By Leah Koch

Happy Fourth of July! In addition to celebrating our nation’s independence today, we’re kicking off Santa Claus Land Sundays. From now until our 75th Birthday on August 3, we’ll do our best to share another piece of Santa Claus Land history.

This week, we’re starting off with an early report of America’s First Theme Park from just two months after it opened.

04 Oct 1946, Fri The Times-Mail (Bedford, Indiana)

It makes me smile to think of how expectations for theme parks and amusement parks have changed through the years. According to the article, Santa Claus Land consisted of a “Toy and gift shop and soda fountain,” along with a miniature train. The Mother Goose Land Trail and children’s park didn’t open until about a month after the park opened. The Santa Claus Land Railroad (also known as the “Mother Goose Land Train” or the “Freedom Train” was not quite ready for Guests yet but was in the works.  

In this article from the Indianapolis news from Christmas Day in 1946, the project was to be completed within the year. 

Toy Town growing full articleToy Town growing full article 25 Dec 1946, Wed The Indianapolis News (Indianapolis, Indiana) 

If you look closely, the caption says that part of the picture on the right was completed–that building became what is now Santa’s Merry Marketplace and Kringle’s Banquet Hall, where group events are held. 

Today, we have the best-ranked trio of wooden coasters in the world. The Voyage is ranked #2 in the world. Thunderbird is America’s First Launched Wing Coaster. Splashin’ Safari is the Water Coaster Capital of the World with Wildebeest – the #1 water park ride in the world for more than a decade, Mammoth – which holds the Guinness World Record for longest water coaster, and Cheetah Chase – The World’s First Launched Water Coaster. 

But it warms my heart to think that while our town has grown, and the name of the park has changed, and 75 years of progress have made the park bigger and more important than ever, I like to think of what’s the same. The Koch family is still here, operating the park a little more behind-the-scenes than previous generations, but we’re still pouring our hearts and passion into this place. 

Santa is still here–he may be virtual this season, but he’s still here.

And the magic is still here. From the wonder of the small town that believed in Christmas 75 years ago to today. The magic may be bigger, and different, but it’s here. 

And that’s a reason to celebrate. 


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3 Responses to “Santa Claus Land Sunday – 1946 Newspaper Articles”

  1. Lyn Speedy

    My parents were friends of your family. My father, Bud Claycamp was from the area. My mother, Phyllis Claycamp moved to the area when they got married. My mom was born in 1928 and is still alive. She has fond memories of your family.

  2. Kara

    I always remember my grandma taking us to holiday world, we now make it a tradition for out family to visit each summer. I miss the shop that had the stations set up where there were trains and different set ups behind glass and you could push a button and things would move. That’s one of the many memory’s I have with my grandma!