Young Love – Kennywood Style

loveOk, it’s time to get even more nostalgic than I have before. I freely admit to the fact that I will be crossing the “sappy” line with this posting.

I was thinking about the impact that Kennywood had on my days as a teenager. Having attended Serra Catholic High School when it was an all-boys school, we never had the opportunity to form any relationships with any young ladies within the four walls of the school. Of course, when we had a dance, game or other public event, it was a different matter entirely. However for the most part, even though we did not attend either Duquesne or West Mifflin high schools, most of the guys from Serra dated and/or “went with” the fine young ladies from our neighborhoods. And THAT my friends, was a very good thing!

With all of that said, Kennywood became an integral part of our “Young Love” love life. I suppose Kennywood served the same purpose as today’s shopping malls do for teenagers. It was the place where we would go to see girls, meet girls, and/or date girls with or without parental knowledge or permissions. I am VERY confident that the same strategies that guys had at Kennywood were shared by the girls as well.

Kennywood at night was a magical place. The lights, sights, sounds and smells provided a perfect environment for walking hand in hand with your latest “significant other.” Somehow, the smell of freshly tarred timbers along the walkways combined with the smell of freshly popped popcorn and the fragrance of the park’s many flowers created a mystical aphrodisiac or sorts for high schoolers. Perhaps it can be best described as “Kennywood Musk!”

When you had made arrangements to meet a particular girl at the park, the meeting place R016007-jpgwas always a particular ride, and one that was usually located very close to the tunnel at the park’s entrance. The Roll-O-Plane, The Old Mill, Laff-In-The-Dark, The Rotor, The Turnpike, or perhaps the Penny Arcade were some of the typical meeting places. If you were “going-with” a special girl, you never wanted to waste any time getting the evening’s tryst started. You would begin walking hand-in-hand or with your arm around your special girl’s shoulders, providing an incredible source of pride, honor and accomplishment. It practically made you feel like an adult!! If however, this was your first meeting with a girl, the protocol for the evening very differently and you would NEVER be so presumptuous to begin holding hands or draping your arm around her shoulder! Just the fact that the girl showed up for the evening was enough to sustain and encourage the young man to move forward with the date.

One of the more difficult parts or making your arrangements for meeting a girl or boy was doing so without cluing in Mom and Dad. I think this was especially difficult for the girl. Cellphones and computers weren’t on the scene, so the ability to discretely call, text or email that boy and/or girl wasn’t a consideration. Unless you were able to set-up an arrangement with someone who would somehow manage to get a message to the other person, you actually had to use the telephone. The phone was always seemed to be strategically placed in as “non-private” of a location as possible in most homes. Ours was located in our dining room, and of course, everyone could hear my conversations. The ringer on the old black desk phones was always set at ear deafening levels, so you couldn’t be discrete about getting a call, even if you tried. But I digress……

WINDMILLKennywood, in my day, provided the best “cheap date” around! There were no admission fees, hand stamps, turnstiles, metal detectors, etc. to contend with. You simply walked, took the bus, rode with a friend, or drove the family car to the park and made your way through the tunnel under Kennywood Blvd. into the park. Whenever I visited the park in recent years, that very familiar echo that I heard while walking through the tunnel, created the same air of anticipation in my mind as when I was a kid.

Now that I have reached a certain “mature” age in my life, I suppose it’s ok to admit to some of the “guy strategies” that we employed when we were with a girl at the park. I am not deluding myself by thinking that these strategies were foreign for the girls we were with, however just like a well-rehearsed script, we all knew the parts we had to play. Allow me to explain……

Certain rides were chosen based on expected responses from the boy and the girl. Early in the evening, you had the “Chapter One”, or the “ice-breaker” rides. These were the rides that did not call for you to be in the dark, provoke arm-clinging terror from the young lady, thrust you into provocative situations such as hanging upside-down on The Rotor or watching skirts be blown upward on Noah’s Ark, or rely on centrifugal force to be able to “press flesh” with your special partner. Rides such as the Turnpike, the Merry-Go-Round, or the Silver Rockets that swirled above the Lagoon served as perfect ice-breakers. Usually, evening had not fallen, so you we were not under the cover of darkness and therefore unable to show much affection.

