HPPA (Hokendauqua Park and Playground Association) was formed in 1958 through a donation of $2000 from the town butcher, Ruby Falk. Seven acres of land was purchased from Tony Fassman who owned much of the land in that part of town. This land was called the “Meadows” at that time and was totally undeveloped. Some years before, this part of the land was used by the Hokendauqua Soccer team consisting of young men from Hokey and surrounding areas. Some of the better players got paid for their efforts thus making the team somewhat professional.
One of the players was Fred Snyder who later became the custodian of the Hokendauqua Grade School which is now the “Growing Tree” day care center. The “meadow” was also used by the town’s young people for sleigh riding on what was called “Blood Hill” and “Elephants Hump”. This is the hill that starts at the creek and ends on 4th Street. Kids had to be careful to turn before riding into the creek. Speaking of the creek, the famous saying “God willing and the creek don’t rise” originated in Hokey in reference to the creek. As we all know, the creek has risen quite a few times since then. Back in the 1930’s or 1940’s, the “Meadow” was home to the Hokendauqua Gun Club. The only playground in town was at the old Whitehall High School Football field or “Diamond” as it was called. This only operated during the summers and was supervised by teachers in the school district.
Anyway, the original founding fathers of HPPA consisted of Ed Hartman, Joe Humenik, Mary Kalamar, Flora Geissinger, Henry Gerhardt, Dick Bowman, and Althea Geiger of Geiger’s store. The first two things developed on the playground were the “A” field and what is now called the “Pavilion”. Everything else followed, eventually. In later years people like Steve Saganovich and Dale Horn became involved, along with a parade of other interested people. Dale Horn remained involved in the organization right up to the time of his death and was memorialized in 2004.
Here’s a bit of local trivia. Did you know that the old Whitehall High School on Lehigh Street was called “Hokendauqua High School” when first built. It was later expanded and became the High School for all of Whitehall. Legend has it that the first graduation class of Hokendauqua High School consisted of 2 graduates.