About Me

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Getting There Was Half the Fun!

A pennant like this one could have been among the many prizes awarded on board the Senator, when folks from Rochester, PA and the surrounding area took their excursion steamboat to Rock Springs Park in 1940.

In my last blog post, I mentioned a Rochester steamboat excursion aboard the Senator to Rock Springs Park in 1940. What I didn’t include was the added description of a very long list of prizes which were to be awarded to the “fun-lovers” on board as they traveled along the Ohio River to "The Showcase of the East."

Beaver (PA) The Daily Times, June 20, 1940 – More prizes than Aunt Minnie’s jam ever won in the good old days of the County Fair! That is the good news for fun-lovers who will leave the Rochester Wharf Monday morning, July 8, at 9:30 o’clock on the excursion boat “Senator” for the annual boat ride and outing of the Rochester Board of Trade at Rock Springs Park.

An imposing list of prizes has been compiled with potential winners running the gamut of competition all the way from “jitterbugging” to the wearing of the loudest necktie.

Dancing on the boat will be enjoyed to Fate Marable’s Original Cotton Pickers who are still reported to be picking a pretty swingy brand of cotton.


Following is the list of prizes to be awarded on the boat, and the various lines of competition from which the winners will be selected:

Tallest man on boat, dinner; tallest woman, dinner; shortest man, dinner; shortest woman, dinner; youngest baby on boat, upholstered rocker; boy with the most freckles, gallon ice cream; girl with most freckles, pair slippers; largest family, easy cut ham; newest married couple, electric toaster; oldest married couple, one year subscription to DAILY TIMES; oldest Man, basket fruit; oldest lady, basket groceries; boy with longest hair, box candy; girl with longest hair, purse; fattest boy, polo shirt; fattest girl, box candy; youngest twins, box candy; oldest twins, ham; couple coming farthest distance, electric iron; person wearing loudest necktie, straw hat; most novel dressed boy, dress shirt; most novel dressed girl, pair hose; best dancing couple, $2.50 in cash; longest married couple, porch tea wagon; boy with reddest hair, straw hat; girl with reddest hair, slack suit; man with biggest head, hat cleaned; man with oldest car, grease job; woman with oldest car, grease job; best jitterbug, $2.50 in cash; youngest married couple, coffee table; best dressed boy, pair tennis shoes; best dressed girl, pair tennis shoes.


The following prizes will also be awarded to various persons on the boat en route to the park: Japanese Garden, $2.00 in cash, coffee percolator, cleaning one hat, dinner, 2 pennants, hand bag, polo shirt, straw hat, carton cigarettes, suit pressed, polo shirt, billfold, razor, ladies’ umbrella, water set, table lamp, set Fiesta Ware, brake adjustment, 3lbs. Coffee, 10 bu. Coal, ham, set ice tea glasses, sack flour.

It's funny to imagine how some of these prizes were identified with the recipients. I get how “the youngest married couple” might enjoy a new “coffee table,” or how a man or woman with the “oldest cars” might need a “grease job;” but the “boy with the most freckles” a “gallon of ice cream” or the person wearing the “loudest necktie” a “straw hat”? I’m not sure about those. And, in a world of political correctness, some of these categories would not go over well today and might seem somewhat mean spirited.

Local Pharmacies Were Ticket Agents for Excursions to Rock Springs Park

Being from a family who owned more than half a dozen drugstores in the Tri-State Area (Herche's Rexall), it was interesting to discover, while reading The Beaver Daily Times, June 28, 1940, that local businesses, including many pharmacies, acted as ticket agents for steamboat excursions to Rock Springs.

Rochester, PA – Fun-lovers will leave the Rochester wharf Monday morning, July 8, at 9:30 on the excursion boat “Senator” for the annual boat ride and outing of the Rochester Board of Trade at Rock Springs Park. A capacity crowd of 3,000 people is expected to make the boat trip to the park. Roy Fisher, chairman of the ticket committee, has established convenient agencies at which tickets can be obtained. Get your tickets before Monday. None will be sold at the boat. Here are the established ticket agencies. Go get’em now!

