Readers remember 100 years of Camden Park
Editor's note: Camden Park celebrated its 100th birthday in 2003. As part of the celebration, The Herald-Dispatch asked readers to send in their memories and photos. These were originally published June 15, 2003.
My earliest remembrance of Camden Park is attending the Thornburg reunion. Every August, the Thornburgs and others would gather in the picnic shelter with picnic baskets full of fried chicken, baked beans, potato salad, watermelon and various other delicacies.
After all had eaten to their heart's content, a program followed narrating new births and deaths since last year. Accomplishments and promotions were noted.
However, at the beginning of the program, most of the children would slip out to enjoy the rides.
One year, Robert Thornburg, my mother's cousin, gave me a quarter and said, "Enjoy some more rides."
My father gave my brother a quarter so we could go together. A quarter doesn't sound like much, but then it meant five rides - a nickel a ticket. One ride, which isn't there now, was a boat - not for the water but more like a swing. Seated one at each end of the boat, we pulled a big rope which sent us back and forth for a good ride. It was fun!
Mary Jo Plymale
Highlight of the summer
I was born in Milton. Since my youth, I have married, raised five children, traveled all over the country and the world. I have seen many things, including Disneyland and Disney World. However grand and glorious they are, my fondest memories and true love has been Camden Park.
As a child we would pile into the car and off we would go. As we neared the area, we would always have a contest on who would see the roller coaster first. What a thrill!
We would run from ride to ride, our parents scurrying along to keep up. The last ride was always the train. All the children and even Mom and Dad piled on and away we went around the track.
As my children grew, every summer we would come back to Milton. My father took us to Camden Park, creating fond and lasting memories for my children, too. Our last ride was the train, and now three generations would pile on - my Mom and Dad, their two daughters and husbands and 11 grandchildren. So, the magic passed from one generation to another.
Peggy Cummings Andress
A Camden honeymoon
My mother, Pauline Billups, and my father, Pearl Lester, were secretly married in Greenup, Ky., on June 11, 1934. Their honeymoon - all six hours of it - was celebrated at Camden Park.
Pearl spent that night in Kenova, and Pauline returned to White's Creek. Her diary reads, "Retired at 8:30."
My mother enjoyed teasing my father by telling people that "the most exciting thing about my honeymoon was riding the roller coaster at Camden Park."
They were happily married for 67 years!
Pauline died in 2001. Pearl is a resident at Heritage Center. He is now 92 years old.
4th of July
My very first memory of Camden started when I was around 5 years old, and I am now fast approaching 72. My dad took me to Camden Park on the 4th of July for the fireworks display. After a fun-filled day, the fireworks started and scared me so bad I broke away from Daddy and ran to hide behind a telephone pole. When they located me, I was crouched on the ground with my fingers in my ears. But my fondest memories of the park was going there on the weekend between the ages of 9 and 12 with my cousins and friends. My dad had a friend who ran the rollercoaster ride. When I would run out of ride tickets, I would go get on the rollercoaster and he would fill my lap with ride tickets. Needless to say, my friends and I were delighted. Then as a teen-ager, I enjoyed those times when they would have the country and western entertainers, as I am an avid lover of country music . Needless to say, those lazy summer days I spent at Camden were great. Those were the days.
Darlene Cornwell Hansford
Back in 1934, I was in the third grade at Wurtland, Ky., Grade School. My teacher and her husband, Jake and Bertha Savage, took our class to Camden Park in a big truck with hay to sit on. They gave us all a free ride (I think it was the train).
My dad gave me a nickel to spend. I was lucky. Most didn't have a nickel (I don't remember what I "splurged" on). I used that to stress to my children that you could have a good time without a lot of money. I never did convince them.
Through all the years, the children would say, "Oh no, not the Camden Park trip" when I would start to tell it. My children grew up with Camden Park, and it was the highlight of my two grandchildren's visit when they came from the western part of the state.
Camden Park is still one of the greatest assets we have in this area. In fact, I wish I had some great-grandchildren to accompany to the park.
