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Whatever happened to ... Lagoon's fun house?

Published June 10, 2017 9:19 pm

Whirling discs threw riders off; a trip down the tall slides could "rip the buttons off your pants."
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Editor's note • In this regular series, The Salt Lake Tribune explores the once-favorite places of Utahns, from restaurants to recreation to retail.

Farmington • Lagoon's fun houses — there were actually two of them — entertained the amusement park's guests for nearly 100 years, offering speedy slides, whirling discs, crazy mirrors, tilted rooms and mischievously timed blasts of air.



The first fun house, near the present-day carousel and roller coaster, burned down in a massive 1953 fire that almost closed the venerable park, which opened in 1888 on the shores of the Great Salt Lake before moving to its present Farmington location in 1896.

Photos of the original fun house show men dressed in suits and ties clinging to the spinning disc under a sign advertising beer. The Freed family, which bought the park in the 1940s and still owns it, rebuilt Lagoon and the fun house after the blaze.

The second fun house still stands and can be seen near the park entrance by looking toward the original wooden roller coaster, where a weird-looking structure that enclosed the top of the highest slides can be seen.

The fun house remained a popular attraction until concerns about liability forced its closure.

"I remember being in the barrels with my twin sister, Anne, and getting stuck," said Lagoon co-owner Kristin Freed, remembering two barrels inside the fun house that spun in different directions. "My father had to rescue us. He put his hands at the top of the barrel and spun all the way around. It's my best memory of that."

Former Farmington resident Geoff Thatcher, who now lives in Ohio, remembered the fun house as one of Lagoon's best secrets. He called it a traditional boardwalk fun house with an entrance that featured an indoor obstacle course of sliding boards, warped mirrors, a shortened room and air blasts.

"These air blasts were controlled by an employee positioned on the fun house's mezzanine," Thatcher wrote in a tribute he posted last year on LinkedIn. "From this lofty position, the employee could target unsuspecting guests, especially the poor female guests who had unwisely worn skirts to Lagoon."

Thatcher said that his favorite activity in the fun house was a ride he called the spinner, a huge flat turntable that could hold 20 or so guests at a time. It was designed to throw patrons off its surface as the operator sped it up.

"Every five minutes, 20 guests would slip their shoes off and rush to the center of the 30-foot-in-diameter turntable," Thatcher wrote. "Once in position, we'd try to anchor ourselves with our hands and feet. Next, a horn would blow, signifying the start of the spinning."

Slowly, the table would turn.

"On every rotation, it would spin a little faster. After about 30 seconds, the first guests would start sliding off. After about a minute, the turntable really started humming. Those experienced at riding knew the secret was keeping as close to the center as possible. However, with almost 20 people vying for that position, it was not always possible."

As the ride went faster, people began spinning off and hitting the padded side.

By the time Kaysville resident Shane Griffin worked at the fun house in the 1980s, when he was in high school, the spinning disc ride and a second spinning ride that whirled so quickly it pinned riders to the side were gone. They were replaced by a gigantic ball crawl.

"I liked it better when I was young," Griffin said. "They switched it over for little kids."

He and other employees called that reconstituted safer fun house the Lagoon day care center, because parents would drop their kids off and leave them for an hour or two.

Griffin said the ball crawl would be cleaned every so often and workers would find clothes, used diapers and money. He did get to operate the air blasts that came from the floor, looking for unwary folks walking through the shock zone.

The large metal slides that are inside the big remaining part of the fun house on the west side were extremely fast. Patrons, who had to climb into a gunnysack to ride, often raced.

"You could go pretty fast without the gunnysack," said Griffin, who tried that after hours a time or two. "It would rip the buttons off your pants. I guess that's why they used gunnysacks."

Walking by today, a younger generation has no clue what the building once housed. It now contains four food stands, a storage area, and a safety and security office.

The park used the crazy mirrors for a few years at its Frightmares haunted house attraction, but they eventually broke.

All that remains now are the slides and the memories of Lagoon visitors who are old enough to remember the fun house when it really lived up to its name.

If you have a spot you'd like us to explore, email whateverhappenedto@sltrib.com with your ideas. Find past stories at http://www.sltrib.com/topics/whateverhappened.

wharton@sltrib.com

Twitter: @tribtomwharton —

More on Lagoon

KUED Channel 7 will air a new documentary, "Lagoon: Rock and Rollercoasters," about the 131-year-old amusement park at 7 p.m. on Monday, June 5, and Wednesday, June 7; and at 6 p.m. on Saturday, June 10.

 

 

 

 

 

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