Webmasters’s note: It is always interesting to look back in time at the history that surrounds us. We ask readers to note that we have not edited this piece for content, but rather present it as it was written so one can get the full scope of the authors memories. We hope that you enjoy this look back.
By Leone “Bill” Wells
Dexfield Park opened in 1915 and was probably the most famous amusment park in the state of iowa. It was located between Dexter and Redfield on the south side of the Raccoon River. Everything was dirt roads then and when it was muddy the big hill south of the park was impassable for travel with a car.
They were open every Sunday and people came from miles around including Des Moines. Quite often there would be over 4,000 people there.
The park had a large cement swimming pool fed by the nearby Marshall springs. There was a long line of drinking fountains on the south side of the pool. The spring water was said to have healing qualities for arthritis sufferers.
West of the pool there was a large open-air dance hall where they held dances on Sunday’s and also during the week. Many good orchestras played there.
You entered the park from the west. There was a long lane and a box office where you paid $2 for each car to enter.
On the south sie of the pool there was a large pavilion with a cement pool and a resturant on the east end and one on the west end where pop, ice cream and sandwiches were sold.
My father Charles Coulter worked in one of these restaurants, so our family drove a team and hack and spent every Sunday at the park. I would have 5 cents to spend, and on the 4th of July I would have 25 cents. Of course, the rides, ice cream, pop and things were only 5 cents each then. I spent most of my time at the Merry-Go-Round. The man named Boggess who ran it would let me ride for free as their family always rode out with us in the hack and we always took a basket dinner.
On the hillside south of the pavilion there was a large movie screen where they would show free movies every Sunday night. Upon the hill side beyond that there was a free camping ground and many people had tents and vacationed there.
There was also a ferris wheel, a shooting gallery and many stand where you would throw balls and got prizes for knocking over different things.
On the north west corner there was a bridge and bayou where you could rent canoes. There was also a small zoo with quite a few animals near by.
Up a steep hill to the east side there was a skating rink where you could rent skates and listen to calliope music. When I was in school we always went out there for all of our parties. There were also different forms of free entertainment and side shows.
During my school years Dexfield Park was my main source of entertainment.
The swimming pool was open during the week, so it was used a lot.
The main part of Dexfield Park was covered with sand so it wouldn’t get muddy.
When I was in high school five of us girls camped out there for a week. We had an older lady with us as a chaperone. She would take us on field trips in the surrounding woods and tell us about different plant life and trees.
There was no plumbing there, so they had out-door toilets upon the hill side. They were filthy, smelled bad and had no toilet paper of any kind. With so many people using them you can imagine what they were like.
On the east end of the swimming pool there was a tall diving tower. On special days an expert swimmer or diver was hired to make dives from the top of the tower. It was quite dangerous.
There were many picnic tables on the south hill side for people to use.
Later on, the park was closed, and this was the scene of the capture of part of the famous Barrow gang in 1933 when they tried to escape.
I wish Dexfield Park was still there. It was really quite a place.