When Fantasyland opened in Gettysburg, Pa., it was immediate hit. The Gettysburg Times noted in 1959, “’Fantasyland,’ which is Gettysburg’s newest major tourist attraction, outgrew its facilities for handling crowds on the second day of its operation.” During the opening weekend, 4,500 people entered the park and that number quickly grew to 4,800 by the third weekend. Weekdays saw 500 to 700 people a day visiting the park.
“We never turned anybody away,” Jacqueline White said. She is the daughter of Kenneth and Thelma Dick who owned the amusement park.
A second entrance even had to be built to handle the weekend crowds.
White started working at the park when she was only eight years old. She played Little Red Riding Hood walking through the park and talking to the visitors. As she got older, she was assigned other duties. Even once she was married and working as a teacher, White and her husband still worked summers at the park.
“My husband, John, went to Dickinson Law School and worked at the park in the summer. I taught at Cumberland Valley High School and in summers worked at the park,” White said.
Like their sister, Stephanie and Cythia, also grew up working in Fantasyland doing a variety of jobs.
“My oldest sister was mentally retarded and my parents always said that part of their reason for doing Fantasyland was to give her something to do,” White said. “She loved it there. She was down there all of the time.”
The park was also the first job that a lot of people in the area had since they could start working there as young as 14. During the season, the Dicks employed three dozen people at the park. Throughout the life of the park, White says there were more than 200 different employees.
“I still get people coming up to me and saying that working at Fantasyland was their first job,” White said.
The park even had the distinction of being visited by First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy and her children, Caroline and John John, a couple times.
“The youngsters both had special things they wished to show their mother and sometimes, like most mothers with two small children, Mrs. Kennedy found herself being tugged in two different directions at once.”
President Eisenhower’s grandchildren also enjoyed visiting the park from time to time. In fact, Eisenhower’s granddaughter, Ann Eisenhower, worked at the park.
“Ann was Mother Goose when Jackie Kennedy came,” White said. “She talked to the kids and then ran down the stairs because one of the Secret Service men had been her Secret Service man, and she wanted to say, ‘Hi.’”
Not everything went smoothly at the park, though. Once the sky ride started making a funny noise, so the operator hit the emergency button and the ride halted with people still on it. The fire department had to come in with ladder trucks to get the stranded riders down.
White remembers another time when the squirrel monkeys and chimpanzees got loose from the live animal show.
“They ended up in Colt Park,” White said. “I remember the police running around trying to catch them. It was funny. I don’t remember how they did it, but they did finally trap all of them.”
The park also had its detractors who claimed that Fantasyland represented the over-commercialization of Gettysburg. During its first year in operation, the entrance to the park was opposite Meade’s Headquarters. Some editorials were written opposing the park’s location, but nothing could be done about it at the time.
Then in 1974, the National Park Service bought the property, but allowed the park another 10 years of operation. White said that the money was too much for her parents, who had grown up poor, to pass up.
Once the park was sold, the Dicks advertised through trade associations that the equipment and shows were for sale. Sports Paradise in New Concord, Ohio, eventually purchased everything. The park’s final season was 1980.
“They came in and cut the buildings apart, loaded everything on trucks and hauled it away,” White said.
You can still find some of the remnants of Fantasyland at other parks around the country. The carousel is at a park in Austin, Texas, and Mother Goose is at Storybook Land in New Jersey.
“I still go there sometimes just to see her,” White said. “They [the park owners] told me that people have come there and see her and recognize her as being from Fantasyland.”
Signs of the park locally are long gone and the Gettysburg National Military Park Visitor’s Center now occupies land that was once part of Fantasyland, but there are still plenty of people in Gettysburg who remember when fairy tale characters used to live in the woods.