From the Archives: Remember Peony Park?

An aerial view of Peony Park in 1947 for the "Omaha from the Air" booklet. JOHN SAVAGE/THE WORLD-HERALD

Anyone raised in Omaha up until the early 1990s more than likely spent some time at Peony Park and has some wonderful childhood memories of the place.

We swam at the beachlike pool, whirled and twirled on the rides, attended company picnics and award ceremonies, dressed in our best for proms in the Royal Terrace Ballroom, and danced the night away under the stars in the Royal Grove.

Peony Park actually started out as a “Manhattan Gas” station and small restaurant called the “Peony Inn,” which Joe Malec Sr. built across the road from Carl Rosenfield’s peony gardens in 1919.

A June 16, 1915, ad in The World-Herald

A June 16, 1915, ad in The World-Herald

Malec saw the hundreds of visitors to the gardens as a great opportunity. The gas station and restaurant soon grew into a beer garden and ballroom.

The pool

In 1926, the park added a swimming pool, developed from a natural spring-fed lake. In 1947, The World-Herald described it as: “The pool and surrounding beach take up about 4 acres. There are five million gallons of filtered, chlorinated water in the lake. It is supplied from artesian wells. The pool is seven hundred feet long. Its width varies from 150 feet to four hundred feet. The depth ranges from one foot for youngsters, to 10 feet for expert swimmers and divers.”

The Peony Park swimming pool in 1932. MIC-KEL PHOTO CO.

 

Peony  Park was strictly segregated until 1963. During that summer, there were three protests in four days, and the park even shut down on July 16.

THE WORLD-HERALD

The photo above was taken on July 28, 1963, the second day blacks were allowed in the pool. Front row, from left: F.J. Pepper of the Omaha Urban League,  Herb Rhodes,  Betty Jo Moreland and Dale Anders.
There was no trouble and the youths felt no outward hostility towards them, but the attendance was down that day and there were some grumblings of discontent  among the whites.

 

PHIL JOHNSON/THE WORLD-HERALD

Here’s the pool in 1990. The speed slides had a three-story drop, and the “tubes” (in the background) were a big attraction.

 

The Royal Grove and Royal Terrace Ballroom

THE WORLD-HERALD

From the June 6, 1932, World-Herald: “Above are the ruins of the modernistic new beer dispensary in Peony Park’s beer garden, burned to the ground early this morning. The loss was estimated at five thousand dollars. The beer garden was opened only last evening.”
There was talk of the fire being the result of a “beer war” between two wholesalers over the business, but was considered to be just speculation. The ballroom was saved from the fire by rains that night and opened the next day, serving beverages through a window.

 

Royal Grove construction of a larger stage in front of the Peony Park band shell for the start of Omaha Symphony's Starlight Pops concert series in 1969. YANO MELANGAGIO/THE WORLD HERALD

 

ROBERT TAYLOR/THE WORLD-HERALD

This 1979 photo is of a Disco Rondo dance. The next year the name was changed to Sprite Night.

 

The rides

ROBERT PASKACH/THE WORLD-HERALD

Charles Malac (with train) designed and implemented “Wonderland” and a miniature golf range called “Around the World in 18 Holes” in 1958. He said the 9 1/2 acre attraction cost around $200,000. The boy in this 1958 photo is unidentified.

 

Aug. 23, 1968 ad in The World-Herald

As the years went by, the park continued to grow and added several rides that appealed to teenagers and adults.

 

MEL EVANS/THE WORLD-HERALD

The “Galaxy” roller coaster, added in 1972, was a big attraction. It is shown here in 1985.

 

Children enjoy the "Trabant" at the fifth Annual Safety Patrol Day in 1979. RICH JANDA/THE WORLD-HERALD

 

Harry Hoover checks the cage on the "Skydiver" ride on Aug. 4, 1978. Thirteen-year-old Neil A. Tetzlaff fell to his death from the ride on Aug. 1 when the cotter pin that held the cage closed came out. Two other children, Alisa Rangle, 11 and Bryan Gibbons, 12 were in the capsule but managed to hang on when the front opened. PHIL JOHNSON/THE WORLD-HERALD

 

ED RATH/THE WORLD-HERALD

The “Hurricane” ride on Aug. 11, 1988. Bryon Conant of Missouri Valley, Iowa, fell and later died after standing up in the car the day before.

 

Michelle Zuerlein, 7, is the first to meet Peony the skunk, a new park character, at his debut on March 18, 1974. YANO MELANGAGIO/THE WORLD-HERALD

 

The park closes

Peony Park closed March 31, 194, the victim of financial problems that led to a bankruptcy filing.

An unidentified employee cleans up the ballroom after the last dance and dinner at Peony Park on March 17, 1994. JEFF BEIERMANN/THE WORLD-HERALD

 

PHIL JOHNSON/THE WORLD-HERALD

Auctioneer David A. Norton on April 16, 1994. The ride in the background is the Zierer Wave Swinger. It sold for $220,000.

I hope you enjoyed seeing these photos as much as I did posting them. If you would like to see more, check out a photo showcase I created. There also is a book by longtime park employee Carl Jennings, ”Omaha’s Peony Park: An American Legend.” It’s out of print, but the Omaha Public Library has several copies.

Jolene McHugh

About Jolene McHugh

I was a graphic artist prior to coming to the Omaha World-Herald in 2007, and now I’m a photo imaging specialist, which means I prepare photos to print properly in the newspaper. I also have the incredibly fun task of restoring old photographs from our massive library. My favorite part of my job is getting lost in the history and stories behind the photographs. Many of the archive photos have little or no information attached, so I need to properly date and identify the people and places in them. Researching the stories is a bit like being on a historical scavenger hunt. The largest challenge I face is restoring photos we run in our books. Our newest book, “At War, At Home: The Cold War” is filled with hundreds of old photographs, and most of them small and in poor condition. I live in Omaha with my husband, one of my daughters and three very furry Maine Coon cats.
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Comments

  1. Ang says:

    Thank you for the trip down memory lane with Peony Park. Good job!

