Memphis ‘ s Zippin Pippin, an early wooden roller coaster , one of the oldest in North America,is now satisfying roller coaster aficionados in GreenBay, Wisconsin.The roller coaster is 2,865 feet long, travels 20.8 mph to 40 mph, with a maximum drop of 70 feet .It dates back to 1912, 1915 or 1917, depending on your source but it was the mainstay of LibertyLand in Memphis.
Elvis would rent out the park and spend hours riding the coaster.Children and adults screamed with terror and delight as they rode the Pippin.
As a non-native Memphian, I only rode it once. There is a terrifying quality to wooden coasters,they appear more fragile, they shake and basically scare me. I’ve made it a point to ride the ones I’ve visited at least once so they don’t get the better of me. Before they dismantled The Zippin Pippin and shipped the pieces to GreenBay, it was closed and sat at LibertyLand for four years.
Caged like an animal it waited within chain link fencing and barbed wire and was tempting to explore.
Several years ago, while wandering along the fence line, we found entry. Climbing up part of the structure , the view was amazing. It looked like sculpture! The cars sat in a row as if ready for their next riders.Elvis’s car was the first one in line.
The cars remained with the coaster until an auction at which the buyers wanted Elvis’s car but ended up buying the whole roller coaster for $2500. The sale included provisions that the coaster be removed. An organization in North Carolina bought it and when they didn’t move it, the coaster was later sold to Green Bay.
The rest of LibertyLand has also disappeared , the land subdivided into plans for community centers and private development. The Grand Carousel, created by Dentzel who is noted for carving incredible horses and figures, has been dismantled and remains in storage somewhere in Memphis.It will be interesting to see if this piece of our city’s history is returned to use or ends up in a different city attracting tourists.We need to look more carefully at preserving our city’s uniqueness.