Harveys Lake History

Rood's Camp and Bus Service


Souvenir Rood License Plate

The Rood Family

For over 60 years the Rood family served the Lake community at West Corner – Sandy Beach. Thomas D. Rood (1809-1882) was an early settler in Bloomingdale, Ross Township. His son Benjamin Moss Rood (1847-1913) was raised in the Bloomingdale area and was a farmer, merchant and carpenter. During the Summer he was also the butcher at the Patterson Grove campground.

I.A. Rood store and post office

B. M. Rood was selected as a juror for the infamous Lattimer Massacre murder trial. On September 10, 1897, nineteen unarmed immigrant striking miners were shot and killed by Luzerne County Sheriff deputies during a miners’ march at Lattimer near Hazleton. Most were shot in the back as they were retreating. Another 17 to 49 miners were wounded by the deputies’ gunfire.

Luzerne County Sheriff James F. Martin and 73 deputies were arrested and tried for murder. The jury deliberated for only two hours and in a verdict on March 9, 1899, the jury found all the defendants to be not guilty. The acquittal was expected at the time but is now viewed as shocking.

B. M. Rood’s son, Irwin A. Rood (1878-1965), came to the Lake from Sweet Valley in 1898. He taught at the one-room Rock School on Sorber Mountain for two years. In 1901 he purchased the Al Goode store at the West Corner. I.A. Rood also ran an early horse and wagon school-bus service. In late 1923 the Luzerne County Court ousted the Lake Township school directors for failing to provide proper school facilities. I. A. Rood was appointed by the court to fill one of the vacated positions. In 1944 The Lake Township tax collector resigned and I. A. Rood was appointed by the Luzerne County Commissioners to serve as tax collector.

I.A. Rood grocery truck.
Young Vernon Rood (inside),
John Barrett (running board) 1920

On March 18, 1918, I.A. Rood became the postmaster at Laketon at the West Corner. He succeeded Minnie O. Perrego, who had become the postmaster on January 12, 1903, succeeding her husband Winfield Perrego (1867-1948) who became Laketon's first postmaster under President Benjamin Harrison in the Spring 1891. In 1891 there were four post offices serving Harvey's Lake: Lake (at Sunset); Outlet; Alderson; and Laketon. Winfield Perrego had a general store with the post office. He also was a dealer in railroad ties and farm equipment and he was one of the original trustees creating the Lake's Perrego Cemetery on October 1, 1890. On December 27, 1916, the Perrego store and post office was totally destroyed by fire. Perrego's Laketon post office was then served from Rood's store. After I.A. Rood’s appointment in 1918 Rood continued as postmaster at Laketon until the post office was discontinued on September 30, 1935, and its postal services transferred to Alderson.

In the early decades of this century, three principal grocery stores served the Lake. Rood was at the West Corner, Gosart was at Sunset and the Harvey's Lake Supply Store was at Alderson. Rood's home delivery schedule was typical for Lake stores. On Mondays and Fridays orders and deliveries were made "up-Lake" to Alderson, and on Tuesdays and Saturday orders and deliveries were made "down-Lake" to Warden Place. Wednesdays and Thursdays were usually reserved to receive telephone orders and to make deliveries to other areas of the township. During this time major stores in the Valley also had regular merchandise delivery services to the Lake.

 

Ben Rood, Laketon High 1926

The Rood Campground

In 1918 I. A. Rood acquired considerable acreage on both sides of Lakeside Drive from the DeWitt family. The Lake side of the property would become Sandy Beach. On the other side of the road the Roods would farm acreage which later became Tent City. In 1924 I. A. Rood sold the beach lands for the creation of Sandy Beach. Rood acquired a right-of-way across the beach land to the Lake. Later in his life I. A. Rood would transfer these property interests to his son Benjamin S. Rood.

