About Me

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Beer Garden

Apparently, I am not alone in my frenzy to look up information in the 1940 U.S. Census. According to Google.com, the census was the most searched item when it was released on Monday, April 2, 2012 receiving some 22.5 million hits in three hours and crashing the system. Once it was back online, I looked up my family, as many others did, to see how much money they made and what they were doing when the nation was still trying to recover from the Great Depression. But I was also interested in finding out more about Rock Springs Park.

One new thing I learned involves the old park building pictured above.

The image is of The Arcade. It was taken along the midway in 1974, four years after the park closed, and sent to me by Dr. Mike West. Mike grew up on Louisiana Avenue in Chester, on a side street which ended at the Cyclone's chain lift hill. He fondly recalls playing the "5-cent pinball and baseball games" in The Arcade and listening to the screams of park patrons plunging down the first hill of the roller coaster.

Originally, The Arcade that Mike knew was built as a fun house during the C.C. Macdonald Years. It featured a giant two-story slide and a confusing hall of mirrors. There were actually two mirrors still outside the entrance in Mike's day (See below).
I have also seen a one of a kind 1920's photograph showing the facade of The Fun House completely covered with painted murals featuring bow-legged characters strolling about under the name “Honey Moon Trail” in all caps. The tower on the left in the photograph had a wide-eyed sun smiling down and the opposite tower a winking moon. Above the door was painted “Fun-Fun & More Fun.” Unfortunately by the time Mike took his photograph, the decorations were gone and the building was weather-beaten and bare.

According, to author and Chester historian, Roy C. Cashdollar, The Arcade or Fun House had a third use as well, which brings me back to my original purpose in writing this post. “Right across from the lunch stand was the horse race game, then the fun house, which in later years became a beer garden.” At the end of his description Roy added, “I purchased two chairs from the beer garden at the park auction and they are still being used – one as I write these notes.”

The Beer Garden Days of The Fun House and the park itself also get a mention in the 1940 Census. One listing shows 50-year old George Zagula as unmarried and living with his sister, Agnus Stabryla. Zagula was born in Poland and “ran the Beer Garden (Part of 39).” I am assuming “39” has something to do with Rock Springs Park as George’s brother, Jacob Zagula, age 53, married with nine children, was also identified on the Chester census with his job description being “labor - amusement park.”

So, Chester’s German Beer Garden was run by two Polish immigrant brothers. This seems to be fitting considering the strained relations of these two European countries throughout history.
A beer garden (a loan translation from the German "Biergarten") is most often an outdoor area in which beer, other drinks, and local food are served. Rock Springs Beer Garden was originally a Fun House walk through attraction. The painting is Im Biergarten or At the Beer Garden by Adolph Friedrich Erdmann von Menzel, 1883.

Where is it today? The Arcade along with most of the other buildings in Rock Springs Park were razed by 1975 when the land was sold to make way for a cloverleaf exchange to the new Chester Bridge.

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