Rochester - Powell’s Grocery, Hetzel’s Drug Store, Gordon’s Pharmacy (see tin), Kunsman Brothers, Clyde Batto market, Paul Huth, Campbell’s Confectionary; Freedom – Hartzel Furniture Company (see video); Bridgewater – Bruehl’s News Agency; Beaver - Bloom’s Pharmacy; New Brighton – Geyer Cook’s Pharmacy; Monaca – Citizens Pharmacy

Curious to see if any of these local businesses are still around in the Beaver area, I did a quick search and discovered that none, like my own family’s stores, are still in existence. A search result for Monaca pharmacies says it all: "CVS Pharmacy” and “Walmart Pharmacy, Monaca, Pa.”

This home movie footage uploaded to You Tube by Don Fraser shows Hartzel Furniture Company in 1941, a year after this article was written.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Hippodrome Mystery Remains Unanswered

This double image postcard shows the trolley station and entrance to Rock Springs Park (top) and the upper park midway and what at first appears to be an unidentified building (bottom right). Could it be the Hippodrome? No, it turns out this is the dance hall built in 1897 by J.E. McDonald which used to sit above the original trolley station and entrance on Carolina Avenue. It remained the dance hall until C.A. Smith razed it in 1905 to build his new Casino Dance Hall featured on many postcards from the period .

The location and size of the Hippodrome remains something of a mystery. In my previous blog post I wrote about this “mammoth” structure built prior to the 1910 summer season somewhere on the grounds of Rock Springs Park. Like its larger and more expensive counterpart, the great Frederick Thompson Hippodrome in New York City, Rock Springs Park’s Hippodrome was meant mainly for animal circus acts and acrobat troupes. By June 2, 1910, The Daily Times of Beaver, PA reported, “There is a fine bill at the Hippodrome, Rock Springs Park, this week, any of the acts being well worth the price of admission, including Carl Daman Family, Sensational Acrobats; the Orloff Troupe of Famous Russian Gymnasts and Roberti’s Bears, Dogs and Monkeys.” But the article goes on to say “Johnston, Davenport and Lorella” will appear in “The Football Players and the Farmer’ with music provided by Roceroto’s Concert Band. Performances are given every evening.” Discovering that a play was one of the featured acts made me speculate that perhaps the Summer Theatre in the lower park had been adapted or rebuilt as the “Hippodrome,” but that could not be the case as the newspaper also advertized “Sacred concerts Sunday afternoon and evening, the latest appropriate moving pictures, and classy Vaudeville at Theatre” in 1910. So, where was the Hippodrome and why wasn't it featured on any postcards or vintage photographs?

I’ve come across many mysteries like this one before while researching my book, Images of America: Rock Springs Park, and it seems, either by accident or persistence, the answer is usually revealed. Perhaps, someone reading this blog will provide the answer or the next clue.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Rock Springs Park Had Its Own Hippodrome

While I have seen postcard images of animal circus acts performing at Rock Springs Park, like the one pictured above, I never knew the park had a large building for such acts until I read about the “mammoth Hippodrome” added in 1910. I still have not seen any pictures of it.

Beaver (PA) The Daily Times, May 28, 1910 – For weeks Rock Springs Park has been a veritable hive of industry. The grounds have received attention from competent and experienced landscape gardeners, who have changed the designs and added new verdure. Hundreds of workmen have put the finishing touches to the mammoth Hippodrome – an entirely new amusement feature - the animals for which arrived at the park several days ago; and in addition to all this, every other attraction on the grounds has been improved and beautified, remodeled and enlarged until even those most familiar with the numberless attractions at the great pleasure resort will be unable to recognize any of them as the same features. The opening of the regular picnic season was today, it is estimated that more than $50,000 will have been invested by the owners of Rock Springs Park in placing the resort in shape for 1910.

While not so large or expensive as the great Frederick Thompson Hippodrome enterprises (see images below), that at the Rock Springs resort will be fully equal to the biggest features. No expense has been spared in securing trained animals, which will be part of each of day’s attraction at the park. In the regular circus department of the mammoth Hippodrome the management of Rock Springs has arranged for the very best talent to be obtained and a change of program will occur at regular intervals.

