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Archive for the ‘Rides’ Category

Riding the Rails: Hershey Park’s Miniature Railway

The miniature train carried passengers over Spring Creek to the ball fields located on the far side of the park. ca.1916.  Note the carrousel building in background.

The miniature train carried passengers over Spring Creek to the ball fields located on the far side of the park. ca.1916. Note the carrousel building in background.

 

When Hershey Park first began operating, it was a community park with picnic tables, playgrounds for children, ball fields, a bandstand, a small concession stand and a pavilion that was used for vaudeville style performances, dances and other events.  Visitors came to enjoy a picnic, stroll the paths along Spring Creek, listen to a band concert and perhaps take in a baseball game.

 

Hershey Park’s first amusement ride, a second-hand merry-go-round was installed in 1908.  The following year, the park continued to expand with a new amphitheatre with seating for 2000. Hershey Park was quickly emerging as a summer destination.

 

The starting point for the miniature railway was located near the intersection of Park Avenue and Park Boulevard, not far from Hershey's railroad station and downtown Hershey. ca.1925-1935

The starting point for the miniature railway was located near the intersection of Park Avenue and Park Boulevard, not far from Hershey’s railroad station and downtown Hershey. ca.1925-1935

 

Milton Hershey purchased a miniature electric railway for the 1910 Park season.  Problems with installation delayed its opening until September 5, 1910.  The 22-inch gauge railway was built by the Lancaster Iron Works, Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  At the time it was built, the little one-of-a-kind railway was considered a technological achievement.

 

The dark line highlights the route of the Miniature Railroad. 1913

The dark line highlights the route of the Miniature Railroad. 1913

 

The ride connected the ends of the Park.  The train line started at the intersection of Park Avenue and Park Boulevard and traveled around the edge of the park ending by Hershey Park’s ballfield.  The train line had no loop so the line had only one train.  The cars could carry up to thirty passengers and the seats had movable backs so that passengers would always travel facing forward.  The fare was five cents for a one way ride.  People enjoyed the ride because it was more than an amusement ride, it was a fun way of traveling to a variety of Park attractions.

 

By 1913 the ride passed by the carrousel, the Hershey Ballroom, and the boating pond.  In later years, passengers could disembark at the entrance to the Hershey Park swimming pool and sunken gardens.

 

In later years, passengers used the railway to reach the Hershey Museum.  ca.1955-1965

In later years, passengers used the railway to reach the Hershey Museum. ca.1955-1965

 

The miniature railway was dismantled after the 1971 season.  That year, Hershey began a multi-year project to modernize the park as a themed amusement park.  In 1971, a fence went up surrounding park rides and attractions but most of the miniature railway continued to operate outside of the fence.  While Hersheypark initially planned to relocate the railway inside the park grounds, those plans were never realized.

 

For more information about the Miniature Railway, read Technology Meets Entertainment:  Remembering the Hershey Park Miniature Railway, by Ron Rhoads, Jr. 2007.  A copy is available in the Archives’ library.

Looking Back: Hershey Park Kiddie Week

One of the first Kiddie rides added to Hershey Park was a children’s boat ride.  ca.1926-1935

One of the first Kiddie rides added to Hershey Park was a children’s boat ride. ca.1926-1935

 

 

Rides specially designed for children began to be added to Hershey Park beginning in 1926.  That same year Hershey Park featured its first Kiddie Day.   Children 12 years old and younger could register and receive a ticket that would give them free rides and special treats.

 

In 1929 Hershey Park expanded its Kiddie Day to an entire Kiddie Week that was held each year in late August.  In addition to the expanded time, special entertainment was scheduled at the Bandshell for the week.  Kiddie Week was part of Hershey Park’s summer  events through 1972.

