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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Visit LAKELAND on the next "Southern Routes"

Posted By on Tue, May 4, 2010 at 9:18 PM

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In the late 1950s, a fellow named Louis Garner visited Ruby Falls, near Chattanooga, and came back to Memphis convinced that he could build an entertainment complex so vast that it would gain fame as “The Disneyland of the Mid-South."

So Garner bought 1,200 acres along Canada Road, just north of the new I-40 expressway, built a massive dam, dug artesian wells, and in no time at all had the largest lake in Shelby County. Seeing as he had a nice lake and plenty of land, he called his new venture Lakeland, and then proceeded to piece together what he would describe as “The World’s Largest Playground.” He brought in a skyride from the 1958 Brussels World's Fair, an old timey steam railroad called the "Huff n Puff," and lots of midway-type rides and games. Then he added a racetrack, dance pavilion, and all sorts of other entertainment — some of it rather bizarre.

Lakeland opened to the public on June 1, 1961, and it was quite a place — for a while. But there's really not a trace of it today — except for the lake, of course, and patches of the old racetrack in the woods.

What happened to Lakeland? You can hear the whole amazing story on the next episode of the WKNO series "Southern Routes." It airs Thursday, May 6 at 8 p.m., repeating on Saturday, May 8 at 2:30 p.m.; and Sunday, May 9 at 12 noon. It also airs on WKNO-2 on Saturday, May 8 at 9 p.m.

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Don't miss it, or you will have to sit quietly in the corner at the next party, when everybody you know is chatting about the marvels and mysteries of Lakeland, and you won't have a single thing to say.

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