I remember Camden Park when I was a young girl. There was a cinder road and the street cars ran. The merry-go-round was the first ride as you entered the front gate. It was a large one, and you had to climb four or five steps to a platform. There was a beautiful calliope in the center, and it played beautiful music. Then in the center was the dance hall where Daddy Via, the owner, had his office. There was an Indian mound, and behind it was the rest rooms, which were the old-fashioned kind. No running water to wash your hands. My aunt and uncle leased the restaurant, skating rink and concession stand from Daddy Via. He was a small man, about 4 feet tall and humped back and always wore a wide brim hat. The first year I worked there I worked the merry-go-round and it was either 5 or 10 cents to ride. There was no charge to get into the park or to park your car. They would have dances in the dance hall several times a month and the well-known bands would come and play. They also had dance marathons every once in awhile.
Gladys M. Pack
I want to share a story of my precious memories about my grandparents, Lindsey and Nola Rutherford of Genoa.
My grandfather worked for Norfolk and Western Railways and was away from home for weeks at a time. My grandmother worked very hard with her responsibilities as mother of five children, and she ran the Genoa Post Office/Country Store. My mother would tell stories about my grandmother delivering supplies, such as eggs and flour, to families that had little money or no transportation. All the kids had chores that kept them very busy.
My grandparents' home was right at the railroad tracks, and my mother would talk about the sound of the train's steam engine slowing down, and her dad jumping off. All the kids knew with him home they would get to go to town and have some fun at Camden Park. This was in the 1930s.
On July 29, 1979, my grandparents shared with family and friends the renewal of wedding vows on their 50th wedding anniversary at Camden Park. This family has seen five generations enjoy the fun at Camden Park, thanks to my grandparents' loving memories.
Special day with grandfather
My name is Lu Shoemaker. I surely wish to celebrate 100 years with Camden Park. I am now 63 years old and can remember all the times spent at Camden Park. I have a very special photo of me and my grandfather, William Stimmer, taken in the summer of 1945. He took me to Camden Park every year on the Armco Day celebration, which was a wonderful time.
My grandfather was a wonderful person and would do anything for me.
South Point, Ohio
I have wonderful memories of Camden Park. As a child in the 1940s, I remember returning home with feet blackened from the cinders that coated the midway. Tickets for the rides were cheap, but we were given only a little money, perhaps 50 cents. There were few rides: the merry go round (with its lively music), the Whip and the swings.
The slides were made of boards about 1 to 1.5 inches wide, which were polished to a sheen, and were such fun. One of them had two "humps," and I remember the first time I was brave enough to slide down.
Back on the midway, I was not allowed to ride the roller coaster. I didn't want to spend a ticket on the haunted house or the upside down house, so I would walk through the penny arcade, a peek through the fence at the swimming pool and then a ride on the train.
Perhaps a last dime could be spent for a hot dog or cotton candy, and a sleepy, dirty child was ready to go home.
Later, in my teens, the main attraction was the skating arena, but that's another story!
Winalee Miller Blackwood
The Don Barnett Orchestra
I have a picture of a Camden Park performance July 4, 1945, at The Bandstand, located in Camden Park Roller Rink.
Afternoon dances and evening dance, you could purchase a ticket for 10 cents a dance or $1.25, if my memory is correct for the dance, up to three hours.
Camden Park always employed the big bands for holidays.
The roller rink was open with screened windows; you could hear and listen to the music within the park.
The Don Barnett Orchestra, a local dance band, was one of the favorites with the swingsters throughout the Tri-State 58 years ago.
When you asked for Camden Park memories, I had to write to tell you that words don't do my memories justice. I can still feel the excitement as we loaded up the ice cream (packed with dry ice) for the trip. We took cakes, potato salad, chicken, all the plates and drinks, but, the main memory is the ice cream. In the late 1940s, that was my dad's main item. He would use the Roberts Store Truck and load it up. I still feel the excitement.
Our church, Milton Baptist, had their annual picnic at the park. It wasn't if you were going, it was just when the date was.
Everyone went, old and young, equally excited. It was quite a drive then, no interstate, just Route 60.
We always had the contest to see who would spot the floodwall and then - the most fun - the Camden Park clown sign. My heart still gets excited when I make that drive today. Thank you, Camden Park, for all the wonderful memories.
P.S. I'm still afraid of the old wooden coaster, but what a ride ?
