The Wild Cat Rollercoaster was built by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company at Idora Park in Youngstown, Ohio in 1929 and opened in 1930. It was constructed of old growth pine cut from the virgin forest of America. One slab with a cross section dimension of approximately 2 x 3 feet had over 350 growth rings. The wood is extremely dense with a stone like quality and with a beige or pinkish coloration, similar to oak.
The Wild Cat is known for its iconic yellow-gold paint. A retired salesman from Sherwin Williams Paint Company remarked that every year, Idora park would request the best deal on Safety Yellow paint they could get from Sherwin Williams. The company would mix up the left overs from other custom paint orders and sell it by the 55 gallon drum to Idora. This was thick, oil based paint with a heavy cadmium, barium and lead content, designed to withstand the most atrocious weather that Northeast Ohio had to offer.
On April 26, 1984 a fire broke out in Idora claiming many rides and buildings, and the Wild Cat, with its tinder dry pine and oil based paint, erupted in flames like a volcano. A towering black smoke plume and raging fire could be seen for miles. The final blazing roar of the dying tiger echoed through the valley.
Idora remained silent for many years and what was left lapsed into severe decay. The south horseshoe of the Wild Cat had been claimed by the fire, and the rest began falling apart. Surrounding neighborhoods fell into extreme poverty and crime, and the park became a refuge for criminals and a hangout for teenagers. By 2001 the coaster was torn down because of the dangers it presented to the public and the environment.
Tens of thousands of people have ridden the Wild Cat and it has become symbolic of the tenacity, bravery and fearlessness of the people of Youngstown. It has also come to represent the many tragic losses the city has faced.
-Jason Van Hoose is an artist living in downtown, Youngstown Ohio since 1988. His studio is adjacent to Mill Creek Park, a 3,000 acre inner city park of old growth forest. Painting is his main artistic pursuit and his work has been shown in many museums and galleries in major cities of the North East. He became intrigued with the Wild Cat Rollercoaster at a young age and continues to promote the history and preserve what is left of the coaster.
View his website HERE.