Here’s a fun website for people who want to reminisce about amusement parks from their youth: Theme Park Brochures.
I was able to look up a map of Marriott’s Great America in Gurnee, Ill., from 1979. The Marriott hospitality company opened the park in 1976, during the American Bicentennial. Six Flags purchased it in 1984.
I worked at Marriott’s Great America two summers while in high school in Lake County, Ill., in 1978-79. I worked in the games and arcades section of the County Fair area, running carnival games like the Ring Fling.
I have some great memories of working there. I got to hang out with some beautiful girls who worked there (Jane, Betsy, Edie, etc.) We were able to get into the park for free. Sometimes we’d get off a few hours before the park closed, change into our street clothes and ride the roller coasters.
Some of the rides are still operating, but under different names. The roller coaster I remember as Willard’s Whizzer is now just the Whizzer and the Turn of the Century is now the Demon. Other rides, such as the Tidal Wave, are gone.
I met John Willard “Bill” Marriott Jr., now chairman and CEO of Marriott International, while I was an employee of the park. “Bill,” as I called him when I shook his hand, is the son of company founder J. Willard Marriott.
In 1979, admission to Marriott’s Great America was $9.60 for adults. Today general admission to Six Flags Great America costs $54.99 (but you can buy tickets online for $34.99 each).
Now I feel old.
Photos: Front of brochure for Marriott’s Great America 1979 (top), and inside pages from the brochure (bottom).