About Me

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Happy 1st Anniversary

This week marks the 1st Anniversary of the publication of Images of America: Rock Springs Park. Working on the book and sharing it has been a blast! I look forward to meeting more fans of the park and hearing their wonderful stories in the years to come. Thank you for your support!

The Arched Virginia Gardens Sign

When I was still working on the book in the summer of 2009, I asked my dad about the arched Virginia Gardens ballroom sign that used to be displayed in the memorial park on the corner of Carolina Avenue and Sixth Street. At that time he thought it was still there, but it had just recently been removed due to deterioration. All that remained were two steel pipes which used to hold it place. On a return trip to Chester to meet Doug Arner at Arner’s Funeral Home, I learned that a new sign was being constructed for the gazebo, and by that fall, the sign had been hung above the entrance to the gazebo and everything had been freshly painted. The empty paint cans were still stacked next to the fence. (See Images of America: Rock Springs Park, bottom p. 122) No one seems to know what happened to the original sign, however.

As the article below (Sent in by alert reader and Newell historian Mark Gonzalez) explains, the memorial park was the result of the efforts of the Chester Planning Commission to create a tribute park to Rock Springs.

Originally lumber was used to support the 3-piece arched sign. More recently, it was bolted to pipes facing Carolina Avenue. (Courtesy of Mark Gonzalez, from the April 19, 1983 issue of The Panhandle Press)

The park was dedicated and the first annual Rock Springs Festival was held starting on July 25, 1983.

The East Liverpool Evening Review reported on Saturday, July 23, 1983, “Memories of a colorful bit of local history will be recalled anew this week, as Chester area residents prepare for the first Rock Springs Park festival. Dedication ceremonies are planned Monday evening for the Rock Springs Memorial Park, a small section of fenced land at Carolina Ave. and Sixth St. where the City Planning Commission hopes to locate a permanent museum for park memorabilia. The ceremonies which will feature the first ‘Miss Virginia Gardens,’ Lori Theiss, and her court, are to be part of a four-day celebration.”

There was also a plan to build a small cement block structure to serve as a museum in the park . “Planning Commission member Anne Ford said the commission may consider a 'buy a block' program to help with funding.” The city also applied for funds under the Governor’s Emergency Employment Program to build the structure, but it never came to fruition.

Planners intended the festival to become an annual event and it did continue for several years but ended in the late 80s.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Images of America: Rock Springs Park by the Numbers

As we approach the first anniversary of the publication of Images of America: Rock Springs Park, I am writing a series of blog posts about my experience in bringing the book to market. The first post issued on Sunday, May 8, 2011 explained how the cover art was chosen. Today I provide the reader with some raw data.

1. Number of revisions for the back cover summary and author biography = 31

2. Number of revisions for the book text = 59

3. Number of images scanned or processed electronically from the collection of Richard Bowker = 521

4. Number of images provided by Tish Hand = 78

5. Number of images used in book = 220

6. Maximum number of words allowed = 18,000

7. Number of words in final text = 17,995

8. Number of times the name “Rock Springs Park” appears in the text = 122

9. Number of email correspondences with editor = 188

10. Miles logged = 530.42

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Say Hello to Summer Fun!

One of the fondest childhood memories shared by dozens of fans of Rock Springs Park at book signings and on the Web is of finding park tickets in their final report card envelopes. It’s a part of growing up in Chester and the surrounding area that I and my generation missed out on and one, I have to admit, of which I was a little jealous, until I realized that I have experienced a similar thrill in my adult life.

For twelve years I have been employed as a teacher with the Greater Latrobe School District and for each of those years I have found a small white envelope containing reduced price tickets to Idlewild Park in nearby Ligonier in my teacher mailbox. It’s one of many exciting signs that the school year is winding down and summer fun is just around the corner. School and community picnics like the one to be held at Idlewild on June 9 were also a huge part of Rock Springs Park’s success.

One-time Rock Springs Park booking manager, John Hickey told the Pittsburgh Press on May 16, 1954, “Over half of the picnics arranged at the park were for school children,” adding, “Youngsters of today behave exactly as they did when I began 33 years ago.”

