SWATARA PARK

Compiled by Jack Still and Nancy Avolese

Swatara Park was a small community park just north of Middletown borough. It sat right along the Swatara Creek where there is currently a bridge crossing for Vine Street / Middletown Road, in Lower Swatara Township. 

 

Roy Donovan “Don” Farr  was born in Petoskey, Michigan

on October 17, 1906, to Ray Allen Farr and

Katherine "Kate" Mary Hoover. 

 

 

 

He married Orpha Violetta Allen (1906-1975), moved to Pennsylvania  and had two boys, Coy Donovan (1927-2017) and Ray Allen Donovan (1930-1992). 

 

Don bought land and created Swatara Park in 1938, as a place for people to swim and he offered refreshments for sale.

 

In 1953, Swatara Park began evolving into an amusement park as the Farrs added Kiddie Boats and Kiddie Swings.  Tickets were 5 - 10 cents each.  Their slogan was "The Family Fun Spot".

 

In November 1954, park management was searching for new rides to install in the park. 

They placed several advertisements in The Billboard between 1954 and 1955 and the park’s popularity grew.

 

In 1955, a Chris Crafts Speed Boat ride and a merry-go-round carousel were added, as well as two picnic pavilions. In 1956, a Miniature Train Company miniature train was installed; a kiddie roller coaster called Little Dipper (most likely an Allen Herschell kiddie coaster) was installed in 1957.  Other rides added included a Tilt-A-Whirl and scooter cars.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The park continued adding rides into mid-1960s. This included a Swingin’ Gym ride (flying cages), Kiddie Flyer Hand Cars, Jolly Trolley, and Orbiter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A paddle wheel boat ride was installed in 1963 and named for Robert E. Lee to acknowledge the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg during the Civil War.

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements for Swatara Park stopped appearing in Harrisburg-Lebanon area newspapers after the 1968 season.

By 1971, the amusement park rides had been removed and replaced by trailer homes.

 

Don Farr passed away on June 23, 1975. His wife, Orpha, passed the same year.

In 2013, the building where the original dance hall and skating rink was located on Swatara Road, (which was later turned into the Farr Apartments) was leveled after Tropical Storm Lee raged through Middletown.

 

The land where the park goers enjoyed fun afternoons and 5 cent hotdogs and rides was passed down through the generations and later subdivided for additional housing.

Ray Donovan Farr_edited.jpg
1952-04-12-the-billboard-p60.webp
Swatara Park Tickets 1 (002).jpg
1963-08-24-lebanon-daily-news-p13  sunday hotdogs.webp
Jolly Trollery.jpg
swingin-gym-usa-150x150.jpg
farr apartments.jpg
ray donovan farr with paddle boat.jpg
1954-02-27-the-billboard-p53 tilt a whirl.webp
Merry go round at Swatara Park.jpg
1957-09-21-lebanon-daily-news-p15  nickel day.webp
1950-04-08-the-billboard-p71 mini train.webp

Sources: 
https://amusementparkives.com/defunct-parks/swatara-park/  9/13/2022
www.findagrave.com
www.ancestry.com
Press and Journal,  Sept 2013