Around 1:30 a.m. on Friday, May 23, 1947, an unidentified motorist called on a white farmhouse along the Lincoln Highway in Ligonier Township, Pennsylvania, probably waking C.C. and Grace Macdonald from a sound sleep.

While driving past a few moments earlier, the visitor spotted fire coming from the amusement park the couple managed that sat tucked away among the thick foliage across the road.

Soon, volunteer firefighters from surrounding communities rushed to Idlewild Park to find the building containing the Rumpus ride engulfed in flames.

Despite efforts to extinguish the fire in the early morning hours, the building and its entire contents were destroyed. The popular Western Pennsylvania amusement park had lost its sole dark ride just days after opening for its 70th season.

More than 70 years after the unfortunate fire, the Rumpus remains a mysterious chapter in the story of Pennsylvania’s oldest operating amusement park. Few photographs, plans and records exist of the Rumpus, but surviving facts combined with memories from Idlewild’s past visitors help to bring the dark ride’s history to light.
Courtesy of the Idlewild
and SoakZone Archives
Since 1878, Idlewild served as a picnic grove for the Ligonier Valley Rail Road, which was owned and operated by the Mellon family of Pittsburgh. In 1931, the railroad established a subsidiary management company that developed this forested glen in the picturesque Ligonier Valley into a more traditional amusement park with rides, games, refreshment stands and free entertainment ranging from traveling circuses to the human cannonball.

The Mellons brought in Clinton Charles (C.C.) Macdonald, an amusement park industry veteran, as a partner in the Idlewild Management Company to handle the day-to-day operations of an amusement park. Macdonald was hired as park manager and eventually became IMC president. His wife Grace and their sons Clinton Keith ("Jack") and Richard ("Dick") also played integral roles in the IMC.
Courtesy of the Idlewild
and SoakZone Archives

The Rumpus was one of the earliest rides installed at Idlewild during this new era. The Pretzel Amusement Ride Company creation first operated as a concession at Idlewild for the 1936 season under Leon Cassidy, inventor of the Pretzel and owner of the New Jersey-based company that produced the twisted dark ride.

The Idlewild Management Company purchased the attraction from the Pretzel Amusement Ride Company in 1938, paying Cassidy $4,722.40 in total after depreciation, part of which it appears the IMC covered in-kind with stock from the Trading Post general store located at the park’s entrance along the Lincoln Highway (known today as U.S. Route 30).i

Right: Advertisement from the Latrobe Bulletin announcing the new “Rumpus House” for the 1936 season. May 9, 1936.

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