Green Bay, Wis., Mayor Jim Schmitt and Green Bay’s parks director Bill Landvatter were in Memphis looking over the Zippin Pippin, which is being dismantled. The Zippin Pippin, formerly called the Pippin, is one of the oldest existing wooden roller coasters in the United States. No sources can pinpoint when or where the Pippin was built. According to a 4/27/1993 Commercial Appeal article the Zippin Pippin was built in 1912 in East End Park. A 1/8/33 CA article claims that East End, “had charge of the ‘Figure Eight,’ predecessor of the Fairgrounds, ‘Pippin.” A 4/17/1966 CA article claims the coaster was built in 1915. Another, (CA 12/26/1974) date’s construction in 1917. Either way it goes, it was made out of pine wood and built somewhere in the “today” fairground area. It was constructed by John A. Miller and Harry Baker of National Amusement Devices.

As the park declined in popularity, the coaster was dismantled and relocated adjacent to the horse track in Montgomery Park, now known as the Mid-South Fairgrounds. In the 1970s, Memphis made plans to build a theme park around the Pippin and the Grand Carousel. The park was called Libertyland, and opened in 1976. The Pippin was renamed the Zippin Pippin, and billed as the most prominent and historic ride at Libertyland. Elvis Presley was alive then the park opened and the Zippin Pippin was reportedly his favorite roller coaster. Yes, it is true; Elvis would rent the entire park on occasion just to ride it without constant fan interference. A week before his death, Elvis rented the park from 1 a.m. to 7 a.m. to entertain a small number of guests and he rode the Zippin Pippin for hours without stopping. Libertyland Amusement Park closed in 2005, the Zippin Pippin is being disassembled. Schmitt said he would recommend his city “work diligently” to acquire the Pippin and move it to Green Bay, Wis.

The real story about the Zippin Pippin is, it SUCKED! I remember going to the Fairgrounds before Libertyland was opened. Memphis, that was the only roller coaster we had till the Revolution came. Once the Revolution was constructed it had Loops, it was faster, made of steel, and longer. See, the Zippin Pippin was 2,865 feet (873 m) long, traveled 20.8 mph (33.5 km/h), increasing to 40 mph (64 km/h) at the maximum drop of 70 feet (21 m). It only took up a minute and thirty seconds of your time. This was great for people in the 1912-1960 that didn’t experience anything over 45 miles an hour. You older readers know the speed limit in the 1930 was topped at 45 mph. In the 1970 speeds were topped at 55 mph, which made the Zippin Pippin slow-as-hell! Plus, many people would head to Nashville to enjoy Opryland,

If you were between the ages of 8-12 you might find the ride exciting. I mean the ride had no G-Force at all. A “real” roller coaster takes advantage of G-Forces. It constantly changes its acceleration and its position to the ground, making the forces of gravity and acceleration interact in many interesting ways. The Zippin Pippin didn’t.

On a “real” roller coaster, when you plummet down a steep hill, gravity pulls you down while the acceleration force seems to be pulling you up. At a certain rate of acceleration, these opposite forces balance each other out, making you feel a sensation of weightlessness, the same sensation a skydiver feels in free fall. If the coaster accelerates downward fast enough, the upward acceleration force exceeds the downward force of gravity, making you feel like you’re being pulled upward. If you’re accelerating up a steep hill, the acceleration force and gravity are pulling in roughly the same direction, making you feel much heavier than normal. The Zippin Pippin didn’t. Now the Revolution did!

The only time Libertyland made the news was for Labor Day Weekend or when the Mid South Fair was in town. My cousin Jeff and I would go to Libertyland every two weeks; you could ride every major ride there and walk the park in one hour and forty-five minutes with a moderate crowd. The Zippin Pippin was near 60 years old, based on built in 1917 and my visits in 1974+. It was falling apart then, it shook, after the first drop, the car your sitting in rattled, you were more afraid the roller coaster was about to collapse if anything. Jeff and I would take our drinks and drink while riding the ride. We got to know some of the people working the rides because of our regular visits. Many times at the Revolution the operators would let the ride got through two times if there where no people at the gates. We would always ride the Zippin Pippin last, as we leave, sometimes we could get around five non-stop trips. I’m not going to say I didn’t like the Zippin Pippin, I rode it every time I visited Libertyland. During the 1980, the ride was just, OUTDATED, and those that can remember, half the time you visited Libertyland the Zippin Pippin was CLOSED.

On October 29, 2005, citing persistent loss of money, “Little-Bitty Land” closed its gates for good. We’re talking 2005; Libertyland didn’t covered no more than 20 acres. Families lose interest in homespun amusement parks. People want Disney not some corner amusement park with a raggedy roller coaster. For goodness sakes, the Mid-South Fair even decided to relocate. If Schmitt gets his way, the Zippin Pipping will find another home, and if I’m ever in Green Bay, Wis., at some amusement park and see the ol’ Zippin Pippin, Yes Memphis, I would ride that old raggedy roller coaster for ol’ time sakes.

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Comments
  1. LQ Knight says:

    It’s funny you posted this, the dame thing fell apart during dismantling. “Little-Bitty Land,” that’s a good one.

  2. Hey mate, thanks 4 posting but this article doesn’t format correctly when using Mozilla it is doubled up.

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