Decoration Day, May 30, is usually one of the most enjoyable of the entire season at the popular resort, and this year the added attractions will make it doubly so. On that day there will be a matinee at the Hippodrome and each evening thereafter.

Arrangements have already been completed for special car services on all interurban systems into the city and a special low rate will be granted out-of-town people within a radius of 50 miles on both steam roads and trolly [sic] lines at least once a week. This concession attracted thousands last year, and promises to be more popular this season.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Well Known Circus Acts Performed at Rock Springs

(Cropped Image Courtesy of Memory Lane Group; See full photo in Images of America: Rock Springs Park, p. 48)

Free attractions often performed in the mall area of the upper park in Rock Springs. Beginning August 15, 1911, the Six Flying Banyards, a world renowned acrobat troupe performed high above the crowd assembled on the main walk and steps of the carousel waiting platform at 3 and 10 p.m. daily (1). These “daring young men” and two women came direct from London’s Hippodrome to awe thrill-seekers in Chester, WV. The show consisted of an 80 foot long flying trapeze and strong arm acts which featured three men, two women and a 14 year old boy. Named were Charles Banyard, troupe, aerialists, Miss Maudie Banyard, and Miss Dora Banyard (2).

1. Beaver (PA) The Daily Times, August 14, 1911.
2. Waterloo (IA) Reporter, September 27, 1913.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Baby Show at Rock Springs Park Offered Handsome Prizes

Today amusement parks offer wagon or stroller rentals for park guests. In 1910 the Pennsylvania Railroad offered “Free Baby Carriage Cars” for pleasure seekers of the pint-size variety.

In an advertisement featured in The Daily Times, Beaver, PA on August 20, 1910, carriage cars were listed as available for couples planning to visit Rock Springs Park during the East Liverpool Morning Tribune’s Picnic and Baby Show. The event featured a decorated baby carriage parade, the winner of which was given $500.00 in “Handsome Prizes!” (No small prize considering 500 dollars in 1910 is valued at nearly 10,000 dollars today.) The Baby show also included the Carnival of Babies and presents for the Kings and Queens of Babyland. For adults, a Masked Carnival was held in the evening and a Public Wedding was another “Special Feature” performed in the morning on the arched bridge which spanned the Chutes Ride (pictured). According to the ad, a free entry blank could be secured by writing to the Baby Show Manager, Rock Springs Park, Chester, W. Va.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Rudy Bundy and His Orchestra at Rock Springs 1936

The Daily Times, Beaver, PA, August 5, 1936 - Rudy Bundy and his Orchestra will be this week’s feature attraction at Rock Springs Park, Chester, Wa. Appearing in Virginia Gardens Ballroom Thursday night. Bundy, who is said to be one of America’s foremost saxophone and clarinet artists is bringing his orchestra to the Chester ballroom direct from six week’s engagement at the Dells, near Chicago.

Radio fans in the district will remember Bundy, due to his many broadcasts on WLW, “the nation’s station,” while he and the orchestra were playing an engagement at the Hotel Gibson in Cincinnati.

Give yourself a treat and listen to Rudy and his Orchestra playing "Mr. Sizzling Man" (1937). It's a lively number!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

1908 Baseball Game Ends in Tie So Players Could Catch Train Home

This sports story ran in The Daily Times, Beaver, PA, on April 26, 1908. A couple of things occurred to me while reading it. First, we probably don’t appreciate the independence afforded us by the automobile. There was a time when having a car was a luxury and most people depended upon public transportation. In this story the two ball clubs settle for a tie and skip extra innings “in order to get their last train home.” Second, what the heck is a “bingle”? At first I thought the writer meant “bungle,” especially when I noticed that the U and I on the QWERTY typewriter keys are right next to each other, but then I looked it up: “Noun 1. bingle - a base hit on which the batter stops safely at first base.”

