Recreation and Entertainment History
... for Greene County, Pennsylvania
Contact for Information Requests: County Information Services Line Phone: 724-852-5399 / Toll Free: 1-888-852-5399
Office Hours: 8:30 a.m.4:30 p.m., MondayFriday
The citizens of Greene County did not lack for recreational opportunities during the early years (1916-1921, World War I). Hunting and fishing were always popular in such a rural setting. Occasionally, the state authorities took steps to improve hunting opportunities, such as the release in March 1920, by Gail Sines, Greene County's game warden, of a number of pairs of Texas quail, a popular game bird. The county's leading fox chasers belonged to the Tri-State Fox Hunters' Association, which held its annual fall meeting at Mt. Morris in October 1917. John H. White of Brave was president and G. Edward Huffman of Waynesburg was secretary.
Winter's cold brought opportunities for ice skating and sledding. During the school year, Waynesburg College and the county's high schools fielded track, basketball and football teams which always attracted crowds of interested spectators. The county's fairs at Carmichaels, Wind Ridge and Waynesburg included horse racing and other exciting entertainment.
During the summer months, baseball was the most popular team sport. (Source: History of Greene County by G. Wayne Smith, p699.)
Early Days Entertainment:
Baseball In July 1916, a Dunkard Valley Baseball League was organized with Frank Meighen (cashier of the Farmers & Merchants National Bank at Mt. Morris) as president, George C. Baer as secretary, and A. L. Hartley as treasurer. Teams from Mt. Morris, Newtown, Brave and Star City, West Virginia, were scheduled to play every Saturday that summer. A church baseball league was active also in Waynesburg throughout the summer of 1916, and in the last game of the season, the Presbyterians defeated the Baptists and claimed the cup.
In 1917, a Waynesburg Independent Baseball Team was organized with Clyde M. Call as manager. The season opened on June 20, and Waynesburg competed against teams from Altoona, Pittsburgh, Highland, Charleroi (Pittsburgh Steel Products), Washington, Vesta No. 5 Mine, Morgantown and Benwood, West Virginia. It appears that the team lost about an many games as it won.
In one unscheduled game in late July, the Independents defeated a Company K team by a score of 5 to 1. (Source: History of Greene County by G. Wayne Smith, p700)
Pool and Billiards In 1917, those interested could play pool or billiards at facilities owned by G. W. Hewitt & Sons and Geoge Ritchie in Carmichaels; by C. A. Bernnett in Clarksville; by H. E. Davis in Jefferson; and by J. E. Morris in Mt. Morris. There were five Waynesburg establishments; the Park Billiard Room, the Downey Hotel, and pool rooms operated by Filby & Becler, William Lockard and P. A. Wilbert. (Source: History of Greene County by G. Wayne Smith, p701)
Greene County Country Club The first golf course was laid out by the Greene County Country Club, which was organized in the fall of 1921 and chartered on December 12, 1921. By the end of the year, the Country purchased (at a cost of $17,565) almost eighty-eight acres of the Charles C. Harry farm which lay beside Ruff Creek in Morgan Township, about five miles east of Waynesburg along the newly completed concrete road to Jefferson.
There it began to lay out a nine-hole golf course that was designed by John McGlynn, "an expert golf course builder," from Pittsburgh. Acquired with the farm was the Harry residence, remodeled as a clubhouse, and a large barn used for equipment storage. (Source: History of Greene County by G. Wayne Smith, p700)
Carmichaels Recreation Hathaway's Grove in Carmichaels served as the site for annual community picnics in August 1919 to 1920, featuring musical groups, speakers and athletic events. In the fall of 1921, a lecture series was sponsored by the Carmichaels Library Club and the Cumberland Township High School. (Source: History of Greene County by G. Wayne Smith, p704)
Early Radio Entertainment The first mention of radio entertainment in The Waynesburg Republican appeared in the issue of July 28, 1921. It reported that a number of Waynesburg "boys" had installed "radio or wireless telephones in their homes" and were able in the evenings to hear concerts and "many messages" broadcast by the Westinghouse Electric Company at East Pittsburgh (KDKA). They could also listen to concerts performed at the Carnegie Music Hall on Sunday afternoons. Among the pioneers in Waynesburg were Albert Kappes, who also had a "sending station" or transmitter, James Rice, Richard Ledwith, Ralph Bayne, Charles Cochran, Dan Brock, Thomas Bell and James Inghram. The newspaper reported that the "Elk's club has also placed a radio instrument in their club rooms."
