Food was important at Indianola. Just like parks today, food was a major profit center. Indianola Park offered a restaurant and several snack stands for the benefit of hungry visitors.

Visitors to Indianola Park ate many of the same things people eat at a fair or carnival today. The difference is that they were eating them for the first time. The early 1900s saw the invention of the foods that would become the staples of American fast food.

Fried Chicken

FRIED CHICKEN- Fried chicken, or "Southern fried chicken" as it was then known, was the signature dish at Indianola Park's restaurant. In 1911, the park advertised 50¢ ($11 in 2006 dollars) chicken diners as an attraction alongside the Blue Streak and the pool.

Fried chicken would have been a novelty to many of the park's visitors. The dish has its roots in the rural South and Appalachia among poor Scotch-Irish and African-American communities. In the North and among the American middle and upper classes, chicken was usually baked or boiled.

Fried chicken first appears in the North in the 1880s and its popularity quickly spread to all regions and classes.

Fried chicken was popular as a picnic food and, as such, ideal for a setting like Indianola.

HOT DOGS- The first bland sausage served on bread is difficult to track down. There are many claimants to the honor of inventor of the hot dog.

How it got its name is just as controversial. Some say it was from a New York cartoonist's disparaging remarks about the contents of sausages sold at the ball park. Others say it was a tie-in to a popular exhibit at the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis featuring a tribe of dog-eating, headhunters from the Philippines.

COTTON CANDY- Called "Fairy Floss" at the time, cotton candy was first served at the St. Louis World's Fair in 1904.

A box of cotton candy at the fair cost 25¢--over $5 in 2006 money. Despite the steep price, its creators sold nearly 70,000 boxes. Cotton candy was a hit and was soon being sold at carnivals, circuses, fairs, and amusement parks across the nation.

PEANUTS- For most of the 19th Century, peanuts were regarded as a low-quality food consumed mostly by livestock and the rural poor in the South.

HAMBURGERS- The origin of the hamburger is controversial as well.

It didn't originate at the 1904 World's Fair but it was certainly popularized there.

Until the 1920s, hamburgers were served on sliced bread instead of buns. Lettuce, tomato, onion, and picklse were the toppings of choice. Ketchup, mustard, and cheese wouldn't come till later.

CHOP SUEY- In the early 1910s, Indianola operated a restaurant called The Japanese Tea Garden. The Tea Garden featured the new Chinese-American dish sweeping the nation: "chop suey." It also featured a number of more traditional Chinese dishes.

There wasn't very much Japanese about the Japanese Tea Garden. The name was a catch-all for all things East Asian and tapped into American fascination with Japan after the 1905 Russo-Japanese War.

ICE CREAM CONES- Ice cream is an ancient dish eaten by the Romans and Chinese thousands of years ago. Ice cream in an edible pastry cone, however, is a relatively new invention.

Like cotton candy, this new product surfaced at the St. Louis World's Fair of 1904. Late in the day, an ice cream vendor had run out of cups. His neighboring vendor, a Syrian baker, sold him waffles which he rolled into a cone shape and filled with a scoop of ice cream.

Like other park treats, the ice cream cone was a food that required no utensils to consume and was portable. It could be eaten as one walked around, enjoying the sights and sounds of the park.

WHISTLE SODA- "Thisty? Just whistle!" was the motto of Indianola's carbonated beverage of choice.

Whistle was an orange soda that came in an unusual pinched bottle embossed with diamond-shaped bumps.

Back in the 1920s, the soda market was more diverse than it is today. Soda wasn't just Coke or Pepsi. Regional brands dominated. Whistle was one of these.

Whistle was introduced in Columbus in the 1910s, by local soda entrepreneur Sylvester "Vess" Jones. In the Midwest, it was one of the most popular soft drinks of the Twenties. Locally, Whistle was bottled at the Vess plant on W. 5th Ave.

BEER?- The sale of alcoholic beverages was a touchy point with amusement parks. There were arguments for and against. Some parks served them. Some parks didn't.

Male patrons enjoyed a cold beer and there was money to be made serving them. The profit margin on beer was significant. However, park rides and the pool could be dangerous for inebriated patrons. They could hurt themselves or others. Also male patrons with a couple beers in them could create an uninviting atmosphere for women and children. This might be a particular problem at the pool.

I've never been able to find out whether the Indianola Park served beer. Given the emphasis on cleanliness, order, and wholesomeness in park ads, I'm guessing that they didn't serve it at all or only offered it during restricted hours.