In 1928 I. A. Rood and his two sons Benjamin S. Rood (1907-1989) and Vernon Rood began to rent tent sites on a large plot of land previously used as the truck farm. The camp site was located across from Sandy Beach. Ben Rood would later own his home here along Lakeside Drive along with the camp site and store, gas station, and an inn fronting the road. The camp site was to the rear of these improvements. The tent ground was an enormously popular attraction and was frequently called Tent City. A camp site in 1932 rented for one dollar weekly. In May 1930 a Pure Oil gasoline station was added, which was later changed to Atlantic Richfield. The tent ground soon attracted trailers. In 1933 five rental cabins were built. In 1934 I.A. Rood dismantled a bowling alley and game stands he also owned along the Noxen Road, and the lumber was used to build four additional cabins. In time, more cabins were built until sixteen cabins were available. There were one, two and three-room cabins which originally rented for fifteen, twenty and twenty-five dollars a week. At the height of its popularity the Rood camp ground would accommodate six hundred people in 125 tent sites, fifty trailer sites and the sixteen cabins. In 1935 Rood built the Martha Washington Inn. It had rooms for four to six guests in addition to a restaurant trade, and until World War II it was managed by A. August Gomes.

Tent City C. 1938. Rood photo

Benjamin Rood was a 1928 graduate of Laketon High School. At Laketon he was captain of the Laketon basketball team. In the 1925-1926 season Laketon High won the Back Mountain basketball league championship. In the same year the Laketon womens’ basketball team also won the womens’ Back Mountain league championship. Their captain was Adda Edwards.

Vernon Rood (1904-1941) was also a graduate of Laketon High School and attended Wyoming Seminary. He married Carrie Mae Smith, of Lewisburg, in 1936. At the time of his death, Vernon and Carri Smith Rood had nearly completed construction of a marital home at the West Corner.

Rood's camp ground received attention in the American Tragedy murder trial in 1934. Freda McKechnie was murdered the night of July 30, 1934, when she was bludgeoned to death by her fiancé, Robert Edwards, while both were swimming in the Lake at Mayer's Grove/Sandy Beach. On the morning of July 31 a camper at Rood's, Daniel McHugh, Larksville, discovered a bundle of McKechnie's clothes and her red pocketbook under a tree near the camp. He informed August Gomes, the Rood gas station attendant, who informed the police. It was determined later that Edwards hid the clothes there. In the meantime, 5-year old Betty Da Costa was at Mayer’s Grove next to Sandy Beach and saw a body floating in the water beyond Mayer’s dock and ran to inform her mother. Then while the police were at Rood's, information arrived that 15 -year old Irene Cohen, who was canoeing on the Lake with her brother and another boy, also glimpsed the body of McKechnie which was floating just under the Lake surface in her white cap and orange bathing suit. The body was recovered by lifeguards George Jones, Ben Williams and Tony Kotch. Robert Edwards was convicted of McKechnie's murder and he received a death sentence in the State's electric chair. The American Tragedy murder case is covered elsewhere on this website.

Betty DaCosta, 1934

The Rood camp ground did not engage in any conventional advertising. The well-known camp site and welcoming Rood hospitality readily drew a Summer crowd, especially with its access to Sandy Beach across the road.

The only published article which describes Tent City appeared in the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader on September 5, 1938. In a larger sense, however, it describes an earlier more secure era which perhaps is now lost to later generations:

 

