Sure Signs of Springtime in Duquesne

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!

This entry was posted in Holidays - Non-Christmas and New Years, Kennywood, Springtime. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Sure Signs of Springtime in Duquesne

  1. Sue says:

    Thank you, again, for the wonderful blog. As kids, going to Kennywood was the second thing that we wanted to do once we got to West Mifflin. The first was to spend time with our relatives – who spoiled us rotten! When I was young, I thought that Aunt Peggy owned Kennywood because she worked there. And, of course, if you own an amusement park, you name it after your son. I thought she owned it and that she named the park for Kenny.

  2. Michael Bashista says:

    Great picture Jim. Your blogs got me looking thru my old photos and I found one that shows part of the pool after it was closed and fenced off and I found a few of the 50’s Thanksgiving bizzard. I’ll scan and send them to you.
    Kennywood pool was always a great place to hang out in summer and all the school picnics it seemed like you were out there 1/2 of the week or more. I do remember walking to Kennywood as a kid from Aurilles St and later Priscilla Ave. The only thing I had to do was tell my parents where I was headed and that was it for the day. We’d all have that wonderful bridge walk back to Duquesne at dinner or when they finally kicked us out of the park. And it wasn’t at all unusual to see my parents or other adult relatives at the park in the evening.

  3. Laurine E. says:

    I only worked at KP one summer. I was only 17 but Docky Kowallis got me a job as a ride operator in Kiddie Land – I think that summer made up my mind that I didn’t want kids – actually the kids weren’t so bad, it was the parents who were BIG trouble – shouting make sure my kid gets a boat with a working bell, my kid only wants to ride in Snow White’s car, why are you taking my kid off the motorcycle (sign says kids under a certain age/height cannot ride the motorcycle – can’t you read???), etc, etc. What an experience.

    Oh yeah, that bridge scared me too. The only other bridge that scared me more was one way out in the country where my great uncle lived. It was also made of metal but it was formed from grids and I was always afraid my foot was going to go through and I was going to follow (not sure why I thought that because I knew I was bigger than the grid – but you know how kids get ideas in their heads that defy logic).

    One of the other greatest things about Kennywood was the enormous swimming pool!! I hope you talk about it in the future.

  4. Claudia Repko Misage says:

    Oh that Kennywood Bridge maybe it was made of metal but as you walked or ran across it all you saw was wood. The planks under foot which had a space inbetween them to the “metal” railing on the outside of you looking down to the trains below. To this day I don’t ever think I touched that railing thinking it would fall over and me after it. Okay on the other side of you where all the traffic was there was another big hung of wood and if you were a dare devil you would walk on it but jump off every time you saw a car coming your way or if your mother saw you doing it. Off you jumped. Under that hunk of wood it was all opened and you could see below—-how many great and expensive prizes were lost and fell down through that gap to the left of you as you walked home from the park with all your winnings. What about the street cars as they went over the bridge, you kinda had to hold your balance because of the swaying and bouncing that it caused and if you were driving when a street car was coming towards you, I think the only thing was to close your eyes and pray and by george you made it. In all my years I can’t ever think of a accident on that bridge. Can anyone think of any? What about when the bridge was closed and you had to walk through the “dump” to get there? It was good during the day but at night it was scary. It seemed to take such a very long time for them to fix or put up the new bridge. Does anyone remember how long that took? One or two summers? Wow what great memories!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Bob Chermonitz says:

      Claudia, it took only one year to replace the bridge, maybe one and a half. The streetcars stopped running through Duquesne in1959. The new bridge opened in 1960. I was nine years old and my dad took pictures of Gov.Lawrence cutting the ribbon too officially open it. The new bridge never had tracks for the streetcars. So many on this blog remember that old bridge. It was the catalyst of many a nightmare, I am certain. I recall hearing of an accident on the bridge which sent a car over the side and down to the Union RR below! I don,t imagine they survived.

  5. tom lane says:

    My favorite Kennywood memory was that my grandfather worked on the pony ride and he used to “knock down” tickets. That means pocketing them! My cousin and I would go to my grandmothers house and in the dining room cupboard was a bowl full of Kennywood tickets and we would take a big handful and set off walking to Kennywood. And that was from the top of Kennedy ave. One day, I remember riding the Racer for 12 times in a row without getting off, and we could barely walk when we finally departed. All day at Kennywood and a long walk home, but two happy little boys. We were about 10 or 12 at the time and imagine being able to do that alone and gone for 8 hours or more. What a fun time.
    Later I worked there for 3 years on one of the games called the Jet Stream. Who else worked there?

  6. Paula Niedoba says:

    The bunnies are crazy, but I especially like it when they start to deflate…And this year I see the Biggest Loser bunny has joined them. : D

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