Springtime has finally arrived and evidence of it was everywhere when I visited Duquesne last week. There is a display that has become a Springtime tradition in the area that wasn’t even in existence when we were growing up. While I was visiting, I treated myself to lunch at Jim’s Hot Dogs on Skyline Drive in West Mifflin. As I sat in my car enjoying two of the fantastic memory provoking hot dogs, I remembered about an Easter display that my kids would always enjoy when we visited during the Spring. Just a bit down Jim’s Hot Dogs on Skyline Drive towards Dravosburg, an Easter enthusiast has taken seasonal décor to a whole different level. I really don’t need to try to describe the impact since sometimes a picture is really work a thousand words and/or rabbits!
I began to think about other signs of Springtime in Duquesne and one obvious clue was that Kennywood was open! OK, stop snickering! I know that “Kennywood’s open” was and still is a local idiom. So before you begin to imagine half of the population of Duquesne running around with their fly down, let me clarify! I have looked through many issues of The Duquesne Times from the month of April. As far back as the 1930’s, Kennywood started their season with weekend openings. It was usually not until the beginning of May that the park would be open seven days a week. I was amazed at how much coverage Kennywood would get in local papers. Any event that occurred, no matter how trivial, made the paper. As we trek closer and closer to summer, I will be sure to include examples of these articles for your amusement. For instance, in 1956, The Duquesne Times announce the 59th Year opening of Kennywood and the “newest sensation” in rides. By the way, I clearly remember this ride and how I convinced Fr. Turner from Holy Name to ride it with me one time. This was quite an interesting experience especially when he departed the caged seat after the ride and proceeded to throw-up! I think that transgression cost me at least 5 Our Fathers and 5 Hail Marys at confession!
As I looked through the photographic gems that I garnered at the Historical Society, one in particular still evoked the same dread that I experienced in my youth. Let me explain. One of the most exciting aspects of living in the Duquesne area was its proximity to Kennywood. While other kids in Western Pennsylvania were only able to enjoy the park only once or twice each summer, WE were able to enjoy it whenever we would like. Although it was not until I go older that I increased the frequency of park visits, even as a child, my parents would indulge us whenever we begged enough.
By the time I was 12 years old, my mom allowed me to visit some of my Duquesne Place friends during the summer. Part of the time visiting was spent at Kennywood. Back then, admission was free and the only cost was if we decided to ride. The scariest part of Kennywood trips from Duquesne Place was crossing the old bridge. I would have sworn it was constructed of wood, but Jim Hartman from the Mifflin Township Historical Society informed me that it was metal construction. I just remember how tense we all were as we walk across that bridge! As cars and trucks passed, you could feel the bridge shake under your feet. I often thought that the bridge was going to fall apart and we were going to fall into the underlying gorge! We all quickly learned that the best way to cross the bridge was to run like hell from the Duquesne to West Mifflin side! When we got even smarter, we learned that we could cross into West Mifflin from Clonmel Street and avoid any bridge altogether!
I have so many more good memories, articles and stories about Kennywood to write about as we head into the Summer months. Please be sure to check back and most importantly, please, please, please……. Share your stories with us as well!