In the summer of 1941, I got my first full-time job. It was operating a concession stand at Camden Park, selling candy, cigarettes and soft drinks, etc. I worked 84 hours per week, for the princely sum of $15 per week.
My boss, Ike Kennedy, told me I could help myself to a candy bar, soft drink and cigarettes, as long as I was circumspect about it.
July 4th came on Monday that year, so we had a big three-day weekend. My four temporary helpers and I worked 51 hours over the three days. When I came staggering in on Tuesday morning, Mr. Kennedy surprised me with a $15 bonus. I thought I was rich, and I guess I was, since I didn't have time to spend any money, except at Stewart's Root Beer stand when I was walking to my home in Westmoreland.
Footnote: Natchee the Apache and his country band played there occasionally. His bass fiddle player was a boy from Virginia named Willie Wilson. Early in 1945 aboard the Merchant Marine ship Elisha G. Otis, on which I was a cook, I met Willie, who was in the Navy Gun crew. Small world, is it not?
An extra ride
My most memorable time at Camden Park was July 1941. I was 6 years old. My family had very little money, and one time a year was all we got. This was the 4th of July.
We lived very far out in the country in Wayne County, and several people got together and went in a big truck. They had to pitch in and pay for gas, so there wasn't a lot of money left for rides.
My favorite was the merry-go-round. It cost 5 cents a ride. I had a few rides, and my mother told me that was all the money she had, so this was my last ride. I was in tears, but when the man walked around taking tickets, he passed me up and didn't take mine, so I got to ride one more time ? such a happy little girl.
P.S. There was also all the country music stars over the years from Hank Williams, Marty Robbins to Vince Gill and Garth Brooks, just for the price of gate admission.
My grandfather and father worked for the electric streetcar company. They had the run from Huntington to Ashland. They were known as Big Sandy and Little Sandy, but their real names were John L. and William Nelson Selbee. They often took a break and ate lunch at Camden Park.
My mother's father (James Wilson Jarrell) and his brothers worked for Appalachian Power Company, which picnics each year and all the Bell Jarrell family attended. And the food, you would never believe.
In August 1942, my husband (Oscar Carl Rice Sr.) was working on the caterpillar ride. At the Appalachian Power Company picnic, he became my first boyfriend.
After he got off work, we rode all the rides and had a grand old time.
My mother (Oleta Jarrell Selbee) had nine brothers and sisters. They all now have their reunions in heaven, but all the generations will never forget the wonderful people they were.
I spent many hours at the skating rink. And the dance hall my sister, Mary Kathryn, well remembers also. Not only did my husband work there, but my son (Oscar Carl Rice Jr.) also.
Thanks for the memories.
Oleta Faye Selbee Rice
Growing up at the park
We came here in March 1944 from a farm in Virginia, near Lynchburg, to work for F.E. Sammons as a herdsman and farmer. My sister came with us, as her husband was in the service.
I felt I could work part time, so got a job with J.C. Penney's. My sister kept our three children.
One evening, I came home, found a note on the door. We lived in the house across the tracks in front of Camden Park. It said, "We are at the park, I took money out of your purse, and put the rest under your mattress." I rushed in, but no one had bothered it. So when they got home, they said "Oh, Mother, we had the best time, rode so many rides." From then on, we spent every spare moment at Camden Park.
Later on, we had two more children. They loved Camden Park, too. They are all grown up with children of their own. But these were happy memories.
Love at first sight
I have a lot of fond memories of Camden Park, but the one I cherish most is Sept. 2, 1941. I was 20 years old, and some friends introduced me to a handsome young man by the name of Hubert Fuller. It was love at first sight.
We spent an afternoon of fun at the park, especially the boat ride on the lake, which is not there anymore.
Uncle Sam got Hubert before I did, but I didn't give up. On Oct. 19, 1943, we were married. Our three children, 10 grandchildren and great-grandchildren have enjoyed the park throughout the years.
On our 50th anniversary, our children gave us a quilt story of our lives, and the first block was the Camden Park clown with the date when we met. This Oct. 19 will be our 60th anniversary. Thank you, Camden Park, for all the years of fun.
This picture was taken approximately 1944 of my grandmother, E. Patsy Rogers Hazelett, at Camden Park.
