As I alluded to in my post about the Daisy Restaurant and Gap Theatre, there were more unexpected surprises awaiting me just up the road in Pen Argyl PA. But before I even get there, here’s a quick lil primer for us all about the name Pen Argyl.
No, it’s not named after:
- A thing to write with
- A place to put pigs
- A guy who founded Pennsylvania
Or a pattern made of overlapping diamonds….
It’s actually a combo of the Welsh word for mountain “Pen” and the Latin “Argilla” for “clay” (or slate). Once you notice the mounds of shale and slate on the hills, you’ll see that the early Welsh settlers were good with the appropriate, if awkward names.
And that concludes the “And now you know!” portion of this post!
My drive into Pen Argyl PA was prompted by a day long road trip that was turning out to be a bust. Oh sure, I knew I was going to eat lunch at The Daisy, so that was a given. But all my “Sploring” revealed nothing new, (or old but new to me) and I was feeling very down about the time I had spent away from home, and what little I would have to show for it. A disappointmen to me, and my readers. A bust. Bah, humbug, I was getting myself into a funk bigtime.
But suddenly that all changed – in the most wonderful way, as I – just by chance, honest- drove past Weona Park in Pen Argyl, PA. (And yes, research reveals that the name IS supposed to sound like We Own A Park, because in 1921 the town finally did! Own A Park that is)
A random glance to my right revealed something to me that took my breath away.
I did a double take.
Heck if I was to recreate this in video form, I’d be rubbing my eyes as if I might possibly be dreaming.
Was that really the sound of a calliope and the swirling lights of a (possibly) vintage carousel? Here in this low key, bucolic small town park setting?
I practically jack-knifed the Retro Roadmobile into the parking lot and leaped out to see if it was real or a retro-road-oasis. Trotting purposefully past the picnickers I made my way up the stairs into the roundhouse and sure enough, I had lucked out. A heretofore unknown (to me) actual real vintage carousel!
Vintage carousels are one of a very select group of categories I’d easily put on Retro Roadmap without even visiting them, because they touch my heart so, and bring me back to a time before I was even born. But to stumble upon this merry go round, still in operation in this darling little town park, well, it was like steppign back in time.Swoony,I was.
I saw upon closer inspection that this carousel was a “Dentzel” – built by the William Dentzel company of Philadelphia. And in this shot below, I just happened to catch a portion of what I later learned were 3 rare giraffes.
While I stood there admiring the carousel going round and round with it’s little riders and parents standing aside the steeds, I knew I had to do a bit of research as soon as I returned home.
The lovely young man who asked me if I wanted to ride the carousel (jeez I sound like I’m 90) was sweet, but I pretty much knew he probably did not know the details of the carousel that I would be interested in.
The Weona Park Carousel:
- Was built around 1900, refurbished back in 1917
- Listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 199
- Is a wooden, stationary carousel – meaning it does not go up and down
- It’s considered a Menagerie carousel as there are other animals on it besides horses -like goats, zebras, and reindeer with real antlers
- All 44 of the animals were originally hand carved between 1890-1917 and have been here since the carousel opened in 1923
The only complainy thing I could say about it at all (besides that it’s only open weekends from Memorial Day to Labor Day) is that the music, once supplied by a band organ (which “mysteriously disappeared” in 1972) is now on cassette. The speaker system, though looking vintage, is in dire need of updating, as it was distort-o-rama. I wished Retro Roadhusband were with me so he could troubleshoot it for ‘em! He’s a whiz at most things audio
Besides the great carousel find, this is an utterly charming little park, complete with picnic pavilions, swimming pool and a vintage 1950s miniature golf course.
I can’t help but dream about doing a Retro Roadmap meet up here some time during the nice weather, where we can meet under the picnic pavillions and also sample some of the local fare – like pasties from Mr. Pastie, which is located here in Pen Argyl. You know how I’m a sucker for regional fare!
While I haven’t properly sampled the local version of these crusty pockets filled with meat and veggies, pasties have been some of my favorite rib-sticking comfort food items since I first had them back in the 70s while visiting Faneuil Hall in Boston. I’ll let you know how these ones are the next time I’m up there!
And finally- since we’re near Halloween, one of the main reasons Pen Argyl is so famous to many people – it’s also where actress Jayne Mansfield is BURIED!!
Again, I did not get to see the grave because I was so smitten and sidetracked by the carousel, but you can read all about it here on our fave sites, Roadside America – Jayne Mansfield’s Grave.
You may be asking why such a famous person is interred in lil ol Pen Argyl – and it ends up that the family plot on her father’s side is located here. While there’s a memorial marker to her in the Hollywood Forever Memorial Park in Hollywood, CA her mother and surviving husband (Mickey Hartigay) thought it was best to bury her near family.
You can bet if we have a Retro Roadmap meetup in Pen Argyl, we’re totally going to go see her grave!
So there you have it! A roadtrip that I thought was going to be a bust ended up being a treasure trove of unusual finds. And I never would have found any of them had I not gone out and “splored” - so go out sploring yourself and see what you can find in your neck of the woods!
Weona Park Carousel
E Main St
Pen Argyl, PA 18072
View PA – Pennsylvania Retro RoadMAP in a larger map