Sunday, October 16, 2016

Old Hamel's Amusement Park - Shreveport, LA (A Park Long Forgotten)

Carolyn Ct.
Shreveport, LA 71115
32.461027,-93.686128


*Photos courtesy of www.hauntla.com
            I have always been a huge fan of amusement parks. Fortunately, the love for death defying roller coasters and other nausea-inducing rides have been inherited by my daughter, as I now have a companion to ride with. Unfortunately, Louisiana has never been known for having many, if any, amusement parks. The only one that has been around during recent years was the old Jazzland, later becoming Six Flags, in New Orleans. The park was only opened several years, as Hurricane Katrina would condemn it. This has now left Louisiana “park-less”, having to travel to Arlington for the closest available place to get your roller coaster fix.
            One park that existed for over thirty years in Shreveport was the popular Hamel’s Amusement Park. For years, this park was the ideal place to take your hyper kids, wearing them out with a day full of great rides and carnival games. The park began as a simple dairy barn in the early 1960’s. With the purchase of a few llamas, goats and lambs, a small petting zoo was incorporated onto the grounds to occupy the children as their parents purchased dairy products. As time went on, more animals arrived such as wild cats, peacocks, elephants and primates, turning the petting zoo into a full blown zoo. With the addition of a small train, Hamel’s Zoo was becoming quite the local attraction by the 1970’s.

            By the mid-1970’s Hamel’s began adding on to the grounds, adding a building with children rides and a venue to host birthday parties. They then began establishing larger amusement park rides such as chain swings, a log flume and a roller coaster. This was the birth of Hamel’s Amusement Park. By the mid-1980’s the park was the prime place for children to congregate without having to
Photo of the old Thunder Rail roller coaster.
leave the state for amusement park fun. Celebrities such as Shreveport’s own Terry Bradshaw would often host celebrity flag-football events and regional musicians would host concerts in the pavilion. The park fell onto hard times in the early 1990’s when a tornado struck the grounds, literally bending the Ferris wheel in half. This was pretty much the beginning of the end for Hamel’s. Once the rides were removed, the park served as grounds for a monthly arts and crafts exposition. Shortly thereafter, in 1999 it closed permanently. It is currently operated by the Riverpark Church who hosts concerts and other religions events here.

            Some say that even once the doors closed for good at Hamel’s Amusement Park, spirits lingered behind. While some feel it to be Mr. Hamel himself, others claim the haunts are blamed on an individual who reportedly died while constructing the log flume ride. Staff who once worked at Hamel’s claimed that at late hours of the night the log ride and roller coaster would turn on by themselves and start cycling through. Those who lived near the park would often claim to hear the train whistle blowing in the middle of the night when all of the employees had gone home. Today, most of the rides have all been dismantled and all that remains is the log ride, parts of the old train track and a few of the pavilion buildings. For those who have visited the park, I would love to hear some of your memories.

14 comments:

  1. My Grandfather Charles H McClure Sr was a boyhood and longtime friend of Mr. Hamel!

    Ben McClure
    bmcclure0561dad@gmail.com

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    1. Very cool! Did he ever hear of any paranormal stories?

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    2. My grandfather was there the day that iron worker got killed on the construction of the log ride.

      I remember him coming home and talking about it in front of the grandkids and my grandmother telling him to shut up "Not in front of the kids"!

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    3. Did you know that the diary plant and amusement park was on a old Indian burial ground!

      Mr Hamel and my grandfather spoke of it many a time!

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  2. I remember going out to Mr. Hamels Ice/dairy plant with my grandfather who worked on the plant systems and Mr Hamel would bring a tub of ice cream out to us kids to eat.

    We would pick at Buddy the gorilla, and run when he started throwing poop at us! Once, my grandfather gave buddy the garden hose to drink from and the gorilla ended up pulling up a big section of the buried water line.

    My brothers and sisters got to be the first people to ride the amusement park rides before it opened. My grandfather went out to do some testing of the electrical systems for the amusement park, the local TV news crew showed up with Mr. Hamel, they put us on the rides and then filmed us, dirty f

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  3. Hamel's was a great amusement park for families. We lived in Shreveport/Bossier in the late '80's and early '90's while husband stationed at Barksdale. Have many great memories with my kids there. Great place for birthday parties!

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  4. Hello, I drove the train, Hamel land express, late 1981- early 1983, loved it. I miss those days. Ladies and gentlemen welcome aboard the Hamel Land Express during the ride I ask you to keep your arms and legs inside the train at all times, thank you and enjoy your ride.

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  5. I loved this park as a kid. I loved getting the big H stamped on my hand. It was where I rode my first roller coaster and didn't like it. I was so scared but now I love them! I also remember having to pick the ducks out of the little pool and they had numbers on them. The man that was running that stall said I needed a number 7 and I was waiting for the right time. My parents were tired of waiting and started to hurry me and when I picked up that duck it was the number 7. I got a pink cat as my prize and to this day I still have that cat.

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  6. Are any of Chris Hamel's family still living in Shreveport? I think he had a daughter about my age.

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  7. As a kid in the early 90’s, I visited Hamals amusement park quite a bit. Lots of fun!!!! I must have rode on everything except the flying saucer. My favorite ride must have been the Log Flume. During a birthday of mine, me and my friends must have rode the Log Flume aleast a hundred time. The Chian Swing must have been my second favorite. Flying in the air while looking down to wave at my parents. I wish the park would open again one day. Wishful thinking!

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  8. I used to go to Hamel's with my best friends family in the early 90's. At one point we were there almost every weekend. So many memories. I remember driving past it and looking up at the roller coaster and watching the people scream as they did the big drop. I miss this place. I was heartbroken when they shut down for good. I'd give anything to take my kids there to make new memories. To this day I still drive past where it once was and tell my kids the stories of what used to be there. I even sometimes still see the log ride and roller coaster in my head wishing they were still there!

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