Today marks the termination of the vacation season at nearby lakes and vacation spots. Labor Day also marks the exodus of the colonists of the far-famed tent city, erected each summer at Harvey's Lake. Originally a farm on which stood a supposedly-haunted house on the Laketon side of the lake, the site has developed into a small city with a population that often exceeds 300.
Year after year since its establishment, the same tent and trailer dwellers have passed their vacations in this unique little canvas town. In many respects the odd village resembles the settlements heard of in tales of early gold rushes to the west. The town has its own water system, partly consisting of well-equipped artesian wells, and each year the tents are so placed that narrow streets are formed, a number of them bearing names taken from New York's metropolis by fun-loving campers. Electrically lighted paths, bicycle lanes and playgrounds for children are among the village's city-like appearances.
The unique village has its own restaurant, gasoline station, garage service and grocery store to supply the needs of itinerant residents. Hucksters, butchers and bakers visit the camp ground daily, offering their wares to the tent dwellers. Large incinerators have been built in various spots in the tent city, and a garbage collection is made every two days, keeping the city clean and sanitary.
Cabins at the city's edge are so much in demand that they are engaged year after year by the same people. The trailer group, for the most part, has left for warmer climates. Trailers bearing licenses from Maine to Florida and as far west as California have stopped at the site during the last few years, their inhabitants enjoying the beauties of Northeastern Pennsylvania's picturesque mountains and lakes.
A neighborliness has developed during the ever so short stays of summertime colonists which has grown into an all seasonal friendship. Strangers in the beginning of the summer, many of the tent dwellers become fast friends, visiting each other during the winter months, or retaining their friendship by communicating with each other by mail.
Privately owned privileges enable the dwellers to come and go between the city and the nearby beach. The city's everyday life is safe and secure. Children are left at the city by parents, who return at the end of the season to take their son back to their home. One boy, whose parents live in New York City, lived at the village entirely alone. This has been a practice with him for the last three or four years.
Stray young puppies have found happy landing places. Many of them, homeless, have wandered into the campgrounds and sold themselves to the dwellers so thoroughly that at the end of the vacation period, they are retained as part of the household and taken to permanent homes. The strong sense of friendship that prevails among the people can also be seen in the strange animals that meet in the city. Seldom, if at all, are dog fights seen in the canvas town, and would-be night prowlers are discouraged by these watchful friends.
The old slogan, 'honesty is the best policy,' seemed to hover about the entire town. Few thefts are heard of in this town, and tent flaps and trailer doors need not be securely fastened to assure owners that no entrance will be made.
Almost deserted now, the camp grounds had at many times over 80 tents. Summer colonists are planning a large reunion during the winter.

 

Rood's Cabins, Sandy Beach, Harvey's Lake, PA

In December 2013 Ben Rood's daughter, Barbara Rood Kraut (1939-2018), was interviewed for an article in the Citizen's Voice about the family campground. She noted the Rood’s right-of-way to walk to the Lake shore. This Lake access extended to Rood's later campers. The camp was open from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Some campers came earlier in May to set up their camp spot. Rood's was an attraction for the families of area miners who often brought large U.S. Army tents for the family. Barbara began working at the camp at age ten and drove a tractor to mow 57 acres of land each year to clear the camp ground. Her father Ben Rood often worked 18 -hour days since he also managed the camp's gas station and the bus line. Her mother Marion Rood patrolled the area with Timmy, a German boxer.

The Rood enterprises were truly a family affair. Barbara Rood, at age 15- 16, actually operated the morning bus run at times before going to the Lake school. She also was a waitress at the Martha Washington Inn along with three cousins, Susie, Bessie and Elsie Kocher. It was not unusual to have 95 breakfast customers at the Inn and 150 for dinner. Her maternal grandfather, Jim Barney, and an uncle Kerry Barney also helped around the grounds. Jim and Kerry were musicians who earlier worked with the Dorsey Brothers.

After the 1962 season, the Rood campground closed due to environmental and sewage control requirements. The camp was served by outhouses which had to be replaced by flush toilets along with shower facilities. The camp could not sustain these expenses. Razing the cabins began in 1963. Subsequently, Ben Rood worked at the Forty Fort airport and then for several years as foreman of Ricketts Glen State Park until "Gentle Ben" retired in June 1989.

 

Rood's Service Station and Martha Washington Inn,
Sandy Beach, Harvey's Lake, PA

Martha Washington Inn

In June 1935 Ben Rood married Marion Barney, from Alden, who had been a teacher at a one-room school in Loyalville and later a Dallas teacher. They built a home across from Sandy Beach and also the 1935 Martha Washington Inn which had guest rooms and a restaurant. The Roods leased the inn and until World War II it was managed by Abraham August Gomes. He was born in Portugal and came to the United States in 1920. Gomes had earlier managed Sunset's Bon-Air restaurant which was lost in a January 1935 fire.