High School Lectures During several of these years, the Waynesburg High School Lecture Course brought to Waynesburg each fall and winter a variety of well-known lecturers, musical groups and entertainers. (Source: History of Greene County by G. Wayne Smith, p703)
Chautauqua The Redpath Chautauqua (a traveling culture of the 20th Century) returned to Waynesburg for one week during August during these years. Under its tent in Sunset Park adjoining the Waynesburg Baptist Church, its morning, afternoon, and evening programs entertained Greene Countians with a great variety of musical groups, lectures and dramatic productions. (Source: History of Greene County by G. Wayne Smith, p702
Community Motion-Picture Industry/History:
Motion Pictures could be seen at the Opera House and the Eclipse Theater in Waynesburg, at Star Theater in Mt. Morris, at Ross Theatre (M. F. Ross) in Carmichaels, at Luvland Theater in Rices Landing, and at the company-owned amusement houses in Crucible, Nemacolin and Poland Mines.
The Anti-Multiplex Evolution "The Odd Fellows and Masonic Building Association" built in the three-story brick building in 1871, was known as the Town Hall, but later changed to the Waynesburg Opera House in 1889 after its first major renovation.
The Opera House hosted a variety of traveling theatrical troupes, as well as lectures from famed orator William Jennings Bryan, known for his involvement in the 1925 Scopes trial, and former President Howard Taft. In 1939, the Opera House was remodeled again and movies became its marquee attraction; which is when it went from opera and Vaudevile to showing films. The theare continued to be Greene County's link to Hollywood until it closed in 1986."
(Source: Story reported by Cara Host/photos by Jack Graham, in the Greene County Living, Fall 2008 ed, p30-31, insert in the Washington O-R)
Waynesburg Opera House
"From 1916 until the spring of 1918, the Waynesburg Opera House on High Street was operated by J. Walter Munnel, its longtime manager.
In May 1918, Dr. W. G. Cole, Roy J. Waychoff, U. G. Inghram and Charles F. Silveus formed a company which leased the Opera House, and Silveus became the new manager."
(Source: History of Greene County by G. Wayne Smith, p701 / photos by Jack Graham, O-R)
Waynesburg Theater and Arts Center
"In 1940, the theater was bought by a local business owners next door to the opera house; the new owners (who were sisters) completed a small renovation and reopened in 1989. The sisters and their families completed a more extensive renovation in 1999.
As of 2008, the theater continues to use one of the original projectors, but in has been modernized so that a projectionist no longer has to change reels every 20 minutes, which was necessary under the 1940s technology."
The remodeled theater provides the capability of live stage performances as well as a movie theatre; offering better seating (with the removal of every other row of seats, a table was place for the convenience of the viewers). The theatre also sports an updated snack bar for refreshments. The theatre's balcony was transformed into a party area, offering a place for birthday celebrations and to view a movie or play from the balcony, so as not to disturb lower-level viewers.
The theater easily seats 450 people, and could accommodate even more people.
"Our Waynesburg Theater can only show one movie at a time because is has one screen, compared to 10 to 20 screens in big multiplex theatres. But, you won't find the brass chandeliers, a lush balcony and a pair of massive murals flanking the screen. Yes, its a throwback to the 1940x or earlier, when movie screens were installed in art houses that were previously used for plays, operas and other live entertainment.
The ornately decorated walls and luxuriant surroundings only added to the experience of a night on the town."
