Roller Skating Is A Favorite Pastime For All Ages
HUGHESVILLE – There’s no doubt in mind on how much fun roller skating can be when speaking to one of the many locals who frequent Trout Pond Park every week to skate. About forty regulars come every Thursday night announced Frank Pidcoe, owner of the facility. “This is a real family atmosphere,” said Chip Hendershot from Watsontown who has been skating for thirty four years at Trout Pond.
Originally the complex was built as a fish hatchery to raise trout according to Pidcoe which gave its namesake. Fish fries were a favorite past time and a big community event since 1854 when the fist fish pond was built. Six pavilions were added in the early 1900’s to accommodate the people.
Less than a year ago, Frank Pidcoe bought the Park from Paul and Agatha Guisewhite. A Muncy native, Pidcoe left his job at DisneyWorld as a mechanical engineer to come back and run the Trout Pond Park. “I grew up here,” he said. “I spent more time here as a kid than I did anywhere else.” He related how it used to be an amusement park up until 1978. And when he was a teenager, he would drive to the skating rink every night.
Historically, Trout Pond Park holds plenty of memories for many residents who live or have lived in the East Lycoming Area. Donna Fry, 73, from Hughesville has worked at the 26 acre facility since she was thirteen years old, and recorded some of the history as she knew it.
“John and Wharton Watts, twin brothers, also known as the ‘Gold Dust Twins’ were the caretakers of Trout Pond Park for Harold and Dorothy Larnard. They drove an old 1936 Chevy car with a little trailer on the back from Iola every day. You could always tell what time of the day it was by their arriving and leaving the park,” she recalls. The Larnard’s also owned tbe Ritz Theatre in Muncy and several employees at the time worked in both places.
“This place rocked in the 50’s,” said Rita (Covert) Herbst, 70, who started working at the complex when she was fifteen and the Ritz Theatre. It was an amusement park back then with a train, a merry-go-round, and a ferris wheel. “I would be there all day from 7 in the morning to 7 at night,” said Herbst. “I had the best of both worlds, roller skating and movies,” she said delightedly.
Pidcoe, who graduated from Muncy High School in 1992, said he was almost two when he put on his first pair of skates. “Sunday night was teen night,” he said, “and we would play ball-pitch and dime pitch winning all kinds of novelties. There would be live bands too. I love nostalgia and I plan on using it here at the park.”
It was a tough decision for Pidcoe to give up his lucrative position at Disney World in Florida, Running the animation shop where he helped to build robots, Pidcoe was the youngest foreman in the electronics department where they worked on the Main Street Shoppes and the Main Street electrical parade. Whenever he came home to Muncy to visit, Frank would always visit the Guisewhites and Trout Pond Park. “I came home for Christmas in December 2008 and my mother had a surprise party for me at the park. It was my first Christmas home in eleven years and during this time, I became serious about buying the place,” announced Pidcoe. An agreement was worked out with the Guisewhites who offered the place to him for purchase, and now Frank Pidcoe is sole owner of Trout Pond Park.
While he was in Florida, Pidcoe’s mother, Sheryl Delker, bid on several items for him at an auction two years ago before the Guisewhites sold the property to Pidcoe. Not knowing that he would soon be the new owner, Frank and his mother bid on several of the old pictures and an old Coke machine that dated back to the 1900’s. He was able to acquire some original canvas paintings from the 50’s and painted by Gene Moore, a well-known artist from Pennsdale. He hopes to restore and display them on the walls to make a nice exhibit for visitors.
“I would bring the kids here when they were little,” said Delker who works for her son now at the park. “I met my first husband here and my grandparents would always come here to dance.” In 1978 the amusement park was dismantled due to liability and skyrocketing insurance fees noted Pidcoe. The carousel was sold to put the crazy cars in,” he said. In the early 40’s the skating rink was added.
A new skating rink was added in 1999 using local funds, and it is now being used extensively. The old rink is used for karate classes Monday through Thursday and it is also available for parties and reunions on weekends.
Most of Pidcoe’s time is spent cleaning and maintaining the park. Living on the premises makes his job easier and he is always available for his customers. “Frank belongs here,” said Dennis Dailey who comes every Thursday night to skate.
Five pavilions were painted and so was the old skating rink. He updated some of the buildings and grounds and the food stands. “There is still much to do,” he explained. His family helps out often, and this gives the facility a nice family atmosphere.
Fishing and permits are available for a small fee. Pidcoe hopes to schedule an antique show and a tractor show this year and is planning an Easster Egg hunt for small children on Saturday, April 3 as well as a craft fair and flea market. “I would love to add live music again and have bands play this summer for entertainment,” added Pidcoe.
When asked if he regrets leaving his job at Disney World, he says, “I feel like I’m home now where I’m supposed to be.”