The park itself may be gone, but there are plenty of memories and memories of Lake Geauga. The Aurora Historical Society preserves both.
In 1967, John Kudley, Jr. drove from Orange to Geauga Lake Amusement Park to see Paul Revere & The Raiders at WIXY-1260’s World Series of Rock Appreciation Day concert. The ride, although made with friends, was long.
“Who the hell would want to live in Aurora?” Kudley remembers thinking.
Kudley, now a retired history professor, answered the question himself. In 1974 Kudley moved to Aurora to teach. He is involved with the Aurora City Council, the Aurora Historical Commission, is a director of the Aurora Historical Society, and stayed long enough to see the amusement park reduced to scraps.
A certain number of these memories constitute today the Aurora Historical Society Museum Collection. And despite the museum’s closure during the pandemic, Kudley has continued to educate the public about the area’s history, writing weekly articles in the aurora avocado.
Today, articles are a monthly project. Amassing over 60 in number, the Aurora History Society is compiling Kudley’s work into a book, titled A Look at Aurora’s Past.
“I think it has a unique side to the history of all of northeast Ohio and what used to be Connecticut’s western reservation,” Kudley says of Aurora, citing her baptism as cheese capital of the world in the early 1900s as an example.
The Aurora Historical Society hopes to reopen its museum to visitors in December, following a floor replacement. The redesign allowed Kudley to consider how to make the Lake Geauga display more interactive for the future.
Until then, we caught up with Kudley to talk about some of his favorite Lake Geauga relics.
Photo album 1925
About 20 crisp black and white photographs adorn the pages of Geauga Lake’s 1925 photo album. Capturing the park in pristine condition, Kudley says the album was commissioned before it officially opened in June 1925 to attract investors. “A lot of franchises and halfway games that they rented out rather than trying to own and operate them themselves, so there was a lot of cooperation with different people,” says Kudley. The album is just one of 25 albums licensed by park promoter Harry Hammond, and it’s the only one Kudley knows still exists.
Harry Hammond’s Diary
How Cleveland Heights attorney Harry Hammond became involved with Lake Geauga is unclear, but his dedication to the park is. From 1924 to 1935, Hammond’s diaries simultaneously record the growth of the park and of Cleveland. Getting lumber for Sky Rocket (aka Big Dipper) from the Cleveland Lumber Company, redesigning roller coasters so they don’t collide with the water tower, attending driving conventions in Chicago, and seeing planes fly around from the terminal tower at a 1930s air show that included Charles Lindbergh, are all recorded in his hand. “When you spend so much time reading what these people have done, and especially Hammond, it’s almost like you know them personally,” Kudley says.
When Geauga Lake closed indefinitely in 2007, Kudley says the Aurora Historical Society had arrangements with then-owner Cedar Fair to send a photographer the next morning. Armed with up to 300 photos capturing the rides and empty walkways just as they were, Kudley was able to access all the relics he wanted to save. The monorail turnstile was one. Kudley explains that Geauga Lake purchased these turnstiles specifically from Cleveland Memorial Stadium when it was demolished in 1997. “It has a double story,” says Kudley. “Children come to the museum and like to walk there.”
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