Memories of Summer Fun: Riding Jane’s Carousel

Ohio woman talks about the history of Jane’s Carousel, and about riding it as a child in Idora Park.

| July/August 2012

  • Janes Carousel
    Today, Hilde’s favorite merry-go-round has been restored and is known as Jane’s Carousel.
    Hilde Lange

  • Janes Carousel

My love affair with the merry-go-round began at an early age. When I was a child in the 1930s, my parents always managed to make a trip to our local amusement park two or three times every summer. There were lots of exciting rides and things to do, but I was interested only in the merry-go-round.

I understood that I could not ride constantly, and I was content to sit on a bench between my parents and just watch. My dad, a history buff, told me I would see many merry-go-rounds in my lifetime. He also said I would never see one as special as this one in Idora Park in Youngstown, Ohio. He was right. The beautiful horses became real to me, and I had a favorite I always rode.

When I was in high school, we had our annual school picnic at Idora Park every spring. I always managed to fit in at least one ride on my favorite horse.

History of Jane’s Carousel

Over the years, what we called a merry-go-round became known as a carousel. In 1975, my father’s prediction proved correct when our beloved merry-go-round became the first carousel ever listed on the National Register of Historic Places. However, by then, Youngstown had fallen on hard times. The once prosperous city depended on the steel industry, so when the steel mills closed, the population declined.

Idora Park had a devastating fire and was not reopened, so in 1984, the antique carousel went up for auction. At that time, real estate developer David Walentas was planning what would become Brooklyn Bridge Park, and his wife, Jane, had begun searching for a carousel for the park.

The carousel was on the verge of being sold piece by piece when the Walentas bid $385,000 to buy the entire attraction.

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