In the early 70s, growing up on 9th Avenue in Huntington, Camden Park was the ultimate in entertainment.
At the entrance to the park, you were given a bright-colored string bracelet, held together with a metal clip. This was a status symbol among my neighborhood friends.
The only way this piece of string came off was to rot off. Even under the parental threat of the metal somehow jabbing us on the wrist and causing lock jaw, we would persist. Because at the end of the summer, whoever had the most strings, had the best summer.
"Mamaw" is known by many as the "Belle of the Bank." For the last 36 years, she has waved at the Camden Queen from the Ohio side, and has been a loyal patron of the park. My cousin Adam and I, on his recent visit back home, got to take our children, the third generation, to Camden Park. What a joy it was to see our children enjoy the park as we did.
Michele G. Hankins
Roller hockey team
Camden Park reminds me of days gone by. Around 1949 or 1950, I was a player for a roller hockey team called the Flying Aces. There was also another team called the Blackhawks. Roller hockey is a lot like ice hockey, but a lot safer. I still have the picture hanging in my home, and those players I can recognize are Johnny Hite, Bill Fox, Joe Macri, Mac Little and me along with three others I don't remember. Jack Rash played for the Blackhawks. During that period of time, the rink was run by a man by the name of Bob Black.
This sure brings back memories of good ol' Camden Park.
Pete Sullivan, 77
From young to old
The picture showed happy people on the Big Dipper roller coaster at Camden Park. Thus began a time of remembering good memories of Camden Park.
Children of all ages have a good time at Camden Park. Babies and senior citizens have beautiful smiles on their faces. The atmosphere is cheerful and upbeat no matter what else is going on in the world. Music is the order of the day or night. Delicious food is available. Eating is fun at the park. New rides and experiences are there for the total enjoyment of one and all. Performances by Nashville stars are often on the schedule. The attitude toward everyone is so sharing and courteous. Relaxing, resting or rushing is up to all individuals visiting the park. Kids, kids, kids! We are all kids once again when we enter the gates at Camden Park.
Thinking about Camden Park getting ready to celebrate its 100th birthday is a wonderful time to revisit there and enjoy the gift that Camden Park is to all of us in the Tri-State area.
Happy birthday, Camden Park, and many, many, more.
Martha "Janet" Stump
My memories of Camden Park go back to a "giant" lake with row boats, a swimming pool and a penny arcade.
I was once told by a former lifeguard at Camden Park, Bill Gregory, that the pool there was the place to be seen. In fact, Bill told me that he met his wife, Lois, while he was on duty as a life guard. He also said that the swimming pool was filled from an artisan well, which made the water quite cold.
The old wooden row boats were a adventure on the high seas, my first experience in a real boat. To a 6-year-old, the lake was as big as the ocean with uncharted waters, sea creatures and real pirates. The boats were easy to get into when they were docked.
Walking into the penny arcade, the first thing that caught your eye was a big red seat in the middle of the room. Put in a penny and the seat would buzz and shake. There was a baseball game that resembled a pin ball machine where you could hit a steel ball up into the crowd for a home run.
And those magnificent corn dogs.
My father, the late Robert "Bob" Burley, worked at the park from 1951 until his death in 1981. He began as a salesman, traveling to rural Appalachia to encourage schools, churches and social organizations to have outings at Camden Park. It must have worked. In a short time, Dad was promoted to office manager, and the park enjoyed much success in the ensuing years.
With Bob Burley handling the office duties and the late William "Harry" Nudd working as the manager of the outside operation, Camden Park thrived. These two put their heart and soul into the park and its mission. Countless Tri-State residents got their first job at Camden Park, thanks to these two gentlemen. Certainly, their memories are positive as well.
Although in the summer Dad was rarely home, we made family time at the park. Dinners in the cafeteria, roller-skating and riding rides made for lots of fun. What was important to my Dad was being out in the park and seeing the happiness of those enjoying their day. He loved the park, and he loved the people who made it part of their life. Happy birthday, Camden Park! Thanks for the memories.
Just give me a ticket and show me the baddest, meanest ride in the park.
Me, my twin brother Mario "Moe" and my younger brother Tony are not shy here, asking for the autograph of then WSAZ-TV personality "Steamboat Bill" circa 1959 in front of the old skating rink at Camden Park.
