Sad News for Kennywood

So many of Duquesne’s youth worked at Kennywood at one time or another as they were growing up in our hometown. Lou Andriko forwarded an obituary from the Post-Gazette for Carl Hughes, former C.O.B. for Kennywood, and a very familiar face around the park for decades.

RIP Little Man

Obituary: Carl Hughes / ‘Man who truly created Kennywood’ never really retired

July 18, 1921 – Dec. 29, 2012
By Anya Sostek / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
 
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Carl Hughes wrote the slogan for Kennywood’s Kiddieland — the one that reads “The most beautiful music in the world is the sound of children laughing.”

In the five-plus decades that he worked at Kennywood — rising from part-time publicity assistant to president and chairman of the board — Mr. Hughes worked tirelessly to make his words come true.

“He was the man who truly created Kennywood,” said Harry Henninger, who retired as Kennywood’s chief executive officer when the park was sold in 2008. “He made it his mission to make it a much greater place, and he achieved it.”

Mr. Hughes died Saturday of heart failure in his Mount Washington home. He was 91.

He was born in Johnstown and graduated from Geneva College. He started working as a sportswriter for The Pittsburgh Press in 1943, covering the makeshift wartime “Card-Pitts” football team that was the amalgamation of the Chicago Cardinals and Pittsburgh Steelers.

The team — which badly lost all 10 games it played — was nicknamed the Carpets by Mr. Hughes and other sportswriters, recalled Mr. Hughes’ close friend and fellow sportswriter Roy McHugh.

Mr. Hughes broke the story of the University of Pittsburgh football coach Clark Shaughnessy moonlighting as a coach of the Washington Redskins — a story that got him both kicked out of the Pitt locker room and a $5 raise from his editor, recalled Mr. McHugh in a written remembrance.

He also covered boxing for the Press, befriending Art Rooney Sr., who owned a Downtown boxing club as well as the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Mr. Rooney nicknamed him “The Mighty Atom” — a nod to his short stature, according to a 1999 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette profile.

In addition to sportswriting, Mr. Hughes sometimes would help a friend who was in charge of publicity for Kennywood with writing news releases.

Mr. Hughes’ work with both the Press and Kennywood was put on hold when he was drafted into the Army at the end of World War II and sent to the Philippines.

He returned in 1947, staying employed at the Press and taking on the publicity work for Kennywood as a part-time job. In 1956, concerned about supporting his wife and two daughters on a newspaper salary, Mr. Hughes joined Kennywood full time.

His initial job of coordinating park sales and publicity changed dramatically three years later, when Mr. Hughes’ boss, Carl Henninger, died of a heart attack, and Mr. Hughes was made manager of the park.

Around that time, said Harry Henninger, who starting working at the park in 1963, Kennywood was considered just an average amusement park with average facilities. Mr. Hughes aspired to turn it into something more.

A natural historian, he campaigned — successfully — for its inclusion into the National Register of Historic Places, making it in 1987 the first amusement park to receive that distinction.

He also had a “constant drive for perfection” and a vision for “keeping the park beautiful,” Mr. Henninger said. “It wasn’t just a roller coaster, it was a feeling that you wanted to have throughout the park for family entertainment.”

Mr. Hughes often worked six or seven days a week.

He never left the park for the day without complimenting at least one employee on a job well done, said his daughter, Mary Lou Rosemeyer, even if that meant wandering the park at night looking for a ride attendant treating a guest particularly well.

He considered himself just one of Kennywood’s many team members and on busy days when employees had to use satellite parking offsite, he would, too. “He did that even when he was 80,” said Ms. Rosemeyer, who worked at Kennywood for 23 years. “He would park his Corvette and walk down. If the folks that worked the front lines had to do it, he had to do it, too.”

He used creative tactics in public relations and marketing, employing one lesson he learned from Art Rooney Sr.’s father, Dan Rooney, who owned the General Braddock Brewery in Braddock. As recalled in the 1999 Post-Gazette profile, Mr. Hughes had read a beer labeled “premium” and asked Dan Rooney, “How do you become a premium beer?”

“Young man, the first thing you do is tell your printer,” Rooney replied.

And so, Mr. Hughes quickly dubbed Kennywood “The Roller Coaster Capital of the World.”

Kennywood expanded greatly under Mr. Hughes’ tenure, adding rides such as the Log Jammer and The Laser Loop and buying and opening other parks such as Idlewild in 1983 and Sandcastle in 1989.

Putting a Neighborhood of Make-Believe attraction into Idlewild, he befriended Fred Rogers of the “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” television show. The two would exchange humorous gifts — Rogers custom-ordered him a 4-foot replica of a blue Flair pen that both men used reliably.

Whenever a Friday the 13th came about, Mr. Hughes would send Rogers a birthday card for King Friday. Rogers returned the favor, sending Mr. Hughes a birthday card every year from Lady Elaine Fairchilde in the Neighborhood of Make-Believe.

Mr. Hughes struggled with heart trouble in his later life, having two heart attacks and undergoing four triple bypass surgeries, his daughter said. Taking the inaugural ride of the Steel Phantom roller coaster in 1991 — ignoring posted warnings that those with heart conditions shouldn’t ride — he joked to onlookers, “Get your cameras so when we come back dead, people can see what happens when you disobey signs,” according to the 1999 Post-Gazette profile.

Mr. Hughes never really retired from Kennywood, Mr. Henninger said.

