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History of Pen Mar Park brought to life

May 22, 2010|By MARIE GILBERT
  • Skip and Joyce Weant look through old Pen Mar Park memorabilia displayed Saturday during "Memories of Pen Mar" at the Fort Ritchie Community Center.
By Yvette May, Staff Photographer

CASCADE -- On nights when the amusement park at Pen Mar was filled to capacity, Zeno Foster escaped from the crowds and the noise by sitting next to the dance pavilion and listening to the music.

It was soothing, even to a young boy in knee breeches, he said.

He would listen to the shoes sliding across the floor and watch the couples gracefully sweep by.

The memories of those summer nights are as vivid as if they were yesterday, Foster said.

Trips to Pen Mar were an almost-weekly family event -- an escape from the hot asphalt of Baltimore, where the heat could be stifling, he said.

Coming off the Western Maryland Railroad train that carried his family to the tiny town, the air was a good 20 degrees cooler than the home they left behind.

That was part of the appeal of making the 70-mile trip.

But for Foster and his siblings, the real reward was spending the weekend at an amusement park.

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The 86-year-old man, who now lives in Frederick County, had an opportunity Saturday to relive those summers of long ago when he attended "Memories of Pen Mar" at the Fort Ritchie Community Center.

Sponsored by the One Mountain Foundation, the event paid homage to the park, which in its heyday attracted thousands of people from along the East Coast.

Bill Carter, foundation chairman, said the celebration was a perfect fit for the organization, which focuses on historical preservation.

For the past three years, Carter said, the group has been focused on the Civil War era and getting recognition for the Battle of Monterey Pass, which was the first battle after Gettysburg.

Now that that recognition has been accomplished, Carter said the foundation decided to draw attention to another piece of history -- Pen Mar.

The event was suggested by foundation member Bill Coyle, who has lived in the Cascade area all of his life.

"There is a lot of history associated with the Pen Mar area," he said. "There was the amusement park, the hotels. I thought an event like this would bring back a lot of memories. It would also educate generations that don't remember an amusement park even existed."

His wife, Bev Coyle, served as event coordinator, bringing together people with Pen Mar memorabilia who would be interested in displaying their items for the celebration.

Among the offerings were old photographs, model carousel displays, railroad artifacts and antique cars.

Music was provided by the Rocky Birely Combo. Rocky's father, the late Ray Birely, had one of the most popular bands that played for the weekend dances in the park.

Among those attending the event were Robert and Aneeda Miller of Cascade.

When she was 3 years old, Aneeda, 75, became somewhat of a celebrity when she was named the prettiest baby during a contest at Pen Mar.

Aneeda said she has fond memories of the amusement park and recalled the thousands of people who came up from the city to enjoy the resort atmosphere.

She also remembers the carousel and goat cart rides.

"It was wonderful, and very sad when it all disappeared," she said. "Being able to walk around and see all of the old photographs really is special. It's a chance to relive the way everything was back then."

Creston "Lindy" Bumbaugh, 83, said he worked five summers at Pen Mar, including four years at the carousel. He was 10 years old when he landed his first job at the park.

Bumbaugh said there were excursions every weekend from Baltimore, filling the park to capacity.

"When the train left at 4:30, the park was empty," he said.

The event also featured the premiere of a new DVD by Historical Entertainment, "The Grand Hotels of the Blue Ridge."

The video is a collaboration of Russ Richards and Steve Devoney.

"The Pen Mar story is a fascinating story of how the park grew up out of nothing, progressed, died in the 1940s and now has a rebirth," Devoney said.

"We expected the video to be rather short," he said. "But it kept growing. There were so many wonderful aspects."

The DVD will be available locally or by going to http://www.HETVfilm.com.

Though this was the first year for the "Memories of Pen Mar," Bev Coyle said she is hoping it will become an annual event.

"We've had so many positive comments," she said. "And we're extremely pleased with the turnout. I'm expecting we'll be doing this again."

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