Kennywood On Our Minds


I have no idea what has prompted me to write about Kennywood again, but before the summer whizzes by us, permit me to share some personal recollection with you…….

My fondest and not-so-fond Kennywood memories in no particular order:

  1. Going to the Penny Arcade and getting a souvenir from one of the machines that was a gray metal horseshoe with a copper penny in the middle of it. I remember having to turn a dial on the machine to somehow personalize the horseshoe with either a date or a name. I remember the loud clunking sound it would make as it stamped out the letters and numbers and the anticipation I felt waiting for the finished product to emerge.
  2. It was in the early 1960’s when Kennywood introduced SPINART to park attendees. edd5ca2dadfd3de14e7fdda15f115b23Well before tie-dye and Jerry Garcia became part of our pop-culture, we were all “spinning” out brightly colored works of art from our trip to Kennywood. I only wish I had hung onto some of my early creations! They’d go well in my office.
  3. Being able to ride ANY ride in the park, regardless of how fast it would spin and never feeling like I had to throw-up. Nowadays, not so much!!
  4. Vintage_50s_Colors_Fiestaware_Forest_Green_Disk_Water_Pitcher_For_Sale_09Eating lunch at the Kennywood Restaurant on my school picnic day it was a REAL restaurant! My Aunt Fran and my Aunt Peg were waitresses at the restaurant and we always managed to sit at one of their tables. The tables were set with REAL white cloth tablecloths and silverware. Waitresses throughout the restaurant would scurry around carrying green Fiestaware disc pitchers full of ice water. I remember how the outside of the pitchers would be sweating from the cold water and how it would drip onto the tablecloths as they would fill each of our glasses.pool3
  5. I have said it before and I’ll say it again. I feel that Kennywood’s Sunlight Pool was THE most awesome pool ever. The size, the dives, the music, the food and the general excitement was unparalleled.
  6. On Kennywood’s opening night in April 23, 1961, the park’s bandstand, the music plaza,5173FQDVA3L burned to the ground. I vaguely remember that news. However, I believe a bandstand shell of some sort was built in the same spot, close to the Pippin. I say this because one of my favorite memories is going to see Little Peggy March sign her hit “I Will Follow Him.” Having some doubts about my memory on this, I did some research and found a small announcement in Billboard’s June 22, 1963 edition that confirms her appearance on July 7, 1963. If you look at the entire clipping, you’ll quickly realize just how BIG some of the stars were that appeared in what could be termed “our own back yard!” How lucky were we???? Glenn Miller, Peggy March, Bobby Rydell and The 4 Seasons! While I was checking out the Billboard publication, I decided to share the Top 30 list from that week. How many do YOU remember?
  7. I remember watching with total fascination, French Fries moving along a metal conveyor belt at the Midway Refreshment Stand near the Jack Rabbit. There were water fountains next to the window on the side of the refreshment stand and I was jackrabbitalways distracted from getting a sip of water. I deferred to staring at the mechanized marvel instead. Of course, the only thing better than watching them being made was eating them.
  8. There was a narrow passage between the Penny Arcade and the Jack Rabbit that would sometimes be filled with riders waiting to get on the Jack Rabbit. Although I remember the sights and sounds that were emanating from the coaster on the other side of the fence, I distinctly recall how there always seemed to be a distinctive odor of fresh tar as we would wait. I never knew if the smell was from the ride, the ground we were standing on or a nearby maintenance shack.
  9. When I was in my teens, I would often rent a rowboat, and attempt to maneuver around the lagoon. As I would continue to prove, well into my current years, I stink as a sailor. I never seem to be able to avoid other boats and/or objects and that was always the case when I would row a boat in the lagoon. My boat would always be “that boat” that ended up causing chaos for those around. When I finally managed to get back to the starting point at the end of the ride, I was exhausted, wet and totally certain I would never attempt the boats again…. But of course… I always did.
  10. I always managed to get to Kennywood on WTAE Days. It was so exciting to be able to 419032see local TV personalities and get their autographs. I remember that they always had an autograph booth set up near the Kennywood Railroad Train. They’d post a schedule indicating who would be signing autographs there, and I always seemed to be the first in line. I think my favorite recollection was when I was able to get Paul Shannon and Joe Negri’s signatures. To this day, I wonder what happened to all of those autographs.Howdy Sign
  11. Although I have no idea what year it occurred, I just remember how excited I was and how grown-up I felt when I finally surpassed Howdy Doody’s height and measured up to Henry! I was on the top of the world knowing that I would be able to ride any attraction in the park!
  12. I remember the simple thrill of plunking a coin into one of the foot massager machines near the restrooms that were beside Noah’s Ark. Oh, the pure joy!
  13. Part of my school picnic and ANY Kennywood visit was to be able to toss a coin into the wishing well that stood near the Kennywood Restaurant and the Park’s Administration Building.
  14. SalTruth be told, Laughing Sally scared the living daylights out of me. Although Sally now resides outside of the Kennywood Railroad selling tickets, when I was young, she was positioned right as you walked into the park after exiting the tunnel. Her heinous cackling would greet you from in front of The Laff In The Dark ride. I would always steer clear of her! I even recall having occasional nightmares in which I would be chased through Kennywood by Sally. I’m surprised that thoughts of Sally didn’t end up putting me in therapy!Chalk
  15. The best prize that I was ever able to win was a chalk statue of a horse. I must have been 9 or 10 years old, since I remember the big fuss my mom made about it. I won it by hitting some stacked milk bottles at the game to the right of the Penny Arcade. I have no idea what ever happened to it, but it retrospect, it was pretty hideous!
  16. Of course the fondest of all of my memories, was the one Thunderbolt-Kennywood2thrill that never grew old. The coasters of Kennywood. I’ll never forget the feeling I’d get in my stomach as I sped through the double dip on The Jack Rabbit, or yelled with excitement as I would lunge forward along with an entire train of cars on The Racer, trying to move into first place as we rolled into the loading station, or bravely raised both my hands above my head as The Thunderbolt roared around the twin circles and your seat partner crashed into your side due to the centrifugal force. Nothing surpassed those                                                                          memories and thrills for me.

