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'40s come to Pen Mar Park

August 30, 1998

Couple in overlookBy MATTHEW BIENIEK / Staff Writer

photo: KEVIN G. GILBERT / staff photographer

CASCADE - Time travel came to a corner of Washington County Sunday.

The vintage 1940s cars, families picknicking on blankets and the dancers - jitterbugging, waltzing and just swinging to Big Band music - could make visitors feel that maybe Harry Truman was still in the White House.

Everybody's Day at Pen Mar Park on Sunday brought out a huge crowd on a sunny and humid day.

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The dancing was the center of attention. Hundreds of people milled around the dance pavilion watching up to 50 couples dancing to the tunes of the Ray Birely Orchestra.

Some of the women dancing wore heels, while others donned sneakers. The men wore every variety of footwear. Most wore shoes so newly polished that dozens of gleams of sunlight bounced brightly across the dance floor, reflected off the buffed leather.


Dance partners Barbara Seiferd of Gettysburg, Pa., and David Mowen of Hagerstown planned to take part in the jitterbug competition. Seiferd said the pair competes not for prizes, but for fun. They did not even know what the prizes were.

"We just have a wonderful time dancing, " she said.

Mowen has been a regular visitor to Pen Mar for seven or eight years, but Seiferd is a newcomer.

George and Molly CullisonWhen contest time came, Mowen and Seiferd took to the floor with about 20 other couples who whirled, looped and shook. Mowen and Seiferd made it to the final five with vigorous and elegant dancing.

Other couples in the contest went in for more acrobatic dancing. One young woman spent a great deal of time lying on the floor - after her partner swung her beneath his legs and gently placed her there.

After a tie-breaking dance, Mowen and Seiferd placed third - and sat down for a break - both of them smiling and Mowen perspiring. Their prize was an issue of Cracker Barrel magazine devoted to Pen Mar Park.

Jim Powers, secretary-treasurer of American Federation of Musicians Local 770, who contracts bands for the park, said he guessed about 5,000 people were at the park. Powers said a national resurgence of interest in ballroom dancing helped bring the crowds out.

But dancing was not the only attraction at the park on Sunday. New this year was a classic car display, put on by the 81/70 Cruisers, a loosely organized group of car enthusiasts.

"We're not a club," said group organizer John Perrott.

The 16 cars included a purple 1946 Crosley and a banana skin-colored 1970 Chevelle. Perrott said he hopes to have more cars next year.

"We've had a steady crowd of people coming to look over the cars all day," he said.

Moving around in circles at the park along with the dancers were miniature carousels. Walter Kohler of Maugansville, one of the builders, said it takes six months to two years to make a carousel. Everything is hand-carved.

"I make everything except the motor that runs it," said Kohler.

His special pride is a carousel with wooden gears. The retired Mack truck tool machinist has help - his wife Kathryn paints the horses.

"I've done 200 of them, " she said.

The Kohlers are members of Miniature Carousel Builders Inc., an organization with more than 100 members in the Tri-State area.

Housed in a pavilion with the carousel makers were members of the Cumberland Valley Woodcarvers, displaying their creations, ranging from walking sticks to birds.

"I get satisfaction out of seeing it done," said Rita Johns, of Spring Run, Pa., describing her enjoyment of carving. She displayed her work at the pavilion - including Civil War soldiers, birds and an American Indian war club.

Children shrieked and romped through the park. Besides a puppet show by the Beale Street puppets, they could enjoy having balloons sculpted into funny headgear by Hugh McVeagh and Jim Greer.

And lots of the kids, like their parents and grandparents, just went swinging.

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