East Liverpool, OH, April – 25 – Leaving the field in the ninth inning with the score 1 to 1 in order to get their last train home, the Beaver Falls Independent put up a good game at Rock Springs Park this afternoon. This was the first games the visitors had played together this season and their work was far above the usual run of independent clubs. Lawton, a new catcher for the locals, worked his first game and proved his worth as a pinch hitter. Twice were three men on bases, but the needed [sic] bingle from the local side was not forthcoming to get the winning run. Crast pitched himself out of several bad holes, while Fisher, for the Potters, in the short time he worked, struck out the majority of visitors who faced him, and did not allow a hit.

The locals got their lone tally in the first: Gaston, first up, walked and stole second. Beecher singled and stole second. Woodruff walked, filling the bases. Alcock flew out and Price flew to the middle, but Gaston scored the out. In the third Crast was safe on an error. Sheets got the best fielder’s choice and a single by Mullen scored Crast.

East Liverpool… 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 – 1
Beaver Falls ……0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 – 1
Stolen bases – Gaston, Beecher, Mullen, Sheets
Sacrifice Hits – Price, Kunkle
Struck out – By Nolly 4, by Fisher 3, by Craft 1
Base on balls – Off Nolly 1; off Craft 8
Hit by pitcher – Beecher, Heintz
Hits – Off Nolly 1 in 5 innings
Left on base – East Liverpool 8; Beaver Falls 5
Time – 1:40
Attendance – 500
Umpire - Quinlan

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Pittsburgh Plumbers Encouraged to Bring Lady Friends or Lose Two-thirds of the Fun at Park

(Union Station, Pittsburgh, PA, circa 1902)

In some ways I feel as if I am continuing the journey started by Ira Sayre, a Chester native and photographer, who shared the history of Rock Springs Park with his slide show talks; featuring his own collection of photographs and postcards. While I never met Ira in person, I did have the pleasure to see a video recording of a presentation he gave in the early 90’s at Chester’s City Park. Mr. Sayre’s talk was very informal with people asking questions throughout, and the images flashing on the screen constantly dotted with flying insects playing in the projected light. Ira mentioned, as I do in my book, the historic marker on Carolina Avenue that incorrectly reads, “Rock Spring Park,” but added that the marker also doesn’t mention the fact that trains were used in addition to boats and trolleys to carry pleasure seekers to the park. In an article taken from the Domestic Engineering Journal of Mechanical Contracting, Volume 44, 1908, Plumbers from the Pittsburgh Area (spelled “Pittsburg;” see explanation below) plan a train excursion of their own from Pittsburgh’s Union Station. It also encourages all the plumbers to bring their lady friends or risk “(losing) at least two-thirds of the fun.”

Pittsburg, PA – Actual Preparations are now being started for the annual picnic of the Pittsburg Master Plumbers’ Association, which will be held again this year at Rock Springs Park, on the Pennsylvania Railroad Lines. The outing will be held on Saturday, August 8, and the Association makes an urgent request that all plumbing shops be closed for the entire day, and that all members attend the event, thus helping, if possible, to make it even more of a success than the one last year, which was the most successful in the history of the Pittsburg Master Plumbers’ Association. A special train will leave Union Station, Pittsburg, at 8:10 a.m., stopping only at Allegheny, Sewickley and Rochester, PA. This train will leave Rock Springs in the evening at 9:20, arriving at Pittsburg about 11 o’clock. All plans for the day have not been finally completed, but these details are expected to be ready to announce after the next meeting of the association, which will be held next week. There will be several base ball [sic] games, athletic contests of all kinds, boating, dancing, etc., and those attending will not be at a loss to find enough to entertain them. As dancing will be one of the real features of the day, it is the earnest request of the officers of the association and the committee in charge of the dancing floor, that the members be generous this year and afford a little pleasure to their lady friends, sisters, wives or even sweethearts. Many of the ladies who have been in the habit of attending the annual picnics were not there last year, and it developed after the affair was a matter of history that they had been only too anxious to attend, but that they had not heard the necessary “Come on.” Boys, if you leave the girls at home you lose at least two-thirds of the fun that you might easily have. The committees, as well as all final details, will be announced in “Domestic Engineering” as soon as they have finally been decided upon.

Imagine someone in the area who unexpectedly had a plumbing emergency when all plumbing shops were closed for the entire day due to this annual outing.

