Born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA, our high school picnics were always held at West View Park. This was the biggest event of the school year, and when we returned to classes every September, my girlfriends and I were already excited and filled with anticipation and began planning the following May school picnic. I can close my eyes and picture riding the streetcar to West View, and I can smell the egg smell that came from the water fountains. I can still remember feeling the tugging on my neck while riding the Whip, and in the winter time my family and I would ride by horseshoe bend in West View and be able to see the tall white tracks of the famous dips they’d still be there just waiting for our next school picnic. Fortunately the park saw me through graduation in 1968 but nine years later the park closed and was replaced by yet another shopping center.
By the time I reached the age of 40 I had lost both my parents, but the one constant that we shared still remains. When it came time for family vacations, we always went to Conneaut Lake Park. Part of the experience meant renting a musty cabin and needing extra blankets for the cooler evenings. Mornings consisted of running to the park following the scent of freshly made donuts. One of my dearest photographs is of my father and me on the beach at Conneaut Lake. Vacations in Conneaut Lake Park meant family togetherness and fun times. I dared to ride the Wild Mouse but never the Blue Streak. I miss the scent of maple syrup coming from the Log Cabin Restaurant as much as those donuts and I miss the old gift shop where as a child one of my first purchases was a tiny little wooden hope chest box that smelled of pine when you opened it. I miss the fun house too that we walked through up the moving steps, into the slanted room and seeing ourselves in the funny mirrors.
Conneaut Lake Park has seen me through every part of my life as a child with my family to a teen with girlfriends, to a wife with my husband. As a child I used to stand beneath the Dreamland Ballroom balconies and watch the square dancers with amazement, and now I’m up there dancing to oldies on Doo Wop weekends the same ballroom floor where my parents danced years ago. I even reunited with high school friends there, one who performs at the Doo Wops. The last time we had seen each other; those “oldies” were being played on the radio as new songs.
Although many things are gone from Conneaut Lake Park, the park is very much still the same to me. Some of the rides have changed, but as you arrive at the park, you still feel the excitement at the sight and sound of the Blue Streak. The beach is the same, as is the Beach Club too. The Merry Go Round remains, as well as Kiddieland, and the lights on the rides at night still thrill me as well as the sounds coming from all of the games.
Hotel Conneaut is filled with romance and the charm of innocent times. There’s such a peacefulness one feels when sitting on the porch overlooking the lake. It takes you back to quieter times and to when families seemed to be together more.
Conneaut Lake Park may not have the newest and daring rides and while listing what it doesn’t have, add to the list of other things that are missing from the park such as a high entrance fee, long waiting lines and expensive hotels. Instead list what Conneaut Lake Park does have rides, swimming, games, entertainment, fireworks, food, a charming hotel, a gorgeous view, boating, boardwalk, art fairs, car and boat shows, ladies days, teen dances, rock bands, oldies bands, and Pumpkin Fest in the fall. It’s affordable, and it’s a short distance from Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Youngstown. This park is a walk down memory lane. Conneaut Lake Park is the place where you can be with family and friends and have good old fashioned fun, where you can have so many choices of things to do for such a low cost. And if you’re smart, you’ll rent a musty cabin and you’ll sit around a campfire and tell stories and get to know each other again and have unbelievable fun.
This park is a treasure, and we must preserve our past and keep passing family memories on to the next generations. We have to allow some things to remain the same. Why is it that we think it’s so wonderful when ancient treasures are found, yet we could almost let this treasure slip away?
The needs of Conneaut Lake Park should be visible in the park where visitors can be informed. When a ride is down, put a sign up that says the ride would like to return and list what is needed to get it back in operation. Tell the story about the park create a museum to show the past of the park, the story of the difficult times the fires, the wars, the financial problems, and ask people to submit their stories from their memories and to suggest what they would like to see in the park, and most of all, ask for donations in order to keep the park going.
Conneaut Lake Park is filled with stories people found love there, families found togetherness there, and friendships were created there. We need to know these stories because there is a lot of controversy over the future of the park, and those of us who want to see it live on have got to work together whether it is people from out of town or out of state. If you’re ever a part of the volunteer clean-up weekends, you’ll surely get caught up in everyone’s passion for the park.
Everyone would like to go back in time to one day in their lives to a day that brought them happiness. Let’s keep this park open so that all of us who love it can continually go back in time.