Adding to the draw of the pool and dance pavilion were Indianola's many amusements

For the 1909 season, the old Figure 8 Roller Coaster was joined by the much larger, higher, faster, and wilder Blue Streak Coaster. Park patrons were delighted and flocked to the exciting new ride. The Figure 8 was torn down not long after.

A thrilling Shoot-the-Chutes water ride was also added to greet the new decade.

The 1910s also saw the addition of an attraction called "The Human Laundry," a funhouse that tumbled park-goers head-over-heels like so many dirty dish towels and then wrung them out between giant rollers. Features similar to this were in place at many early 20th Century amusement parks

Vaudeville was another attraction at Indianola in the 1910s. Acts performed on the grounds, in the bandshell, or the theater. Indianola was a part of a summer resort circuit, a booking consortium that kept fresh acts from across the nation moving through the park. The featured acts changed about once a week although popular acts might be retained for another week.

Generally, acts performed twice a day, seven days a week.

In its advertising, the park made much of its "One-Hour Vaudeville" programs. These programs featured a succession of light-hearted, up tempo acts all in the course of an hour. Park patrons could see the show from beginning to end and still have plenty of time left for a dip in the pool, a turn around the dance floor, or a ride on the Blue Streak.

Variety was the essence of vaudeville and vaudeville at Indianola was no exception. The park was host to all sorts of acts: singers, dancers, actors, orators, comedians, magicians, mentalists, jugglers, acrobats, high wire acts, and trained animals of every kind. Indianola Park presented everything from Shakespearean plays to parachutists and novelty whistlers.

Most of the acts that entertained Indianola audiences are long-forgotten today but a few went on to greater fame. Columbus native Carl Randall got his start dancing at Indianola and later went on to fame in the Ziegfeld Follies and a career as a dancer and choreographer in films of the 1930s.

 

Right: Map of Indianola Park, c. 1909. From Baist's Real Estate Atlas of Columbus & Its Suburbs, 1910. Gate, pavilion, and carousel are easily identified but I don't know about the rest.

The entertainment didn't stop with vaudeville:

  • Band music was a favorite of period audiences and Indianola indulged them with daily concerts at the bandshell.
  • When motion pictures became popular, the park stretched a canvas between two trees and showed films in the evenings.
  • Indianola's shady picnic grounds, along the eastern and northern edges of the park, hosted scores of conventions, reunions, company picnics, and Sunday school outings.
  • The sports fields--tennis courts, a football field, and a baseball diamond--provided still more recreational opportunities.
  • From 1909 to 1915, Indianola Park was the home field for the Columbus Panhandles, a pioneering professional football team. Crowds in the hundreds gathered in the park from October to December to watch the Panhandles play a bone-crunching, smash-mouth, pad-free version of football.
  • In the winter of 1918, the park even hosted Ohio State basketball games.
  • Finishing out the day's recreation, Indianola Park ended many summer days with spectacular fireworks shows.

 

With the notable exception of 1915 (cool with double normal rainfall), Central Ohio summers in the 1910s were warm and dry. August of 1918 was particularly good for the park. A record-breaking heatwave sent temperatures into the upper 90s for two weeks, culminating in a temperature of 103° on August 6. The sweltering masses filled the pool to capacity. The heatwave broke on the 12th with a violent storm. Lightning struck one of the park buildings and started a fire but was extinguished before it could spread.

In 1917, the United States entered World War I. The war presented the park with challenges and opportunities.

The draft emptied the country of healthy young men and forced the park to scramble to find employees. The draft also cut into the ranks of potential park patrons. Wartime shortages and rationing of coal, fuel, sugar, wheat, meat, fats, rubber, and building materials created further problems for the park.

The park managed. Young women, earning their own money by filling jobs vacated by draftees, became reliable park goers. Ingredients were substituted, thermostats were turned down, non-essential maintenance was deferred, and new construction was put off. The park even saw an increase in visitors thanks to "gasless Sundays" that forced Columbusites to seek recreation close to home.

A more pressing challenge came at the decade's end. In October 1918, the Spanish influenza came to Columbus, sickening thousands and killing hundreds. By order of the Board of Health, theaters, movies, and dance halls were closed. Normally, Indianola's dance pavilion did a good business in the fall and winter. The order was lifted in mid-November but crowds were spotty into 1919 as new outbreaks of the dread disease kept fearful patrons away.