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DRAFT HISTORY OF TWIN GROVE PARK

Mr. Ditzler would appreciate your comments (version June, 2002)

TWIN GROVE PARK by Francis W. Ditzler

Memories of George W. Rhen Jr

Twin Grove Park is where they met. Among the trees their love was set. The courting was long with much fun and laughter. That was nothing, compared to what came after.

By Sally Ann Ditzler Stoner

Amos M. Strause along with his brother in law, Harry G. Beck started the construction of Twin Grove Park in 1930. Amos and his father, Samuel Strause, owners of the Strause Lumber Company in Schuylkill County, started a logging operation in 1916 on the south side of the Blue Mountain in the Monroe Valley area. 3000 acres of land were either purchased or leased in order to harvest the trees. The Reading Railroad Company constructed a narrow gauge railroad from Inwood east for seven miles into the Monroe Valley. The railroad extended two miles beyond the current day Camp Strause. The mining of coal in Schuylkill County, at the Lincoln Colliery was in full production. Timber to support the mine operation was in dire need. The Reading Railroad provided the transportation to ship the props and headers to the mines. After seven years of operation the logging operation was moved to the northern part of Lancaster County and continued at a much slower pace until 1936. The great depression hit our nation in 1929. Jobs were scarce and unemployment was high. Many families were without a source of income. The logging operation became idle for long periods of time during the depression. The coal mines closed and the need for mine timbers ceased. In order to give his men work Amos started the construction of the restaurant in 1930. This was the start of Twin Grove Park. Other buildings followed until the famous park was fully developed.

The name Twin Grove was chosen because of a grove of majestic trees that was divided by a state highway. When the state concreted the highway in 1930 they accommodated the park by constructing a large tunnel under the highway not only for the creek but also for pedestrians to get to the southern side of the park. A board walk was constructed along side of the stream. The large swimming pool, baby pool, refreshment stand, swings, seesaws, and a picnic pavilion were on this side. Along the west side of the park was a stream of cool clear mountain spring water. A five inch pipe was laid up stream to provide a gravity flow to fill the 310,000 gallon swimming pool. On the south side of the pool was the long narrow Bath House. It housed locker rooms and shower facilities for men and ladies. In the center was a circular counter where the attendant would provide a key to your locker and a towel. Monday morning was truly wash day for Sammy Strause to launder hundreds of towels and hang them up to dry on the rope wash line out back.

Sammy was also the first life guard, and was responsible for the pool maintenance. After 1945 Diane Yerger and her friend, Anita, were responsible for the pool operation.

Lloyd Fake was the first manager of the park. In 1935 George W. Rhen became the manager. He and his wife Sadie, along with son George moved into the second floor living quarters in 1937. Their management saw increased activities and growing crowds.

By 1939 Twin Grove was a very popular restaurant and a family weekend activity. The dining room was in the east wing of the main building where as the west wing served ice cream, soda, hamburgers, hot dogs, candy and related items. A good business weekend produced a $100,000. intake. It truly was the Hershey Park of its day. Saturday night movies at the band shell were a popular event. The tennis court and ball diamond were located at the east side of the park, north of the highway. In those pre-television days all communities had their own baseball team. Twin Grove was no exception, they sponsored their own team.

The uniformed players in the 1930s were:

1. Samuel Wolfe 2. Ed Lymaster 3. Lloyd (Pete) Kreiser 4. Kermit Kohr 5. Ralph Lebo 6. Elvin (Sam) Fake 7. Charles Deichert 8. Walter (Mud) Sterner 9. Edward (Ted) Ditzler 10. Woodrow Deichert 11. Raymond Neidig 12. Leroy Kohr 13. Guy Ditzler 14. Claude Felty 15. Robert Lymaster, bat boy

World War Two did have its effect on the park. Many activities closed. As the automobile became more popular and as the war came to an end, a change took place at Twin Grove. The Rhen Family retired about 1945 and moved back to their home in Inwood. New owners and new managers took over. G. Harold Yergey and George McGradey from the Allentown-Pottstown area purchased the 50 acre park. William A. and Florence Pennepacker, parents of Mrs. Jean Yergey, took over management. The operation enjoyed a successful business for many years. The Pennepackers retired. About 1970 Mr. G- Harold Yergey, the surviving owner, featured the park as a campground. In 1980 the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania purchased the south portion of the park. This 20 acre purchase, on the south side of SR 443, was deemed essential by the Commonwealth to add land to the proposed Swatara State Park, part of Project 70. A land preservation project.

Free Entertainment: The management spared no expense to provide free entertainment to their many visitors. Huge crowds enjoyed the fire works on the south east field behind the Felty's one room school house. Aerial displays could be seen for many miles. Many low displays were of a comical nature and very pleasing to the crowd. The American Flag was usually part of the grand finality. As a minimum you could expect fire works on the 4th of July and Labor Day. The crowds were that massive that the Pennsylvania State Police would stop traffic on state route 443 as the crowd would surge toward the field for a better view. The Band Shell design provided excellent acoustics through out most of the park. As the entertainment started, the park benches filled in a hurry.

Some of the entertainers were:

Arizona Kid and his Cow Girls: 1941 Reading Hawaiian Sweetheart Review: Lititz Mae and her Melody Maids Arizona Kid and Gang Arizona Kid and his Texas Rangers: 1939 Reading Gordon's Honolulu Maidens Pistol Pete's W.H.R. Radio Entertainers White Eagle Bango Band 101 Ranch Boys Sunshine Four featuring Little Lucy Red River Valley Rangers: 1958

Things To Do:

By the mid 1930s the fifty acre park was filled with things to occupy your time. The following items were taken from a 1936 notebook.