  2. Rick says:

    Thanks for the trip down memory lane. I actually went to high school with the 4 girls that are in the rear car in the roller coaster picture!!

  3. Charlie says:

    Thanks for Sharing… I really wish we could have it back!

    Charlie

  4. Jake says:

    You have access to all the old photos? That would be like a dream come true. My grandfather has some history that I’m sure was caught in photo in years past in OWH. Is there any way to search for any such photos?

    1. Jolene McHugh Jolene says:

      Our library will contact you soon!

      1. Rick (Chico) Hinsley says:

        The unidentified employee in the Royal Terrace Ballroom is Mrs Fugger, all her kids worked there in the 70s and she helped me get my job there. I worked in the kitchen starting at 14 years of age. Im still in that line of work and can credit the Park for giving me a start. We were one big family in the Catering Department.

      2. Jo says:

        Thank you also…many times swimming and going to dances at the park. Also my father who is 92 held many company picnics there…could your “library” contact me also?

      3. Gary Berkley says:

        WOW!! Very cool !! I literally lived at that pool in ’52, ’53, & ’54. My best friend and I went to Peony 6 or 7 days per week and had a ball every time. Our parent’s bought us season tickets each of those years and we walked or hitch-hiked to and from Peony each morning. As I remember – not always accurate – it opened at 10:00 am & didn’t close ’til 9 or 10 at night. We always left late afternoon and felt lucky to hitch a ride home (43rd & Dodge). We were tired by 3:00 or 4:00 from swimming, harassing older girls or playing on the rings that were set up on the sand. A dive from the BIG (to us) TOWER was a big deal and we prob did it 30 or 40 times a day.

        And last, but not least, the great hot dogs. Wonder how many of those I ate back then. And the popcorn…

        Great memories…..

        1. Bob Mayberry says:

          Hey Gary, I too spent my summers at Peony Park, also had the season ticket.Great fun, even the hitch hiking a ride, (I don’t recomend that today) yeah the hot dogs were great and so were the burgers, when I could afford them. Super memeories. I wonder if you remember who I am? We lived just one block apart I was at 42nd and Dodge! Do you remember playing ball for Whitey Clarks Liquors? Pete Spencer sent me this Peony Park mail. If you ever see this send me an email Bob Mayberry

    2. Mary says:

      Jake go down to the heritage museum on 10th Street . You will find tons of pics of Peony in the archives

  5. Bill Lash says:

    Among The MANY Memories of “Peenie Park”, one of the Most Prominent is hearing for The First Time, “Satisfaction” played on a *Jukebox*?? in the Ad Hoc Dance Floor adjoining the Snack Bar outside the Pool Entrance, where Bikini-Clad Girls Danced… I Suppose with their BoyFriends… My Memory Pic ONLY Includes Bikini-Clad Girls for some reason…

    I ALSO Note with Intense Interest Your BIO Line “…old photographs from our massive library”… Is that MASSIVE Library open To The Public, I HOPE?

    1. Jolene McHugh Jolene says:

      Love your memory!
      Our photo library consists of the original prints and negatives, so very fragile and not available to the public. You can contact Michelle in the library and she can tell you if we have specific photos. There are also packages available to view digital pages back to the 1800′s. If you have a card for the Omaha Public Library, you can view text files on their web site.

  6. Mary Kay says:

    Oh my gosh! I remember the park and all the rides you showed. I swan in that pool in the 50′s. What a fun trip down memory lane Thank you

  7. Jean (Blair) Packard says:

    Great memories. I worked at the pool the summers of 1955 and 1956. Checked people’s clothes in and worked in our swim suits. We’d take 5 minute breaks about once an hour to go jump in the water to cool off. The city bus ended at 72nd and Dodge and Peony Park had a school bus that would pick us up there and take us to the park.

  8. Shar says:

    Wow! Sure enjoyed the pictures. I Went swimming there many times in the sixties and my dad played in a dance band at peony throught the late fifties and early sixties.

    1. Ricki says:

      Shar, who was your dad? My dad also played with several of the bands out there.

  9. Tom says:

    To bad the park was never managed properly and lost so much money it was a true treasure, a place to go on Sunday afternoons, kept the high school kids employed in the summer, and kept a lot of kids out of trouble.

  10. Tom Brown says:

    …thanks for those great memories. It was a rite of Omaha summers to get your “Season Pass” to Peony Park and wonder if this was the year you’d get up the guts to jump off the high tower. And how about those crazy docks out in the middle of the water…you could come up under them and breathe and socialize. More pictures, PLEASE!!!

    1. Jolene McHugh Jolene says:

      Did you see the link to the showcase at the bottom of the blog? I think I put 30 or so photos on it. Also, check out the book listed! Very cool photos that Peony Park actually had.

  11. Marilyn Olsen Scheffler says:

    I also have wonderful memories of spending days at Peony Park! In fact I think that park and pool with the sandy beach is one of my favorite things to remember about my childhood in Omaha! Our high school dances were held there with Eddy Haddad’s band playing! After I got married in 1961 and had a baby in 1962 I took that baby to the pool there—she was about 2 at the time and is now 50!!!! Yikes!! Thank you so much for posting this–I wish I could see that book you are talking about–the one the library has. I am in Houston Texas now but will NEVER forget how much I loved Peony Park!!

  12. Bob Mullins says:

    I also remember the dances at Peony Park. I even sponsored one in 1952 and graduated the same year. The dances were real class acts (not to coin a pun) cosponsored between Benson and Central High Schools. You couldn’t find this kind of cooperation today if you tried.

  13. Teresa (O'Doherty) Seminara says:

    I have spent the last 45 minutes looking at these pictures…they have soooooo many memories for me since i spent every day of my life growing up their…I only lived a few blocks away….so much FUN! THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES!!!!!!!!!!

