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… and with those immortal words spoken by Rosalind Russell as Auntie Mame … thus begineth the Happy Holly Project entry for the day … otherwise known as Coffee, Tea or … Lightning? (Part II)

But more about the banquets later.

When last heard from alive, our fearless writer was once more safe and sound in her little home. Flashing lightning notwithstanding … which, by the way, continued late until the wee hours of the morning last night.

And she is now starting to review the notes and pictures from the previous two days of Family History Discovery with her beloved ALo. Which makes her very happy. Our story continues …

To say that I have a colorful family history on my Dad’s side of the family would be the understatement of the century.

From Firemen and Policemen and a proud history stretching all the way back to the Revolutionary War on his Father’s side … to direct immigrants from Ireland who owned an Irish Pub in Pittsburgh in the 1800′s on his Mother’s side … it seems like there was never a dull moment.

But standing out, in my mind at least, was the fact that they lived, at least part of the time, in an Amusement Park. And as I viewed the pictures … memories, long left unvisited, came back unbidden as I recalled going up there in the summer to visit my Grandma.

For those of you unfamiliar with Resorts and Parks in the mid-twentieth-century, Conneaut Lake Park was opened in 1892 as Exposition Park, located on the west side of Conneaut Lake in Western Pennsylvania … along the shores of Pennsylvania’s largest natural lake.

And yes, that does make it 120 years old this year.

The park was renamed “Conneaut Lake Park” in 1920 to reflect a move toward more amusements and rides. And it was around this time that my Grandma started to travel there with the family of the man who would later become my Grandfather.

In the mid-20th century the park featured many of the same rides as other parks of the time.  In 1943, a large portion of the Hotel Conneaut was destroyed in a fire. The ghost of Elizabeth, a bride who supposedly died in the fire, is said to now haunt the hotel.

And it was about this time that my Grandma began the process of setting up their summer cottage to become a full-time home …  for the newly widowed woman and her youngest daughters.

As the youngest daughter, my Aunt Lois who was entering third grade at the time, found herself in the enviable position of living full-time in the place she had spent all her summers … with all the adventures that entails.

Photos of Conneaut Lake Park, Conneaut Lake - This photo of Conneaut Lake Park is courtesy of TripAdvisor. I mean, seriously, how many children took their afternoon naps on the bench of a moving carousel, under their blanket and, as my Aunt said … “looking up the Giraffes Address”.

Address indeed.

I heard stories of how in the early 20th century, my Grandfather built a stand to sell helium balloons. And thanks to his full-time job as a Fireman and the hours it required, he was in a position to go various places and sell balloons of cat and dog heads. It was this extra money that enabled the young family to buy a summer cottage at the Park … a cottage named Hollyhock.  It seems that the houses and cottages there did not have street addresses …  only names.

And no, I am told by my Father that I was not named after the cottage.

And for those of you trying to read the print on the sign to the left … it says “Bicycles and Horses Keep Out”.

Complementing his efforts with the balloons, my Grandma worked pretty much every job imaginable at the park and in the restaurants.

Of course my favorite was when she was in one of the booths on the main area of the Park … because she had this magnificent apron, filled with tickets for all of us grandchildren to use on the rides in the Park.

And about the banquets mentioned above?

Well, in one of the books which shows historical pictures of the Park, my Aunt pointed out one picture in which she … all of six years old and wearing adorable pigtails … is seen reaching up onto the banquet table to get a piece of chicken.

Was this a banquet to which she had been invited?

Um, no.

Thanks to living at the Park full-time, she was allowed to come and go and eat at will … for free. Or as she put it … “Do you see any adults paying any attention to me in the picture?”

The stories went on and on and on and on. And had me laughing till my sides hurt. After all, as a young child living with her mother, the people in the Park were like her family. And what a family it was.

I am honored that she has asked me to help her put together the stories of her childhood growing up in the 1940′s and 1950′s in Conneaut Lake Park. It is a story quite unlike any that I have ever heard. Not even others who grew up with her had this same wealth of experience or perspective … or quirky sense of humor. And I will work with her to tell this story … which truly needs to be told.

“Conneaut Lake Park … Where the Past becomes the Future” … at least my future for a while here.

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