Monday, November 14, 2011

Zita Spangler: From St. John's Reformed to Rolling Green Park

I find it fascinating to research the history of books that were given as gifts decades ago. I have a copy of the 1925 edition of "Standard Bible Story Readers, Book One (The Primer)." The 128-page hardcover by Lillie A. Faris features a beautiful blue-toned illustration spread across the inside front cover and first page.

Written in neat cursive inside the "This Book Belongs to" box is:
"Zita Spangler
Presented for perfect attendance during 1932 by St. John's Reformed S.S. Red Lion, Pa."1
Zita was 4 or 5 when she received this book at church. She was born Zita Arlene Spangler on May 29, 1927, and was the youngest of three children of Roman Martin Spangler Sr. (1892-1966) and Sarah Matilda Fetrow (1895-1951).

(Coincidentally, Zita's older sister, Sheilavay Spangler, went on to marry John Doll, who I wrote about in June.)

Zita Spangler went on to be a member of the Class of 1949 at Bloomsburg State Teachers College, became Mrs. Zita Cortright and moved to Rolling Green Park in Hummels Wharf, Pennsylvania, after college.2

And then it gets really interesting.

It's likely that Zita and her husband, Jay, were living in Hummels Wharf to help her father run Rolling Green Park, a trolley park in Snyder County that was in operation from 1908 until 1971 or 1972. Here is an excerpt from an article in the March 16, 2009, edition of The (Sunbury) Daily Item:
In 1907 a trolley line was constructed to run from Selinsgrove via Hummels Wharf, Shamokin Dam and into Sunbury. It was then that Guy Webster, president of the York Bridge Company, realized that potential trolley-riders needed a reason to travel on the trolley. In 1908, approximately 46 acres of land was purchased for $9,841.66 with the idea of a park as the trolley's last stop.

During the first quarter of the 20th century, the People's Playground's rapid growth fueled the need for a new name, to be chosen through a contest. Mrs. Charles Kissinger, of Lewistown, dubbed it Rolling Green Park for which she received a $25 cash reward. ...

Unfortunately, a gradual decline in attendance and revenue led to the sale of Rolling Green Park in 1935. In 1936, Roman M. Spangler Sr., of Red Lion, assumed ownership and managed the park until his death in 1966. The park continued to operate for several years, but by 1972, Hurricane Agnes did extensive damage to the park and it was felt the park would never regain its former patronage.

Real estate developer Luke E. Bogar Jr. purchased the park from the Spangler estate. The land is now the site of Rolling Green Acres, a housing development.
The Daily Item article has some other interesting facts about Rolling Green Acres, including the top-flight talent that performed there and some of the popular rides that were part of the park. It also recommends a 2005 book, "Snyder County: Postcard History Series," which has an entire chapter on Rolling Green Park.

Finally, the website Defunct Amusement Parks includes some information on Rolling Green Park. The page features an old postcard of the park, and the mentions that the Devil's Den dark ride at Rolling Green Park was incorporated into the Haunted Mansion at Knoebel's Grove.

Meanwhile, the old carousel from Rolling Green Park is apparently still in use at Gillian's Wonderland Pier in Ocean City, New Jersey.

Isn't it neat how a young girl's 1932 gift from a Red Lion church can take you all the way to a carousel in Ocean City, New Jersey, in 2011? That's precisely why I love writing this blog.

1. This Papergreat post from March also featured the inscription from a book given to congratulate someone on perfect attendance.
2. Geneaology sources:


  1. ... and why I love reading it! NOW it all makes sense. :)

  2. in 1945 through 1955 my family lived two blocks away from the main entrance to Rolling Green Park. Every summer my sister and I had season tickets to the swimming pool, and we walked there from our home, in bare feet on the hot dusty dirt roads...Every 4th of July we watched the Park fireworks from a field beside our house. In the winter we walked on the frozen pond... Every day during school season we walked thru the lower end of the park on our way to the school. I was little and never got to ride the big roller coaster. Surprisingly enough our name is Snyder, and here we lived in Snyder County...

  3. I remember being taken to the park every year for the Hoover family reunion, but I was too small and it was to long ago. I don't remember anything about the park itself other than being there. I do remember that my cousin, who was three years older, got to ride the coaster. Not wanting to be left out I asked to be taken on as well. Only to be told I was too small. Maybe next year they said. Unfortunately there was no next year, the park was torn down that winter. Considering they parked 8,000 cars at Knobels yesterday (from Dick Knoebel himself) they may have jumped the gun on tearing Rolling Green down.

  4. Connections, connections, connections :)