  14. Colleen O says:

    LOVE IT!! I took swimming lessons at peony park, that is where I got my Junior Lifesaving certificate. Many many good memories of that park!! ;) Thanks for sharing!!

  15. Susan Field Mllens says:

    Would love to see a picture of Eddie Haddad and his orchestra. Such fun dances in the ballroom – The Opener, the Turkey Trot, the military balls. Great memories!

  16. Patty Hargens Zuerlein says:

    This is really sad story for me to see in a lot of ways,also most of the best years of my life. I was one of seven children of Bob and Pat Zuerlein. My dad started working there when he was eighteen married with two children. My older sister Nancy and I at six months old. We lived inside the park in a trailer by the lodge.and Rolye Grove. Threw the years are family grew. Nancy,Patty,Joe, Bob,Leo, Bill and baby sister Michelle. She is the one with Peony the Skunk. We all worked at the park threw the years till the park closed. What a very sad day for our family and many others in the Omaha area. It was to bad the city or some other people did not save the park. What a sad time for family to loose such a great place for kids and family’ to have a good time. I could tell so many stories about the park I good write a book on the things that we saw and heard around the park. I do have a few pictures of the park and alot of the park being plowed down. So very sad. But I also have some of my very best days of my life. My best to you, Patty Hargens ZUERLEIN . I would love to see some of the pictures you have of the park. And talk if you would like to talk sometime. Thank you for your time.

    1. Jolene McHugh Jolene McHugh says:

      Wow, incredible. I grew up spending a lot of time at Peony too. I loved it there and was so happy my children got to experience some of it. Have to admit, I’m a bit jealous of you.
      I wish I had a whole lot more photos to share that would interest you. We have a huge file, but a majority of them are news events, like construction, celebs and, sadly, the auction. Because of limited space and time, I inadvertingky omitted Ed zorinky’s death and the entire Lawrence Welk story. If you are interested in any of those, please contact our library, they can help you. And check out the book at the Omaha Public Libray, it has a lot of photos I had no access to. Or maybe you can find a used copy at Amazon.

  17. bill zuerlein says:

    Michelle zuerlein the girl with the skunk is my sister. We grew up across the street from the park My dad started out as a carpenter at the park putting the floor down in the ballroom and worked and managed the rides and then became the chef working at the park over 40 years with my mom. my three brothers and three sisters also worked there growing up and using the park as our own back yard playing and having a blast in the off hours.
    Many great memories and sad to see what had become of the park.

    1. Bill Lash says:

      Bill… [AND Patty]…

      I Went to Westbrook, 7th & 8th Grades, with Your Brother Joe… HOPE he’s Doing Well… Say HI To ‘im Next You Have a Chance…

      ALSO… I THINK I Talked To Your Dad once… IN The Parking Lot… About the `65 289 HI-Performance Maroon Mustang WITH Cheater Slicks and [GAG,WRETCH,PUKE] The Automatic Transmission it had…

      1. Terrie says:

        I remember you had a Maroon Mustang – with 4 on the floor! Lots of fun times and great memories there as well! Especially when you let me drive it!

        1. Bill Lash says:

          **Terrie,

          Yuht… Somethin’ T’be Said about them Old Country Roads… ;)

    2. Rick (Chico) Hinsley says:

      Hello Bill, long time. We did have alot of fun and your folks where my second parents. Always enjoyed a visit with them when I was visiting Omaha.Hope your all well, please say hello to everyone.

      1. bill zuerlein says:

        Hey chico do you remember the bbq pits? must have cooked 50,000 steaks in the back of the of the park. and yes i have your baseball glove but not the gas mask. great times cooking in the park.

  18. Tracy Weaver says:

    I lived behind the Zuerlein’s on the next street from 1968 to 1979. We always were at the park in the summers, Lots of good times remembered. That was also the place to be when I was in High school on thursday nights..Sprite night!. I was sorry to see it go away. Thanks for the pictures

  19. Bill says:

    Yelling “hold it on the high” and” hold it on the low” depending on which platform you were on, on the tower. Lots of near misses back then! Also, the feel of the rope under your feet when on the high dive. Senior prom at the ballroom was very memorable.

    1. Bill Lash says:

      Yuh… And Remember How INSANE The Lifeguards Got when You’d Swim Through The Rathole, UP Underneath the Blue Fountains?

    2. Sandi Bonner says:

      Senior Prom from Tech Hi 1958 Peony Park
      was the place to be and My mother remembers the big bands that played there in 30′s and 40′s If only we had more of this kind of place for the younger generation to enjoy

  20. HEDY KIRKE says:

    MISS THAT PLACE, WONDERFUL MEMORIES. PRACTICALLY LIVED THERE ALMOST EVERYDAY WITH MY AUNT AND COUSINS. GREAT MEMORIES. MY DAD WAS A MUSICIAN AND PLAYED IN THE PAVILLION ALOT. THEN MY HUSBAND AND I HAD A RECORD STORE AND WE HAD SEVERAL CONCERTS THERE LIKE THE COMMODORES (LIONEL RITCHIE)AND GEORGE BENSON,FUNKADELICS OH WHAT WONDERFUL TIMES I COULD GO ON AND ON.

  21. HEDY KIRKE says:

    forgot to mention before it was called sprite night oh yeah! my brother was with the radio station and he was there as the Master of ceremonies.

  22. Deb says:

    Oh what wonderful memories you brought back to me. It is a shame the park had to close. Thank you for sharing these photos.

  23. Bruce says:

    Many great memories of the family getting dressed up to attend the Pops Concerts in the summer and the music always changing to Casey Jones when the train came through nearby.

  24. Ken says:

    Thank you Jolene! I moved to Florida several years ago and the memories just flooded back. My first kiss…the pool…the “Black Hole”. I think you must have one of the coolest jobs in the world!

