|A: Marlene Gantt, author of the ``Images of the Past'' column that appears
weekly in The Dispatch, fixed the date at ``around 1925.''|
Quad-Citian Reva Winters, then 89, was quoted in a 2000 feature story about the
Rock River as saying, ``I went on the chute its last year, in 1923.''
The ``Shoot-the-Chute'' slide was constructed in the 1890s, and was part of an
immense amusement park that also included a figure-8 roller coaster, hot-air ballon
rides, shooting galleries, a 1,000-seat theater and a steady stream of speakers that
included such luminaries as William Jennings Bryan and Gen. William Sherman.
Ms. Gantt, who had access to the memorabilia of developer James F. Lardner, found
this contemporary description from a Clinton newspaper: ``Here you start at 500 feet
above the water on the inclined plane. After the descent begins, the speed increases
and the wind whistles past like a tornado. You hang to the boat with one hand and
grasp your hat with the other, and hold your breath to prevent it getting away from
you. Then you strike the water and the boat gives a big jump, landing 25 to 50 feet
distaant right side up with care, and the boatman guides you back to the foot of the
chute, where an electric motor hauls it and ocupants to the top.''
The amusement park was developed and operated by local trolley-car company owners
to promote weekend and evening use of the trolleys. They also promoted trolley
parties featuring the park.
The July 4, 1896 festivities were reported to have drawn more than 15,000 people.
The park's popularity faded with the decline of trolley use; and local citizens in
1927 convinced the state to buy the site and return it to nature.