I know I said that I wasn’t going to write any more posts, but I’m finding that it’s easier said than done to withdraw from thinking about Duquesne. For that reason, here I go again.
Judy and I have had a grand time this weekend. My daughter Megan has been visiting us along with Jackson, our grandson. We decided to take a walk on the Boardwalk in Ocean City today. After Memorial Day, the Boardwalk is usually packed on the weekends, and tonight was no exception. Fortunately, it wasn’t stifling hot and humid as it normally could be. Instead, the evening was fully of cool breezes and low humidity. As we walked, Jackson was enthralled with all of the people, the smells, the sounds and the bright, colorful lights that illuminated the shops and rides along the Boardwalk.
There were moments all along our journey when I was transported back to a time when similar sounds and smells surrounded me in the same way. If I closed my eyes, I felt as if were walking along the lagoon in Kennywood Park on an early summer evening. The sounds of riders screaming while riding the steel coaster at the Inlet in Ocean City could be heard in the background, teenager girls chattering and giggling, the aroma of freshly popped popcorn from Fisher’s and that unmistakable smell of French fries being prepared at Thrasher’s. The only sound missing was the clacking of the cars climbing the hills of one of Kennywood’s wooden coasters.
I’ve come to realize that I write a great deal about Kennywood Park, but it was such a constant part of my life, it hard to ignore so many recollections. I often have random memories that really don’t fit together as a cohesive story. For instance:
• Remember when the Laff-in-the-Dark was the first ride that you encountered when entering out of the parking lot tunnel? It was located where the Turnpike was recently. It always scared the bejesus out of me, especially with Laffing Sally out front in the ticket booth.
• Watching people enjoying themselves rowing around the lagoon in metal rowboats wielding oars always looked fun. It was only when I attempted to row that boat when I was on a date did I realize that it wasn’t an easy job at all! I ended up only making it once around the stage portion of the lagoon.
• The Penny Arcade always had a special sound. All of the bells, dings and whistles were mechanical as I was going up. There wasn’t a single electronic tone to be heard. In addition, the different attraction only cost a penny or two.
• I remember watching the French fry conveyer belt that was in the refreshment stand across from the Jack Rabbit
• I miss the silver rocket ships that were part of the lagoon scene, and the tunnel you had to go through to get to them.
• Remember the chalk figurines that you could win at the milk bottle and other games?
• I miss the Kennywood Restaurant that had tables with tablecloths, waitresses, green Fiestaware, and great freshly prepared food!
• I used to love the white sailor hats with your name embroidered.
I’m sure that you have dozens and dozens of other memories. Let me know if you do.
In the meantime, Kennywood has been in the news for a different reason lately:
It appears that for the first time since it opened, Kennywood Park may begin selling beer to park visitors. In April of this year, the West Mifflin Borough council unanimously agreed and voted in favor of the idea. In order to make the proposal to come to fruition, the council voted in favor of a resolution to obtain the liquor license by transferring it from a McKeesport restaurant that had closed to the owner of Kennywood.
If Kennywood is able to gain definitive approval from the state Liquor Control Board for the license, the plans are to sell beer in a specified, fenced-off section within the park, to commence sometime after the school picnic season.
The specified area would be located on the north side of the lagoon, about 250 feet from the entrance to Kiddieland. It would be required that the beer is bought and consumed inside the designated area. The area would have only one entrance and exit. It would be monitored by park personnel who are taught how to check identification and recognize signs of intoxication. Park spokesman Jeff Filicko stated, “If guests do not know how to stop drinking, we can recognize the signs and make the decision for them.”
The proposal for beer sales was influenced by requests from the public as well as by favorable feedback to special Oktoberfest events where alcohol was served.
So, what do you think about the idea of beer sales at Kennywood? Take a second and vote yes or no in the Duquesne Hunky Beer Poll.
Thought you’d enjoy a few articles from the Times
I don’t comment but rarely but I too was glad that you are continuing to post. Your blog is like being able to go home, the one I remember as a kid.
I remember the silver rocket ships at Kennywood and completely forgot about the embroidered sailor hats until you wrote about them here.
One memory I have that seems to have little to back it up is the “Ghost Ship” ride at Kennywood. Terrifying stuff- but not to my little sister- she’d get in one of the cars and go through alone at a very young age and come out smiling. What happened to that ride? And what was in there? I think I shut my eyes for half the trip.
One of my fondest wishes is that one day, if I am blessed with a grandchild or two, is to make the long trip back to Kennywood. I have a picture of my great grandparents and great-grandparents sitting with my grandma’s tiny sister, taken at Kennywood. My mother remembers riding the trolley across that scary bridge to get to the park, sitting beside her mother who had a homemade lunch (egg salad sandwiches, lemon cookies) in a shoebox on her lap. I remember the red strips of tickets handed out during the last days of school, the promise that summer was really here.
