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A teenager's history of Funkstown

May 09, 2006|by ALAN SOKOL

Imagine what it was like for a 15-year-old kid in 1926. After working on his farm chores for the summer, he could possibly look forward to a family vacation all the way out at Funkstown Electric Park.

What! You've never heard of the Funks-town Electric Park? Well, neither had I until recently.

"The park had everything. You name it, it was there," said Funks-town resident Gail Mongan. "Roller coasters, carousels, an aerodrome and roller skating rinks. Even a boat you could ride up the creek and back for a nickel."

I not only heard stories about the park, I walked the path and saw the remnants of what must have been a great entertainment center some fourscore years ago in the 1920s.

Right along the Antietam Creek there were vacation homes that Hagerstown residents would rent for a week or more. The vacationers made the long trek on what's now known as Frederick Street, but at the time it was not much more than a dirt road. Admission for the Electric Park was a dime, but some rides cost a bit more. The park drew power from a large water wheel right next to where the fire hall is today.

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According to Buck Artz, the park fell into disrepair and was dismantled after the Great Depression in the late '30s, but more research needs to be done on the details of its demise.

Another significant area in Washington County during the '30s was the Old City Farm. The farm was about 40 acres of good farming land that anyone could use for free. According to Artz, the main crop that was grown was potatoes, though anything could have been grown. According to Artz, families growing crops could get to the farm by walking along a lane coming out from where the Good Humor-Breyers Ice Cream factory is now, then up around across the creek that went through the farm itself. The creek provided water for irrigating crops.

There were many things in old Funkstown that weren't marked on a map but are still significant. Around where the Funkstown sewer lagoons are today, there were many baseball diamonds in the late 1920s and into the '30s where Little League games were held, according to Artz. There was no big league for the young folk at the time, but according to Robert Kline, now mayor of Funkstown but a teenager at the time, it didn't matter since they still had fun.

Kline played first base on his ball team, and he also played baseball with Buck Artz. Both men told me that since cows were in the field, they had to clean up the "cow pies" before every baseball game.

A great way to travel in the '20s from Funkstown to Boonsboro and Frederick, Md., was by use of the electric trolley. The trolley was called The Potomac Edison, since it was operated by an electric company with that name. The fire hall is where the Potomac Edison facility used to be. There was also a trolley from Hagerstown up to Pen Mar Park on the Maryland-Pennsylvania border, but that is gone as well. Shame, because it would be fun to ride.

The Funkstown bridge on Baltimore Street was built by George Weaver in 1833; he built several of the stone arch bridges seen in Washington County. Believe it or not, before the bridge was widened in the mid-20th century, people were baptized under it. When it was widened, it was still only a one-lane bridge; drivers take turns crossing the bridge. But in the past six decades, Funkstown's population and traffic have increased.

Keeping our childhood memories alive is a hard thing to do, as Americans have a tendency to throw away their history every 30 years or so. If we held an archeological dig in the old city dump, I'm sure we'd find all sorts of things from the '20s and '30s.

We don't have the power to change history, but we do have the power to keep it.

If you visited the Funkstown Electric Park, played in the city baseball lots, or have any other interesting information about this area from the time when you were a kid, please send a letter or e-mail. Send letters to Pulse at The Herald Mail (attention: Alan Sokol), or e-mail me directly at alan_sokol@myactv.net.

Also, if you know where any of the old carousel or ferris wheel parts ended up, let me know and we'll try to get some photographs. We might even try to set up an interview later this summer so you could record your memories for future generations to enjoy.

In the meantime, I'm heading outside to play with my two brothers to make some memories of my own.




- Some research conducted at the Washington County Historical Society

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