Taming “The Wild Cat”
Hershey celebrated its 20th anniversary in 1923, and Milton Hershey’s present to the town was a roller coaster. Initially, Hershey Park’s first roller coaster was called “The Joy Ride.” Within a short time its name was changed to “The Wild Cat.” The Wild Cat was nearly a mile in length and it had “more dips and deeper dips than any of like construction in America.”
It was put into operation on June 16, 1923. On opening day, word quickly spread through the town that the coaster was operating and that rides were free. The town’s youth came running to be among the first to ride the coaster. On its first day of operation no ladies were allowed to ride until the afternoon. Marion Murrie, daughter of Hershey Chocolate Company president, William F. R. Murrie, was the first female to ride the coaster.
The Wild Cat was the first coaster designed by the great coaster designer Herbert P. Schmeck. Before this project he ahd built several coasters for the Philadelphia Toboggan Company serving as construction manager. Philadelphia Toboggan Company ran the Wild Cat as a concession for a number of years. The coaster was 76 feet high and crossed Spring Creek on a specially designed wooden bridge. Schmeck was never really satisfied with the design and it was modified in the 1920s. In 1935 it was redesigned to make its dips higher and the curves more steeply banked. Hershey Press wrote that the roller coaster had cost $50,000. Up to this time, Park rides had not operated on Sundays. However, the Park saw its largest crowds on that day. With the addition of this costly ride, the Park began operating its rides on Sundays.
The Wild Cat operated from 1923 to the end of the 1945 when it was torn down and replaced with The Comet.