Not everyone thinks of the roller coasters as their favorite rides. I enjoy hearing from all of you as to YOUR favorite. And just to refresh your memories, thanks to the folks at Wikipedia, here’s a complete list of all rides and attractions from 1898 through the present time. Here’s where you can tell us about your Kennywood “cheers” and “fears.”


1898: Kenny’s Grove opened by Monongahela Street Railway Co.

1899: Park renamed Kennywood, Merry-Go-Round* (G.A. Dentzel carousel),   Casino restaurant (now Parkside Cafe), Dancehall

1901: Old Mill (converted to Garfield’s Nightmare in 2004, also formerly named/themed as Hard Headed Harrold’s Horrendously Humorous Haunted Hideaway and Panama Canal)

1902: Figure Eight Toboggan (park’s first coaster, removed 1921)

1903: Steeplechase (removed 1904)

1904: Steeplechase removed

1905: Dip-the-Dips Scenic Railway (removed 1910)

1906: Fairyland Floats (re-themed Old Mill), Figure Eight Toboggan renamed to Gee Whizz Dip the Dips

1910: 1910 Racer (original version, removed 1926), Dip-the-Dips Scenic Railway removed

1911: Speed-O-Plane (removed 1923), Panama Canal (re-themed Old Mill)

1913: Merry-Go-Round** (original G.A. Dentzel carousel replaced by T.M. Harton model)

1914: Old Mill (re-themed Panama Canal)

1916: Wurlitzer Band Organ provides music for Merry-Go-Round

1918: Whip* (replaced in 1927)

1920: Jack Rabbit

1921: Gee Whizz Dip the Dips removed

1922: Dodgem (removed in 1929)

1923: Speed-O-Plane removed

1924: Pippin (converted to Thunderbolt in 1968), Kiddieland* (located near Jack Rabbit coaster)

1925: Sunlite Swimming Pool (removed 1973)

1926: 1910 Racer removed

1927: Merry-Go-Round(T.M. Harton carousel replaced by current William H. Dentzel model, Wurlitzer Band Organ is moved to new carousel), current Racer, Tumble Bug, larger 16 car Whip**, Kiddieland** (moved from near Jack Rabbit coaster to former location of original Racer coaster)

1928: Brownie Coaster (removed 1953 or later), Tilt-A-Whirl* (removed 1934)

1929: Dodgem removed

1930: Auto Race, Laff in the Dark (removed 1965)

1931: Tickler (roller coaster, removed 1952)

1935: Teddy Bear (roller coaster, removed in 1947), Skooter (removed 1979)

1936: Noah’s Ark (re-built in 1996), Loop-O-Plane* (removed 1950)

