Dr. Patrick’s Postcard Roadside

The Tropics

The Big Band sound faded with the postwar rise of Rock and Roll, and with it, venues like The Tropics in the Chicagoan Hotel.

By then Sam Bari and Red Duncan, Chicago’s “famous” and “nationally known” Blind Pianist, were history. The Tropics were leveled along with the Chicagoan, the Morrison and the entire block at Clark & Madison in 1965. Four years later, the Chicago First National Bank Building, now the Chase Tower, and its expansive pedestrian plaza stood in their place.

The Chicagoan Hotel was an early adopter of the Polynesian-themed cocktail lounge that would sweep the nation after World War II. The hotel was built in 1930 as part of the sprawling Morrison Hotel complex at Clark & Madison streets in Chicago’s downtown Loop. With 2,210 rooms to fill during the Depression, the Morrison Hotel hived off the 1930 addition in 1937, leasing what became the Hotel Chicagoan. The Tropics was the Chicagoan’s Hawaiian themed cocktail lounge, with bamboo trimmed bar and hut booths, tropical drinks and a lively house band, Sam Bari and his Men of Rhythm. The hotels around Clark & Madison were the heart of Chicago’s Big Band scene from the 1930s into the 1950s.

Magic Forest

The magic of Magic Forest was its willingness to mix roadside wonders from wherever.

The Lake George, New York, attraction opened in 1963 as the storybook variant of a postwar passive park, a children’s park relying on static displays, tableaux and baby animals to pet rather than being a ride-driven action park. But Magic Forest never limited itself to the pages of fairy tales as depicted in this postcard advertising its Indian Village, as well as projecting sign icons for Santa, Bambi, Indians and Spaceships. You want to tell Santa what you want for Christmas, pet Bambi, then run around the woods with a six-shooter and a ray gun looking for Indians? Have at it. Magic Forest survived a surprisingly long time. When it finally closed for good in 2018, the park probably appealed more to SCA-minded adults looking for remnants of their childhood than kids searching in vain for the water slides. The plan for Magic Forest is to be reinvented as Lake George Expedition Park with dinosaurs as the main attraction.

Overland Park

Denver, Colorado’s Overland Park was the king of the municipal campgrounds established during the early 20th century’s “automobiling” craze, a nationwide fascination with the new-found freedom of the automobile that put millions on the road looking for places to camp-out.

Booster organizations lured these auto tourists this way and that with privately promoted auto trails like the Lincoln Highway, Pike’s Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway and Yellowstone Trail. Towns along the way encouraged their stay by providing campgrounds for a nominal fee or in some cases for free. Overland Park opened in 1922 on an old racetrack built along the South Platte River just south of downtown Denver. The park offered 160 acres of camp space, café, gas station, grocery and laundry facilities, and in 1925 attracted near 80,000 automobilists. The auto-camping craze faded by the end of the 1920s as better roadside lodgings became more available, and the municipal camps closed with the onset of the Great Depression as they increasingly became the abode of out-of-work transients. Denver’s Overland Park was converted into a golf course in 1932.