided much of Kiddieland was not worth saving, that tearing down and starting over made sense. City crews gave the site a thorough cleaning, then wrapped it in dark plastic, shielding it from prying eyes. The Lions Club hired Garner & Associates, Auctioneers, to sell what it could.
Tipton said Lions Club has not ruled out a second auction. He said it is coordinating efforts with winning bidders to remove items in a timely fashion.
Rides and attractions Lions Club chose to preserve, including the mini-train that circles the venue and the signature carousel donated by the Junior League in 2011, likely would be placed in storage.
Specifically how Lions Club will apply auction proceeds remains a topic of discussion. Tipton said Lions Park has debt that needs addressing.
“It is my understanding that money is going back to help the Lions with their finances,” Waco Parks Director Jonathan Cook said. “They are a key partner, but no financial commitment has been discussed. The caboose and all that are property of the Lions. I understand they have a prospective buyer for it, and are working with a crane company.”
Cook said a community advisory committee soon will get down to business, considering how best to restore Kiddieland to its former glory as a popular community asset. A design consultant likely will take part in the efforts to consider park layout, features to be included and other possibilities. Tipton said he will occupy a seat on the advisory group.
Waco City Council Member Jim Holmes, whose district includes Kiddieland, said stakeholders have mentioned placing a tall slide on the site, a successor to the Super Slide, whose 46-year run ended in 2018. Holmes said many respondents to a 2019 survey mentioned the slide as a favorite, though it notoriously scalded bottoms and appendages on summer days.
“I’m amazed at the number of people who call about that slide, though it hasn’t been there in a long time,” Tipton said. “I went down the slide as a high school kid. If you got off that burlap bag, it would punish you. If you placed your hands on the metal, they were cooked. But new slides are made of Fiberglass, not sheet metal, for that very reason.”
Items gobbled up by bidders were testimony to Kiddieland’s popularity once upon a time. An elephant statue with a broken trunk fetched $15. The sale featured boulders galore, some selling separately, but a cluster fetching $450. A park bench festooned with lions’ heads sold for $160; a metal bending machine, $1,500; and a canoe ride with six canoes, $1,700.
Two water fountains sold for $10; a lion statue, $275; a bear “welcome” statue, $240; a “Welcome to Kiddieland” sign, $450; and two signs proclaiming “Danger Keep Out Police Order,” went for $425 and $325.
A chair that lifeguards sat in when Lions Pool was operational sold for $220. A concession building with two bathrooms went for $400.
The Kiddie Wheel Ride sold for $21,000, placing it second behind the caboose.