..Food ... cantaloupe man soft pretzels candy apples potato chips pop corn hot dogs hamburgers Bar B Q sandwiches full course meals ice cream fresh roasted peanuts cotton candy soda ..Play ... penny wheel corn game ball games canes novelties country store darts red spot whistles pull the string ..Others ... wooden images photographs combs scales, guess your weight hair tonic glass cutter razor sharpeners wire jewelry Lady Harcourt, astrology Monkeys & Peacocks

Pay Entertainment:

No one, young or old, would miss taking a ride on the famous Merry-Go-Round, made by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company, with that wonderful organ music. Hand painted wood carved animals of the circus could be found. Stationary, up and down, round and round they would go. If you were the lucky one you would catch the gold ring and get a free ride. Should the merry-go-round be too fast for you, by 1940 a Train Ride thru the woods provided a much slower pace. Roller Skating and later the Bumper Cars could easily provide an extra hour of activity. If you just wanted to sit and relax, the Bingo stand with a great variety of gifts was just the place. Any loose change? Try the Penny Arcade. You could see a short movie by inserting' a coin and turning the crank. Or try your luck on any one of fifty other machines that would accept a penny or nickel just to entertain you. The Airplane rides were available for the younger crowd that did not want to get more than six feet off the ground. Occasionally Hot Air Balloon rides were another attraction for those thrill seekers who wanted to see the park from a basket in the sky. A Skeet Shoot with clay pigeons was available for those fast drawing sports persons. One of the last added attractions was the Swan Rides on a small pond north of the highway. For 5 the children could take a pony ride in the corral in the north end of the park.

A WEEKLY SCHEDULE

Monday was clean-up day after a very busy weekend. The old International Truck was used to collect the cans and drums placed throughout the park and near the concession stands. Garbage was taken to the dump located on the south corner of the property. Young George was the broomstick boy. He had a nail on the end of a broomstick and would spear candy wrappers, discarded cups, and other trash and put it into a sack that he wore over his shoulder. The grills in the food service area were cleaned with vinegar and steel wool. Light bulbs checked, damages repaired and equipment maintained as necessary. Empty soda bottles were collected. The cases were stacked at the rear door of the west wing of the main building, rustic stand and at the pool refreshment stand for pickup by the bottling company trucks. Inventory was checked to alert vendors if any unusual restocking was required for the next weekend. Pepsi and Coke were the biggest sellers. There was lime, orange and cream soda and the cap on the bottle said Crass. Remember Moxie?

The Philadelphia Dairy Products Company Inc. restocked the ice cream freezers. If necessary a truck was parked on the grounds for Sunday activities. Items consisted of ten quart cardboard tubs of Aristocrat Ice Cream, Ice Cream Cups (they had pictures of movie stars in the lid), Darlene Bars (Dolly Madison Ice Cream covered with chocolate on a stick), Popsicles, Creamsicles, Ice Cream Bars, and occasionally other novelties. Twin Grove was the largest customer of the ice cream company. The delivery man name was Fortna; the salesman was Arlo Gerst; and the compressor repairman was Wilhelm.

Candy and tobacco products came from J. C. Hauer of Lebanon. Bread, buns, cookies, and pies came from Ruhl's Bakery in Harrisburg. They had those big pecan buns, toasted, cut into thirds, and served with a pad of butter for 15 cents. The pie case was behind the counter, to the right as you face the kitchen. The coffee urns were to the left of the pie case. George Jr. remembers a hamburger steak dinner, with mashed potatoes, vegetable, bread and coffee all for 35 cents. The faithful milkman was Mr. Ken Mowery from Wengert's Dairy. Consumer's Ice Plant from Lebanon supplied the ice which was stored in the park's ice house. Fruit and vegetables came from the same area. Meats were supplied from the Wilhelm Butcher Shop in Pine Grove. Later that business was purchased by Ray and Guy Ditzler, trading as Ditzler Bros Meats.

Tuesday's Schedule The only way we could do all of Monday's work was if Sunday's activities were rained out. So Tuesday was a continuation of Monday's schedule.

Wednesday, Thursday, Friday These were the days that Unions and Companies had their employee picnics at the park. If the group was large enough the merry-go-round, train, roller skating, and the swimming pool etc. would be available in a package deal. There was a food steamer service located in the pavilion near the merry-go-round where the restaurant food was served. This unit had a screened in enclosure at the upper end of the pavilion. Some groups were large enough to require the use of the mike and speaker system at the band shell so the leaders could have a rally or give out prizes and awards. These customers came from the many shoe, dress and similar factories located in Schuylkill and Lebanon Counties and are now defunct. Oh yes, don't forget to get ready for a good cowboy movie Wednesday Night. Cowboys and Indians may still be roaming in the local mountains.

Saturday, Sunday, and Holidays These were the good old days at Twin Grove Park. Many a couple found their partner at Twin Grove Park. Lost children, or sometimes lost parents, were taken to the kitchen where Mrs. Sadie Rhen would protect and comfort them and announce their presence on the band shell mike. It was easy for a child to wonder from the hand of a parent when the crowd departed at the end of a show. The restaurant was generally opened daily from 6 A.M. to 10 P.M. Gasoline and motor oils were also available.

Mr. Amos Strause, and Mr. Harry Beck had something in common with Mr. Milton Hershey. They were men of respect and influence. They both built entertainment centers. Their actions were not of a selfish motive, to increase their own wealth, but rather to provide jobs for the people of their communities during the great depression that faced our nation.

Upon the death of Mr. Yerger in August 2000 the park was closed. In the Spring of 2002 new life was again seen at the once famous Twin Grove Park. New owners began a program to revive the park and return it to its once famous status.



CREDITS:Twin Grove Park