Saturday, September 12, 2009

Carnival of Genealogy 80th Edition--Family Fun

Research an event your ancestor may have attended. Did your ancestor live within a few blocks of the parade route for the annual Fourth of July parade in the town where they lived? If your family lived in a rural area, perhaps they attended a county or state fair. If they lived in a big city, perhaps they attended a play or movie opening. Was there an amusement park or traveling carnival near the area your family was from, one they might have visited? Were there fireworks displays in the town your family was from? How much do you know about the types of entertainment your ancestors might have enjoyed? This "fun" edition of the Carnival of Genealogy will be hosted by Jasia on the Creative Gene.

My family had the good fortune to live fairly close to one of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania amusement parks—West View Park. During the 1950’s, when I was an elementary school student, our annual school picnic was held at West View Park located in West View, Pennsylvania. How we looked forward to that special day spent at the park—riding the various rides, spending money in the penny arcade, eating hot dogs and cotton candy and wandering aimlessly around the midway with school friends. West View Park is no longer there. The grounds have been turned into a shopping center. Long gone is the park however, my memories of the Dips (that famous wooden roller coaster), the Racing Whippet, Kiddieland and the beautiful carousel are etched in my mind.

I digress....this blog is not about me, but my paternal grandparents, George Henry Hughes and Sarah Margaret VanGilder Hughes. They also lived near West View Park in Avalon, and then Bellevue, Pennsylvania. The amusement park was built in 1906. No one in the family knows if George and Sarah spent a Saturday afternoon strolling about West View Park. During the 1930’s and 1940’s there was a building in West View Park called the Dancing Pavilion. During the Great Depression and following, dancing was held everynight except Sunday. Charles J. Jacques, Jr., in his book, “Goodbye West View Park Goodbye,” explains that, “Dancing helped keep West View Park afloat during the Great Depression” and “West View Park started importing big name bands like Ted Fiorite, Tommy Tucker, Ace Brigode, Don Bestor and others.”

My grandparents were dancers. According to my Aunt Faith, her folks (my Grams and Pop Pop) would go to Danceland, almost weekly. Often there were dance contests and Grams and Pop Pop would win a prize and occasionally it was first prize!

Dance must have been genetic as both my father and his sister, Faith loved to dance. Faith was given a full tuition scholarship to what was then called Carnegie Tech after her dance audition. She continued to teach dancing well into her 70’s. My brothers and I enjoy dancing although I’m certainly not in the prize category ;- )


Charles J. Jacques, Jr., “Goodbye West View Park Goodbye,” Amusement Park Journal, Jefferson, Ohio, 1985.


  1. Great memories to keep!I love adding postcards of places to my family keepsakes.It helps to make our history more visual when we don't have photos ourselves,thanks for sharing yours!

  2. The amusement park of my youth is long gone too. Nobody in family dances. My grandmother once explained it was because Methodist's don't dance but I think she just couldn't get Gramps out on the floor!

  3. Danceland was a big attraction in the early 50's. I recall dances on Tues., Fri. Sat. Sun. nights. I met a special fellow on Tues., May 5, 1953 at Danceland. It was love at first sight. I lived in West View and he was from Michigan. He was stationed at one of the anti-aircraft units that were set up to guard the city of Pittsburgh (it later became a Nike site.) It was out on Gas Rd. past the Highland Country Club. We were married June 5, 1954 -- had a wonderful, loving marriage until he passed away May 18, 2007. Danceland has remained in my heart after finding the love of my life there. I have often wondered how many people met their spouses there. Maybe there will be responses by others.

  4. Does anyone remember dancing to the Musical Gems of the Wally Gingers Orchestra at Danceland? They were a 10-piece big band that played there regularly in the 50's and 60's. We have recently revived the band and you can check out our website at We would love to hear from you!