(Source: Story reported by Cara Host/photos by Jack Graham, in the Greene County Living, Fall 2008 ed, p30-31, insert in the Washington O-R)
Drive-In Picture Shows Pennsylvania was an early riser among the Drive-In movie theatre states. It was host to America's 2nd drive-in movie (opened in April 1934), Shankweiler's which is still in operation today, giving Pennsylvania the added distinction of being home to the oldest drive-in in America. Within 10 years of the initial opening of drive-in's in Pennsylvania, 50 drive-in's existed, and peaked in the late 50's with just over 180 in operation. Twenty years later, less than half remained. Since the drive-in's hayday, the number of operating drive-in's in Pennsylvania declined by 80% ... but, aside from longevity, Pennsylvania has staying power; being one of the top 5 drive-in states in America with approximately 35 still open.
Greene County had a few drive-in's, one located west of Waynesburg (the Waynesburg Drive-In), and one in Carmichaels (which actually is still operating today as the Skyview-Twin Drive-in located on Route 88 in Carmichaels (click here for recent news article, Jul 2012). Carmichaels Drive-In was first light-up in 1946; originally a solo screen, but in later years became a dual-screen drive-in movie park; that is light with a double-feature on each screen from May through September. The drive-in box office has stood in the same spot for more than 60 years and arcatic window speakers still dot the landscape.
It's a place where folks continue the ritual of blankets being spread next tot he cars and lawn chairs opened in front of vehicles, while enjoying the movie featured and grabbing hot dogs & fries from the snack bar. News Article of 2013 titled "Saving Skyview Drive-In" states that the time has come for drive-in theaters to change with the times or fade away. Celluloid will cease production in Spring 2013. Any unused film stock will be used for a few months, and after that, digital will replace it for good! Click here to continue reading article.
County Fairs Past and Present:
While the Greene County Fair in Waynesburg and Jacktown Fair in Wind Ridge are the two fairs we still enjoy today, we know of a few other from the past.
Greene County Fair: From 1852 through the mid-1930's, the Greene County Agricultural Society held a fair each year in Carmichaels, PA. The original site was on the east side of town where Cumberland Village is located today. Around 1900, the fair was moved to the location on Ceylon Road where Wana B Park is today.
Before the days of motorized vehicles or equipment, the fair exhibits and activities were quite different from those of today. According to a book published by Carmichaels Bi-Centennial, Inc. (1967), the main exhibits at the fair in those days were farm products, livestock and manufactured goods.
Activities and contests consisted mostly of horse and bicycle races. Monetary prizes for winners ranged from $5-$60 over the years. Entertainment included live bands as a major attraction, and sometimes circus-like performers such as tightrope walkers and acrobats.
Admission to the fair started out at 15 cents for children and 35 cents for adults. By the 1920's those rates had raised to 50 and 75 cents, respectively. The grandstand seated nearly 2,000 people. According to the Carmichaels Bicentennial book, the fair closed in 1935 due to a decrease in attendance and "other contributing factors which caused a decline and complete collapse of the Greene County Agricultural Society."
Local historian Wesley Knisely of Jefferson tells us there was also a fair in that community until 1907. The location of the Jefferson Fair was ... and locals still refer to as "The Fairgrounds". Today the area consists of residential lots near Washington Street. Mr. Knisely says the events and exhibits at the Jefferson Fair were very similar to those described above at Carmichaels. (Source: Source: GreenSaver by Stacey Flynn, Jun/Jul04, p2)
Click here for the Greene County Fair website.
Jacktown Fair:The Nation's Oldest Continuing Fair (1865 to present)
"You'll never die happy until you go to the Jacktown Fair" is a saying which dates back over 138 years when the oldest continuous fair in the county was held for the first time on Wednesday and Thursday, October 3 and 4, 1866.
The Jacktown Fair was organized on July 6, 1866. The Richhill Agricultural Horticultural and Mechanical Society was organized by residents of what was then known as Jacksonville, today's Wind Ridge, Pennsylvania.
Click here for the Jacktown Fair website.