Historic Note: In 1890, the United States Board on Geographic Names decided that the final h was to be dropped in the names of all cities and towns ending in burgh. (Throughout the period 1890-1911 city ordinances and council minutes retained the h.) In 1911, after protest from citizens who wished to preserve the historic spelling, the United States Board on Geographic Names reversed its decision and restored the h to Pittsburgh. Today, I live in Greensburg, PA, a city which did not restore their h.

Roy C. Cashdollar shown in an article from The Evening Review about the historical marker on Carolina Avenue. It is often noted that the sign is missing the final-s in "Springs," and photographer Ira Sayre commented that the modes of transportation to the park mentioned excludes train excursions, but I appreciate Roy and his committee's efforts to bring the sign to Chester. It is one of the only reminders that the park existed.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Trolley Tracks and Yellow Bricks Survived Well Past the End of an Era

This is a view of the lower park entrance to Rock Springs Park in 1970. The last trolley ran in 1934, but as you can see from this photograph the yellow brick entrance with embedded tracks was still around 36 years later. I was told that a trolley fan used a switch key at the time this picture was taken to manually switch the track and it still operated. The bridge in the background crosses over Marks Run. Much earlier postcard views of this area show the Old Mill Ride beyond the entrance gate. (Courtesy of Richard Bowker)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Daily Receipts Log from the Hand Years

This Daily Receipts Log shows half of the rides in Rock Springs Park in later years were for children. Photo evidence from this time reveals many parents and young children frequented the park. Note the old-style or French spelling of “Carrousel” and the typo “Afernoon” at the top. (From the Collection of Richard Bowker)

Mail Pouch Barns in Rock Springs Park?

Annually dozens of big name companies held picnics at Rock Springs Park. One such company, known more for their product than their name, The Bloch Brothers Tobacco Company, “opened the picnic season on July 13, 1927,” according to The Beaver Daily Times.

The company began when two brothers, Aaron and Samuel Bloch, entered the tobacco business as “stogie” manufacturers in Wheeling, West Virginia, fourteen years after the end of the Civil War. At that time, tobacco companies often used cigar wrapper clippings as a form of chewing tobacco. The Bloch Brothers took this one step further and conceived an idea that would revolutionize the chewing tobacco industry. Why not flavor these clippings and package them in paper bags?

Starting on a very small scale the brothers would flavor and package the new-type tobacco in paper bags that bore the names of the stores who sold direct to customers. Immediate success in this venture led Aaron and Samuel to market their own brand. Taking a mail pouch as their characteristic symbol, they made their first sale of West Virginia Mail Pouch on October 15, 1879.

The change to this new type of “scrap” chewing tobacco caught on in the Wheeling area immediately. The fame of West Virginia Mail Pouch began to spread to neighboring areas and the brothers began to advertise. Their biggest form of advertising was large painted signs on the sides of barns. These barns can be still be found in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, South Carolina, Tennessee, Wisconsin, West Virginia, and California. The barns, usually hand-painted in black or red with yellow or white capital lettering, read: "Chew Mail Pouch Tobacco Treat Yourself to the Best."

Initially, barn owners were paid between $1 and $2 a year for the advertisement, equivalent in 1913 dollars to about $20-$40 today. But more importantly, they received a much desired fresh coat of paint to preserve the integrity of the wood. Mail Pouch painted their message on one or two sides of the barn and painted the other sides of the barn any color the owner wished. Many of the barns were repainted every few years to maintain the sharp colors of the lettering. Some of the barns are now listed as National Historic Landmarks by the Secretary of the Interior.

Other groups to hold picnics at Rock Springs Park in the Summer of 1927 were The Tri-State American Legion, New Brighton Community, Duquesne Light and Power, Tri-State Oil Men, United Presbyterian Sunday Schools of Beaver Valley, Tri-State Odd Fellows, United Tri-State Colored picnic, Tri-State Moose Lodges, Burgettstown Chamber of Commerce, Crafton, PA Sunday Schools, Pennsylvania Railroad Employees, and many others. The Beaver Daily Times went on to state that “The present park owners have secured a lease for twenty-five years and have spent in new improvements and facilities approximately $200.000."