    1. Jolene McHugh Jolene McHugh says:

      I do!

  25. Connie Derry says:

    What a shame that Omaha has no more regard for its landmarks than paper memories. Peony Park should have been saved. The people of Milford, Iowa raised enough money to save Arnold’s Park, and what a treasure it is. We had a bigger treasure that we let slip through our hands. Why are these landmarks unappreciated and let go?

  26. Theresa says:

    I love seeing old photos and hearing about everyone’s Peony Park experience. We went there swimming from the time I was a toddler till I took my own children there in the late 80′s early 90′s. I worked there as a teenager first running the kiddy rides and then working the ticket booth and then even in the ballroom ticket booth. I even was Petunia once! My sister and brother also worked there.

    We had great employee parties! What a fun job!!

    Thanks for sharing!

  27. Sandy says:

    I remember taking the bus to 72nd & Dodge and then we had to walk to Peony Park for swimming.
    Didn’t mind that at all because we always had a good time. We went to the Sprite Night dances and met kids from all over Omaha.
    This brings back a lot of good memories of a much safer era.

  28. John Sokolik says:

    Thanks for the trip down memory lane! I remember going there as a kid for my dad’s company picnics as and in later years I worked at the park. From 1985-1988, off and on, and although it was only two to three years, I packed a lifetime of memories in there. I worked in the Little Chef, the popcorn stand, on the rides, as a busboy in the off season, and briefly as a lifeguard (like a week). It was a great job with the greatest atmosphere. The Zuerleins were complete fixtures at the park. It was so sad to see the park close, but even sadder when the Zuerlein house was bulldozed for a parking lot.

  29. Shawn Guhde says:

    My favorite was riding the Galaxy and touching the light bulbs. They would zap the hell out of you and it was awesome.

  30. Chris says:

    Looking at these pictures made me smile and then made my eyes water. Safety Patrol day was great!! I was afraid I would wreck on the Old Time car ride. I wasn’t aware that was impossible because a rail in the middle prevented that from happening. : ) The swimming was awsome!!! What a huge loss for Omaha to not be able to go to Peony Park.

  31. Michele says:

    I lost my class ring in that swimming pool..twice in the early 80′s. Oh how I remember those sprite nite’s..Good times.
    Thanks for the memories. :)

  32. Jim says:

    Jolene-Great Pics, will always remember Sprite Nights, we had a blast!

  33. Milan " Breezy" Brezacek says:

    I was a Lifeguard at Peony back in 1938,1939. Good friends with “Chuck” Malec and Milan Malec, sons of Joe and Bob Malec,owners of the Park. Became acquainted with my wife, ‘Libbie’ at that time. I have great memories from Peony Park.

    1. Lennie Sortino says:

      Hi Breze!
      I also spent many summers at Peony Park. Good memories………

  34. Jolene McHugh Jolene McHugh says:

    Thanks all of you! I loved Peony Park and I am glad so many others did too.

  35. lori dudley cass-pierpoint says:

    Thank you so very much for sharing these pictures which stir up so many precious memories for me

  36. John Mitchell says:

    Not sure if this link will work but this is a video from sometime in the 60s I believe.

    http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=1058617546158

  37. Gina says:

    Awesome! I have a picture of my great grandma sitting in her bathing suit. From 1932 at the park. The picture is also on display at a bar in Omaha

  38. don says:

    No one has talked about all the high school dances with Eddie Haddad playing. Collecting stickers for your notebook was a must.

    1. Sandi Bonner says:

      Yes Eddie Haddad I had forgotten and still have that notebook with the stickers

    2. Joyce Connell (was Dethlefs) says:

      Wow,This was so fun to preview, I spent with my friends, so many days and evenings there and it was so wonderful, is it still there?
      Peony Park?????

    3. Mary Jo Welch says:

      Your popularity was determined by the thickness of the stickers on your notebook. Loved Eddie Haddad’s orchestra and the pops concerts with the Omaha Symphony in the summer. Should never have destroyed this great place.

      Omaha looks wonderful now, but it would have been so much better if Peony Park had been preserved.

  39. Ellen Hollander-Jackson says:

    I was a lifeguards at Peony Park, and rode my bicycle to work.
    It was a fun but busy place, and I rescued two swimmers there! The tower and high dive were fun to jump off of…I always regretted their removal, but understood the liability and safety concerns!
    Once, I raked the entire beach alone, just so I could get extra time when inclement weather closed the pool! That was many years ago!

  40. kim davlin says:

    wonderful memories, great times with family, friends, dates, so sad it came to an end. everyone loved peony park!

  41. cindy says:

    thanks ! i spent alot of summers there sure wish it wouldn’t have had to be sold great menories!

  42. Terrie says:

    Thank you so much for posting these pictures! Just reading all of the posts have brought back so many great memories! I went to Peony Park as a child – every day in the summer – then Sprite night in my teen years. After I got married, we brought our kids to Peony Park!

  43. Nancy Fugger McArdle says:

    What wonderful memories you have shared. I myself worked at Peony Park along with my mom and 4 other siblings. In fact the picture of the unidenfitied woman cleaning up after the last dinner and dance is my mom Virginia Fugger. Peony was the best job a teenager could have. It was also the best place a teenager could go and have a great time with friends. I’ve always missed that place but seeing these photos make me miss it even more. To think our kids will never got to experience it is even sadder. Thanks for sharing.

  44. John Barna says:

    Wonderful pictures! As an employee 79′- 85′ I have very fond memories of Peony and the great people I worked with.

  45. Cindy (Martin) Steimer says:

    WOW ! ! Thanks for all the great memories. This is going in my KEEP IT file.

  46. Lisa says:

    So sad when Peony Park Closed. So many great memories. Wish Omaha could have something similar again!

  47. Allan Vrba says:

    I really enjoyed looking at these pictures. I went to dances in the Royal Terrace Ballroom and the Royal Grove. I particularly remember dancing the “Bunny Hop” with a girl named Bunny.