After the litany of “ice breakers” had been completed, you would then move on to theR014039A-jpg “Chapter Two” rides. These were the rides that relied on simple physics to allow you to get “up close” with your date. Young men throughout Duquesne, West Mifflin, McKeesport and the surrounding areas should be eternally grateful to the forces of nature for providing the vehicle to snuggle with another person without being “fresh” or “presumptuous.” Centrifugal Force rides were those that when ridden, forced the person sitting next to you to slide across the slick leather seats and press against you for the duration of the ride. Attractions like The Kangaroo, The Whip, and The Turtle provide the very best use of centrifugal force in the park.

By the time that you had completed your list of “Chapter Two” rides, most new couples had advanced to the hand-holding stage. In most cases, night had fallen and it was now safe to offer your hand to one another. After all, you had just spent the last hour or so, pressed up against each other. So hand-in-hand, both of you would march off to the next phase of the evening, “Chapter Three” or a.k.a. the “You’re My Hero” Stage.

R014055-jpgThis phase called for evoking terror in your young lady of choice. This was a VERY important stage for the young man. It was the most “telling” chapter of the evening. The strategy was to place the couple side-by-side on a ride that could cause the young lady to make her date to be viewed as a hero in his and her eyes. Most girls from the area were accomplished thrill ride riders. They had grown-up climbing onto the “Henry” size rides with their parents or friends. That had long since passed the “I’m scared” period and had entered the “no big deal” period LONG ago. Truth be told, I am sure that ANY of these young ladies could out last and out ride many of the young men who they had now chosen to make feel like a hero. Now that a date was involved, with reckless abandon, girls became squealing little girls again who would cling to the arm of their date throughout the ride. It was if Dudley Do-Right was rescuing his girl, Nell Fenwick from an on-coming train after she had been tied down by Snidely Whiplash!!

The Racer, the Pippen and/or Thunderbolt, the Roll-O-Planes, and rides of that natureR036045-jpg gave young boys and girls the perfect opportunity to cling to one another by choice and not by nature. As I indicated, this stage of the evening was the most telling. It allowed the young man to know if he should move onto the final chapter of the evening or not. A clinging girl as opposed to one who attempted to distance herself from him during the coaster ride meant “move forward young man!”

And so, we would arrive at the final part of the evening, Chapter Four! Assuming that Chapters One through Three had played out as they should, the couple was finally ready to move on to the “Up Close and Personal” rides at Kennywood.

FerrisThe rides may have been inconspicuous during the light of day, however at night; they turned into “Lover’s Lanes” under the orange tinted, starry skies that loomed over the park. For instance, the innocent looking Ferris Wheel held a special treat for a romantic couple as they swirled through the evening air. This was especially true when they were in the car that stopped at the very pinnacle of the ride as the passengers in the car at the bottom were unloaded and new riders were seated and fastened in. The fella had to have his timing honed to perfection in order to steal a kiss before the wheel started turning again, but after just a few attempts, most guys managed this opportunity with an archer’s precision.

It was very important to land an opportunistic seat on rides in order to be able to steal a kiss or two. The last seats in the Silver Rockets over the Lagoon and the very back of The Kennywood Express Train were prime examples of ideal positioning.

However, the rides that were the preferred and obvious choices were Kennywood’s “dark Hugrides.” Rides such as The Old Mill, Le Cachot, Safari, and Laff-In-The Dark provided the best opportunities for young boys and girls to take advantage of the romantic air that settled over the park each and every evening. The dark interludes in between each animated scene on the rides allow ample time for a couple to demonstrate their “affection” for one another. You never had to worry about anyone seeing you since they were most likely involved in the same endeavors! When couples would emerge from the dark rides, they would most like have a big smile on their face and be sitting side-by-side as closely as they could manage.

