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.”
The Great Depression closed Oak Park in 1930. Masontown Water Works bought the park to use its water for the town’s supply, according to Belldina’s report, which he wrote for English class in 1979.
When Belldina found the information on eBay, he placed a maximum bid of $4 on the lot and won.
“I opened it up and was like, ‘Yeah, I have this picture. Wonder what this note says’,” Belldina recalled. “I looked at it and it brought back a memory, and then I saw my name. I thought, ‘That is crazy’.”
Belldina recently figured out how his paper traveled across the country.
To thank Cipolloni for her help, Belldina said he returned the rough draft, with her handwritten notes on it, to her with a photograph after he finished his paper.
Belldina contacted the eBay seller, S.E. Taylor of Portland, Ore., to ask how he acquired the report. That’s when Belldina learned Taylor is Cipolloni’s nephew.
When Cipolloni died in 1992, her sister, Taylor’s mother, took her papers to her house in Oregon. When Taylor’s mother died, he began going through her belongings and placing some things for auction on eBay. Taylor has refunded Belldina’s money.
Belldina owns Belldina’s Pharmacy in Masontown and is a partner in Pierpont Landing Pharmacy in Morgantown.
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