In 1899, jobs did not typically offer time off for vacation. Even if vacation time was available, most folks did not have the money to travel far.
Fret not! There were some local options. As the 20th century approached, the idea of working-class people taking time off for pleasure and relaxation gathered steam. Retreats where people could enjoy the day popped up near streams, lakes, and mountains. A small but growing local tourism industry was getting on track.
People craving a day on the water could don their swimming attire and sunbathe by Dauberville Lake. Another option was visiting Carsonia Park, a new amusement park located in Mt. Penn. In addition, a relaxing afternoon could be spent at the Summit Hotel on the top of Mt. Penn, with its spectacular views overlooking Reading.
All these places are gone now, but in their day, they were local hot spots for folks looking for a change of scenery.
The vacation possibilities for the middle-class grew brighter every year. Railroads and trolleys provided the opportunity to travel for recreation. These enterprising companies were actively seeking and creating new vacation destinations in order to encourage people to buy tickets.
Over the past century, blue collar workers fought for better working conditions, including time off to relax. It was their middle-class tourism dollars that fueled the drive for new and exciting vacation destinations, as well as faster and more economical transportation in order to reach them.
The Toboggan ride at Carsonia Park in Mt. Penn circa 1900. The ride was the first major amusement in the park. It only lasted for about 5 years before it was replaced by other rides and attractions as the park grew in popularity. This photo, courtesy of George Meiser, IX, was published in The Passing Scene (Vol. 1)
View of the Summit Hotel (right) and original tower on top of Mt. Penn, circa 1900. In the foreground are the tracks of the Mount Penn Gravity Railroad. The building behind the Tower is a dance hall and the building on the left housed a 2-lane bowling alley. This photo, courtesy of George Meiser, IX, was published in The Passing Scene (Vol. 1)
Bathers in their swimming suits on the Schuylkill River near the Bingaman St. Bridge. View is looking northeast towards the riverfront area around S.6th & Canal Streets. Photo courtesy of the Berks History Center’s Henry Janssen Library Archives.
By Floyd N. Turner II, President of the Berks History Center