 

Kiddie Week was a highlight for many Hershey children.  Millie Coyle Landis remembered:

Even though the entrance to the park was free, you still had to pay for the rides.  But that didn’t bother us.  We just went and watched other people have fun on the rides.  [Laughter]  But on kiddies’ day, I remember getting in line and waiting for a strip of tickets, and you got ten tickets and you had these free rides, and you could go every day for the whole week.  That was the big thing for us when we were kids.  [Laughter]

The merry-go-round was there.  That was the most favorite one.  I remember airplane rides, The Bug, the Fun House.  There were some [tickets] that nobody even used.  They used to throw them away.  You could find them laying there.  Like at the zoo.  Nobody went to the zoo.  There was a zoo ticket on there, and nobody went to the zoo.  [Laughter]  I don’t remember.  They were mostly the children’s rides.  They weren’t big things, anything that cost like over ten cents.  I think the biggest thing was The Bug and the carousel and the airplane rides.   There was something called the Whip.  The roller coaster was not on the strip.  No, it wasn’t.  No, it was just the cheap rides.  [Laughter] 

 

Baby Parade in progress at the Hershey Sports Arena.  1950

Baby Parade in progress at the Hershey Sports Arena. 1950

 

As Kiddie Week grew in popularity, Hershey Park expanded the program.  In 1936 Hershey introduced its Baby Parade.  The first Baby Parades were held in Ocean City, New Jersey.  The seaside baby parades were held on the boardwalk and served as an ingenious way for proud parents to brag about their children without offending anyone.

 

Hershey’s Baby Parade began at the Miniature Railroad Station as children under five years old either walked or rode on parade throughout the Park and concluded by crossing the Bandshell floor to the music provided by the Hershey Community Theatre Orchestra.

 

Hershey Park General Manager, George Bartels, presents the cutest baby award to Kyle Ann Katzenmoyer.  1956

Hershey Park General Manager, George Bartels, presents the cutest baby award to Kyle Ann Katzenmoyer. 1956

Hershey Park Baby Parade, ca.1950-1960

Hershey Park Baby Parade, ca.1950-1960

Hershey Park Baby Parade, 1955

Hershey Park Baby Parade, 1955

 

There were a variety of prizes including ones for cutest baby, fanciest baby carriage, best fancy costume, most original decorated carriage, fattest baby and best comic costume.  Beginning in 1947 the Baby Parade took place in the Sports Arena.

 

The Baby Parade was eagerly anticipated by many.  Local resident, Helen (Menicheschi) Cappelli, shared some vivid memories of the Baby Parade:

 

They really didn’t have [Baby Parades] when I was a little girl, but my children were involved in it.  My Elaine, she won a prize.  Yes, I remember I had her dressed in a little lavender dress with pink bows in her hair.  Then her little doll cart, we decorated that with the same colors that she was wearing, and she won a prize.  Yes, she did.  I remember that day.  It was a pretty hard day, because it was in the afternoon and it was her nap time.  So, oh, my goodness, she really carried on, you know.  See, they kept on bringing them back up on the bandstand, you know, to walk around, to choose the ones that were supposed to get the prizes, so they called her up and they called her up.  Oh!  This didn’t go over well with her.   So finally, they chose.  But she got the prize.

Baby Parades and Kiddie Week were discontinued after the 1972 season.   Hersheypark was actively being redeveloped as a themed amusement park and many traditional park events were no longer offered.

 

A Bird’s Eye View: Hershey’s Monorail

Visitors line up to tour the Hershey Chocolate Factory.  ca.1964-1967

Visitors line up to tour the Hershey Chocolate Factory. ca.1964-1967

 

This weekend is exceptionally busy in Hershey.  The band, One Direction, has brought 1000s to Hershey.  Between the band and Hershey’s regular high volume numbers of visitors during the summer season, the roads are jammed!  This is nothing new for Hershey.  Every summer residents resign themselves to heavy traffic caused by tourists drawn to Hershey and its many amenities.  Back in the 1960s, Hershey tried to address the challenge of summer traffic.

 

By the late 1960s, traffic on Chocolate Avenue during the summer months was overwhelming.  Tourists wanting to tour the Chocolate Factory and visit the park often created traffic jams.  Downtown parking was limited.  To ease congestion Hershey Estates and Hershey Chocolate Corporation agreed share the costs of constructing a Monorail that would link Hershey Park and downtown Hershey. 

 

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The monorail connected downtown Hershey with the Park complex. 1969

 

The route chosen highlighted attractions at the Park, Zoo and provided a bird’e eye view of downtown.  The route was designed to be convenient to community residents as well as visitors.  There were two stations, one by the Sports Arena and one at the north end of the building at One Chocolate Building.  People could board the train at either station.

