BY SPEROS MARINOS / December 2015
On Dec. 7, 2015 the Cumberland Township Historical Society (CTHS) hosted the final quarterly public meeting for the year. Jaqueline White presented a “Photographic Tour of Fantasyland,” Cumberland Township’s former storybook park. This program was held in memory of the 35th anniversary of Fantasyland’s closing. Almost 200 people were in attendance. More than half of the people present were patrons or former employees.
Many interesting stories were shared. Long-time borough resident and recently departed Lincoln interpreter Jirn Getty was mentioned. He was the manager of Fantasyland for a few years in the late 1960s. Jim also acted in the “Young Abe Lincoln” show in the park .
One day “Fort Apache” actually caught fire instead of just simulated fire. Mrs. Thelma Dick, co-owner of the park, was shocked to find that she had no camera film to photograph the actual burning of the fort. The fire department was able to subdue the fire quickly saving the structure. Fire broke out on another occasion. A lighted cigarette was thrown near the large Mother Goose. The head of this art work was consumed by fire. She looked better than ever, sort of, after another head was installed. The fire company also assisted during a malfunction of the sky ride. Visitors were helped to the ground using large ladders.
Popular park sites to visit were discussed. A replica Taj Mahal was constructed on the edge of the large pond. The Lollipop tree was always nice to see. This display was 20-feet-tall. The antique carrousel and Rapunzel ‘s Castle were highlights for visitors. Food and gifts were also a memorable part of “Americas Most Beautiful Storybook Park.” About 250,000 visited the park each year.
Alas, all good things must corne to an end. In 1974, the Gettysburg National Military Park bought the land. Luckily, Fantasyland was allowed to exist for 10 more years after the purchase; 1980 was the last operational year. Most of the movable structures and displays were purchased and moved to a new home in Ohio. The land under Fantasyland was part of the impact zone for the Confederate Artillery during the ‘ ‘Great Cannonaid” on 3 July 1863. Early relic hunters used metal detectors to unearth shrapnel and whole shells in this area. One of the neighboring tracts of land was hunted and hundreds of pounds of Confederate ordnance was uncovered. The Gettysburg National Military Park eventually destroyed all of the structures on that site. Fantasyland’s main ingress and egress is now the western entrance to the new visitors center. Some of the native stone foot bridges and pathways still exist and are used as walking paths for our battlefield visitors.
Was it time to close Fantasyland? Maybe. Should a park like Fantasyland be built in Adams County? Perhaps. Should a reunion of Fantasyland workers happen? Yes. Maybe someone knows of a nice resturant with an ample ballroom in wich this could happen. Thanks to Jacqueline White and The Adams County Historical Society for giving information for this article.
The Cumberland Township Historical society is a registered 501 (c) 3 1 volunteer organization. The Mission of the Cumberland Township Historical Society is to foster identification and preservation of the township heritage and to promote the public awareness and appreciation of this legacy. Speros Marinos is a life member of the CTHS.