April 28, 2000
Dear Mr. Drum ,
I was interested in the history of Eldridge Park given by Jo Chalk.
Unfortunately she omitted an important name associated with the park...that of
John Sardo. My father began showing motion pictures in 1932 at the park until
his death in 1960. My brothers Ernie and Johnny continued for another two or
three years when it was decided that there was no more interest in older movies,
and the park began its decline from the glory years.
Until 1950, the park consisted of the older concession stands. The
Superintendent of Parks, a Robert or Ray Wright, I believe, actually lived in a
house on the park property, near the old hot dog stand. Prior to the 1950
season, Oscar and Bob Long entered into a ten year lease with the city to build
new stands and administer the contracts of each of the concessionaires. The
french fry stand was originally owned by Jack and Jane O'Leary, who later opened
up a restaurant and bar on Main and Water. During that same time, my brother
Ernie opened the soft ice cream stand, adjacent to Ralph's candy cotton stand.
Did you know that Ralph and Ruth lived in a specially built living quarters
above the cotton candy stand? They lived in Easton, PA., in the off season and
literally spent the summers at the park! It was when my brother got out of the
business that Ralph bought the concession from Ernie.
I have an old movie taken at the park during the war. Excerpts were taken by a
Binghamton PBS TV station doing a special on Eldridge Park, including an
interview with me. This was filmed in 1993 and shown 1994.
I remember Louie Conklin very well. He used to always give me free rides
because of my association (or name). In fact I recall that my older brother,
John, went to school with him. I also went to Alfred one year with Dan Chalk;
any relation, Jo? I even went to a Chalk reunion a couple of years ago because
of Delores Pizzo (a Chalk?).
By way of introduction, I graduated from EFA in 1950 and after leaving the Navy
in 1955, left for Los Angeles where I remained until 1992, except for Field
Engineering assignment to Long Island, Maryland and Virginia in the early
I was finally downsized from aerospace in '92 and early 1993, returned to Elmira
to work at ABB. Two years ago I was transferred to Adtranz in Pittsburgh and am
currently the lead functional Communications Engineer for the Southern New
Jersey Light Rail train. I owe my interest in engineering to those days I spent
in the projection booth at Eldridge Park.
I have some pictures of the park taken years ago, including one with me in the
booth when I was 14. These projectors were donated to the Elmira Historical
Society several years ago and I visited there on one of my visits to Elmira.
The picture taken in 1946 occurred just after a serious flood hit the city
followed by a wind storm (twister). This was the twister that caused a tree to
fall against EFA, killing a valedictorian as she was studying her speech for
Regards to both you and Jo (Sardo),