 

PA Secretary of Commerce Robert Mumma and Miss Pennsylvania Trudy Pedersen cut the ribbon at the Monorail dedication.  June 20, 1969

PA Secretary of Commerce Robert Mumma and Miss Pennsylvania Trudy Pedersen cut the ribbon at the Monorail dedication. June 20, 1969

 

Pennsylvania Secretary of Commerce, Robert M. Mumma, and Trudy Pedersen, Miss Pennsylvania, 1969, cut the ribbon at the June 20, 1969 dedication ceremony.   The monorail operated during the peak tourist season and the ride cost $.50.  The monorail continued to operate as a separate attraction until 1973 when the factory tours ended.  The ride was incorporated into the new Hersheypark as a scenic ride.

 

People wait to board the Monorail at the Arena station.  8/1969

People wait to board the Monorail at the Arena station. 8/1969

Hershey Park: Bigger and Better: The Dentzel Carrousel

Hershey’s first merry-go-round was so successful that Milton Hershey soon decided that the Park needed a larger, more impressive carrousel.  In 1912 Milton Hershey bought a new $10,000 carrousel for the park.  This time he acquired one of the best carrousels that money could buy from William Dentzel of Philadelphia. 
The Dentzel carrousel offered riders a variety of animals in addition to the traditional horses.  ca.1935-1944

The Dentzel carrousel offered riders a variety of animals in addition to the traditional horses. ca.1935-1944

Dentzel, who was known as “the Carrousel King,” came from a long line of carrousel manufacturers.  The Dentzel family had been in the business since 1837 when members of the family manufactured their first carrousel in Germany.  Dentzel’s father, Gustav Dentzel, came to America around the time of the Civil War and manufactured carrousels in Philadelphia until his death in 1909.  William Dentzel succeeded his father as head of the company.  In 1912 the Dentzel Company was one of the largest manufacturers “Of better, first class carrousels in America.”  The company, located in Philadelphia, PA, specialized in manufacturing large carrousels for use in amusement parks.

 

The miniature train passed right by the carrousel in its new location by Spring Creek .  ca.1916-1917

The miniature train passed right by the carrousel in its new location by Spring Creek . ca.1916-1917

This time plans called for the carrousel to be located in a more central location in the Park.  A new pavilion was built for the Dentzel carrousel directly across from the dance pavilion (in the same location as the  future Hershey Park Ballroom) on the opposite side of Spring Creek near Park Boulevard.  The new carrousel was much larger, with a 12.5 feet wide platform.  The outside row of animals was stationery and featured a menagerie of animals including a lion, tiger, a deer, giraffe as well as 12 horses of different designs, making a total of sixteen animals.  The two inside rows were jumpers and included two each of ostriches, rabbits, goats, bears, pigs, cats, chickens and  deer.  The were also two large carved chariots with upholstered seats for people who did not wish to ride an animal.  The carrousel was a spectacular ride at night lit with more than four hundred lights. 

 

The carrousel was located next to Spring Creek.  ca.1933

When Milton Hershey purchased the Dentzel carrousel he had it installed next to Spring Creek. ca1933

To make the ride even more exciting, Dentzel supplied a ring board and a ring catcher.  Riders on the outside row of animals could reach up during the ride and try and grab a ring, hoping to get the brass one that would give him or her a free ride.   The ring machine remained very popular for many years.   Dick Seiverling  in his oral history interview had fond memories of trying to catch the ring:

I think perhaps the area of the Hershey Park I remember most of all is the carousel, the merry-go-round, and how the people, fanatics, would try to get the gold ring out of the horse’s mouth.  And some were that adept at it, they could get two rings at one round, you know, as it went around.  And, of course, the person that got the gold ring would get a prize or a free ride.  The carousel was then located at the bridge next to the creek, and I remember how we would stand there at the creek at the bridge and watch the big carp [and mallard ducks] and feed them [bread and] popcorn.  Of course, we didn’t feed them a lot of popcorn in those days, because that cost money.  I should say we saw other people feed the carp [and ducks] popcorn, because we weren’t about to spend any of our hard-earned allowance. 

Working in Hershey, part 1

Hershey PA has been known as a premiere tourist destination almost since its founding. However, for the 1000s of men and women who work in Hershey, the town is valued as much for its employment opportunities as its entertainment possibilities.

Hershey Community Archives oral history collection is a rich resource for understanding the historyof the community, its industries and activities.  Excerpts of oral history interviews with factory workers, Hershey Estates employees, bookkeepers and bank tellers reveal what it is like to work in the “sweetest place on earth.”