I know that this all may sound somewhat surreptitious and calculated, but it was all done in with the spirit and innocence of youth. It was as if Kennywood would purposely adapt the evening environment with the specific intent of creating as romantic a mood as possible. The music that would float through the evening air changed from the daytime carnival music to tender love ballads. Lights seemed to dim a bit as the evening progressed, changing from glaringly bright to romantically soft. Girls and boys were content to stroll hand-in-hand with their date in the company of other couples just talking and laughing and perhaps sharing a giant sized box of popcorn or tearing off pieces of a freshly spun cloud of cotton candy.

It is difficult to imagine a more enjoyable time of our youth. What a fantastic venue for good, clean fun for young people. Kennywood provided a safe and non-threatening environment for kids throughout the area. Parents were comfortable in the fact that their kids were spending the day or evening there, whether working or just hanging-out. Innocence abounded and outrageously vivid memories were made. I would bet that each and every one of us would still get that melancholy feeling in the pit of our stomachs as the voice of Kennywood announced the closing of the park and we would hear the familiar strains of “Nighty Night” by Alvino Rey. What a wonderful time of your lives. Chapter Four, complete!



They say for every boy and girl,

There’s just one love in this old world,

And I know, I’ve found mine.


The heavenly touch of your embrace,

Tells me no one will take your place,

Ever in my heart.


Young love, first love,

Filled with true devotion,

Young love, our love,

We share with deep emotion.


Just one kiss from your sweet lips,

Will tell me that your love is real,

And I can feel that it’s true.

We will vow to one another,

There will never be another,

Love for you, or for me.


Young love, first love,

Filled with true devotion,

Young love, our love,

We share with deep emotion.




This entry was posted in Kennywood, Life in General, Miscellaneous, Summertime. Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to Young Love – Kennywood Style

  1. Bill Priatko says:

    I started working at Kennywood as a 15 year old in 1947. I worked for three years in high school and two years while in college I loved Kennywood so much that I came back when I retired from the field of Education to work in a refreshment stand for the past 21 years, at my present age of 90.
    I still feel the joy of working at the Park and the wonderful memories continue to be a blessing in my life..

    • says:

      Blessing was the right word to choose,about working at Kennywood, Bill. For me, it became the perfect transitional influence taking me from my childhood work experience of having been a newspaper delivery boy, starting at 12, in Duquesne Place, to being a busboy and, then, “Saladboy,” in the Cafeteria, which was situated right near Noah’s Ark and the Twin Ferriswheels..
      While serving as busboy in the employee’s section of the Cafeteria,, I got to know just about everybody working in the park, especially the ride operators and the Ticketbooth ladies. In the Employees’ Caf, those ladies would sit in groups of four at the row of tables fitted up against the window wall, chatting and having the enjoyment of camaraderie. At my own volition, I got into the habit of bringing glasses of water to those tables, to save the ladies from having to get up and walk to the food line, which was something they appreciated. very much.

      Eventually, I noticed one elderly lady,, who sat with pursed-lips and always came to the lunchroom alone,, and ate alone. So, I began to chat with her. The other ladies, who had blessed me with popularity, observed this and asked why I did it. I explained that I found her to be quite interesting, and recommended her company. The next day, I observed two rather popular ladies approach her and ask to sit with her, which she welcomed warmly.
      Eventually, she came to seat herself with at least two luncheon companions, each day..

      I soon discovered that my money was not good at any of the ticketbooths or snack facilities; apparently, word had spread of what all the other workers had perceived as a kindness from me,towards a perceived “loner,” and turned it into joyfulness for a very introverted but warmhearted precious lady..
      Even when I went off to college at Wittenberg U. in Ohio, visits to the park during the summers rewarded me with her friendship and that of others who had known of my outreach to her..
      Yes, Kennywood taught me much about life and helped me have valuable experiences along my journey to maturity.
      Frank, the busboy, 1960-62.