When my Mom (Connie) thought of something fun for us all to do on a cool summer evening, after a day at the Olympic Pool, it was always unanimous we would shout "Camden Park, please, Mom, please, please, please." We'd load up the car, and we were on our way discussing the usual pre-ride agenda. The Big Dipper first. That way everything else would be a little more easier on the stomach after chowing down a few hot dogs and cotton candy.
And kids being kids the time came, but not without its protests of course, to bid adieu. But it didn't take too long after to recall the day's events that we little ones kept in our own little dreamland journals. Oh, were those the days.
Meeting the young governor
Camden Park was always something special to look forward to, especially for the school patrols who were rewarded with a day at Camden in May at the end of the school year.
The year was l956 and as a school patrol, I was voted by my classmates to receive the honor patrol award. This was to be presented at the Camden Park outing. Can you imagine how excited I was to have the award presented to me by our young governor, Cecil Underwood?
Gov. Underwood shook hands with every child from each school as he handed out the awards. I remember thinking he was the most handsome man in the world, and I will never forget this event. I still have the tiny badge award among my prized possessions.
So, (twice) Gov. Underwood, if you are reading this, thank you so much for taking time from your busy schedule to be there at Camden Park, and instilling memories that will last forever.
When I was growing up, my uncle worked for Ashland Oil, and one day a year the company rented the park for its families. "Camden Park Day" was truly THE day of the year. Bigger than Christmas! For weeks, my cousins and I would anxiously discuss each aspect of the park. What would we ride first (always whatever ride we could run to the fastest). Would we be too scared to ride the Big Dipper? Then there was the food - sno cones, cotton candy and, of course, pronto pups (still the best anywhere). Forty years later, no event in my life has been anticipated as much as that day at Camden Park.
Camden Park has been a part of my childhood memories for years.
Each summer, Houdaille Industries would reserve the park for a family fun night. My Uncle Joe Macri worked there 34 years and always made sure we got to go. William, my brother now deceased, my sister Lynn and I rode everything there like typical children, full of adventure and fun. The Ferris wheel was always the ride we loved, with its great view and rocking seats as you reached the top. The day had to have a good scare from the Spook House, too, or a scream as your hands flew in the air on the Big Dipper. I remember seeing the Camden Queen on the river for the first time. The huge fireworks with special concerts is another event that stands out. Dolly Parton was a true star as she graciously mingled in the crowd. Nothing could complete your day like the huge candy suckers. They were like no others! Corn dogs, cotton candy and ice cream could take a back seat anytime. I wish Camden Park another wonderful 100 years. It made memories for me and my siblings that time will never fade.
Working at Camden
It was a fun place to work in the 1960s. Teen-agers in the Huntington area were fortunate to have Camden Park and its managers, William Henry "Harry" Nudd and Bob Burley. They tolerated kids just entering the workplace and were extremely well adapt at understanding kids and how to get the most from us. We were paid $1 per hour back then. We had to help customers on and off rides, help keep your ride clean, safe and wear a smile. It was great money. The place was always packed on the holidays, Ashland Oil Day, C&O Day and many other family and company picnics. Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton showed up for several years running. The smells of pronto pups and cotton candy were always in the air. It's a great Huntington institution! It deserves our support. Happy 100th, Camden clown.
Hotdogs, hotdogs, hotdogs
I was 15 in the summer of 1967, and my dad took me to work for the very first time at Camden Park. It was the 4th of July, and I went in about 10 a.m. and worked until after midnight, putting hotdog sauce on thousands of hotdogs at the Porter Wagoner-Dolly Parton show.
My dad, not realizing my day, came by that afternoon and brought me some hotdogs for lunch (not a good choice).
That was the beginning of four summers I spent at Camden Park, working in the cafeteria and some very long nights making chicken dinners for all of the picnics. Nancy Smith was the cashier in the cafeteria, and did a good job of keeping us in line. The park was run well by Mr. Nudd, who really cared about the kids that worked there. During that time, I met a hard-working boy, whom I have been married to for 32 years. We have two daughters, and both our children worked there when they were teen-agers. The park has changed over the years, but has remained a good place for families to go and teen-agers to work. Here's to another 100 years, Camden Park.
