Earlier this week, I was tooling around the Northwest Side to interview a woman for an article, and I drove by a massive, weather-beaten dinosaur sculpture. I took a photo of it, put it on social media, and many people identified it correctly as the only remaining sign of what was once the thriving Johnsonâ€™s Park that featured a mini golf course, go-karts, batting cages, food stand and an arcade.
Thereâ€™s a fence surrounding the property, which is now just patches of weeds and piles of rubble. I stared at it for a long time until I could muster memories of what it once looked like.
Eventually, I could remember other details from the mini golf course like the hole featuring a large bird bent over with his beak buried in the AstroTurf and the tiny pencils attached to chains on the red, wooden stands next to the holes to provide a surface for mini golfers to keep score.
I also remembered that I had a birthday party at Johnson's Park in the early '80s during which I and my sister and a few friends played mini golf, zipped around on the go-karts and ate a cake that my mother brought in on a picnic table.
Later, I remembered a few more now-defunct places where I had birthday parties. So I made a list. Not with a small golf pencil, but on my iPhone.
Farrellâ€™s Ice Cream Parlour â€“ There was a Farrellâ€™s in Northridge and Southridge malls, but as a child growing up on the East Side, we always went to the Northridge location. I celebrated my fourth birthday at Farrell's, but was slightly traumatized by this event. I was a very shy kid and Farrellâ€™s was known for banging a massive drum and making a big noisy deal around the birthday child and I told my father before the party that I did not want this to happen. However, the next thing I knew, a staff member was lifting me out of my seat (imagine that happening now?!) and, proclaiming it was my birthday, got the entire restaurant to sing to me. I was mortified, started crying and then felt embarrassed for crying during my birthday party. But I then got a Waltonâ€™s lunchbox and board game and felt better.
Barnabyâ€™s Family Inn â€“ I think I celebrated my eighth birthday party at Barnaby's.Â It was located on Port Washington Road â€“ apparently there is still a location in Illinois â€“ and I liked the place because it had root beer mugs hanging from hooks on the ceiling and every table featured a light box with a number on it that lit up when your order was ready. Most of all, I dug the low lighting. To this day, I cannot stand overhead / fluorescent lights of any kind. I only use lamps for light in my home and I still prefer dark restaurants and bars. (Hi, Bryantâ€™s!)
Lox, Stocks & BagelsÂ â€“ It took a long time for me to remember the name of this place that was located in the basement of the Prospect Mall (it later became Thai Joeâ€™s). Truth be told, I actually canâ€™t remember if I had a birthday party at this bagel joint or my sister did â€“ but one of us did for sure. It doesnâ€™t seem like a typical birthday place to me, but then again, neither of my parents were particularly typical, either. ("Weird is good," dad, who really loved bagels, always said.) I don't remember much about the party, but I do remember a photograph taken of me, my sister and our party guests, sitting on the stairs of the mall. My 6- or 7-year-old self couldn't know it at the time, but I went on to work at the Prospect Mall Cinema for six years.
Showbiz Pizza â€“ In the â€˜80s, Showbiz and Chuck E. Cheeseâ€™s were neck-and-neck as the premier party place, but eventually, the mechanical mouse beat down the mechanical bear. (Which was Showbizâ€™s mascot, if memory serves.) I know I had a birthday party at the location that was, I think, on Good Hope Road. Probably not far from Johnsonâ€™s Park.
No Talkbacks for this article.
Post your comment/review now
Disclaimer: Please note that Facebook comments are posted through Facebook and cannot be approved, edited or declined by OnMilwaukee.com. The opinions expressed in Facebook comments do not necessarily reflect those of OnMilwaukee.com or its staff.
Recent Articles & Blogs by Molly Snyder
Published Sept. 19, 2017
Jake and Alaina Bresette opened Milwaukee's first surf shop, Lake Effect Surf Shop, in the summer of 2016 at 1926 E. Capitol Dr. The couple is pleased with the year-round interest in the shop.
Published Sept. 18, 2017
Milwaukeeans love to take photos - and post photos to social media - of our beautiful lake. Here are a bunch of great ones.
Published Sept. 17, 2017
Milwaukee's Joel Kopischke sang the national anthem at last night's Brewers game. He's sung the national anthem at a game every year since 2002, but this year he felt conflicted.
Published Sept. 15, 2017
Although Wisconsin is sometimes perceived as a state filled with low-energy beer drinkers, L.L. Bean opened its first local retail store earlier this summer to reach the large sector of residents who are very much on the move.
Published Sept. 14, 2017
Murals are hot and Milwaukee is home to many - including the latest which were unveiled today.
Published Sept. 12, 2017
Have you tried to buy a case of White Claw hard seltzer lately? It ain't easy.
Published Sept. 8, 2017
Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals will headline the "Rock the Green" festival, an eco-friendly music festival that returns Saturday, Sept. 9 after a three-year hiatus.
Published Sept. 7, 2017
You might have spotted The Minion while driving on 1-43 South. Here's the touching backstory of the Milwaukee Minion.
Published Sept. 6, 2017
A few months ago, Kennita Hickman had never heard of Ex Fabula, a Milwaukee-based storytelling organization committed to strengthening communities. Now she serves as the group's second full-time employee and she can't wait to ... listen.
Published Sept. 5, 2017
Milwaukee's Luis Feliciano is a five-time national champion, and he's 3-0 after becoming a professional boxer earlier this year.