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Wichita’s Chance connection to Wikipedia

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Monday, Oct. 1, 2012, at 12 a.m.

Ad Astra

This is one in a series of vignettes celebrating Kansas history. The series’ name comes from the state motto, “Ad astra per aspera: To the stars through difficulties.”

Anytime you use Wikipedia, think Wichita.

The internet website has a remote, almost Kevin Bacon-like connection to Doo-dah.

According to Wikipedia, back in 1994, when Ward Cunningham in Portland, Ore., was developing the information seeking website, he was looking for a name.

He didn’t want to call it simply the “quick web.” He wanted something a little more inspired.

As a traveler who had been to Hawaii, he thought of the name used at the Honolulu International Airport for its shuttle buses: the Wiki Wiki Shuttle.

In the Hawaiian language, “Wiki” means fast. Use the word twice in succession, it means very fast. The buses were a quick, free way of traveling and getting from one point to another.

And so, the Wichita connection? The shuttle buses were made in Wichita by Chance Manufacturing.

The company was founded in 1961 by Harold Chance, who was born in Wichita in 1921. He was a welder and tool-and-die maker who served in World War II.

Once he formed Chance Manufacturing, he began making miniature trains that people could ride. And, when he retired in 1984, his company had become one of the world’s largest builders of amusement rides.

The idea for the trains initially began in the 1940s when L.A. Ottaway and his sons, Harold and Herbert, opened Joyland Amusement Park. The family operated a miniature steam train, which was of their own design and manufacture.

The train was so popular, they began selling them on a national basis. In 1950, Harold Chance, who worked for the Ottaways at the time, bought out the amusement manufacturing company.

When the market for the trains began to decline in the late 1950s, Chance picked up interest in carnivals and fairs. And because the rides were heavy and hard to move, he pioneered trailer-mounted amusement rides that could easily be moved from one location to another.

He developed the Zipper, the Skydiver and the Toboggan … and the Wiki Wiki Shuttle.

According to Jeff Roth, company historian for Chance Rides Manufacturing, Chance called the shuttle the RT-52. The buses are still in use.

For his contributions to the industry, Harold Chance was inducted into the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, Outdoor Amusement Business Association and the Showmen’s League of America halls of fame. He also originated the AREA Amusement Ride Safety Seminar in 1971, which has been continued by the Amusement Industry Manufacturers and Suppliers Association.

Harold Chance died in 2010. You can read about his company on … Wikipedia.

Reach Beccy Tanner at 316-268-6336 or btanner@wichitaeagle.com

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