Shortest visit ever
Late one summer afternoon (early 1960s), my son Rodney walked in the door, asking to go to Camden Park. I grabbed the car keys and off we went. I should mention I had been trying on a pair of tight-fitting slacks and did not take time to change. Arriving at the gate, we paid our 10-cent admission and walked toward the Scrambler for our first ride. Rodney jumped up into the seat, and I prepared to step high to get in the car. To my dismay, I felt and heard my pants split open, not down the middle but out the sides! I was horrified and spent the whole ride squashed against the side of the Scrambler anticipating how I would discreetly dismount. As the ride slowed to a halt, there was a man laughing and pointing at my "dilemma." After my son refused to offer his shirt, the very kind operator of the ride rescued me with a tarpaulin cover from the ride. I wrapped it around my waist for the "parade" back to our car. It was quite a sight with my son Rodney laughing all the way. It was our shortest Camden Park visit ever!
Remembering a first visit
I wanted to send this vintage picture along of my mother, Eleanor Hager, and I riding the carousel at the park. My dad, Mike Hager, took the picture (as well as a great 8mm home movie that day), and my parents still live in Huntington.
When this picture was made in 1962, I was 2 years old, and we lived in South Charleston. This was my first trip to Camden Park, and I DO remember it. For some reason, I did not smile during the visit. I recall thinking this was absolutely the coolest place in the world, and I was taking it all in very seriously - thus the intense expression. My parents, however, took this to mean that I was not enjoying myself, so when they decided to take me home, I cried and most definitely did not want to leave. For the time that we lived in the Kanawha Valley before moving to the Tri-State area in 1967, I vividly associated Huntington with the magic of Camden Park and the joy of Mr. Cartoon on "Channel 3." Huntington was certainly heaven on Earth to a child of the 60s!
Beth Hager Spotts
New Cumberland, Pa.
Cultivating a work ethic
In my final years of high school at Vinson, I worked summers at Camden during the Harry Nudd years. Mr. Nudd was a tough boss, to be sure. However, he was also a fair and caring person. Obviously, his work ethic influenced all who worked for him, and I'm sure that was his intention.
It was while working at Camden in the late 1950s that I met my wife-to-be, Diania Preston. She and her sister, Katie, spent many hours at the park with their parents, Mason and Jenny Preston. The elder Prestons had retired and enjoyed working summers at the park. They always said Camden was unsurpassed as a spot to meet and watch people.
Mason worked many jobs over the years at Camden. However, perhaps his most memorable was as "engineer" of the Camden train (pictured here in July 1965). Jenny worked in the ticket booth.
Diania and Katie's aunt also worked in Camden's office, while their cousin worked in the Camden skating rink. Even after Diania and I had married and moved to Louisville, we brought our own children back to Camden to ensure that they, too, would have the very special memories that Camden provides.
I grew up in Westmoreland, which means Camden Park, Pronto Pups and cotton candy were always a part of our summers. Two memories come to light.
As young teen-agers, we hung out at The Parkette. One night, we were sitting in cars, listening to the radio and coaxing each car to peel rubber as they pulled out from the red light. We decided we wanted Pronto Pups. We pooled our money and came up with enough to cover the cost of the Pups PLUS the price of the 10-cent admission. A couple kids went to get them, and we all enjoyed.
Fast-forward 30 years.
My family is out on the river boating. We've been gone longer than we expected, we're down river about 34 miles from our river camp and huuuuuunngry. As we head back home, we pass 12 Pole Creek and get a brain storm: Pronto Pups. We pool our money, let our son off on shore to go buy as many as he can get (no admission from the creek). He returns, and we're satisfied.
We've now introduced our granddaughter to the best Pronto Pup in the world ... a.k.a. corn dogs.
Sheila Davidson Frasher
Crown City, Ohio
Meeting at the park
It was the spring of 1974. Little did we know on that fateful day, we would meet our soulmates.
I was from the country, he the city. He was the operator of the Haunted House. A young man of 15 with dark hair and beautiful blue eyes. I was a mere 13 years old, out for a day of fun with the family.
We eventually met and started talking. I was just another girl for him to flirt with, he says. We never thought that we would ever see each other again But fate has a way of intervening.