I really like your blog- even if the blog posts are infrequent, each will be greatly appreciated!
Hi Ninabi. You asked whatever happened to the Ghost Ship? To be brief it burned down in 1975. I was lucky to be a crew member on her in the summer of 1969. And, I must say, I really enjoyed working the ride. The building started life as the dance hall just before 1900. During WWII it was in it’s heyday when the Big Bands came to play there. Inside, our workroom was next to the old stage (which was still there but hidden by the 1st rolling barrel you went through, complete with the counter that showed which number dance was now playing. Girls filled in a dance card in those days!) and the workroom walls were covered with signatures from those Big Bands. Names that meant alot to our parents and grandparents but little to us in ’69 as the Beatles and Motown were our choices by then. There is not enough room here for me to go on (and onnnnnnnnnnn) about what was inside. However, I discovered a web site dedicated to “dark” rides and featuring our beloved Ghost Ship complete with pictures and stories about her. Go to http://www.laffinthedark.com click on “articles” and page down to “Voyage of the Ghost Ship”. As it turns out there were more than one, but ours was the best! 🙂
This new license for Kennywood isn’t an update, it’s just making it legal.
At all the picnics, reunions, union days, mining days etc. you can bet there was beer or liquor available somewhere or brought in.
I’ll bet no one can estimate the number and complexity of the containers used for this purpose like the old canning jars and jelly containers with waxed paper gaskets that were tucked into the picnic lunch somewhere. Also the first of the old green one gallon Thermos containers with the wide mouth that easily spilled their contents as the mouth was so much wider than a glass.
There were usually two of these. One for lemonade and one for the hard stuff.
The Mon Valley folks liked their beer and liquor as well as, or more, than people from other industrial cities. To their credit, I never encountered a fight at any of these celebrations.
Great memories Jim. Also, do you remember how much time and effort went into the preparations before the school picnics? What rides to go on, in what order, how many times, when to get there, what to wear, etc. Our Moms were real troopers by putting up with all of it.
Absolutely Paula. The annual school picnic was the equivalent of The Royal Wedding!
I’m so glad to see your post’s back. To tell you the truth I got depressed when you said you would stop. The memories you open in my mind that have been closed for years took me back to a happier and innocent time of my youth. Even though we have never known each other and the only thing we share was growing up in Duquesne the experiences are the same to the point I feel as though you are my family. How about a poll on how many people would like you to continue writing. As Bob Hope sung “Thanks for the Memories.”
I knew you would come up with more memories of Duquesne. You are an icon now and I for one am glad you are back. I too, remember Kennywood well. My Mom sold tickets for the rides in those little ticket booths that you could find around the park. Sometimes when a ride was new, you could not use regular School Picnic Tickets and had to purchase them. Since my Mom worked at the park she got extra tickets for her family and boy was that nice. When I was between the ages 8 and 10 my Dad would take me to the park on School Picnic Day and we would ride all the roller coasters over and over all day long. What a hoot. I remember all my friends were jealous because I got to ride the Jack Rabbit because I was with an adult. And being the Daddy’s little girl that I was, I came home with all kinds of things Dad would win for me. Such great summer memories. I could go on and on but I won’t.
Thanks for the welcome back. An ICON! I hardly think, but a BSer??? You got me pegged. I can’t keep quiet for too long….obviously.I always thought it would be neat to work in one of the ticket booths…but then again, I always thought it would be fun to be a toll collector on the PA Turnpike! – Jim
Jim, welcome back! I was starting to go through withdrawal!! You and I both know Kennywood always served beer. They even had a name for the beer serving area. It was called Green Gables. 🙂
You’re right on that one Bob!
Green Gables was owned by the family of one of my dad’s best friends in high school, Duquesne High I might add, and Dad frequently tended bar at Green Gables. As kids we loved going there to visit the family and eat in the restaurant. I remember meat pies on Scottish day even though we were not Scottish — maybe that is how I ended up with the married name of Angus!
I worked at Kennywood 3 summers, 60-63. Lots of long hours but for all the fun we had it was worth it, even at .75 cents an hour. If you kept up with your school work and grades, DHS would leave us out at 10:15 AM when the park opened on week days. I still have many wonderful memories of working there. School picnics, Nationality Days and the Fall Fantasy Days were great! I had phone numbers from girls all over western PA. east Ohio and WV. I even managed to find a few of them.
I share many of those same memories as you do about Kennywood. All the excitement leading up to going to the park for the catholic school picnic- the years of dreading not being as tall as Henry to ride the big kid rides… the fun playing miniature golf- the many date nights I had there with a special St Peter’s HS/Holy Name girl…. keep writing about the memories of our youthful paradise Jim.