The stories of how people first got a job in Hershey are varied.  Many of Hershey’s most committed employees initially had no interest in working here.  Frank Mather, whose Hershey Bears’ ice hockey career spanned several decades, needed some special convincing to  come to Hershey.  In his oral history interview Mathers relates this story:

I was brought in as a player-coach. I had gone home [to Winnipeg]. I was thirty-one at the time and I figured it’s time to, you know, get a real job. So I went home. I really had no intention of being a coach. That, too, was not one of the things that I had planned, but anyway, Mr. Sollenberger phoned, and he was a very insistent gentleman. I told him no, I wasn’t interested really, but then finally he said, “Come on down. Just stay at the hotel. Bring your wife down.” We did and [he] treated me very well, gave me a car and carte blanche around Hershey, and, “Just tell them you know me and sign the check,” and that type of thing. And I did. I’m glad that I did, of course. That was the smartest move I ever made, because I signed with Hershey.

This is a funny story and it’s a true story. But I really never enjoyed Hershey when I played in Pittsburgh, the reason being we came to Hershey when the Ice Show was in Pittsburgh, and we’d be here for–what I’d say, stuck for two weeks in Hershey in the middle of the winter. At that time there was one show that changed maybe twice a week and there was very little action at all. We used to say that the highlight of the day was walking over to the arena from the Cocoa Inn.

Anyway, so I really didn’t think that I would enjoy it, but I came here. I think we arrived Tuesday and we went through the whole area. So after we saw all of Hershey at our own pace, doing what we wanted to see, then we met–this must have been a little bit later in the spring, because the park was open. As I recall Mr. Sollenberger didn’t go to the hockey games because he had a bad heart–too exciting. The only game that I can recall him ever going to was an All-Star game where the outcome was not important. Yeah. So he didn’t go to the games, but yet we went to the park. And we went on the roller coaster–now, he sits in the front seat with his wife and Pat and I are right behind them. [Laughter] And we were on there, I swear, for twelve rides. I think, “If this guy wants me to sign for hockey, I’d better sign and tell him I’m going to sign now. I’ll be his coach. Then we’ll get off this thing.”

Hershey Bears hockey team, 1956-1957 season.  Frank Mathers is 8th from the left.

Hershey Bears ice hockey team, 1956-1957 season. Frank Mathers is 8th from the left.

Bigger and faster: Hershey Park’s Comet Roller Coaster

Comet Roller Coaster ride entrance, ca.1946-1960

Comet Roller Coaster ride entrance, ca.1946-1960

The end of World War II was celebrated at Hershey Park with the addition of a new roller coaster, the Comet.  Opening for the 1946 season, the Comet replaced the 1923 Wild Cat Roller coaster.  Like the park’s first coaster, this one was designed and constructed by Herbert Schmeck and the Philadelphia Toboggan Company.  One unique feature of this coaster is that it crosses Spring Creek twice during its 3,360 foot journey. 

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Hersheypark's Comet Roller Coaster crosses Spring Creek twice during its journey. ca.1960-1070

 

A total of 248,919 feet of lumber was used to build the double out-and-back coaster.  The coaster is built so close to town that riders’ screams can be heard on Chocolate Avenue.  The coaster features a series of drops that curve as they descend on the third and forth runs to create a more exciting ride.  The ride’s finish is a series of hills or bunny hops with a turnaround to the brake curve and loading station.

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Aerial view, Hersheypark Comet Roller Coaster, ca.1946-1956

The Chocolate Factory is just a short ride away. . .

Riders wait to board the Hershey Monorail, ca.1969

Riders wait to board the Hershey Monorail, ca.1969

By the late 1960s, traffic on Chocolate Avenue during the summer months was overwhelming. Tourists wanting to tour the Chocolate Factory and visit the park often created traffic jams. Downtown parking was limited. To ease congestion Hershey Estates and Hershey Chocolate Corporation agreed share the costs of constructing a Monorail that would link Hershey Park and downtown Hershey. There were two stations, one by the Sports Arena and one at the north end of the building at One Chocolate Building. People could board the train at either station. Dedicated on June 20, 1969, the monorail was both a means of transportation and a new Park attraction. The track loop was laid out to provide riders with a scenic view of Hershey Park and the Zoo. The monorail remained a separate attraction until 1973 when the factory tours ended and it was incorporated into the new Hersheypark.

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Monorail passes over the Hershey Park Turnpike ride. ca.1969

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