Mount Morris Fair:The Old Fair Ground The Fair Ground was built by local people and could boast of one of the fastest half-mile tracks in Southwestern Pennsylvania. The first fair was held in 1905, and 6,000 people were in attendance. It has gone into oblivion, the same as many other fairs. Today, the buildings are all removed, nothing but the track remains. (in 1996 there is no longer any evidence of the fair as the Interstate 79 interchange was built in its former location).
Bituminous Coal Show:
The year of 1953 was proving to be a difficult one for the town of Carmichaels and the coal mining industry. Hundreds of local miners had lost their jobs due to the mechanization of the surrounding coal mines.
Paul Smith, Ross Allison, Stanley Allison and Ellis "Parker" Burnette held many coffee counter talks at Mary's Luncheonette where they drank endless cups of coffee and discussed ways and means to aid their community and the coal industry. These men focused on the Wool Parade that was held in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, that publicized the sheep raising industry. They wondered, "Why not a Coal Festival to focus attention on the area as the hub of the soft coal region and hopefully spur the lagging industry". Stanley Allison, who had attended the Bluefield, W.VA. Coal Festival, thought it would work for Carmichaels.
Werner Lund, President of the Carmichaels Chamber of Commerce, became involved in the discussions and influenced the Chamber to become involved. After many discussions an agreement was drawn up to hold a King Coal Festival in Carmichaels. The Carmichaels Chamber of Commerce and volunteer fire companies of Carmichaels, Crucible, and Nemacolin signed the agreement to form the King Coal Association and named directors to serve in the association.
The King Coal Association's purpose would be to foster the development and advancement of the bituminous coal industry. In May of 1954, representatives of the four groups traveled to the Bluefield, West Virginia. Coal Festival to get ideas for the show in Carmichaels. They gave their report in June and it was decided that the First Annual Pennsylvania Bituminous Coal Festival was held October 13 thru October 16, 1954.
Although the Organizations and Directors have changed over the years, the success of the King Coal Festival depends on the hard work and dedication of many volunteers. The ability of the organizations to work together for the good of their community has been the main reason that the King Coal Association exist today. August 21-28, 2004 will celebrate the 51st annual Pennsylania Bituminuous Coal Show -- the theme to be "King Coal Salutes Americans' Heroes".
(Source: King Coal Website at: www.geocities.com/kingcoalshow/)
Greene River Trail A Connection to Greene County History...
Because the Greene River Trail links together the coal communities of Greene County, the Greene River Trail has close connections to local history.
Much of Greene County's economy has historically been bolstered by the bituminous coal industry, which still has a place in our county today. The trail winds its way along the Monongahela River, and those who use it can imagine coal being ferried up and down the river on barges for use at places like the W.A. Young & Sons Foundry and Machine Shop in Rices Landing.
The trail also passes through beautiful wooded areas, which display the true character of Greene County which has been preserved over time.
Ryerson Station State Park:
The Park As part of its plan to have a state park within 35 miles of every resident of Pennsylvania, the former Department of Forests and Waters began acquiring land for a park in 1958.
The dam was completed in 1960. In 1967 the campground was completed and Ryerson Station State Park opened to the public. The park was named for nearby Ryerson’s Fort. Duke Lake was named for Ronald J. Duke, a former park manager.
Unfortunately, on July 29, 2005 the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources ordered that the 62-acre lake be drained, after inspections by the two agencies revealed expanding cracks in the 45-year-old concrete dam. A month later, DCNR removed part of the spillway to prevent water from backing up in the lake bed during heavy rains.
Park Location Ryerson Station State Park is in Greene County in the southwestern corner of Pennsylvania, near the West Virginia border. The 1,164-acre park features the 62-acre Ronald J. Duke Lake that is named in memory of a former manager of Ryerson Station State Park. The lake is currently drawn down for dam safety issues.
For general information, please contact the Information Services at 724-852-5399 / Toll Free: 1-888-852-5399 Greene County Office Building, 93 E. High Street, Waynesburg, PA 15370