The program was presented in the Little Theatre, a space which was once a second home to me, having performed in nearly every theatrical production from 1978 – 1982. No, I was not held back in my high school years, I actually began doing plays in eighth grade with Oliver! in 1978. The experience yesterday was extremely surreal as I haven’t been to my alma mater in over 28 years. The campus has changed quite a bit over the years, including several renovations which have connected all the Florida-style buildings with enclosed walkways and building additions. It took me a few minutes to get my bearings, but the theater space remained relatively unchanged, so I felt very comfortable there.
Although the question and answer period was eliminated at the end of the program, students who arrived early had many questions about Rock Springs Park; including its exact location and what happened to the Cyclone and Carousel rides after they were sold in 1974. I was delighted to tell them and explained that recent research may prove one of my book explanations to be not entirely correct. I recently discovered a second account telling who actually purchased the Cyclone and the reason for it. The explanation I gave in the book was one told to me by a long-time Chester resident. He had it partly correct. Bill Harper did purchase Virginia Gardens, but not the Cyclone. In my latest finding, a Youngstown newspaper dated July 1974, reported, ““William Johsnon of East Liverpool bought himself a one-mile-long roller coaster for the grand sum of $1.” It suggests that the wood from the Cyclone might still be around in a wooden structure built for an auto wrecking business in Calcutta, OH, run by Johnson and his father.
My next venture home will be to talk to the students at Allison Elementary in Chester. I can’t wait to show them images of their school as it looked in 1969 and 1970 with views from the Cyclone and one of the Ohio River and the school with the park in the background.