Mike Breiding's Epic Road Trips: May 2021

A Rainy Walk in

Oglebay Park

A Walk Down Memory Lane


In 1952 my father George H. Breiding took a job as Naturalist at Oglebay Park in Wheeling, WV. And so began 13 years for the Breiding family of living in Oglebay Park. At that time part of the salary for park employees was housing. And so we spent those 13 years at 350 GC&P road in a small 3 bedrooms house with one bathroom. There were 8 of us.

My dad worked at what was then called the Brooks Nature Center, a lovely wood and stone building which was demolished to make way for a bigger building which has none of the charm and hominess of the original.

The Brooks Nature Center as drawn by Don Altemus

The Brooks Nature Center as drawn by Don Altemus.

George H. Breiding leading his first Oglebay Nature Walk - 1950

Photo: William Wylie

George H. Breiding leading his first Oglebay Nature Walk - 1950.
He is carrying a vasculum in his left hand.

My dad stayed very busy on the job. He worked 6 days a week by choice. He could not have stayed as organized and productive as he did had it not been for a secretary/office manager by the name of Dot Broemson.
Any time we went to the Nature Center Dot was there to greet us with a smile and she was always fun to be around. She was an avid birder and hiker/walker and in this way stayed fit and sharp.

Early on the morning of Friday, May the 7th Betsy and I took a 5.5 mile rainy walk in Oglebay Park. We walked many of the paths we had been on during previous visit and passed many of the places I remembered from my childhood. The Amphitheater was one these.

The 1400 seat Amphitheater at Oglebay Park

In the 1930s, about 200 young men were assigned to Oglebay Park to carry out CCC and WPA projects around the area. The CCC men lived in Camp Waddington and were paid $21 a month plus room and board. Even with President FDR’s innovative program, however, Oglebay Park relied heavily on generous donors to make improvements and infrastructure in the Park possible. According to Living New Deal, “Gift and loans were solicited to match the Works Progress Administration funds, making possible the building of nature trails and roads, picnic sites, cabins, tennis courts, the outdoor theater, Camp Russel, and the entire Crispin Center area.”

Source: weelunk.com

A mentioned above this amphitheater, along with many other structures in Oglebay Park was built in the 1930s. I remember just three occasions when our family went to events at the amphitheater. Two were concerts with The New Christy Minstrels, Odetta and a play produced by a local amateur theater company. I remember one part of that play very well because in had a "beatnik" in it who was played by family friend Jay Stein.

Early 1960s album covers for The New Christy Minstrels and Odetta

In the late 1950s and early 1960s so called "folk music" was very popular. The oldest of the Breidings, sister Joan loved it and introduced the rest of us to it. And some of the young fellas who worked for my dad - Jay Stein, Frank Hembert and others played banjo, dulcimer and guitar and would play for us once in a while. And we would sit around the record player for hours singing along with the New Christy Minstrels, Kingston Trio, The Serendipity Singers and also country and western songs from such greats as Johnny Horton and Marty Robbins.

Johnny Horton and Marty Robbins

Some of you may remember Hortons "North to Alaska" and Marty's "El Paso" which were huge hits back then. But my two favorites from these albums was always Hortons "The Battle of New Orleans" and Marty's "Strawberry Roan". I listen to them to this day.

I seem to have gotten side tracked a bit and now I am not quite sure what I had in mind to say.
Back to the amphitheater for a minute. I was surprised to read that it was built to seat 1400 people. This seemed impossible but then I realized something BIG had happened since it was built back in the 1930s.

Obese and normal silhouettes

I imagine the seating capacity had been reduced significantly when you compare these two.

See you next time...
Mike and Betsy


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