South of Oshkosh across from the Oshkosh Country Club once stood an amusement park that had many names.
“Electric City,” “White City,” and lastly “EWECO Park.”
The miniature “Coney Island,” as locals referred to it, opened June 19, 1898, according to Oshkosh author Ron La Point who included a chapter on EWECO in his book, Oshkosh: Preserving the Past.
The park was an 18-acre money-maker for Citizens Traction Company, which operated an electric trolley in Oshkosh. Electric Park was a way to encourage riders with the promise of picnic grounds, a small amusement park, merry-go-round, dance hall, theater called the “Casino,” and an electric fountain.
One of the rides was a giant toboggan slide known as “Shoot the Chutes,” which funneled visitors into Lake Winnebago.
The park changed hands in 1906, and the name was changed from “Electric Park” to “White City,” which came from the fact buildings were all painted white, according to information from the Oshkosh Public Museum.
The new ownership, J. Francis Miller of Chicago, also operated amusement parks (New White City) in Milwaukee and Chicago. He added a Ferris wheel, a roller coaster, and improved the building, a baseball field and covered a grandstand on the property for the 1906 season.
Miller’s “White City” lasted until 1910 when financial problems caused him to close a portion of the park, and dismantle the rides and baseball field.
The hall and theater continued until the property was purchased by the Eastern Wisconsin Electric Company in 1917.
A contest was held to rename the park and Adolf Menzel picked the winner, wrote La Point. He said the man nicknamed “Ole Menzel” used the initial of the company to name the park EWECO Park.
Trolleys ran to EWECO for the last time in October 1925, La Point wrote, beginning the demise of the entertainment center. The park continued as a dance hall until 1953.
Charles Maloney was the last owner of the Park, La Point writes. His book contains an interview with his daughter, Rita Malchow.
“My dad sold the park in April of 1954,” Malchow told La Point. “The driveway for the park was directly across the road from a gas station or mini-mart that is no longer there. I recall there was a motel right in back.
“Our driveway was between the Stanley Hall residence to the north and the road leading into Paukotuk to the south. The road went straight in and Dad owned the whole section that extended to the lake. Dad eventually bought Dr. Conley’s Paukotuk house but that wasn’t included as part of the park property.”
For more about EWECO Park’s dance and band scene read La Point’s book. EWECO Park was a major player in the local ballroom circuit, which included Cinderalla Ballroom in Menasha, Waverly Beach in Menasha, the Raveno in Neenah, the Nightingale south of Black Creek, the Crystal Ballroom in Hilbert, and the Playmore on South Main Street in Oshkosh (also owned by Maloney).
Appleton and Oshkosh’s skating rinks were also popular, La Point writes.
National renowned bands played at EWECO in the 1930s and 1940s, including Harry Babbit and the Kay Keyser Band, which wrote the song “Pretty Little Miss Down in Oshkosh Wis.”
The song was played locally by the Pep Babler band at the park.
Other songs were also written about Oshkosh, La Point writes, including “Oshkosh,” written by Walter Crawford in 1950 and published by the Elk’s Club.
Margaret Collins Wood, 96, told La Point, the park could be risque.
“Nice girls weren’t supposed to go to EWECO Park,” she told La Point.
In 1954, the property was sold to Frank and Wava Chandlish of Fond du Lac, and sold off in lots in “Candlish Harbor.”
Conrad’s Oshkosh City Directory: 1919, included an insert that described EWECO Park in the summer of 1918 as a “pleasure resort at the end of the trolley line.” The Sunday attendance at the park was at record highs: up to 7,000 on Bastille Day, it said.