  2. Frank Mullen says:

    Perhaps speaking only for myself, those “ice breaker” rides dared not include rides that spun me around in circles, like the Tilt-a-Whirl or the Octopus. A ride like the Ferris Wheel was okay, though. If I got turned around too quickly in a circle, the result was anything but romantic. I also had to watch what I ate before going on rides, so that I did not find myself sharing the contents of my stomach with all of Kennywood. Fortunately, I knew my limits and never found myself destroyed before that first pucker-up.

  3. Ken Denne says:

    To: Joe Haver…..Living in Wilmington, NC since 1994..Retired as Principal at Punxsutawney HH..Hope this note finds you in good health..

    • Joe Haver says:

      Punxy eh, did you know my cousin who is also Joe Haver, and also a pharmacist. Great to hear from another Duquesner!!!

      • Ken Denne says:

        I do remember Joe Haver from Punxsy..You also had a younger brother….did you not???

      • Joe Haver says:

        Sure did, his name is Ed. He worked in the Duquesne School Dostrict and retired in 2005. He lives in North Huntingdon. I’ll tell him you said Hi

  4. Ron Macosko says:

    Tom…how about bottle game, cat rack, huckly buck, basketball shoot,ringing the bell with the sledge hammer, mini golf, etc,etc.

  5. Joe Haver says:

    Thank you for the great and humorous memories. this is one of the best !!!

  6. Jim Obrien says:

    Jim, have you shared this story with publicist at Kennywood Park. Do so and tell him I suggested you send it to him. He knows me as a columnst for The Valley Mirror and author of Pittsburgh sports books. best, Jim O’Brien P.S. I liked the chapter you did earlier on the prize winning yards in Duquesne. Nothing like that today.

  7. John (Jack) Berta says:

    Your timing couldn’t be better. Our school district, Penn-Trafford, had the annual picnic at Kennywood this past Friday. My wife and I visited Kennywood many times, to play miniture golf when we dated, school picnics for our two daughters, and company picnics. We havn’t been there for fifteen years since our younger daughter was in the high school band they marched in the Fall Fantasy Parade. This year was special because our granddaughter finished Kindergarten, and though we live nearby, it was the first time for her and her two year old little sister to experience the Magic of Kennywood. Just to see their faces as they enjoyed each ride was for us another way to experience the Magic of Kennywood. The end of the day was special as the closing song played while the two girls sat stuffing cotton candy into their mouths. It’s true, Kennywood has changed, (like charging to enter and some of the rides) but the memories Kennywood helped make for us and the memories Kennywood continues to make won’t change.

  8. Francis G.Greco says:

    Very nice,nostalgic.And I thought my experiences and behaviors at Kennywood were unique to m

  9. Colleen Byrne Travis says:

    What great memories. Many a kiss was stolen in Kennywood Park. We went to the pool just about every day. My parents met at Kennywood Dance Land. That had to be in 1939 or ’40. They would have big band names like Guy Lombardo, Tommy Dorsey etc.

  10. John Dillinger says:

    Kennywood pool under the waterfall or having your female friend sit on your lap in the shallow water and bounce around face to face.

    • Bob Chermonitz says:

      John, stealing those kisses under the fountain waterfall, the innocence involved, was and remains a slice of life.

  11. Liz Heaps Shiner says:

    You’re right about it bringing back memories of being with the one you happened to be “in love” with at the time. When they announced that it was time for the park to close I would get so sad that it was time for the magic end. It’s such a shame that Kennywood couldn’t remain the innocent meeting place that it was. My last memory of Kennywood is needing to pay just to get in the park. The magic is gone, but the memories live on. Thanks for turning them on even if ever so briefly.

  12. Bob McCabe says:

    I feel cheated. I moved from Duquesne to Gary, Indinana when I was going into the 6th grade, in 1952. But, I sure do remember Kennywood. I don’t think I ever had a better time as a kid!

  13. Tom Lane says:

    Jim, you forgot the “macho” games to prove your skil. When I worked at the Jetstream, we had young couples come up and the guy would pick up the water GUN and show his skill in order to win the lady a prize. Took in lots of money with the many tries some guys had to do. Ok, what were the other “show off” games from some other old employess??? tom

  14. Love that centrifugal force…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s