Beanery Online Literary Magazine

May 17, 2010

Idlewild Amusement Park Memories



Patricia Orendorff Smith

     Many of us have visited Idlewild Park in Ligonier Township, Pennsylvania. I asked my friend, Jackie, to recount her memories in the late 1950s to the 1970s.

     “Since I was a baby, my dad attended Rockwell Manufacturing, Inc. picnics at Idlewild,” Jackie said. Her family has slides of their time spent there. “I wonder if I remember the occasion or if my memories come from the pictures.”     

     Jackie’s first memory at four years of age revolved around the roller coaster. She thinks she was too young to ride the tall ride.

     “My sister and I always wanted a gold fish at the Goldfish Pond,” Jackie said. “My sister got one.” Jackie was determined to get a goldfish. She saved money and when she was eight, she won a goldfish. “I had to walk around the park all day (carrying it).” On the ride home, Jackie remembered holding the bowl between her legs so water wouldn’t slosh out. “When I got home, I didn’t even like the goldfish.”

     “At that time, Story Book Forest was a separate park. It was combined later with Idlewild.” As a child, she entered the forest once, but was frightened when a witch popped up in a mirror. “It scared me!” Jackie exclaimed.

     Jackie mostly spent time in Idlewild. There was no Soak Zone or Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood then. She recalled riding a train. “I loved the train.”

     “Airplanes were my favorite ride way above my head,” Jackie said. “We walked up the stairs to get in a plane. Adults could ride too. The planes fanned far out from the top in a circular motion. On a hot day the air felt cool. I really liked it because it cooled me off. It didn’t jerk like some of the other rides.”

     “I had been on rides many times, but my friend and I wanted to spend the day at the Arcade. We wanted to put a penny in a big machine and get pictures of movie stars. We had more than 200 pictures!”

     For many years, Jackie would see people licking square ice cream cones with nuts and a cherry on top. Every year she begged her mom for one. Eventually she saved her money and bought one. “It looked better than it tasted.”

      “We always had picnics, both lunch and dinner. The company had a reserved spot in the picnic area,” Jackie said. “There was a place to get containers of coffee, orange drink, and tea.” Jackie would walk down and get drinks and bring them back to the rest of the family. Usually her family would have a cold lunch, but for evening, her parents used a Coleman gas stove for cooking. “It was a nice picnic.”

     “When people left the park, they usually gave us their left-over tickets before driving home,” Jackie said. “That was before the all-day-pass tickets.

      We could go on all the rides and usually stayed till the park closed. The park was all lit up at night. I remember my dad carrying me out of the park, perhaps when I was five or six.”

     “Kiddieland was real cute. They had carts to hand pedal all by yourself. We would go around on the track. I remember a tiny town with Three Little Pigs. I enjoyed that. It was my favorite ride!”

     “For a while, they had a steamboat–a paddle boat on the lake. I went

on it twice,” Jackie said. “It was the coolest ride along the water.”

      What Jackie enjoyed most about the park was that it was small enough for children to enjoy. She had the run of the park with her friends. They would go all day, only stopping at the picnic grove to eat lunch, and later showing up for dinner, before going off again. Later they would find their parents. “We would run and not be afraid of anything.”

     Jackie remembered Rockwell paying for balloons. People at the park filled them with helium. “My friend took the helium balloons, tied paper cups to them, and filled them with gravel to make dirigibles.”

     Those were the days when children were safe. Jackie’s Idlewild memories remain precious to her.




A Family Grows in Greensburg, Pennsylvania

Honus Wagner & Me

CANDIED VIOLETS: Remembering My Mother on Her Birthday

Take Me Out to the Ball Game…So Reluctantly I Go

Immigration is Negative for the USA

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