For many children, and even those young at heart, water parks are a key pastime of summer and, increasingly, winter. With indoor parks, it is now possible to play year-round in many places. The history of water parks is relatively recent. In particular, it is after World War II when they became popular. But they have evolved rapidly in the last few decades from simple places of amusement to complex parks that compete for status symbols such as the ‘largest water park’ or ‘tallest waterslide.’
In the late 1940s, with the country recovering from World War II and beginning to contemplate more fun as normal life resumed, the United States began to look for new amusements. Many outdoor pools and lidos had existed already, but only a few had diving boards. Even fewer had slides. However, by the late 1940s, more pools began to integrate slides and even began to include water being incorporated into the slide to ease movement down towards the pool. Although this is often seen as the beginning of water parks, the waterslide appears to have first developed in New Zealand during the 1906 International Exhibition (Figure 1). There could be earlier versions of such slides, but New Zealand’s slide was the first to attract major attention.
In an exhibition called “Wonderland,” a chute was installed that allows swimmers to slide right into the pool. The chute moved people down in a wooden ramp that then allowed them to briefly skim across the surface of the water as it came in a slight angle. In fact, almost all early waterslides mostly skimmed riders rather than directly inserting them into water. In 1906, even government officials, such as the speaker of the New Zealand House of Representatives, were impressed and gave the slide a try. In the 1910s and 1920s, similar slides were created, with most being features at fairs and special summer events.
Categories: Social History