  48. Bob says:

    WOW.. What great memories these photo’s bring back, all the dances we attended during high school years from 58 to 62. I have a personal interest in Peony Park, as my grandfather was the general superintendent for the constructtion company that built all the buildings on the park. Thanks again for sharing.

  49. John says:

    Great memories. I was a lifeguard in the summer of ’65.

  50. Dave says:

    As a resident of another state, my sister emailed me the link to your Viewfinder. It came at a fortunate time. One of my retirement activities has been to digitally archive family photos taken while growing up in Omaha and photos I have taken from the sixties through the current year. My family moved to the city in 1948, so Peony Park played a huge role in entertainment through the late sixties. There were many photos taken of the days swimming and enjoying the other park activities. It was a special treat each year to be given a “Season Pass” by my parents and I remember taking advantage of it riding my bike to the park many days during the summer months between 1956 and 1961. Great memories! Thanks.

  51. John says:

    These pictures brought back many menories. I started at the pool hanging up clothes in 1962, then worked in the “raft room” checking out rafts. When i got to be 16 I was a lifegurad, the head lifeguard and pool manager. My last summer was 1969. I met my wife Cheryl at the pool in 1965 and we married in 1970. She grew up on Chicago street and went to school with the Zuerloins. I had a job I loved for 30 years, but nothing beat being a lifegurad at Peony. the music, little Chef, dances in the grove, major rides, minature golf. It was all good.

    1. Jim says:

      I also was a lifegurad 68,69,70 best of time

  52. Mary Jean (Keya) Horn says:

    That was such a wonderful place and continued to be for so long. Omaha fathers were fools for not buying it and keeping it going. It was a real attraction for Omaha.

  53. Dolores says:

    I not only attended many festivities at Peony, but also taught swimming there. I thoroughly enjoyed the memories

    Thanks

  54. Karen says:

    Did anyone else walk to Rose’s Lodge for something to eat after the dance? When we first started to go to Peony Park Dances we were not old enough to drive. Had to call a parent to come pick up my date & me.

  55. Paul Kracher says:

    Talk about a trip down memory lane not only did the pictures and captions take me there but knowing and working with all of the World-Herald photographers who’s pictures were used – was also a memory enhancer.
    Paul

  56. Sandi Bonner says:

    Wow Its been fun seeing all the remarks and remembering the great dancing and dates.

  57. Ron Kaplan says:

    Joe Malec, Jr. was my fraternity brother at UNO (then Omaha U) and later a client of my ad agency when he took over the park. Joe went from UNO to Annapolis and then became a naval aviator. He entered the Top Gun program (Like the Tom Cruise movie) and actually won the TOP GUN trophy. He kept it on a shelf in his basement along with his flight suit and helmet and only showed it to me when I learned about it from his son and asked to see it. His father’s ailing health cause Joe to get a hardship discharge and he came home and took over the park.

  58. Bill Combs says:

    Wow ! Everytime I go past the HyVee/Big Red
    area I remember so many times swimming,rides, and the ballroom fairs.Too bad we do’t have an amusement ara the same size.

  59. Marge Smith Lichty-1950-49-51 says:

    WOW!! did this series of Peony Park bring back the good OLE days Great fun there all summer especially Eddie Haddad and band loved that band–Thanks for the Pic’s
    Marge

  60. Rosemarie C says:

    That really brought back some good momories of Peony Park. We wouuld have great family picnics there on Sunday afernoons.
    My girlfriends and I would spend time there too. Those were the good times in my younger years.

    Thanks Rosemarie C.

  61. Rosemary Jans says:

    I remember all of South High Proms where there. It was so much fun. My sons National Honor’s Society was there. All the swiming the park I loved this place it is to bad it is gone.

  62. Paul Wehner says:

    I learned to swim there as a child and many found memories of the pool and the rides. So upset when it closed down because it truly was a landmark in Omaha and provided so much fun for the whole family.

  63. Barbara Peters says:

    I really enjoyed this trip down memory lane. I went as a kid than I had to transfer once to get there, and later I took my three boys. We all had a ball. I really hated to see it shut down.

  64. Jim says:

    I was taught how to swim at Peony Park in 1960 and have so many great memories of the park. I would love to see this revived in Omaha again.

  65. Bob R says:

    I share the great memories of the Park. Lived within a block of the Park in the 50′s. Had season passes and swan a lot in the summers. Yet I did “hop the fence” now and then to watch the dance action and listen to the likes of L. Welk and other bands. Had a good hiding spot from the security.

    1. David B says:

      I hoped the fence alot too. Had to didn’t have any cash. I also got my first ticket for doing it. In my day they called it Fight Night not Sprite Night

  66. Lorrie K says:

    I have such wonderful memories of family picnic at Peony Park. The whole family would gather, taking up about 5 picnic tables right across from the pool and we would make a day of it. My dad and uncles would grill and then it was off to the rides and pool with my cousins. Wow, thanks for taking me back there for a few minutes!

  67. Judy Mabry says:

    We grew up in Benson in the 50′s (65th & Miami) and used to take the bus from 65th & Maple all the way east to 42nd and then south to Dodge and West to Peony Park to swim. Most of the time we walked home because we had spent all of our money on goodies at the concession stand and on rides. We stayed the entire day! I loved that place.!

  68. Doug says:

    I remember kissing under the diving board platform, swimming, the rides, picnics, dances. Took my children to the dances when they were little and danced. Great memories.

  69. Brigitte Prescher says:

    someone Forwarded it to me. have manny Memmories from there. My Boys are in later 40`s lerned swimming there….

  70. Connie says:

    Who could forget the wonderful dances given by students almost every month at Peony Park during our high school years…..as I remember students from North, Central, Benson, and Woodside attended. What fun to dress up and actually dance with a date……doesn’t happen anymore. I also learned to swim in the “lake”……and jumping off the tower was a thrill–just climbing up there took all my courage.

