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ARKive: THE RICK DAVIS INTERVIEW
Interview by Gary Radice
Article: Added 2003
At the end of 2001, Rick Davis (Chairman of the Darkride and Funhouse Enthusiasts - DAFE) made a trip to Kennywood to peruse their archives in search of material for future articles for the DAFE publication Barrel O' Fun and for the Daffy Klub web site.
That one day visit eventually stretched into six days! Kennywood has a hidden 'treasure chest' of material not only of Kennywood itself, but also many other parks, including Blackpool Pleasure Beach. (Rick has spent approximately 11 days in the archive since that first trip and on a couple of occasions had the assistance of Sarah Windisch and Pam Lytle, both DAFE members, Pittsburgh residents and long time Kennywood goers.)
Both Kennywood and Blackpool Pleasure Beach have a history of preserving many of the rides from the early 20th century that have long since been retired from other amusement parks. Both parks have had a good working relationship over the years as well as a long time friendship among the owners.
In Rick's own words, the difficulty in researching the archive was in not being distracted by the many old catalogues, flyers, and blueprints of roller coasters and other attractions. Needless to say, Rick admits to being distracted many times. As he said at the time:
"Who could resist looking at photos of the Three Stooges at Kennywood?!"
Here in ARKive several letters sent between the management of both parks (and found in the Kennywood archives) are showcased. In ARKive Gallery, drawings of the Noah's Ark at Blackpool (also found in the archives at Kennywood) are showcased.
"Thank you Kennywood and thank you Blackpool for having the forethought to save this material for fans to enjoy!" (Rick Davis)
themagiceye: Rick, what is the purpose of DAFE and what are its goals?
Rick Davis: DAFE (pronounced 'daffy', pun intended) is the only known active darkride and funhouse enthusiast group in the US (possibly the world).
DAFE was founded in 2000 by myself, my wife Sue Davis and Joel Styer. It is not a business but rather a non profit organisation run by a group of enthusiasts who are all volunteers. DAFE and its members are devoted to enjoying, promoting, researching, and documenting attractions related to funhouses and darkrides. We also aid in the preservation and restoration of the attractions, support and promote the parks and dark attraction industry and enjoy the attractions that remain today.
There are approximately 280 members worldwide as at 2005 with ages ranging from 2-90. (The old timer is non other than Bill Cassidy of Pretzel fame, our first honorary member.) Other members include several amusement parks and manufacturers.
What inspired DAFE's creation?
Childhood memories, the uniqueness of the attractions, the loss of classic attractions and the inspiration of other groups.
Exactly how big are the Kennywood archives?
Kennywood's Archive is actually a tiny room in the basement of the administration building. No heat and just one bare bulb for illumination!
It contains a large wooden set of shelves on which the larger items are stored, two filing cabinets containing three ring binders full of photos for the 1900s to today and one metal cabinet filled with nothing but newspaper clippings dating back to the twenties or so.
Some of the paper is extremely fragile and crumbles at the touch. Interestingly, age has only a little to do with the problem. Some of the older material is in better shape that items 20 years newer. Apparently, the grade of newsprint is the key.
At one time, the room also held a treasure trove of blueprints, some dating to the twenties. They unfortunately were sent to the maintenance department (I believe) two years ago. (After I learned about the move, I found access to a digital blueprint scanner!)
Who is in charge of the archives there?
Rick, can anyone view the Kennywood archives?
No, unfortunately very few people have been given access to the room for obvious reasons. But Kennywood is usually good about providing information and photos for legitimate writers. Of course, this is during the off season as the archive curator works in operations when the park is open for the year.
What was the main purpose of your initial visit to Kennywood and its archives?
I was digging for darkride and funhouse information which I used for a presentation at the No Coaster Con, East Coaster, and CoasterBash. (I did it as a self running PowerPoint with pre-recorded voice over which was good since I don't like to speak and I wasn't at East Coaster anyway.)
...I also returned to scan all the wooden coaster photos which I put on CD and gave to Richard Munch for the ACE archives as well as to Rob Ascough of the Wooden Coaster Fan Club. (Rick is a co-founder of the WCFC)
Does Kennywood have its own museum?
Kennywood IS a museum!
Kennywood is home to the only Noah's Ark, Traver auto ride, operating Tumble Bug, and Flying Coaster in the USA to name a few.
The carousel horses also received new paint this year as well.
While there is no museum per se, history is recorded throughout the park in its buildings, its rides, and its beautiful scenery. The office staff is part of that history as well; many of them are related to the families that have run the park for a century!
Rick, what was the oldest piece of history you found in the Kennywood archives?
Not sure about the old things...maybe shots of the Old Mill Circa 1901? There were two photos, one of the loading platform and mill wheel, and an exterior shot of a boat coming back to the station just after the short chute. (Despite what some other folks have said, it was not a mill chute.)
The chute was maybe 6-10 ft from what I can tell in the photo. The current ride is much different than the original. The loading station is not the same and it doesn't have the chute.
From what I've read and pieced together, there may have been a fire at the end of the teens or early twenties that destroyed a coaster and other buildings and damaged the mill. I suspect they either rebuilt or replaced the ride. We do know that it was made longer and new channels were built or the old one modified and added to.
Text information is hard to find in the archive other than a few letters, brochures, and of course the newspaper clippings.
Finding the smallest fact takes hours of digging. The problem with the clippings is that the only ride information appears at the beginning of the season in the form of a 'teaser'. Unfortunately, there is never follow up information.
I found the names of two attractions that seemed to be funhouse related but the clippings only gave a mysterious come-on about it and it was never mentioned again, nor did I find photos.
Probably 99% of the clippings are ads and info on the acts playing the park.
ARKive Gallery, showing sketches found at Kennywood of the Blackpool Noah's Ark prior to its 1995 refurbishment, can be viewed by clicking HERE
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|More on Blackpool Pleasure Beach's Noah's Ark|
Riding on Rainbows: Blackpool Pleasure Beach and its Place in British Popular Culture by John K Walton
Just For Fun: Amusement Parks of the United Kingdom - DVD
Kennywood by David P Hahner Jr
Blackpool Pleasure Beach: A Hundred Years of Fun by Peter Bennett
Many thanks to Rick Davis, DAFE
and of course the magnificent Kennywood Amusement Park and archives.
Thanks also to Nick Laister.The article first appeared on themagiceye in 2003.
Here it has been given a 2005 revamp.Storyboard by themagiceye