Evans, a long-time Bucks County resident who for nearly four decades
co-owned and managed two popular local amusement parks, in Chalfont and
West Point, PA, died peacefully September 21, 2019 in Richlandtown, PA.
Mr. Evans was born March 26, 1928, and spent his early years in Clifton,
NJ, raised by a loving couple who had adopted him as a toddler.
Near the end of World War II, Mr. Evans lied about his age to be eligible to enlist in the U.S. Navy. He was trained as a meteorologist, serving aboard the legendary battleship USS Wisconsin. In 1951 he graduated from Keystone College in La Plume, PA, where he had been elected captain of the football team.
The next year he married Madeliene Ann Booz of Bucks County and settled in Doylestown Township, PA, in an area that was later flooded to make the lake at Peace Valley Park. The couple raised three sons: William Bruce Evans, Jr., of Sellersville, PA; Ronald Keith Evans of Pleasanton, CA; and the late Douglas Edward Evans of Kailua, Hawaii.
In 1953 he leased with two inlaws - Edward H. Booz and Howard J. Booz - Forest Park, a mid-sized amusement park on Route 202 in Chalfont, PA and, later, purchased West Point Park in nearby Upper Gwynedd Township. Both parks already had long histories when they began to flourish around the turn of the 20th century when electric light-rail trolley lines were built linking Philadelphia with the suburbs. The trolleys, and later trains, brought tens of thousands of city dwellers on summer weekends in search of fresh air and entertainment.
The property that would eventually become West Point Park belonged in the mid-1800s to Hezekiah H. Zieber who, after serving in the Union Army during the Civil War, opened Zeiber's Park, a quiet summer retreat with a lake and pavilions. In the following years, Zeiber added a steam carousel and boats for rent. Many years and a generation or so later, with all the customary attractions, the property had become a full-scale amusement park, named for the unincorporated local village of West Point. The park property was a long narrow rectangle bounded by Park Rd., Garfield Ave., Fourth St., and S. Broad St.
|Changing times took a toll on Forest Park
and it closed at the end of the 1964 season. In response to those
changing times, Mr. Evans turned West Point Park into a favorite of
county and western music fans by staging live concerts on summer Friday
nights. Tickets were one dollar.
The park also became popular as a destination for catered family reunion picnics. Many of Philadelphia's labor unions and employers held summer picnics for their members and employees, including IBEW Local 98, The Iron Workers Union, Fisher & Porter Company, Honeywell Corp., and the Philadelphia Naval Yard.
During his career, Mr. Evans served as president of the Pennsylvania Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, and as president of the Wise Men of the YMCA, Lansdale chapter. He was an avid skier who enjoyed arranging weekend getaways to the Poconos and New England slopes with family, friends, and employees.
Rising costs and changing regulations did eventually catch up to West Point Park and Mr. Evans closed the gates for the last time in 1989. The roller coaster and other rides and attractions were sold off and the land was subsequently developed as residential housing.
In addition to his sons, Mr. Evans is survived by their mother and his devoted friend, Madeliene Ann Evans, 89, of Souderton, and a grandson, William Tyler Evans.
Mr. Evans' remains will be interred in Washington Crossing National Cemetery, also the site of graves of Continental soldiers who died during the December 1776 encampment in Bucks County.
A memorial service is planned for this fall, with date and location to be announced. Donations in Mr. Evans' name may be made to the LuLu Shriners, Plymouth Meeting, PA, which for many summers held a picnic at West Point Park for orphaned and physically-challenged children.