  71. Frances says:

    WOW! What wonderful memories of all the swimming from 50′s & 60′s and the great dances from Benson High School. After marrying in ’63 and taking my kids from the sixties through the eighties the memories are many. Thanks for taking me back to some wonderful times.

  72. Carol Alexander Grant says:

    I loved Peony Park and spent many hot Nebraska summers in the mid 50′s using my seasons pass at the pool. Taught myself how to swim because I could get used to the depth of the water gradually. Even got brave enough eventually to jump off the high dive. Out of high school I worked the night shift for NW Bell Telephone as a long distance operator. I’d sleep til noon, then hightail it to the park and pool, and on Saturday nights I’d then head to Crossroads Roller Rink and skate for a couple of hours then off to work again. Wonderful memories and I’ll download these and scrapbook them as I am right now working on that timeline of my life.

  73. Tim White says:

    We too had passes, & would hitch out from 40th & Dodge to save bus fare for goodies! Back home to deliver papers , then most days back out til dark. I wonder how many remember the tow head with the red & white striped water- wings every day in 1961-2-3? That was my tag along little brother, Ted,RIP. Peony Park, baseball, & building tree forts were what Summers were all about back then. GREAT TIMES!!!

  74. Doras Ann Milligan (Lewis) says:

    What a great time we had at Peony Park. The flowers were beautiful, swimming great, and rides so much fun. Even the dinners and dances. Also the Italian fest that was held there in later years. Great Memories!

  75. Sherry Lee (Smalley) Eliasen says:

    So fond are the memories.. about the Peoney Park, where I help teach swimming,classes. and worked. Favorite Concert was,LIVE~(1963)-Beach-Boys*!*. All of the Dances, POOL, and all activities shared with Omaha good friends will remain lifetime reflected GOOD MEMORIES.
    It’s sad (;!;) to even imagine there’s a grocery store sitting where Peoney Park once was a city land mark enjoyable place, for FAMILIES and area events.

  76. LInda says:

    While growing up, going to Peony Park was a very special treat. We didn’t have much money so when we splurged, it was an all day affair. My mother’s family all lived in Vancouver and we’d go to Peony Park when they visited. They too thought it was a wonderful place. Many hours of fun. Our high school prom was held in the Royale Grove. I still remember the night and how much fun we had. We were lucky enough to be able to take our young son there before it closed so he could experience what my husband and I had. It was such a magical place! My whole family was sorry when it closed. Thank you for sharing.

  77. Martin of Papillion, NE says:

    Fond memories indeed! My wife and I went to dance at the Royal Grove at Peony Park in 1958. We danced to the Ralph Marterie orchestra as I recall! We still have a souvenir photo taken of the two of us holding hands! That was 54 years ago…and we’re still holding hands!

  78. Martin of Papillion, NE says:

    Oh, I almost forgot! I recall the Military Balls that were held at Peony; the Central High School ROTC was a big deal when I taught at Central from 1962-65!

  79. Tom says:

    Thank you for bringing b ack MANY memories from high school and college years. Later, I worked for Chevrolet Motor Division, and we had memorable new car introduction meetings for employees and dealers at Peony Park. Very sorry to see it go, but thank you so much for the great memories.

  80. Jolene McHugh Jolene McHugh says:

    Thanks for all the kind comments. Glad you enjoyed it. Coming up next… a series about Rosenblatt!

  81. Alan Leinen says:

    I worked on the heating & air condition for several years. Miss the park,think about every time I drive past. It was a great place to go>

  82. Bobbi Baltzer-Jacobo says:

    Reading other people’s comments here, I got lost in memories, too! The sad thing of it’s passing,I think, was partially due to the bad behavior that was taking place in the last few years, by people who were going to the Park, or some of them. Drunkeness, urinating in nearby neighborhood yards, fights. Life had changed, and I am guessing that no one wanted to buy it and take it over with the troubles that had become associated with it. Innocence Lost! That said, I have the happiest memories from early childhood, to Tech High Proms, to UNO dances held there! Nothing better than walking down the curving sidewalks past the flowers,at night, hearing the splashing waters of the fountains in the pool, seeing the Moonlight through the tall trees and smelling the Coppertone, all the while holding hands with the “High School Sweetheart”!!!! Hmmm-mm-m…WONDERFUL!!

  83. Mike Peters says:

    I received a season pass for 8th grade graduation in 1963 and don’t think I missed a day. Great memories!!!

  84. Tonja Peters says:

    Thank you for the memories. Your post is much appreciated. My sisters and I worked at the park for several years. We worked the rides, front gate, ball room, valet parking and Sprite Night. Working at the park was the high light to my teen years. We met so many wonderful people. The owners of the park were always fair and understanding. I can remember fighting with other employees to see see who was going to work the inside rides.
    Sprite night for us was a way to dance and have a great time with our friends. Even though we were working we still managed to have a great time.
    I encourage all of those who worked at Peony Park to read all of the attributes on this page so they can understand as I do that we worked hard and it did not go unnoticed. I appreciate all of the comments. It shows me that I contributed to so many memories and was not even aware of the impact of our work.
    Thank you to all of you that came to the park and allowed all of us to serve you. It was my pleasure.

  85. Kevin L. says:

    Peony was such a great place for kids and families, it’s a huge loss. I’m quite surprised about the comment that segregation was strickly enforced until 1963. When this country hick visited the park in 1955 when I was 6 I wondered in front of an electric shooting gallery game and some black guys yelled at me, “get out the way”! Since it was the first time I’d ever even seen a black person I could hardly forget it! Thanks so much for the memories though.

