Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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January 3, 2013

W.Va. collector buys own high school essay

MASONTOWN, W.Va. (AP) — A businessman in north-central West Virginia unknowingly bid on, and won, from online auction site eBay an essay he wrote in 11th grade.

Pharmacist Eric Belldina of Masontown received the rough draft of his essay about the old Oak Park amusement park in Preston County from a seller in Oregon.

"I collect anything about Masontown and Oak Park because I like old stuff, antiques, pictures, anything about this area," Belldina said. "I happened to type in 'Masontown' (on eBay) and that picture popped up."

Belldina recognized that he already owned a print of the same photograph, but he was interested in what was listed with the picture: "notes from the 1970s." He hoped the notes accompanying the photo, which were not pictured in the auction listing, contained historical information he didn't already know.

Oak Park was an amusement park built on 25-30 acres in 1910 in a wooded area at the end of Depot Street. Today, Decker's Creek Rail-Trail users traveling from Morgantown toward Bretz, near Masontown, can see the only remains of the park — cement piers that supported the roller coaster — on the left after they cross the second bridge, Belldina said.

Owned by the M&K Railroad, Oak Park also had a merry-go-round, lover's lane, Ferris wheel, slides, rifle range, swings, tennis court, fireplace for hot dog and pig roasts, train and boat excursions, areas for swimming and dancing, pavilions, a baseball field and a hotel. It employed about 50 people, according to Belldina's childhood neighbor, Rose Cipolloni, whom he interviewed for his paper.

Park visitors dressed in their Sunday best.

"People came in by train," Belldina said. "People would come from Pittsburgh. On the East Coast it was the biggest park at one time, they said. They had a 'Colored Day' when blacks were allowed to come."

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