In June of 1909, The Daily Times, Beaver, PA, reported that students were charged a uniform rate of 50 cents “in order that they may enjoy a more exclusive evening” on the night of their school picnic. At that time the main source of transportation to community days were trolley lines provided by the Ohio Valley Scenic Railway. Specials ran straight through to the park while regular cars required a transfer in East Liverpool. Tickets were sold at half price to all school children. These special trolley cars continued to carry picnickers to and from the park until 1934 when bus lines were then used.

Manager C.C. Macdonald in a “gesture of friendliness toward the community” in 1932 provided transportation to Rock Springs Park via special cars at “no charge” and gave each child five free amusement tickets. He also created “Bargain Day” the day before the community picnic in which all ride tickets were half price. The Daily Times stated, “Macdonald has always had a fine reputation for handling of large groups and the park employees are men who have been in this type of work for years and are noted for the way they handle children.”

In 1935, school students from Beaver, PA enjoyed a boat ride aboard the steamer, Washington, for their annual school outing. The steamer, capacity 2,000, had been carrying picnickers to the park since 1928. At that time there was an eight-piece orchestra, free dancing, and free ice cream onboard. Boat tickets in the twenties were priced at 15 cents for students and each child received four amusement tickets on the boat in addition to the number bought at school. “Price of amusement tickets at school or on the boat is two for five cents,” said the Daily Times. The Washington was eventually replaced by the new steamer, St. Paul, in 1937.

In June, when school is out for me, I will be thinking of those youngsters from a hundred years ago racing out of school with report card envelopes in their back pockets and strips of park tickets in the fists. It’s hard for me to imagine what it must have been like to have whole towns close down for a day of fun at Rock Springs Park as the article below from June 25, 1927 suggests, but is not difficult to imagine the thrill of school ending and summer fun beginning with the thoughts of all the smells, thrills, and excitement of a day at the park.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day!

Last May, my mother was the first person to receive an autograph copy of Images of America: Rock Springs Park. I thanked her for giving me an appreciation of local history and the sense to recognize a good story.

Chester’s Golden Jubilee (50th Anniversary of Chester 1957). Mom is second from left and, as my students pointed out, the only woman not wearing a sleeveless gown.

Cover Me

Because of the importance of the book’s cover for both marketing and sales, Arcadia Publishing reserves the right to make all final decisions regarding the book's cover. The author can submit between 5 to 10 photographs, but it is ultimately the publisher's decision.

I sent 10 images for consideration as potential cover art for Images of America: Rock Springs Park, including the carousel, the Cyclone roller coaster, and Virginia Gardens, but only one image fit the list of specifications – the Casino dance pavilion circa 1910.

The Casino should be fairly recognizable to area residents as it has been featured on dozens of postcards, newspaper articles and calendars. I have to admit, however, that I was a little disappointed when I gave my first book talk at Fox’s Nursing Home in November 2009, before the book came out, and the very first question from the group was “What’s that building?” in reference to the cover art. At that time it was too late to make any changes and besides the picture had started to really grow on me. I liked it!

Certain milestones in having a book published legitimize all the effort that goes into it. One is seeing the book on a shelf at a chain bookstore. Then there’s the thrill of seeing that first, albeit modest, royalty check. I even got a kick out of seeing my book in a stack of reading material in someone’s bathroom. Of course holding the book in your hands for the first time is very exciting as well, but for me, receiving a pdf of the cover proof was by far the most thrilling moment in the whole experience. I was so excited to see the cover proof that I didn’t notice one small problem with it, but my then seventeen-year old son did.

If you look closely at the two cover proofs below, you will see a slight difference between the first one and the second.

Here’s how I explained it:

Is it possible to move the picture over to the right a bit so that the three women in the foreground are completely on the front cover? It looks like it cuts off at an awkward place. It would look better if it could go just a little more to the right, because the part of the picture which ends up on the front cover looks cut off the way it is cropped now. I don’t think we would want to move it too much to the right, because I like how the trees frame the title art, just a little to the right to bring the woman on the left of the group of three onto the front cover.

It is highly unlikely that any of the folks shown on the book cover in 1910 are alive today, although just this week the last known soldier who served in WWI passed away at the age of 110, so I guess anything is possible, but the woman on the left owes my son, Christian, a thank you for saving her face from a book spine crease for the rest of history.

• sharp, clear, and of high quality
• wider than they are tall, with neutral space toward the top for your title
• vintage original prints, OR professional-quality photographic reprints, OR scans that meet specifications
• clearly historic