  86. DeDe (Sowers) Paskevic says:

    At 62 reading this article brought back many, many memories! I lived only 6 blks. from the park and was friends with the Park Manager Mr. Robert Zuerlein’s daughter Nancy. My first real job at 13 was working at the Park in the catering of Company Picnics held at the park. I also made many, many friends with other’s that worked on the rides at the park. Living in Colorado now I still think of Peony Park and all the fun had by all. Peony and all my friends will always hold a very Special Place In My Heart!!!

  87. Linda says:

    I and my family and friends had so much fun at Peony Park. Those were the good days, no gangs, no drive by shootings. It was a safe enviornment for young and old. It kept kids off the streets and parents didn’t have to worry like they do now. Oh, it would be so wonderful to have something like Peony again. Our youth need it. The places they have to go now are few and far between and mostly unaffordable for families. BRING BACK THE GOOD OLD DAYS, PLEASE!

  88. Would you believe I was just thinking about Peony Park two days ago. And amazingly a high school friend just sent me the archive link!

    Lots of memories from the 50′s: family picnics, the pool, and all those Central High dances.

    Thanks, Jolene for making these terrific photos available and the vivid walk down memory lane.

  89. Jolene McHugh Jolene McHugh says:

    You’re so very welcome! I had fun doing the research and rebuilding the photos.

    1. Gerry D says:

      Jolene,
      Thanks for posting the picture of the black kids at Peony. I remember when the captain from Offut AFB who was black, was denied admittance to the park. Finally things changed! That was a disappointing incident.

  90. Marty Stovie says:

    What a great trip down memory lane. I met my
    first and only love of my life there. 8/6/60.
    Very presious memories..

  91. Dave Raznick says:

    My family went to Peony park almost every week in the summer.I remember the turnstile to let you in after you paid. sometimes my dad would throw me over the fence to get in. My brother taught me how to swim there by taking me out to the center by the dock and leaving me and saying”now you swim back’ Great memories of long, long ago.

  92. Robert says:

    oh my goodness its you..sooo cool lots of memories their too.. wow those were times to not be forgotten.

  93. Lou says:

    remember when Peony Park honored children with free rides when they had A,s or 1,s on their final june report cards..

  94. Mary Black Cameron says:

    I remember our prom in 1953 with Vaughn Monroe as the band leader and singer. It was a fablous place to play, swim, dance, and hang out

  95. Betty White says:

    My husband, Othol White, was a life guard at Peony Park in 1946 and 47. Omaha U. {now uno} used to have lots of Sorority and Fraternity dances there. Great memories. Thanks, Betty

    1. Susan White says:

      And I’m Betty and Othol’s daughter Susan. I soooooo remember Peony Park, the best part was the ‘beach’ right there in Omaha of all places! Someone really had the best idea of all for a ‘pool’ with that sand beach. I so remember changing clothes and having sand everywhere in them, it was GREAT!! Ice cream cones, picnics under big trees, and the wonderful beach and pool. I so miss that! Thanks so much for the memories, as Mom said. Susan

    2. Donna Hoover says:

      Betty –
      My daughter sent this to me and I can’t believe I got to the bottom of the comments and there you were!! We spent days at Peony Park as well swimming and the rides. Later, we would live there on the “Polka Days” weekends. I thought someone might comment about all the bands that would come from all over the US to play but I must be the only South Omaha person to remember all the dancing. Wonderful to see your name — I do think of you often even though it’s been a long time since we have seen you. After all this time, I still miss Omaha!!
      Donna

  96. Bill Guild says:

    Growing up in Omaha, Peony was a big part of my life. The family always bought season passes. My sister and I learned to swim there. I attended several dances every year while in high school. Eddie Haddad was our favorite bandleader. All the girls collected dance stickers and applied them to their three ring notebooks. Many of the girls had so many stickers the notebook cover and back became a half-inch thick.

    Peony Park was a wonderful wholesome place to have fun. Thanks for sharing the memories.

  97. Doug Gaeth says:

    Great article A friend shared it with me on Facebook. Boston is home now, but Peony Park will always have a big place in my memories of growing up in Omaha.

  98. EPN says:

    What a great trip down memory lane – 6 years – sweeper to manager of Games and Arcade – great times and great friends.

  99. Dianna Eveland says:

    Thanks for the memories!!!

  100. Jim Sang Benson '54 says:

    Many memories. Selling tickets to high school dances and getting one free for every 10 sold. Think tickets were $2? Stckers advertising dances on girls notebooks. All 5 (at the time) high schools participated.
    Big bands Les Brown, Les Algard, Woodie Herman and 3d Herd, Kenton. And we will never forget Eddie Haddad and his orchestra.
    Learned to swim there. Hitch hiked out from Benson. Military Ball a giant festivity, we thought.
    Thanks for the Memories!!!

  101. Jerry Fennell says:

    I was a Peony Park life guard the sumners of 1962-65 and managed the pool in 66-67. Nick Nolte checked clothes one summer in the bathhouse in that time period. Being a life gurad at Peony Park was the greatest job ever. I recall one summer night sitting in the far north life guard chair listening to the Beach Boys play in the Royal Grove. When my cousins visited from Denver and KC all they wanted to do was head to Peaony. Owner Joe Maleck was a really great man, a kind man, and not enough has been done to honor him for all the joy he gave Omaha.

  102. Ned Eastlack says:

    In the 1930′s, the Park was out in the country, west of Omaha City Limits, and at the end of the bus line!
    Besides the great swimming pool, there was a screened area for ice cream and snacks.
    Right above one of the screened doors were 3 or 4 electrified wires that “zapped” flies”!! This system was apparently better than fly paper and before the days of DDT!!