1937: 13 Spook Street, Kiddie Old Mill (Swan Boats, removed mid-1970s)

1938: Ridee-O (removed 1959)

1940: Rockets (Traver circle swing added to island in lagoon, removed 1978)

1941: Daffy Klub (replaces 13 Spook Street)

1945: Olde Kennywood Railroad

1946: Original facade on Racer loading platform replaced

1947: Teddy Bear removed

1948: Little Dipper (remodeled in 1958, removed in 1984), hills removed from Auto Race and car bodies replaced with current style bodies, Tumble Bug cars replaced with turtle-looking versions

1949: Tilt-A-Whirl** (removed 1963), Tumble Bug renamed Turtle

1950: Roll-O-Plane* (removed 1969)

1952: Octopus (removed 1965), Tickler removed

1953: Sunlite Pool closes to swimming due to maintenance problems and turned into U-Drivem boat concession

1955: Rotor* (removed 1958), Sunlite Pool reopens after rehab, Kiddie Cadillacs, Daffy Klub removed

1957: Round-Up* (replaced with new model in 1964)

1958: Wild Mouse (removed 1960), Little Dipper remodeled and renamed Dipper

1959: SkyDiver

1960: Wild Mouse removed, facade on Racer loading platform redesigned

1961: Bandshell destroyed in fire, Calypso (removed 1987), Old Mill gets new boats

1962: Kangaroo (only Flying Coaster flat ride in existence)

1964: Tornado dark ride (from defunct Freedomland, removed 1966), Round-Up** (replacing original Round-Up; damaged by the June 19, 1975 fire and replaced with Super Round-Up)

1965: Rotor** (removal date unknown), Popover (removed in 1976), Laff in the Dark removed

1966: Turnpike (Electric cars added in 1987)

1967: Road Runner (Cuddle Up), Ghost Ship (Replaced Tornado, Both rides destroyed in fire on June 19, 1975)

1968: Thunderbolt, rebuilt from Pippin. The four drops in the ravine and the lift hill remain intact from the original coaster. The new Thunderbolt track had a small hill in the inner helix that was removed in 1969.

1969: Noah’s Ark remodeled, Loop-O-Plane** (removed 1983)

1971: Roll-O-Plane** (removed 1985)

1972: Bayern Kurve*, Le Cachot Name means “The Dungeon” in French, replaced Safari dark ride. (removed 1998), Monster* (removed 1974)

1973: Gran Prix, Sunlite Swimming Pool removed

1974: Hardheaded Harold’s Horrendously Humorous Haunted Hideaway (theme change of park’s Old Mill), Kenny Kangaroo makes his debut as park mascot

1975: Log Jammer (first multi-million dollar ride in the park’s history) Carousel is completely stripped, and repainted, Wurlitzer Band Organ is completely rebuilt

1976: Tilt-A-Whirl*** (removed in 1988, moved to Idlewild), (Super) Round Up*** (moved to Idlewild 1985), SkyDiver replaced with new model and renamed Paratrooper

1977: Monster**; Nearby West View Park closes

1978: Enterprise (renamed Volcano in 2003), Rockets removed

1979: Monster***, renamed Monongahela Monster (removed 1989), Garden Stage (removed in 2006)

1980: Laser Loop.(Removed in 1990)

1981: Gold Rusher (removed in 2007), Paddle Boats

1982: Pirate, Wonder Bread trains on Racer replaced by new PTC models

1983: Ranger (lasts only one season)

1984: Wave Swinger, Swing Around* (removed at end of season, but returns five years later), Bayern Kurve** (original replaced), Dipper removed

1985: Raging Rapids, Super Round-Up removed

1986: Wonder Wheel (removed in 1999), Bayern Kurve** removed, geysers and waterfall added to Raging Rapids

1987: Musik Express, electric cars added to Turnpike and directions cars face on track reversed, Kennywood designated National Historic Landmark

1988: Flying Carpet (removed in 2006), Rotor*** (removed in 1994, eventually moved to Lake Compounce), Tilt-A-Whirl removed, Kennywood Memories is filmed and premieres 28 Sep. 1988

1989: Swing Around** (removed in 2005), Monster removed

1990: Great Balloon Race (removed in 1995, moved to Idlewild), Laser Loop removed, original facade on Racer loading platform restored

1991: Steel Phantom (quickly tops top 10 list, rebuilt as Phantom’s Revenge in 2001), Wurlitzer Band Organ undergoes extensive repairs

