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In the Summer of 1998. CdA resident Bernie Bariel was visiting the Virginia Center Commons Mall in Richmond, Virginia with her daughter Sherry Johnson and granddaughters Joyce Goff and Julie Johnson when she discovered the carousel on display there was the Playland Pier Carousel that was in CdA from 1942 to 1974. She took pictures and conveyed the story to CdA Press editor Bill Buley who ran the story on the front page of the press. Richard Le Francis saw the article and decided to find out what the current status of the carousel...if it was owned by the Mall or privately. After contacting the mall management and finding that it was being leased from a private party, the management folks agreed to contact the owners and , if they wished, they would contact Le Francis. This they did and Le Francis began discussions about possibly bringing back the carousel to CdA with the owners Duane and Carol Perron. 

They were ecstatic because Carol had her first job at Playland Pier when she was a teenager growing up in CdA. In fact, after meeting Duane at the University of Idaho and marrying they embarked on a business career that included antiques. While at an antique auction in Puyallup, Washington in 1987 they purchased the 1922 Spillman carousel that was at CdA’s Playland Pier and subsequently restored it to better that new with the help of artist Theresa Mather and Bette Largent of Spokane....who is the current President of the National Carousel Association. At the time the carousel was being leased for$150,000 per year against income gross, with the Perrons paying all maintenance, insurance and personnel costs as long as they were guaranteed a 200 ft no compete area around the carousel for merchandising. After Le Francis began discussing the possibility of relocating the carousel back to CdA, they offered to reduce the income guarantee to $125,000 to facilitate the deal. This means that if gross sales were, for example, $115,000 the city would have to come up with the balance of $10,000. The Perron’s stated that they had been leasing the carousel for around 10 yrs and had never gone below the $150,000 threshold! This was a win/win for the city because there was no out of pocket costs. and the carousel would have over 100,000 riders a year [the Missoula carousel has 225,000 and the Spokane carousel has over 300,000 per year]. 

Additionally when word got out thru articles in the local newspapers, an individual contacted Le Francis and offered to provide a new building. A double win for the city, which by this time had contracted with the Walker- Macy planning group of Portland, Ore. to help restore the downtown area’s economy. Walker-Macy sponsored 3 public meetings at Lake City High School to receive citizen input and the return of the Playland carousel was at or near the top of everyone’s list of things they wanted. Walker-Macy included the carousel in their master plan at it’s old location which is now named Independence Point. Without any input from the community, or the citizens who made their wishes known at the planning meetings, the city decided that it didn’t want the carousel. Neither Le Francis nor the Perron’s were contacted about this decision so it hasn’t been made clear who made the decision or why the citizen’s wishes were disregarded. 

Le Francis meet with John Foote who agreed to purchase the carousel for $250,000  

Street Car

 Concurrent with this carousel activity, Le Francis was also working to develop a streetcar line. At that time, there was $180 Million available in the Federal 1996 Omnibus Bill for streetcar restoration. He had contacted the Spokesman-Review about the project and was on the front page of the Idaho edition trying to gin up interest. A business on the East coast that specializes in public transportation projects called Le Francis after coming across his efforts on the Internet. They informed him that they could complete the project for $800,000 but the city’s part would be only $180,000. This would include 5 stations, 3 miles of existing track with a 3/4 mile extension from the golf course to the Lake and two 1929 PCC cars exactly like the Seattle streetcars at its waterfront. The city of Tucson recently allocated $150 MILLION for a similar sized street car project. This project was also discussed with citizenry at the Walker-Macy meetings and it too was incorporated into their plan. This also was mysteriously eliminated by the city and it instead voted to pay a contractor $180,000 to TEAR UP THE TRACKS.

Do you have photos, stories or things of interest that you would like to have people from our city see? Go to the “Contact” link and send us a note/ comment. We would love to share your historical contribution. We really like the gritty side of know, the way it REALLY was.