A flood of memories with one thought

By Jim Bucher

It’s funny how a song, smell or sight of something can trigger a slew of memories.

This just recently happened believe it or not by stumbling across an old pair of ice skates in my attic.

Skates you say? Yep skates.

This was an old kid’s pair with the double blades to assist in staying vertical.

Gosh, wonder if you can get these in an adult size, buy I digress.

The vivid memory that pops in my mind is ice-skating in the lagoon over at Island Park. (Island Park then, Island MetroPark now.)

Yes, before a plethora of personal injury attorneys, you could slip and slide on the frozen waterway in the winter.

Heck, the city of Dayton would assign a makeshift Zamboni consisting of a Rube Goldberg like contraption, combining a bulldozer and street sweeper to make the frozen lagoon smooth as … well, ice.

But Island Park was much more than that.

One big highlight were concerts at the band shell over the summer.

Does anyone remember the two big signs on either end of Helena Street (Island MetroPark by the way is located on Helena Street at Riverside Drive.) displaying a rendering of the band shell and the lower third reserved for announcing the weekends performers.

Now I’m going way back, but many of you who grew up having fun here remember playing on the old fire engine.

Yes you read it right, not a state of the art, foam padded, non-toxic replica of a fire engine, but rather a real life fire engine.

I’m surprised we’re still all alive!

But Island MetroPark is basically no different now than it was a hundred years ago. A place to relax, take a walk on the many paths, have a cook-out and of course catch some great music while lying on a blanket under the warm summer sun.

It was formerly known as the White City Amusement Park in the late 19th century.

The park had a dance pavilion, amusement rides, canoe lockers, refreshment stand, and other recreation features.

The Great Flood of 1913, among other things, knocked out the bridge that allowed passage and damaged a number of buildings at the White City Amusement Park.

Because of the park was located in a flood area there was initially no redeeming quality to replace or refurbish.

Later in 1913, the Dayton Canoe Club held its first regatta, which became quite popular.

After two more events that summer, Dayton city officials decided to rebuild White City and on June 20, 1914, it formally opened as Island Park.

According to news accounts of the day, the park became an ideal location in the coming years for programming that included bathing, (yes, bathing in the river.) picnicking, canoeing, boating, dancing, ice skating, water carnivals, evening band concerts, and general recreation.

Island Park was the definitive recreational hot spot of its day.

Skipping ahead to 1940, the aforementioned band shell was constructed where in 1943 concert attendance totaled some 80,000 people.

And how ‘bout this fun fact, the great comedy duo Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, filled Island Park when they arrived to help build interest in the World War II bond and stamp campaign.

More than 20,000 people came to watch the two men clown around.

As times changed and suburbia grew exponentially, Island Park became a thing of the past, although in the 1970s and 80s the venue hosted large events like The Dayton River Festival, Black Cultural Festival and the like.

Then in my opinion the best thing that ever happened was the formation of ‘Five Rivers MetroParks.’

The umbrella organization would take over maintenance and stewardship of not only Island Park, but also many green spaces throughout the community.

A levy was passed and soon after ‘Island MetroPark’ never looked better.

In 1994 the additional funding provided a much needed face-lift including new shelters, and restrooms, play grounds and increased monitoring and law enforcement.

And how about that ever so cool splash park for kids of all ages on those hot summer days.

Don’t get me wrong, Island MetroPark is an oasis in the city to relive wonderful memories and make new ones.

And even though you can’t ice skate here anymore, legally that is. (RiverScape offers that.)

Island MetroPark remains an oasis in the city to relive cherished memories and make new ones.

Also, I’m well aware that nothings perfect, but hey, any chance to get the fire engine back? It was awesome!



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For over 25 years, Jim Bucher has been a regionally known and loved local television icon. “Buch’s” followers describe him as trustworthy, fun, the guy next door, a friend and role model. You can promote your business with Buch and grab your customer’s attention! Reach DCP freelance writer Jim Bucher at

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