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Archive for May, 2010

Launching the sooperdooperLooper

Billboard advertises new ride coming to Hersheypark for the 1977 summer season.

Billboard advertises new ride coming to Hersheypark for the 1977 summer season.

The early years of the newly redesigned Hersheypark were filled with highs and lows. In 1972 Hurricane Agnes had closed the Park for nine days and caused it to suffer significant budget shortfalls. 1973 marked the new Park’s first truly successful season and erased all doubts about the wisdom of redeveloping Hersheypark as a themed amusement park. The energy crisis of 1974 again caused financial challenges and forced the Park to scale back its redevelopment plans. Hersheypark’s success was firmly established a few years later, with the addition of the sooperdooperLooper which marked Hersheypark’s entry into the category of nationally recognized theme parks.

This coaster was the first looping coaster on the East Coast and only the second of its kind in the United States. The new coaster was the park’s most expensive ride at that point, costing more than $3 million. Building a proto-type roller coaster created a major challenge for the Park and presented unbelievable problems. Being a new style ride, the Park would practically re-engineer the ride from the original plans before being satisfied with the ride’s operation. All the bugs had not been worked out by opening day. That day the Park’s General Manager, Bruce McKinney, and his wife Sally boarded the ride car to officially launch the ride. The ride successfully made it through the loop only to only to get stuck on the next rise. Park engineers were unable to get the ride to move and the passengers had to exit the ride by walking down the catwalk, witnessed and documented by news photographers and television cameras.

In spite of such an eventful launch the ride made the Park’s 1977’s season a huge success. Hundreds of thousands of people came to the park that year to ride or simply to watch the new looping roller coaster. The most popular Park souvenir that summer was a T-Shirt with the words “I Survived the sooperdooperLooper.” That year the Park set daily attendance records that still stand as record breaking days to this day. The summer of 1977 would stand as the park’s most successful season for years to come.

Riding the loop of the sooperdooperLooper, ca. 1990-2000

Riding the loop of the sooperdooperLooper, ca. 1990-2000

Taming “The Wild Cat”

 
Originally named The Joy Ride, it was soon renamed The Wild Cat roller coaster, Hershey Park.  ca. 1930-1940
Originally named The Joy Ride, Hershey Park’s first roller coaster was soon renamed The Wild Cat. ca. 1930-1940

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hershey celebrated its 20th anniversary in 1923, and Milton Hershey’s present to the town was a roller coaster. Initially, Hershey Park’s first roller coaster was called “The Joy Ride.” Within a short time its name was changed to “The Wild Cat.” The Wild Cat was nearly a mile in length and it had “more dips and deeper dips than any of like construction in America.”

It was put into operation on June 16, 1923. On opening day, word quickly spread through the town that the coaster was operating and that rides were free. The town’s youth came running to be among the first to ride the coaster. On its first day of operation no ladies were allowed to ride until the afternoon. Marion Murrie, daughter of Hershey Chocolate Company president, William F. R. Murrie, was the first female to ride the coaster.

The Wild Cat was the first coaster designed by the great coaster designer Herbert P. Schmeck. Before this project he ahd built several coasters for the Philadelphia Toboggan Company serving as construciton manager.  Philadelphia Toboggan Company ran the Wild Cat as a concession for a number of years.  The coaster was 76 feet high and crossed Spring Creek on a specially designed wooden bridge. Schmeck was never really satisfied with the design and it was modified in the 1920s. In 1935 it was redesigned to make its dips higher and the curves more steeply banked.Hershey Press wrote that the roller coaster had cost $50,000. Up to this time, Park rides had not operated on Sundays. However, the Park saw its largest crowds on that day. With the addition of this costly ride, the Park began operating its rides on Sundays.

The Wild Cat operated from 1923 to the end of the 1945 when it was torn down and replaced with The Comet.

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Wild Cat roller coaster was modified after it was built to make its dips higher and the curves more steeply banked. ca. 1925

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 Wild Cat car approaches the loading/exit platform, Hershey Park.  ca. 1930-1940