Jo Chalk on Eldridge ParkTom Drumm received the following email from Jo Chalk. It was so interesting that Tom thought he'd share it on the website.
"Thank-you Jo for taking the time to give us this great insight into the history and your memories of our beloved park." - Tom
September 14, 1999
Good Morning Mr. Drum........I have sent your Elmira page to several of my old classmates from Notre Dame. I think your web page is terrific.
About Eldridge Park........my father, Lou Conklin, worked on the Merry Go Round before he left for WWII....when he returned he continued to work there until 1967. Now some history:
The ticket booth was also the park office, where they would book company picnics, school outings etc. Jay Parker and his wife handled that function for years. Jay was also the one who MC'd the acts that were featured at the park.....animal acts, highwire acts etc.
The Roller Coaster was built around 1937-38 and was owned by Oscar Bittler. Bittler also owned the Whip, Flying Scooters, Crazy Cups and Kiddy Land.........he also owned the train that circled the park (it ran under the coaster).
The Merry Go Round , Spook House, Bumper Cars and Shooting Gallery were owned by Robert Long and his wife Sis. The animals for the Merry Go Round were all carved and made by Bob Long. "Jasper" was the name of the "Dragon Boat" that toured the lake . It's skipper was Ralph Randall (brother of Sis Long) he also owned the cotton candy stand and the soft ice cream stand. The popcorn stand and Refreshment stand were owned by John and Aggie Valego (I worked there summers while in high school) The Penny Arcade was owned by the Totas (who's grandchildren now own the electric cars and putt putt golf course up near Watkins). The french fry stand and mid-way games were owned by Al Wisenflue (not sure of spelling on that). There was a large fire in the late '50 or early '60 that destroyed the restaurant, french fry stand and refreshment stand. All of course were rebuilt.
My father ran and maintained the Coaster for 20 years. He had to walk it everyday to check for any problems (New York state safety required). By the way....the trick to walking the coaster was to walk it starting from the end of the ride and walk it to the beginning. During the winter Don Bittler (Oscar's son) and my father repaired, painted and built new rides for the coming season. If my father were alive today it would break his heart to see what the park looks like now.
By the way........The mystery of the Lake.....does it have a bottom or not?.......the story goes that it is bottomless and flows into Seneca Lake..........I hate to be the one to break the news but it does have a bottom. For many years it was highly poluted, thanks to G.E. foundry dumping into it. Of course the gas from the "Jasper" boat didn't help either. Almost every spring the park would flood.
I can remember the days when the mid-way was jammed with people and we wouldn't close until midnight or later. Free movies every night on the stage, fireworks over the lake on the 4th of July and the cute ring-boys that worked on the Merry-Go-Round that flirted with all the girls. Which, by the way, is how my Mother and Father met. Hope this has given you some material for your Web site.
Thanks, JO Chalk
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