Oct 7, 2017

Remembering Angela Park

Angela Park: The Documentary
Cinema & Drafthouse - West Hazleton, PA (2017)
One of my earliest childhood memories was going to Angela Park with my dad and my grandparents.  It was a small, but beautiful little park just outside of Hazleton on Rt. 309.  The park opened on Mothers Day 1957 and remained in business for just over 30 years.  It had a roller coaster, an olympic-sized swimming pool, bumper cars, a train, a Tilt-A-Whirl, and lots of other rides; particularly ones for young children, including tanks and classic cars.

My favorite was a ride where you would climb to the top of a wooden tower and ride on a carpet down a spiral slide.  They're apparently known as a Helter Skelter in the UK.  I don't remember them ever calling it that here.  In fact, I only heard that term associated with this kind of amusement park ride while I was looking for a photo for this post.  Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find a picture, but I'll never forget how much fun it was.

The documentary did a fantastic job of showing the history of the park and the many things that made it special to the people of Northeast Pennsylvania.  There was a special section dedicated to Porky The Paper Eater.  This was a small wooden shack that looked like a miniature barn and had a statue of a pig's head coming out of the front.  There was a vacuum hooked up to the pigs mouth that would gently take garbage out of your hands and deposit it into a trash barrel inside.  It also had a speaker that would play a message to children who fed their garbage to Porky.  It sounds simple by today's standards, but there wasn't a scrap of litter to be found on the grounds of Angela Park because children would pick it up and give it to Porky The Paper Eater.  It became so popular that when kids couldn't find garbage, they'd take brand new napkins from the dispenser at the snack stands just to have something to throw away.  Porky has had a new home at Knoebels, but it's now just a regular trash barrel without the speakers and vacuum.

For 28 of its 31 years, Angela Park was owned and operated by the Barletta family.  Congressman Lou Barletta stopped by the Cinema & Drafthouse for the screening of the documentary to speak to the crowd about his memories of the park.  Lou was born the year before Angela Park opened, and he gave a nice talk that was absent of politics of any kind to share his memories of growing up with his father, grandfather and uncles owning an amusement park.  The Congressman and I may not agree on too many things, but where Angela Park is concerned, we most certainly see eye to eye.  It was a treasure of Northeast PA, and I'll never forget it.