  103. John Wells says:

    HELP! It’s certainly fun reading all the memories but my favorite pastime at Peony was playing miniature golf. For as many times as I played there, I can’t remember all the holes and I need your help to fill in the blanks. For certain, I remember France and the Eiffel tower, Holland and tulips, Australia and a kangaroo, England and Big Ben, Mexico and a charging bull and toreador and finally, the U.S. and the Statue of Liberty.
    Others I’m not sure of are the North Pole and an igloo, the South Pole and penguins, Japan and a pagoda, Ireland and a leprechaun, Brazil and a female dancer with maracas, Italy with the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and India with an elephant and rider.
    Other countries that seem familiar are Spain, Germany, Scotland and Russia. If you remember any, and/or the challenge of the hole, help me re-reate the course. Thanks.

  104. Linda says:

    A great place to get together with family and friends! It was a special place and a special time and I miss this too. Wish we had a place like this in Omaha for the new generation to enjoy. Linda

  105. Bob Keitges says:

    Thanks for the trip down memory lane. Spent some woderful summer days in the pool in the mid 40′s’ after walking and hitch hiking from Benson to the Psrk. Would be a long hitch now from Alabama

  106. Mary Alice Keitges says:

    Thanks for the trip down memory lane. Spent many summer days pool side, many famly reunions at the picnic grounds and Lots of evenings dancing inside the Ball Room and out side in the summer. “The Good Old Days”
    They don’t make parks like that anymore!

  107. Cathie Keitges Cagle says:

    So many great memories! I sit here with a happy tear in my eye, thinking of all the great family times spent at Peony Park. Those are some of my fondest childhood memories. Sad to know the park is gone forever.

  108. Very efficiently written story. It will be valuable to anyone who usess it, including me. Keep doing what you are doing – looking forward to more posts.

  109. M LINDA SCOBEE says:

    This was one of the greatest places ever in Omaha. Ahhhhhhhhhhhh, the memories of our Youth. Peony Park, Todds’ Drive In, King Arthurs & Sandys Escape ** Yea, the Good Ole Days ……….

  110. Virginia (Ginni) Inclan French says:

    WOW! what memories. I was a farm girlfrom Blair, but every summer got to go to Peony park with my Papillion cousins, then later when in college to the dances. What a loss when it went.

  111. DEE LAWRENCE KAPP says:

    I live in Kansas City. My sister is coming to Worlds of Fun this weekend with her daughter and friends because there is no amusement park in Omaha. My cousins are the Zuerleins. Uncle Bob worked at the park for so many years,I think they even moved his house from the original park to across the street. I worked in the kitchen with him and my Aunt Pat in the summer. Working with my cousins Patty,Joey,Bobby,Leo was so much fun. I rememeber working the “Big Joe Polka Shows”,eating kolaches all day,the company picnics in the park.I even babysat Shelley one summer and our days consisted of roaming the park. Most of my Zuerlein cousins even got married in the beautiful ballroom. We 11 Lawrence kids always felt special because we would be at Uncle Bobs for Easter and go over to the park for free that day. My favorite rides were in the old part of the park. The helicoptors,train,”pump-its” on the little track, miniature golf,the arcade, boats going in a circle. Does anyone remember the other rides in the OLD part of the park?

  112. Rhonda Gentzler Harris says:

    What a trip down memory lane! I remember going to Safety Patrol Day and always looked forward to the annual Police Picnic with my parents as I knew I’d be getting to spend the entire day there and close the park down. I did go to some Sprite Nights and saw Taylor Dane and Survivor there. I think Survivor may have been the last one and Sweet 98 was the host.

    Omaha really lost a treasure by tearing it down, and while there were problems towards the latter part, it’s a shame that there couldn’t have been some type of enforcement worked out to alleviate the problems the near by residents had and some of our Omaha leaders buy it.

    While we now have Fun Plex which is where my kids go, it’s not Peony Park and I wish they could’ve had the chance to go there.

  113. Fred Veleba, former W-H photographer says:

    Thank you for jogging our memories about this wonderful place. It was fun seeing the old time photos taken by fellow photographers that I worked with over the year from 1977 until my retirement. I wish the World-Herald would find a way to display more of these old photos which mean a lot to people as they grow older.

    1. Jolene McHugh Jolene McHugh says:

      Trying to as best as I can! Anything special you would like to see?
      Also, have you seen any of our books? I believe you have some photos in them…

  114. Kathryn Marcuzzo says:

    What a wonderful article!! Thank you!! In the 70′s my brother Dan Greco and myself (Kathy Greco) worked at Peony Park. I worked in catering, bartended in the Ballroom, and was Peony The Skunk a few times. My brother Dan was a bus boy. We both worked in the amusement park whenever needed too. We had the best time and worked with the most wonderful people. What memories!! :)

  115. Dot Tiffin says:

    I worked there and also fought to keep it open but nothing would stop it !!!!

  116. Gerry D says:

    Thanks for compiling these pictures. Peony Park was my favorite entertainment in Omaha.
    It’s too bad it went away. It was a one of a kind park. I’ll always have great memories of the times I spent there. Good clean all American fun. Hard to find that today!

    1. Sharon Lunnis Hogan says:

      I remember Peony Park with great fondness.
      I attended many dances when Eddie Haddad was the
      Featured band, Dancing under the stars was a great pass time too. I remember seeing Bobby Daren singing “Splish Splash” before he became well known.
      My greatest memories are taking my children, nephew,brother and sister swimming every day. We all had a peony pass and we lived at the pool.
      One summer we spent so much time there the life guards bought a life guard jacket for my son on his fourth or fifth birthday They had it engraved “Peony Park Lifeguard ” He wore it with such great pride.
      I’ll always have great memories of Peony and the time I spent there. Thanks for making this article available for all to enjoy.

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  119. […] Lincoln was not the only place that had an amusement park with roller coasters.  Peony Park made its home in Omaha until 1994.   Sadly, I never experienced the fun there (we usually went to the bigger parks down in Kansas City).  That must have been common sentiment as not drawing a big enough crowd was the primary reason the park closed down.  This park had a bit of a checkered past as well with having to overcome segregation struggles.  To see a wonderful collection of pictures and learn more about this past park, please visit the Omaha blog. […]