Ramona Park
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Shelby Township Historical Committee

Ramona Park was opened for business in the 1920s by Mr. Lesco, owner of Ramona Theatre in the Six Mile and Gratiot area. The park was located on Auburn Road just north of Utica, adjacent to Pulaski Park.

In the summer months the park was opened on Sunday and all holidays. It also opened for special private parties on certain Saturdays with moonlight dancing from 8 to 12 p.m.

Ramona Park was usually rented for Catholic Church picnics and ethnic groups of Polish, German and Lebanese descent. Many family reunions used the park.

The park opened at 9 a.m. Seventy five percent of the people came by bus. The roads were still in primitive condition. When leaving, the people that drove had a hard time getting up the hill from the river flats to Auburn Road.

The picnic area had tables, but no grills as we know them. Small fires were built with twigs and branches of fallen trees. Each year more of the park became usable as more debris was picked up and burned. They would use kettles and pans to cook their food.

Jim Brede would run the concession stand. a bar of candy was 5 cents, an ice cream cone was 5 cents, beer 10 cents a shell and 15 cents for a schooper (12 oz. mug with a handle). Liquor was 25 cents a shot. A shot and a beer was the drink of the time.

People who rented the park sold hot dogs, hamburgers and Polish sausage.

Softball was played in the afternoon with games, swimming and fishing for the other children. Fishing poles were branches from a fallen tree with a hook and line and a nut as a sinker. With any luck you could catch catfish, perch, red horse, carp and blue gills.

Swimming was fine in the clear water. There was a nine foot deep hole with a sandy beach for older kids to swim in , but no lifeguards.

Lots of people were always walking the river bank. One point of interest was the hobo camp located by the railroad trestle. The hobos had a bunch of tin lean to shacks to live in, cook their meals and wash their clothes until it was time to move on.

The people who lived in the area of the hobo camp were bothered when the hobos would come at suppertime and ask for something to eat. Mr. Herman Albrecht would say, " I will give you something to eat." But he would have chores for them to do such as piling and splitting wood. Depending how hungry they were would determine if they would accept the offer or walk to the next house.

The dancing at the park would start at 3 p.m. and last till 9. There was a pavilion built with a dance floor in the center and chairs and tables around the peremiter inside the building. It was rustic, no paint.
Art Albrecht recalls "when we were kids, we used to wrestle an awful lot. We used to play King of the mountain. We didn't have money for sports equipment.

When I came home at night from Ramona Park, about 9 p.m., I would notice all them boys and girls wrestling with blankets over them. I wondered why they were doing it along the bank of the river. I was only 10 years old at the time. But I had enough sense to go back the next morning and look for change where the grass was patted down. I could find more money then I could make in a day working.

One summer there was a different arrangement. A gypsy clan rented the park and ran into all kinds of trouble. Art Albrecht recalls that they used to steal vegetables from the garden. They got into the field corn used to feed chickens and ate the rest of the vegetables. John got the police to get them and they moved north.

In the early 30s Mr. Lesco built a beer garden. It was a swinging group with plenty of dancing and drinking. A sheriff deputy was assigned to the park to maintain order. One deputy assigned on a regular basis was Tony Lanko.

Also on the premisis was a small house where John Sczesny, the manager, lived. John Sczesny was a huge Polish man who did all the repairs to the buildings. No grass was mowed because it was trampled down by kids running and playing. On Mondays he would hire Jim Brede and Art Albrecht to clean the buildings, then police the picnic ground area. Their pay was $1.00 per day.

Each Weekend you would see the Atlas pop, beer, meat, and bread trucks deliver their orders. Mondays they would return to pick up empties.

In the fall as winter set in, there were solid wood blinds or doors placed around the dance pavilion to protect it from snow and ice. Of course they were removed in the spring prior to use.

The park was sold and became a landfill. Presently it is being used for storing and selling black dirt.

Source: Summer along the Clinton by Wally Doebler-1996