“He really took Kennywood from just a little — kind of dirty — park into one that was envied by park owners around the world,” Ms. Rosemeyer said. “That was his goal, to make it the finest traditional amusement park anywhere.”

In addition to Ms. Rosemeyer, Mr. Hughes is survived by his wife, Anny Hughes; another daughter, Lynn Cauley of Pittsburgh; eight grandchildren; and 11 great-grandchildren.

 The family will hold a memorial service at 1:30 p.m. Sunday at Smithfield United Church of Christ, 620 Smithfield St., Downtown. The family asks donations be sent to Geneva College or Smithfield United Church of Christ.

Anya Sostek: asostek@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1308. First Published January 1, 2013 12:00 am

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The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA)

Industry Loses Legend Carl Hughes

Industry legend and former general manager of Pennsylvania’s Kennywood Amusement Park Carl O. Hughes died Dec. 29, 2012 at the age of 91. Hughes had an unusual path to the attractions industry. An accomplished journalist for the Pittsburg Press, he began working with Kennywood as a part-time publicist and was ultimately lured to the park full time in 1956 as head of sales and publicity. But three years later, he ascended to general manager when then-general manager Carl Henninger had a heart attack. Hughes was determined to give Kennywood a higher profile and did so by having it added to the National Register of Historic Places, beautifying the entire park, and dubbing it “The Roller Coaster Capital of the World.” He added the “Log Jammer” and “The Laser Loop” rides and bought the Idlewild and Sandcastle parks during the 1980s. His creative vision and transformation of Kennywood garnered him the distinction of first living legend in IAAPA’s Hall of Fame in 1990. He was also IAAPA chairman of the board in 1974 and always an active and vocal member of the association. For more on Hughes, read his obituary in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Hughes is survived by his wife, Anny Hughes; daughters Mary Lou Rosemeyer and Lynn Cauley; eight grandchildren; and 11 great-grandchildren.

Memorial Service: Smithfield United Church of Christ 620 Smithfield St, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Sunday, Jan. 6, 1:30 p.m.

Reception to follow at William Penn Hotel (two blocks) Memorials may be made to Geneva College, 3200 College Ave., Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania 15010.

 
 
 
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6 Responses to Sad News for Kennywood

  1. Frank, you and I are around the same age. I was working there at the same time as you. I was on the other side in the dining room waiting on tables. On Sundays, the “bosses” would come in for dinner. The waitresses took turns serving them. We were all nervous, but we liked when it was our turn because they were the big tippers. LOL

    • Frank Mullen says:

      Deanne, Do you remember Ann Seaman, too? I believe she had authority over the entire staff of the whole facility, including cafeteria and dining, as well as employees’ cafeteria. Do you recall a feisty cashier who sat at the end of the public cafeteria buffet line with her register? She had short red hair and an amazingly always-cheerful personality. I sure liked her a lot while I was “Salad Boy” there. In fact, I liked them all, every one of those ladies who worked throughout the facility. They worked hard but always seemed pleasant. Everybody was nice to me.

      • Don’t remember the red haired lady, but do remember the “kitchen” ladies. In fact, my Aunt Helen Dachinetz worked there for years. She just passed away in December. She was 97. I do remember Ann Seaman

  2. Frank Mullen says:

    From my viewpoint, sharing this obituary about Mr. Hughes was very thoughtful of you. He was the “Boss-of-bosses” when I was a busboy, in the employee’s cafeteria; then, “salad-boy” in the public dining room (nowadays, where they display the Christmas train layout,) back in the late 1960’s. I can still clearly see him, somewhat short of stature but very big in amiability, cordiality, seriousness, and lazer-focused on the business at hand. He was as omnipresent as the Henniger brothers were, throughout the park.

    Mr. Hughes spoke to me once, inquiring about my service to the employees, many of whom would be so kind as to leave me a dime or a few nickles on their table after eating, which he found remarkable (as did I.) He had apparently been quietly observing me, and later checked with the cashier, to learn if my doing so were my regular practice (which it was,) of bringing relaxing, tired-out workers glasses of water or other little extras when they needed them and didn’t have the energy to get them for themselves from the cafeteria line, none of which were in the job description. He had noticed I got the tabletops very clean, also, which he described as my being respectful to everybody involved. Before I knew it, my pay went from 65cents per hr. to 85 cents, about which I was quietly informed by my beloved boss, Mrs. Ann Seaman. That money helped me save for college.

    Working in the cafeteria at Kennywood Park was my first “real job” (the actual first having been delivering The Daily News to Duquesne Place,) and from Mr. Hughes’s scrutiny, as well as Mrs. Seaman’s, and approval by him, I learned that if I did a scrupulous job and was consistently good at it, honest work paid off. I carry that philosophy to this day. I valued the time I was the employee and he was The Big Boss.

    • Stephannie Kosko says:

      Hi Frank, what a joy to read your scenarios. My brother worked in KWood as well, in the 50’s, met his wife there But, isn’t it sad the same dedication to a job does not exist today. We were truly blessed, because getting a nickle raise, from .50c per hr to .55 was a Big Deal. (no, I worked on 8th Ave. HMSTD) CIAO RIP Mr Hughes

  3. Susanne McAllister says:

    My summer excursions for the school & railroad picnic days are among the highlights of my youth. I’ve lived in Ireland for the past 21 years and none of my family have lived in the area for decades. Kennywood is what lures me back whenever I’m stateside. I salute Mr. Hughes on a job exceedingly well done.

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