Backward Glances—

Calliope Stirs Memories

The Valley Independent
July 31, 1965

An unusual sound was heard in the Mon Valley the other day — strange to many, but familiar to others.

It was the sound of a calliope on the river — coming from a showboat that had come from Pittsburgh to carry passengers on a three-hour pleasure trip on the Monongahela.

It was a sound that had not been heard for years on the Monongahela. And it brought back memories. Memories of summers of long ago and the river and trolley rides, both highlights of the summer seasons.

It also brought back memories of pleasant Sunday afternoons and evenings at the many picnic areas located along trolley rights-of-way.

One of those who remembers is Charles W. Lundy, North Charleroi historian and a retired trolley operator.

He recalls Eldora Park — as would most oldtimers in the Mon Valley. It was probably the most popular picnic site in this end of the state.

Located between Charleroi and Monongahela, it was for many years a "bee hive of activity," Lundy says.

It had everything: merry-go-round, roller coaster, slides, swings, picnic tables, restaurant, dance pavilion, concerts, tent theatres, vaudeville and all kinds of sports. It even had roller skating and dancing for winter activity.

Definite dates for its inception are not certain, but it was in operation as early as 1904, Lundy says.

Recalls Builders

He credits three Charleroi men for building the park. Steve Woodward, Guy Moffitt and Tom Sloan were the financial backers, Lundy says.

A Charleroi woman — Mrs. J. F. McKenna — was in charge of the rides. She also was responsible for maintenance, Lundy says.

Most of the early music for park dancing was supplied by Johnny Jenkins and his orchestra. Mrs. Jenkins also was instrumental in much of the early success of the park.

An honorary member of the Charwood Girl Scouts organization, Mrs. Jenkins was helpful when Charwood bought the pavilion building and chartered the grounds in June, 1946.

It was at Eldora Park where W. Roy McShaffrey, Monessen municipal fire chief's father, first put on his famed tent shows and vaudeville. This was even before the elder McShaffrey came to Monessen and opened the famed Star Theatre.

But, Eldora wasn't the only Valley park.

Other Parks

There was "Beechwood" — located between Dunlevy and Speers. There was "Oakland Park" — operated by Charles F. Thompson and located between Charleroi and Bentleyville. And there was Lynn's Park, on ground where now is built Lynnwood.

All of these parks were located on trolly (sic) lines and a special treat was traveling to and from on the "summer" cars, which were open on all sides. Started about 1912, these summer cars were short lived.

Swimming in the Monongahela was a great sport in those early days and practically every town had its beach.