For the 1940 season the Martha Washington Inn was a sub-station from June 1 to September 15 for the Pennsylvania State Police. The State Police with three cruisers would supplement Police Chief Ira C. Stephenson's Lake police department. A Pennsylvania State Police augmentation to the Lake's force had occurred, too, since the 1920s to oversee the Lake's large Summer crowds and traffic control issues.

After Gomes' tenure other lessees operated the Martha Washington Inn. During World War II the Sorber Mountain sisters, Elsie Kocher Wisser, Susie Kocher Crispell, and Bessie Kocher Bunseck, managed the inn. In late 1951 Joseph (Pat) and Margaret McCaffrey assumed the inn's operation. In late 1954 the McCaffreys acquired Old Sandy Bottom beach which opened in 1955. In April 1955 the Rood's listed the inn for sale with Garrity realty for $3,500.00. The inn’s operation for the next several years is unclear. Rooms may have been let on a weekly or monthly basis and the inn may have been closed most years.

In early 1968 the Harvey's Lake Borough Council considered purchasing the vacant Martha Washington Inn as the location for a permanent borough building. The Lake borough, created in January 1968, was renting the Daniel C. Roberts Fire Company building for meetings. The inn's purchase, however, did not have wide support due to its condition and costs associated with the purchase and maintenance of any permanent borough building.

Ben Rood and Bus at Dallas
c. 1939. Rood Photo

Ben Rood sold the inn property in 1968 to an investor who recast it as the Sandy Beach Inn, but the new owner sought to sell it in July 1972 and again in May 1974, and again it is uncertain if it was operational as there was no advertising of it as a restaurant. The inn was sold to Joseph and Nancy Kerns in July 1975 who operated it on a year-round basis as the Sandy Beach Inn. It was open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. On Christmas Eve 1976 Joseph Kerns was critically injured in a one- vehicle accident on the Lake road and he passed away one month later. Nancy Kerns continued to operate the restaurant until August 1983 when a new owner acquired the inn.

The Sandy Beach Inn adopted a Mexican food theme in 1984 known as “Lover’s Cantenna.” The last advertisement for the inn was in July 1984. There were noise complaints about the inn’s music and in August 1985 the inn was fined for the noise. The property was sold in September 1995 and was converted into a private residence.

The Martha Washington/Sandy Beach Inn has no relationship to the October 1997 Sandy Beach, Inn, Inc., corporation formed to reopen the Stone House at Sandy Beach as a bar/restaurant. This enterprise was created by William Hayes, a New Jersey lawyer. His Sandy Beach Inn and Tiki Bar opened in September 1998 and closed after August 2001.

 

Rood's Bus Service

A trolley line from Wilkes-Barre to Harvey's Lake was opened in 1897. The Lake line terminated at the Oneonta station above Sunset's Oneonta Hotel. The trolley’s best year was 1923. On July 4, 1923, paired trolley cars ran to the Lake all day every twenty minutes from Wilkes-Barre. But with the advent of the private automobile, trolley services went into a long decline.

In early July 1931 the Wilkes-Barre Railway Corporation suspended trolley service between Idetown and the Oneonta station. The corporation's subsidiary, the Wyoming Valley Auto Bus Company, substituted bus service from Idetown to the Lake and also added regular bus service around the Lake.

At the end of the summer season at the Lake in 1931 the trolley company announced it was ending trolley service between Dallas and Idetown and substituting bus service. The change was effective on September 16, 1931.

One unusual outcome, for a time, from the loss of the Idetown trolley service was the company’s decision to change the name of its bus stop at Idetown to Lake Summit. The influence of the Ide family there had declined and new families in the area supported the name change. Even the Idetown community baseball team re-branded itself as Lake Summit along with the Idetown area’s Lake Summit Quoit Club. After 1938, however, the Lake Summit baseball and quoit clubs disbanded and the name Lake Summit disappeared from the community.

