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The 1940's....

Into the late1940's after WWII, Riverview was entering into some golden years.

The large "open air" Riviera Ballroom was built on the north end of the island. It featured the largest wood dance floor in the state at the time and had seating for 1000 people. Directly behind the stage of the ballroom was a sound proof glass broadcast booth that windowed to the stage.  Live radio broadcasts of the music performances were sent over the the airways of Des Moines radio stations. Many national bands and orchestras were booked along with local favorites like the Arnie Liddel Orchestra featuring Jan Black on vocals along with guest appearances by a teenage Marilyn Maye.

New attractions and bringing in free acts booked throughout the summers were paying off still. The dances in the ballroom were being held 6 nights a week and the weekends were always jam packed with 2500 to 3000 people dancing every weekend. The Pine Room is built and becomes a permanent fixture with a bar and restaurant serving a full menu but specializing in steaks and fried chicken. A Bingo Hall also was added and was very well accepted. Free acts range from tight rope walkers and dare devils to lion tamers. Motor boat races are added on the lagoon and draw very well. The surrounding neighbors living across the lake are not so happy with the races though because they motors are extremely loud and the fuel mixture of alcohol and gas creates a pretty obnoxious smell that drifts through the neighborhoods.

The park was still also offering boxing and wrestling events at the old swimming pool location which had been filled in to create an outdoor arena. Robert Reichardt (Son in Law of W.E. Kooker) was managing the park as well as serving as a director of the National Association of Amusement Parks, Pools and Beaches. Riverview's Board of directors included Lester Bookey, Vice President and W.E. Kooker as Secretary-Treasurer. Bart Kooker (W.E. Kooker's son) starts working full time at the park after returning from the Air Force in 1946. He spends his first year as Manager of Games and Concessions, and is made Assistant Manager in 1947. The number of rides continue to grow With addions that include the Cuddle up, Ghost Train, Blackout Funhouse, Kiddie Planes and a new Ferris Wheel.

On May 23rd, 1944, disaster struck the park again. The Park had only been open for 3 days of it's new season. At 5 a.m. in the morning, the levee that protected the park was topped by a rising Des Moines river. A breach 100 feet wide quickly was washed away and the muddy waters of the river suddenly had the park under 8 feet of water. The flood waters actually lifted the entrance bridge off it's pilings but water pipes and electrical wiring running under the bridge kept it from floating away. The waters soon flooded surrounding neighbors and business's. Ferris wheel seats from Riverview were actually reported floating down sixth avenue. A major portion of the back half of the Coaster was washed from it's foundation and collapsed. Only the heads of the Carousel animals could be seen sticking out above the flood waters. The Riviera's large maple dance floor was floating atop 3 feet of water and coming apart into pieces. The floor in the Pine Room actually rose half way to the ceiling, floating as if it was a wooden raft. After the flood waters drop several days later, the Riverview crews scramble to salvage the 1944 season. Manager Reichardt announces the park will stay open this year beyond it's normal Labor Day closing date. He states they will remain open as long as Iowa's weather allows. Riverview ends it's season in late September and still sets a revenue record making 1944 the highest grossing season to date.

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1940's Riverview - click pictures to enlarge


One of the popular Chris Craft speedboats


One of the popular Chris Craft speedboats

Turn yourself upside down in the Rock O Plane


Turn yourself upside down in the Rock O Plane


Floating around taking flood pictures-Carousel building


1947 Coaster Train


1940 Arnie Liddell and his Orchestra at the Riviera