1992: Tri-Star (lasts only one season, moved to Idlewild in 1998), Old Mill (Haunted Hideaway renamed)

1993: WipeOut (removed 2009, relocated to Lake Compounce)

1994: SkyCoaster, Bayern Kurve*** (Removed in 2005)

1995: LOST KENNYWOOD expansion in former location of Sunlite Swimming Pool – Pittsburg Plunge, Phantom Phlyer (Removed in 1996, moved to Lake Compounce), Roll-O-Plane*** (removed in 2003), Whip and Wave Swinger moved to Lost Kennywood, Great Balloon Race removed

1996: Lil Phantom (Kiddieland), Kenny’s Parkway, Noah’s Ark remodeled, Phantom Phlyer removed

1997: Pitt Fall (Removed in 2011)

1998: Kennywood celebrates its 100th anniversary, Centennial Midway (one season), Le Cachot demolished

1999: Exterminator, Wonder Wheel removed.

2000: Aero 360, Dancing Waters relocated across from Grand Prix, Garfield and Odie added as park mascots

2001: Phantom’s Revenge (rebuilt from Steel Phantom), Crazy Trolley

2002: Garfield’s Pounce Bounce, Phantom Fright Nights debut

2003: King Kahuna (formerly Top Spin from Lake Compounce, removed 2010), Ham-on-Rye (removed in 2005), Volcano Valley themed area, Volcano (theme change from Enterprise), Roll-O-Plane removed, Miniature Golf removed

2004: Garfield’s Nightmare (theme change from Old Mill)

2005: New front gate structures built, Bayern Kurve*** and Swing Around removed, Merry-Go-Round undergoes a complete overhaul and is rebuilt, Wurlitzer Band Organ is repainted

2006: Swing Shot

2007: Cosmic Chaos, SS Kenny, roofing over the escalators to lot 2, Gold Rusher removed.

2008: Ghostwood Estate, new Kiddieland games building.

2009: Bayern Kurve****, WipeOut removed, original Phantom drop and second hill retracked.

2010: Sky Rocket, a new Steel Roller Coaster, Turnpike Removed and placed in storage with intent to be reinstalled. King Kahuna removed.

2011: Kandy Kaleidoscope is remodeled, Parkside Cafe is remodeled and becomes the park’s first air-conditioned food service location, Kiddieland restrooms are rebuilt to include a refreshment stand, Star Refreshment stand is renovated, Merry-Go-Round horses are refurbished, Pitt Fall removed, Holiday Lights debut, Wurlitzer Band Organ on Merry-Go-Round is completely rebuilt.

2012: Black Widow ride replaces Pitt Fall



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13 Responses to Kennywood On Our Minds

  1. Brian G. says:

    My absolute favorite ride at Kennywood was the Ghost Ship. I have the fondest memories of riding it with my dad as a kid….and always being scared of it. I remember riding it on hot days and how it was always a little cooler inside the dark ride. I came to grow fond of Old Mill, Noah’s Ark and LeCachot for similar reasons; but there was just something extra special about Ghost Ship. While waiting in line and being excited and afraid simultaneously, I remember the sounds and smells of the ride still to this day.

  2. Barbara Sita Mitchell says:

    I grew up attending Kennywood Park each summer. My dad would take 4 weeks vacation and we would drive from California to Pennsylvania to visit all the Hungarian relatives. In the 60’s, Kennywood Park would have Hungarian Day, Polish Day, etc., and we would speak in those tongues. I felt very close to my heritage. And the Jack Rabbit always scared me! A double dip with a turn immediately following the second dip. Always hung on for dear life!

  3. John aka Jack Berta DHS '62 says:

    Great post as always. Went to Kennywood with the grandkids for the school picnic. I enjoy watching them and how excited they get over it all, just like we did. As for #8 the space between the Jack Rabbit and the Penny Arcade is still there and it still fills up with waiting Jack Rabbit riders. Lou is correct about the odor being that of the grease used on the rides.