Last Trolley to Dallas, April 30, 1939.
Edward Miller photo.

The Wyoming Valley Auto Bus Company, a subsidiary of the trolley line, leased the bus line to I.A. Rood from Dallas to the Lake for the 1931-1932 winter season. The company originally planned to operate its own bus line during the profitable summer months, but the Rood bus service from Dallas was so well operated, the company leased the line on a year-round basis to the Rood family from 1932 to 1957. The bus line was managed by Ben Rood, and his initial bus was a twenty-passenger 1932 Ford. In September 1938 the railway corporation acquired four transit-type Mack motor coaches at a cost of $28,000 for the Dallas to Lake run. Each had a capacity of 25 passengers. Rood once reported that during the Summer months the traction company could provide larger forty-passenger buses. The number of buses furnished to Rood during a season varied with consumer demand.

The Rood bus, at least in earlier years, ran not only to Sunset but also to the Picnic Grounds and other stops at the Lake. As early as 5:30 AM, miners who lived at the Lake would be picked up by the Lake bus at the Picnic Grounds in order to meet the 6:00 AM trolley at Dallas to the Valley. Except during summer, the Lake bus would run each hour and twenty minutes ending at 6:40 PM on weekdays and 10:40 PM on Saturdays. In summer months the bus ran nearly to midnight. The ride from Dallas to Idetown was ten cents, or twenty cents for a stop along the Lake. The best years for the bus line were 1941-1946 largely due to gas rationing that restricted private travel. Over time the number of daily runs was reduced.

Last Trolley to Dallas with Lake Bus,
April 30, 1939. Edward Miller photo.

In April 1939 the Wilkes-Barre Railway Corporation ceased trolley service from Public Square to Dallas and substituted bus service to Dallas to meet the Rood bus to the Lake. In December 1939 the Wilkes-Barre Railway Corporation was reformed as the Wilkes-Barre Transit Corporation. (In 1975 the Transit Corporation assets would be surrendered to the Luzerne County Transportation Authority.) During the Summer seasons the earlier Wilkes-Barre railway and later transit corporations operated direct bus runs from Public Square to the Picnic Grounds to accommodate the demand for public transportation service to the Lake and its amusement park. This competition with Rood, the corporations’ sub-contractor for local bus service from Dallas to the Lake, occurred as early as 1932 through at least 1949. The 1949 “summer schedule” from July 1 to September 7 offered express bus service from Public Square to the Lake seven days a week. It left Public Square at 12:30 PM and hourly thereafter and as late as 10:30 PM on Saturdays and midnight on Sundays. In addition, there were 13 daily bus runs from Public Square to the Dallas station for Rood’s local run to the Lake.

By 1956 the Rood bus line only ran twice daily from Dallas to the Lake in the off-season. During the Summer Rood had four daily trips during the week and on Sundays and holidays. His final season was in 1957.

The bus line was then leased to Carl Deutsch, Dallas. By May 1959 the Lake bus only made two trips daily and was a financial loss to the corporation. The bus left Dallas for the Lake at 9:15 AM and 2:00 PM and left the Lake at 9:45 AM and 2:30 PM – on a 12 passenger Metro-type bus. It ran weekdays and Saturdays with Deutsch receiving $5.00 daily but he had to pay his own gas and maintenance. Later in May 1959 the Public Utility Commission authorized the closure of the Dallas to Lake bus route. The final bus to run from Dallas to the Lake occurred on Saturday, May 23, 1959, at 3:00 PM.

 

Editor’s Note: The Rood Enterprises are covered in the Harvey’s Lake history book as a subchapter under West Corner-Sandy Beach. This article is an expansion of the material in the book and is in part based on interviews this website editor had with Ben Rood in the early 1980s and later with Barbara Rood Kraut.

 

Copyright 2018 F. Charles Petrillo