Sunday, November 29, 2015

Sentimental Sunday: AstroWorld

From June 1, 1968, through October 30, 2005, my hometown of Houston, Texas, had an amusement theme park called AstroWorld. It was across the 610 Loop from Astroworld, the original home of the Houston Astros baseball team (and the "Eighth Wonder of the World").

 My family must have visited sometime in the first few months of the park's operation, because the next two photos are from slides processed in October 1968:

The photo above was shot on the Astroway, an aerial tramway over the park. This view is heading from the "Oriental Corner" section of the park (with one of my favorite rides, the "Bamboo Shoot" log flume water ride added in 1969, and the "Black Dragon" spider ride) to the "Alpine Valley" section.  In the background, you can see "Der Hofheinzberg," the man-made mountain named for park developer Roy Hofheinz.  This was the site of the Alpine Sleigh Ride, and a portion of the "Le Taxi" (later Antique Taxis) motor cars went through the mountain as well.

In the photo below, also from the summer of 1968, you can see another early attraction, the "Mill Pond" water bumper boats, at the base of what was originally called the Skyrama (later the Astroneedle, a double-decked gyro tower) in the Western Junction section of the park.  I'm pretty sure that's my dad, Fred Pape, in the bumper boat, probably with my youngest sister Mary.  Another favorite ride for me was the Astrowheel, a double Ferris wheel in the original Modville section (renamed International Plaza at the beginning of the 1977 season).

In the photo above, taken in the summer of 1970, you can see the Astroway and the  Astroneedle in the background. The next photo is from ten years later, and exactly 35 years ago today, when my friends (from left) Audrey, Annette, and Ardis (on the far right) and I went to AstroWorld during a get-together over the Thanksgiving break.  We're posed in front of the 1895 Dentzel carousel (called the Alpine Carousel) in the Alpine Valley section.

In 1975 the Mill Pond was removed and was replaced by the Gunslinger, so that's what we rode on November 29, 1980, above.  The Black Dragon had been moved and renamed the Razzmatazz, but was gone by 1978.  The Texas Cyclone, a wooden twister roller coaster modeled after the famous Coney Island Cyclone, had opened in June of 1976, so we rode that in 1980 (next two photos).

I moved to the Seattle area in 1984 and my dad was transferred to the Dallas area in 1985, so I'm not familiar with any rides or attractions added in the last 20 years of the park's life.  I do know the Astrowheel was closed in 1981, the Alpine Sleigh Ride in 1984, and the Astroneedle in 1999 (and removed the next year),  Corporate naming rights had an effect in 2001 when the Bamboo Shoot was renamed The Ozarka Splash.

AstroWorld closed in 2005.  Some of the rides, such as the Gunslinger, found new homes in other amusement parks, but others, such as the Texas Cyclone, were simply demolished.  Despite its prime location, the land still lies vacant today.

© Amanda Pape - 2015 - click here to e-mail me.

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