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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Mr. Chance a pioneer in amusement business

BY MOLLY McMILLIN
The Wichita Eagle

Richard "Harold" Chance, founder of Chance Manufacturing Co., was a devoted family man and innovator who became a pioneer in the amusement ride business.

Mr. Chance died Saturday. He was 88.

His innovative personality sparked him into developing about 50 different amusement rides over the years.

"He was the kind of guy, when people told him it was impossible, he said, 'It will just take me a little bit longer,' " said his son, Dick Chance, chairman and CEO of the company his father started.

It's a family business. Dick Chance's son, Michael, is the company's president.

When Harold Chance returned from World War II, he went to work for Ottaway Amusement Co., which built miniature steam trains.

After Ottaway decided to build Joyland Amusement Park and enter the amusement park business, Mr. Chance bought the train operations.

But the market for the trains declined in the mid-1950s, and Mr. Chance got into the carnival business, traveling around Kansas.

The rides were heavy and hard to move, and Mr. Chance decided there must be an easier way.

"He came back and started building amusement rides," Dick Chance said. "He pioneered trailer-mounted amusement rides that carnivals could easily move from location to location."

Mr. Chance also came up with some creations nobody thought possible, Dick Chance said, such as the Zipper, the Skydiver and the Toboggan.

One of the most popular products was a miniature train called the C.P. Huntington. The company built about 400 of them for amusement parks and zoos around the world.

At home, Mr. Chance wasn't your average dad, Dick Chance said.

"From the time we were growing up, he had his business of building trains and working in the shop, and he expected me to work in the shop with him starting at a very young age," Chance said. "I learned how things are built and how to do it directly from him."

He also spent time with his four daughters.

He taught his children how to do things for themselves and how to be independent.

"He never gave us anything growing up; we had to earn it," Chance said. "He had a very high work ethic for all of his children. I think that's what... allowed us to have a family business that's continued for three generations."

Mr. Chance had a keen business sense and knew how to make a fair deal, Dick Chance said.

"He always wanted a deal to be good for both parties or he wouldn't do it," he said.

In business, he was most proud of the employees who worked for him and their loyalty.

"That was the thing that was most important to him," Chance said.

Mr. Chance started with three employees. When he retired in 1985, the company employed about 200.

Mr. Chance was inducted into the Halls of Fame by the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, Outdoor Amusement Business Association and the Showmen's League of America for his contributions to the industry.

A rosary will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday at St. Francis of Assisi church. A funeral will be held there at 3 p.m. Thursday.

Memorials for Mr. Chance have been set up with the Lord's Diner and Guadalupe Clinic.

Reach Molly McMillin at 316-269-6708 or mmcmillin@wichitaeagle.com.

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