200 attend premiere of Pen Mar film

February 28, 2009|By ERIN JULIUS

CASCADE -- Virginia Bruneske worked at Pen Mar Park from 1935 to 1941. She rented binoculars, worked in the carousel building and later worked in the photography studio, Bruneske said Saturday night before the premiere of "Greetings from Pen Mar: The Pen Mar Park Story," a documentary about the mountaintop landmark.

Bruneske, who is one of the former employees featured in the documentary, used to live entire summers at the park, she said. Her mother worked in the park years before her, selling tickets to the carousel around the time of World War I, she said.

"It was a good time to live and a good place to be," Bruneske said. "We were in a big Depression through those years, but we were happy."

Bruneske also was part of the movement to reopen the park.

Her husband, Bernard Bruneske, wrote a petition to that effect. About 11,000 people signed it, and a state lawmaker in Annapolis called the petition the "granddaddy of all petitions," she said.


The park was reopened as part of the Washington County park system in 1977.

"Everybody that knew Pen Mar loved it," Bruneske said.

About 200 people gathered Saturday night at the Fort Ritchie Community Center for the premiere of the documentary.

Russell E. Richards Jr., CEO of Historical Entertainment LLC, was the film's executive producer. Richards has done work on historical projects for the Discovery Channel and the History Channel, but wanted to feature local history, he said.

"I live here ... there is enough history right here in Washington County," Richards said. "This is all I need to do. There are enough important stories."

The documentary took about six months to make, the filmmakers said.

"Anyone who has been here and has a memory, this is for you," said Steve Devoney, a filmmaker out of Silver Spring, Md., who served as the production director for the documentary.

The film shows old black-and-white photographs of women in long dresses and men in hats, and features interviews with those who used to work there. Dinner in the Pen Mar dining room cost 50 cents, and it cost 20 cents to take the trolley from Waynesboro, Pa., to the park in the early part of the 20th century.

During its heyday, between 15,000 and 20,000 people would visit the park on the weekends, said Thomas B. Riford, president and CEO of the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau, which was a financial sponsor of the project.

The park was opened Aug. 31, 1877, by the president of the Western Maryland Railroad. People came from the Baltimore and Washington, D.C., region on the weekends until the park closed in 1942, according to the documentary.

For more information on Historical Entertainment LLC, go to

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