For our Oak Glen High School Prom in 1981, we were taken by bus to Pittsburgh to spend the evening dining and dancing aboard the Liberty Belle, part of the Gateway Clipper Fleet. Typical of an evening dinner/dance cruise of this type our diesel boat, resembling an old rear-wheel steam paddleboat complete with faux tall stacks, plied the Ohio and Monongahela Rivers cruising slowly back and forth always in sight of the beautiful evening skyline of the brightly lit city. I remember wishing at the time that our cruise to nowhere actually went somewhere, to a destination of some kind. A classmate suggested it would have been fun to return to Chester by boat, which led me to wish, as I often did, that Rock Springs Park was still around. We could have cruised home and spent the after prom at our own “Panhandle Playground” had the park not been sold and removed the previous decade.
Picnic dance excursions to Rock Springs Park aboard steam paddleboats were scheduled daily in the first half of the park’s existence. Many would come by train from Pennsylvania and Ohio to Rochester, PA and cruise to the park aboard the steamers Washington and St. Paul.
This ad from the Greensburg Daily Tribune features a train and boat excursion to Rock Springs Park in 1929.
My favorite images in the book are of the steamer Homer Smith docked along Pittsburgh’s Mon Wharf and subsequent departure in 1928. A large banner hanging from the middle deck reads, “ALL-DAY EXCURSION TO ROCK SPRINGS PARK." For many years company picnic cruises, like those from the Heinz Plant, to the park were annual events. (See Images of America: Rock Springs Park, pp. 56-57.)
It is interesting to note in the news brief (left) from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, August 6, 1915, that the Steamer St. James took passengers from Wellsville, Ohio, south and away from Chester and Rock Springs Park, normally just a short trolley ride, and cruised to Steubenville before heading north again to the park. This cruise for cruising sake reminded me of our prom night 66 years later.
Although, most of the Gateway Clipper Fleet trips today are evening cruises up and down the Three Rivers of Pittsburgh but never venturing far from the confluence, they do offer longer excursions, including a nine hour round trip to Steubenville. The next one is a fall foliage cruise in October.
PITTSBURGH to STEUBENVILLE CRUISE - Monday, Oct 10, 2011
Board: 9:30 AM
Depart: 10:00 AM
Return: 7 :00 PM
SAILING FROM PITTSBURGH TO STEUBENVILLE, THIS NINE HOUR TRIP ON THE OHIO RIVER FEATURES THE BEAUTIFUL COLORS OF FALL ALONG WITH FABULOUS LUNCH AND DINNER BUFFETS, GAMES, MUSIC, AND THE "VIVA LAS VEGAS REVUE".
Adult fare is $83.50 a slight increase in the $2.10 charged in 1929.