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Archive for June, 2012

Not just rides: Hershey Park fun houses

Hershey Park lit up at night with neon lights decorating many of its attractions.  1938-1940

Hershey Park lit up at night with neon lights decorating many of its attractions. 1938-1940

Hershey introduced its first fun house in 1930 when the old swimming pool bathhouse was remodeled to be the park’s first fun house.  Hershey didn’t try to create this attraction in-house.  They hired James A. Fields, of Detroit, Michigan, who had been in the fun house business for more than twenty years to create the park’s first fun house.
Simply called “The Funhouse,” the attraction was an active fun house that had four wooden slides, a barrel roll, a spinning disk, and a ride called the cup and saucer.  It also contained a tunnel to walk through.  The crazy contraptions were pleasing to both the participants and the onlookers.  People simply tried to get through the devices without being too embarrassed.
Cy Little, the park’s picnic manager, described the Funhouse in his 1990 oral history interview:

The Funhouse was a popular place.  That had all sorts of little gimmicks in it.  The barrel, for example, was a great place to test your equilibrium, and there was a sack ride.  You rode down an incline in a burlap sack, and the boys used to stand around the blow holes waiting for the girls to go down, and the operator would turn on the blowing air, and up go the skirts.

It was remodeled in 1938, with new stunts added, and renamed WHOOPS.  Philadelphia Toboggan Company did the remodeling and provided the stunts.  The Funhouse was located along Spring Creek in the future Comet Hollow area.  After the 1945 park season, WHOOPS was torn down to make way for the Comet roller coaster.

Death Valley was built as a dark, walk-through funhouse in 1938.

Death Valley was built as a dark, walk-through fun house in 1938.

The popularity of the Hershey Park Funhouse/WHOOPS led to the construction of a second fun house, built in 1938 and first named “Death Valley.  Unlike WHOOPS, Death Valley was a dark walk-through style fun house. In 1940 new stunts were added and it was renamed Laugh Land.  This fun house was described in press releases as an attraction “where you walk around in the dark and strange things happen.”  Laffing Sal, a mechanical laughing woman that had been purchased from the Philadelphia Toboggan Company, was added and entertained passersby from her window above Laugh Land’s entrance.  She became an icon of Hershey Park.  Laugh Land remained a part of Hershey Park until 1971 when Hersheypark began its transition into a themed amusement park.

'Laffing Sal  created all guests at Laugh Land, laughing like crazy all day long.  ca.1940-1950

'Laffing Sal greeted all guests at Laugh Land, laughing like crazy all day long. ca.1940-1950

Funland (5C184.11) was the park’s third fun house. It opened in 1946, replacing WHOOPS. Unlike the dark experience that Laugh Land offered, Funland was a more traditional walk through fun house.  In an article written for the Lancaster [PA] Motorist in 1947, the attraction was marketed this way:

In Fun Land you ought to wear jodhpurs regardless of the sex to which you belong for the fun maker will have his innings in the trap that he has laid out for you.  Here you can show off to advantage if you know how to spin.  If you can dance on a dime and not get dizzy, you are a No. 1 candidate. [Accession 85008 B1, F84]

Fun Land  remained a staple of the park through the 1972 season. It was demolished at the end of the season to make way for the new theme park renovations.  For more information about Hershey Park’s fun houses, visit the Archives’ website.

Highmeadow Campground: Responding to trends in leisure travel

Car camping became  popular during the years following World War II.  Campgrounds across the United States began to offer sites with a place to park your car, along with easy access to water and rest facilities.  Following this trend,  Hershey made plans in 1962 to open a community camping and picnic facility in the north-west side of Hershey, out by the Hershey Orchard, where the Swatara Creek passed by the railroad.

Aerial view, Highmeadow Campground.  1974

Aerial view, Highmeadow Campground. 1974

The future camping site had been farmed for years by various owners and tenant farmers.  The stone bank barn (that today serves as the camp’s office and store) was built in 1843.

Highmeadow bank barn, 2010

Highmeadow bank barn, 2010

During the 20th century, the land was leased to tenant farmers who farmed the land and had the use of the farm and farmhouse.  In 1942 the land was sold to the Hershey Trust Company who continued to hire farmers to farm the land and who lived in the farmhouse.

Even though most of the land was used for farming, the area along the Swatara Creek was a popular picnic and camping site.  Groups such as local Democratic and Republican parties held picnics each year.  Various boy scout troops camped there each summer.

In October 1962 Hershey Estates began work to transform the area into a campground.  A new gravel road was constructed to permit easier access and different areas were designated for tent camping and picniking.

Highmeadow Campground grand opening.  l-r: James Bobb, Arthur Whiteman, Lloyd Blinco, Wallace Mayer.  5/16/1963

Highmeadow Campground grand opening. l-r: James Bobb, Arthur Whiteman, Lloyd Blinco, Wallace Mayer. 5/16/1963

While Highmeadow Camp was initially developed for local residents and organizations, demand for such a facility quickly led to it being made available to tourists as well as residents.  In its first year of operation Highmeadow Campground covered 10 acres and offered 50 sites with complete camping facilities, including tables, fireplaces and a modern bathhouse.

Camping along Swatara Creek, 1963

Camping along Swatara Creek, 1963

Highmeadow Campground’s immediate success led to its expansion the following year.  Over the years the campground expanded and a variety of amentities were added, including a swimming pool, self-service laundry, campground programs and activities, facilities for motor homes, and full-service cabins.