    • Ken Denne (55) says:

      I believe the Dance Hall closed in ;53. Top bands that frequented the Hall…Dorsey, Kyser, Lombardo, et. al

  4. Larry says:

    Hmm… didn’t see what all the asterisks referenced, but the end dates for some of the rides don’t seem right. I worked the Roll-O-Planes in ’85 and the Tilt-a-Whirl (’86? ’87?). Lots of great memories growing up… including carrying signs to introduce Fall Fantasy marching bands (at 13, getting a handful of ride tickets for that ‘work’ was quite a deal!)…

  5. That was great days of school mom would make potato salad and Bolognese sandwiches sandwiches which we would eat and rush to get back to rides. Those rides then seemed like the best and the greatest. Of course when we had grandchildren we would go visit our parents and of course had to take them in the summer to Kentwood park . We still have pictures of them with there cow boy hats and cotton candy eating. To round off the day we had to take them to eat in park. Those were the days. Great fun and memories,

  6. Mike Ferchak says:

    My favorite Kennywood memories: the pony ride (replaced by the Logjammer). If you were not old enough to ride alone, an adult would have to lead the pony around the track. My dad just loved dodging pony poop while walking in his spiffy wing -tips. My dad said that Laughing Sally looked like my Aunt Bertha (She did.) In the penny arcade I enjoyed the flip- card “movies” you would hand crank while looking through a viewer. There was a whole row of these. My favorite was “Tarzan.” I also recall a scary ghost figure near the racer. When I was really little, I would not even walk past it, it was so creepy. Thanks Jim.

    • Mike Ferchak says:

      By the way, the Wikipedia article is in error regarding Kennywood’s location. The park is not on the location of Braddock’s defeat, but across the river, of course. The actual site of the battle in Braddock can be seen while riding the Kennywood railroad.

  7. Becky says:

    Yep, thanks for that stroll, and all your strolls. Matching madras shirts or shorts( more like petal pushers) on school picnic days…great memory…and my dad, who would only come pick the family up toward closing, would ride the Jack Rabbit with me, last ride every year. Now, at 61years of age and more kisses in the Olde Mill than I care to remember, that ride with my dad is the best.

  8. Lolly says:

    My favorite memory: Collecting movie star cards from machines in the Penny Arcade.
    Biggest fear: Walking past the Wicked Hag in the Hansel & Gretel display in the Enchanted Castle.

    Thanks for the great memories, Jim!

  9. Lou Andriko, RPh says:

    About #8 – that smell is the grease on the chain on the Jack Rabbit. Had the same odor at the Old Mill; there are two grease cups on either side of the axle bearing on the big paddle wheel; it was my job once each week to make sure they were kept full. More about this below.

    About #16 – “The American Coaster Enthusiasts uses this designation to single out historically significant coasters, and there’s no doubt the Thunderbolt is significant to Kennywood, western Pennsylvania and coasters in general,” said Jeff Filicko, a Kennywood spokesman. “It makes us the only park to have three roller coasters as designated landmarks, and that speaks to the preservation we have done and continue to do on the coasters year after year.” Here’s the link to the recent article:

    About #9 – When I worked the lagoon rowboats, I had the distinct honor of ferrying Hugo Zacchini, the Human Cannonball, from his introduction on the stage on the island back over to the cannon, parked near the Paratrooper. The first trips were almost a disaster as there was no easy way for him to get in the boat, but after a few nights, we would majestically cross the lagoon, with a spotlight following us. With him STANDING in the boat, to me it was like Washington crossing the Delaware.

    Old Mill trivia: Originally built in 1901, it is thought to be the oldest existing ride in the park. But the structure there now is most likely NOT the original. Just as our aging bodies no longer have the cells we were born with, the Old Mill has been rebuilt one board at a time over the last century. The entire sluice (water channel) is wooden and is repaired annually with major rebuild every decade or so. The corrugated sheet metal sides and concrete roof are much later renovations, required by fire insurance. Also, the hill just inside the entrance was much higher and steeper at one time, with a splash pool similar to the ‘Pittsburg Plunge’ over in Old Kennywood.

  10. harold west says:

    i worked there six summers, high school through college (1975-1980) As an incentive to stay on the job the whole summer the park would pay you less than minimum wage and give you a bonus after labor day based on the hours you worked. It would equal out to minimum wage.
    During May you could get out of school early to work. Those earnigs payed for most of my college education. With he current cost of college you couldn’t do that today.

  11. Susan Alexander says:

    Thank you for all if the wonderful memories you’ve invoked with your Kennywood tribute . That park will forever be a special place in my memory and in my heart. I grew up in that sweet place thru all the school picnics and family events. Then as a teen I left my heart there at the “Old Mill”…. We were so lucky to gave had this wonderful place as part of our childhood. Thank you !

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