Dick Bowker (right) and Larry Podwoski (left) in Rock Springs Park 1970
In the Summer of 1970 my friend, Dick Bowker, spent nearly every weekend at Rock Springs Park. During that time he and a few friends tape-recorded their favorite march rolls which they played on the park’s 153 Wurlitzer Band Organ housed in the octagonal Carousel Pavilion. At summer’s end, Dick sent the following letter to park owner Bob Hand.
Dear Mr. Hand,
September 11, 1970
Sorry that I did not get to see you again before the park closed. Hope that you are better now. I wanted to express my thanks to the fine courtesies extended by you to me and my friends at Rock Springs Park this past summer!
Never have I known the management of an amusement park to be so friendly and accommodating. Especially I wish to express my appreciation for allowing my friends and me to tape your Wurlitzer Band Organ. I am very anxious to hear what the record that my friends are making for me sounds like. They taped your band organ eight times, so the record should sound pretty good by incorporating the best "takes" of each march.
Just talked with my friend from Cleveland on the telephone and he mailed me two records today which I should receive by next week sometime. One of these was ordered by young Bill Thorn for he wanted to give it to your fine manager, Dick McGurren. I will try to mail this to Bill next Saturday, September 19, 1970.
Had some chats with your son on Labor Day. He too wants a record of the band organ, so I ordered it from my friend on the telephone tonight. It will take awhile for them to make it and send it to me but I will send it on to Bob.
Again, I want to say I enjoyed my many visits to your park this past summer and I hope you will open next year also. Your staff, although quite young, are fine workers and I can't say enough for the great personality of Bill Thorn. Your manager, Dick McGurren too is certainly outstanding in handling all situations. Please extend my gratitude to Dick and Bill for all they did when my friends and I taped the band organ.
Thanks again for everything and I hope to see you next year. Tell your son I will be writing him when I mail the record. Never did I think I would be able to hear my favorite marches on a record!
Very truly yours,
Dick did not know it when he wrote this letter, but his trip to Rock Springs Park on Labor Day 1970 would be his last. He claims to have taken the last known ride on the Cyclone that evening as the lights were being turned off forever.
Bob Hand died in October 1970 from complications from a heart attack.
In August 2009, I took Mr. Bowker back to the site of Rock Springs and to the Lou Holtz Upper Ohio Valley Hall of Fame in East Liverpool where he heard the Wurlitzer Organ play again after nearly 40 years. His visit was featured in The Review’s Riverstyle Magazine.
Without Dick’s love and appreciation for Rock Springs Park, one which led to an amazing collection of 8 albums of photograph’s and postcards, my book, Images of America: Rock Springs Park would not have been published.