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Friday, April 6, 2012

Why A Pretzel?

Scot Campbell of Toronto, OH, sent me this delightful photo of himself and his girlfriend, Sally Hughes Porter, on the Rock Springs Park Pretzel Spook House Ride in June 1962.

Why did Rock Springs Park and thousands of other amusement parks have spook houses with cars designed with pretzels on the sides?

Leon Cassidy inventor of the Pretzel Ride began his career as a pianist and organ player in early cinemas. “He soon went from being a hired musician to operating his own theater, and in 1920 acquired his first movie house with his future wife selling the five-cent tickets,” according to the website Send’em Out Laffing. Cassidy then sought other forms of entertainment opportunities and in partnership with Marvin Rempfer took over Tumbling Dam Amusement Park, a trolley company park at Sunset Lake in Bridgeton, NJ.

One of the attractions that Cassidy felt the park needed was an old mill, a very popular ride with boats floating through a cavern of darkness filled with eerie scenery. But the construction of the mill and its waterways was beyond the budget of the struggling park. Cassidy and Rempfer began looking for a cheaper alternative and started tinkering with a spare Dodgem car. Soon they had a "dry" version of the mill which took riders through a darkened pavilion in small cars that followed a single electrified track. It premiered in 1928.

Cassidy and Rempfer vigorously promoted the new and as yet unnamed ride, and decided to hold a contest to allow the public to choose what the ride would be called. A young Miriam Dawson took the golden prize for her name, "The Firefly", inspired by the characteristic sparking of the electric pickup at the rail. The name didn't stick, though, not to mention the fact that Cassidy and Rempfer were uncomfortable with the association of sparks flying in their wooden buildings, and soon assigned the name "Pretzel" to the attraction after a rider exclaimed that he felt like he'd been bent into a pretzel by the twisting path followed by the car.

With the success of their new ride and the interest shown by other park owners, Cassidy and Rempfer quickly established a company to manufacture and market the Pretzel ride. Initially built to resemble Model A Fords, the cars were redesigned with the familiar pretzel-shaped decorations, just like those found at Rock Springs

"The Man With The Smile Rode The Pretzel A Mile" - early Pretzel slogan (Image courtesy of Rich Brookes; Photo by Clarence Durbin).

To take a ride on a virtual spook house click here,

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