We were married 2 1/2 years after that, and 26 years and one son later (born in 1980), we are still together.
The years have been like the Big Dipper, with ups and downs along the way. But like Camden Park, we hope to be around for years to come. So, this park has a very special place in our hearts and always will.
Dale and Cora Mead
Special day with big sister
It was the summer of 1974, and my oldest sister, Kathy, took me to Camden Park. It was a very special day for me because I was able to spend the whole day alone with her, without our six other siblings. We had our picture taken together in a photo booth, acting silly and having a great time. I'm the one with the Camden Park cup in hand. I will never forget that day and the special bond that began with my "big sister" by spending a day at Camden Park.
Important day for youngster
One day in the summer of 1979, we took our daughter, Kelly, to Camden Park. Only 3 years old, she loved the rides: the merry-go-round, the kiddie rides, even some of the big rides with Dad. It was on the Haunted House ride that she lost her hat. She always wore a hat because she had lost most of her hair. Her dad fashioned a new hat from his white handkerchief which she wore as proudly as any other.
Her favorite ride of all was the pony carts. The ride operator was a wonderful older gentleman who let her ride time after time. It seemed that she rode for hours.
That day at Camden Park, Kelly had the most fun of her young life. You see, Kelly had cancer and within six months of that day she was gone.
A family tradition
My name is Tember Medley, and I am now 20 years old and have great memories of Camden Park. When I was little, and my stepdad, two stepsisters, brother and I would go every summer. He works at Pepsi Cola of Huntington, and every summer they would give away tickets. My mom is a "workin' woman," so she never got to go, but it gave me time to spend with my stepdad. We had so much fun. My stepsisters love the big rides, and I am a scaredy cat, so I rode the little things. Everyone was so nice there, and I loved getting cotton candy. Now, I am all grown, and I am gonna have a little one of my own in about six months. I can't wait to take him or her to Camden Park because it is really a family fun place. I am so glad I had somewhere to go when I was little. I still remember us all saying, "Are we there yet? Are we there yet?" Then, when we saw that big clown, we would get so excited we couldn't stand it. I hope Camden Park is here forever.
South Point, Ohio
I have many words of praise and memories about Camden Park. I worked there from the summers of 1991-1993, working the Frog Bog game and at the handstamp booth. My very first job! I was 16. Gary Fry was running the place. His whole family was wonderful to work for. Working at Camden Park is a tradition in my family. My parents worked there, my sister and many aunts and uncles.
In fact, if it weren't for Camden Park, I wouldn't be on this Earth right now. My dad went to C-K, and my mom to Vinson. Camden Park is where they met! They are still happily married to this day. It's been 31 years.
Thanks, Camden Park, for all of the memories.
Folk artist Steve Free has been a regular performer at Camden Park for several years now and always looks forward to these fun-filled shows. Steve is a seven-time ASCAP award winning singer-songwriter and has placed nearly 10 songs on national and international charts. "Without Your Love" reached the Number 1 spot on the International Independent Folk & Country Charts in January 2002. Steve again played opening day this year and is scheduled to appear several more times this season.
Ever since I was born, and as long as I can remember, Camden Park has always been one of the family outings or church activities.
Whenever I think of my family or church having a great time or a great laugh, I always include Camden Park as one of my happy memories.
If you don't have at least one happy memory about being at Camden Park, you obviously are not from around here, because Camden Park is a "West Virginia family reunion." Think about it: How many times can you actually go to Camden Park without seeing someone you know?
Camden Park holds great events for Halloween, and anyone who knows how to laugh or have fun can find a ride or laugh about something.
I have worked my way up the height chart, from the kiddy rides to the Screamin' Demon.
I can always remember wanting to be in the front for the Big Dipper. My dad always rode the Big Dipper with me, and I remember his legs being too long for the seats.
No matter how old I get, I know I will never forget the special memories from Camden Park.
Hannah Koerber, 12
Losing the Big Dipper
I was working relief one year on rides when I walked up the ramp of the Big Dipper.
"Break time," I said, grabbing the controls of the brakes and stopping the coaster. "Raise your rails, and walk to the left."
I let go of the brakes and turned to my left, which put the cars behind me. At that minute, I had forgotten I stopped the coaster.
