Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Mother Goose Gardens

You might not be familiar with the area where I live. I am about 6 miles from Starved Rock State Park, Matheson State Park and a smaller treasure called Buffalo Rock. These are all beautiful areas and Starved Rock attracts thousands of visitors every year. Great trails...a lovely can smell the burning campfires and marshmellows on a stick!

Last week I went to the Utica, Illinois Facebook page. Utica is the gateway to these parks. It's also been made famous by a tornado that ripped through the area in 2004, killing several people. The village has used social networks to its advantage and has a page loaded with all kinds of photos and wonderful information about people, places and things to do in the area.  One of the posts asked for pictures from a place out of my childhood that no longer exists called Mother Goose Gardens. It was right next to Starved Rock State Park and what a treat it was to go there as a kid. The amusement park opened in 1957 on nearly 50 acres near the south edge of Starved Rock...kiddie carnival rides and petting zoo, games, including a 30- reproduction of Mother Goose. So awesome. Good childhood memories.
The incredible Mother Goose. That's me of course, striking a pose. Love the little beanie hat. No girlie clothes for me. You can peddle the train cars faster in pants.
Magical...glorious...exciting...giant sized story book figures that you could touch and climb. Ohhhhh, there were ducks that you can feed and a train track with little cars that you had to peddle yourself around the track. Try bringing a kid to something like that today. No sensory overload here. Just the basics and we all loved it! There is nothing left of the amusement part. You would never know it was there. Not a trace. I would love to walk the area, over the brush and overgrowth to see if something is left...a part of the track...a piece of one of the giant figures. I'm sure it would feel like a Steven King movie...children's laughter faintly in the background...the sound of ponies walking in that giant circle...the old corn dispenser overflowing with feed! Ok, I have an overactive imagination.
Hey! Where's my porridge?

Little Bo Peep. I'm in my favorite pose.
After posting my photos, others responded with their memories and pictures. So cool to see and read. Here is what some of them said:

"Oh my dad had a partial interest in Mother Goose Gardens and we went almost every weekend. plus his best friend did the landscaping. I can tell you the exact layout even now all these years later. the train...Santa's reindeer, the tractors, the self-propelled little train cars (I must have derailed 30 times), event the big milk can at the entrance!"

"The little dipper rollercoaster, the ferris wheel with CANVAS seats...the boat ride that went in a circle in a little round tank, of which I was convinced was 100 feet deep (my dad was such a kidder), Humpty Dumpty, the wishing well with Jack & Jill--and of course, Mother Goose herself on that island with the geese! i'm sad whenever i pass it."

"Great pic!! Wish i could find all mine!! As my parents were the last investors to run it!! i remember painting Peter Peter Pumpkin Eaters pumpkin!! AND i have a video of me riding the tractors! There were sulkey pony rides too. plus the real ponys! Gosh i could go on and on!! i practically lived there on the weekends!!!"

Do you have childhood memories of this park? I'd love for you to share them with me or send me photos that I will post on my blog. One last was of a place down the road from Mother Goose to Rt. 71. Trucks always whizzed by and stirred up the dust. I remember eating hot dogs there but the greatest part was going into a big tee pee and picking out a plastic toy from a large treasure chest. I think it was called the Wigwam. Glorious! 


  1. I have pictures of me as a child almost identical to yours only I was sitting at a table eating with the 3 bears..also have a pic of Cinderealla's pumpkin coach, does that ring a bell? I think they must have been taken at Mother Goose Gardens as this all looks very familiar...I will ask my mother about those pitures and see if I can dig them up. Thank you for posting your sweet comments on my blog..also hoping you will send me your profile and mention this to some of your creative friends.

  2. You know I have to go to FB right now and have a look. Thanks for the smiles.

  3. I remember going there on one occasion back in the mid 60s. I have a scene in my new novel about it.

    Thanks for the stroll down memory lane and for jogging some memories loose.

  4. We went there many times growing up So many fond memories of the place.. enjoyed seeing the photos Will have to go and look for mine now as we have several taken in the park with my brothers and sisters. Wow what a blast from the past.. My Mom is in the area right now with one of my brothers who still lives down the road from Starved Rock State Park !

  5. I remember Mother Goose Gardens also. My parents were fond of Starved Rock. Then after that we'd stop by and I'd get a quick trip through here. I don't remember for sure. But didn't a bad storm or a tornadoe hit mother goose gardens?

  6. A tornado hit the town of Utica 7 or 8 years ago but MG Gardens has been long gone. that is the only severe storm that I can think of. Maybe some of our readers remember other storms taking place...?

    1. no bad storms hurt the park their big problem was raccoon's and dogs that just ran around

  7. Francie, my Godfather was part owner of Mother Goose Gardens as well. I would love to walk thru there as well, just looking for a piece of track or some small piece of anything! Guess we would have to get permission from the state and tall boots! Pam BTW we went to LP together.

  8. I was just talking about the gardens with my students the other day...thanks for commenting.

  9. we called it a root beer stand. Loved getting a prize from the tepee! Oddly, I also remember stopping by the road on the way there, and there were a couple of hand pumps for pumping water - they worked but the water tasted absolutely awful. Every year we would try it, really silly, but a landmark to us! I don’t know why they were there or why the water was so bad. Lots of wonderful memories of visiting Mother Goose gardens however, I adored going there.