"Where is it?" I said to myself, waiting for the ride to come in. Two minutes past, nothing. I think the coaster is stuck somewhere. I shut the chain off, and I go looking for it on the tracks. No sight of it. I think it must be stuck in the tunnel. I climb up into the tunnel. Nothing. It's gone, vanished, three cars with people on it nowhere in sight.
The ride operator of the Hot Cat calls me.
"What's wrong, Don?"
"Dude, I've lost the coaster."
My heart pounding, I looked toward the station. There it was, sitting there waiting right where I stopped it at the beginning. It's the year I lost the coaster. I'm now the official Big Dipper ride operator.
When I was a child, I lived in Westwood, Ky. My father worked at Armco, and once a year Armco Day was held at Camden Park. That was the only day I got to attend. All the rides were free, and the lines were always long. My favorites were the roller coaster and the boat ride on the lake.
Important dates in Camden Park's 100-year history
1903 - The Camden Interstate Railway, owned by Sen. Johnson Newlon Camden of Parkersburg, has an exchange point between Huntington and Ashland that is on the confluence of Twelvepole Creek and the Ohio River in northern Wayne County. This excellent picnic spot, named Camden Park, is opened to the public.
1907 - The carousel, still the park's oldest ride, opened.
1910 - The park is bustling with a swimming pool and seven rides when Colonel E.G. Via is hired as manager.
1916 - Via buys the park from the street car company and runs it until his death in 1946.
1937 - The historic 1937 flood badly damages most buildings at Camden Park.
1946 - Huntington furniture salesman John P. Boylin buys the park, which now has nine rides, from the descendants of Colonel Via. Boylin partners with Harry Nudd, H.J. Malloy and later R.M. "Bob" Burley.
1958 - Crews build the Nudd-designed, 45-foot-high roller coaster, the "Big Dipper," in seven weeks with ready-made cars and trains and local lumber.
1958 - The Cabaret Room, which hosted big bands throughout the 1940s and 1950s is destroyed by fire.
1959 - The Roller Rink is built on the site of the Cabaret Room.
1971 - Camden Park closes its zoo.
1978 - In April, Capt. Gene Lister and the Camden Queen, a replica of a late 1800s sternwheel packet boat, offer one-hour excursions on the Ohio River.
1980 - Camden Park is sold to a group of investors out of Virginia, which includes B.R. Roberts.
1981 - Robert N. "Bob" Burley, general manager of Camden Park, dies at age 59. He had been an employee of the park for 35 years.
1982 - The Log Flume opens during Camden Park's 80th year.
1985 - The Malt Shop is severely damaged in a fire on April 7.
1988 - The $1 million steel roller coaster, the Thunderbolt Express, opens. The coaster did a 360-degree loop and stood 86 feet tall. The coaster has since closed.
1990 to 1993 - Judy Jennings and WTCR book just about every up-and-coming country music act including Garth Brooks twice, Vince Gill, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Brooks and Dunn, Billy Ray Cyrus, Shenandoah and Pirates of the Mississippi.
1992 - After 14 years of running excursions out of Camden Park, Capt. Gene Lister takes the Camden Queen to Madison, Ind.
1992 - The Roberts auction off the rare, wooden carousel horses for $109,560 in Tampa, Fla.
1993 - More than 50 people injured on a ride called The Enterprise.
1994 - Suits pile up against Bill Roberts of Virginia. Roberts owed more than $2 million to a long list of creditors including the Boylin family, which still owned the park property. Roberts works out an 11th-hour agreement with creditors to open the amusement park.
1995 - John Boylin, his wife, Jane Boylin, and their son, Jack Boylin, take over management of the park, giving it a facelift for its May opening.
1996 - Camden Park's skating rink, business office, a section of games and the beloved Pronto Pup Stand, burn in an April 23 fire.
1998 - Spooktacular, a Halloween-themed event, begins running each weekend in October.
2001 - The Skydiver, a 73-foot-tall ride, is added.
2002 - Swan Lake is opened with its pedal boats.
2003 - The Boylins let the public vote for the park's new ride, 75 percent of the voters pick the Kite Flyer.
2008 - The park opens a new miniature golf course.