According to Perry Duncan, head maintenance worker for the Shack, Tracy worked long hours installing, painting, and tweaking the ride before it opened for the 1970 operating season. He remembers how Tracy would enter the ride to work and reemerge hours later with his clothes covered in paint. “He stood right here where you are standing,” said Duncan as we were looking at the attraction’s towering façade. He also remembers how Tracy would leave the park to get more paint at the local store only to come back a few hours later after getting a little sidetracked at some of the local establishments. Duncan’s primary focus is maintaining the Shack’s Hush-Puppy ride system which contains six cars in the fleet. He also assists with maintaining the ride’s stunts, most of which he helped originally install.
Perry Duncan explains the workings of the cars' guide wheels.
Duncan also discussed the building which houses the Shack. It is an Armstrong building, which was a very high quality, durable, expensive, and popular structure when the Shack was built. Duncan was associated with Armstrong which lead to his involvement with Waldameer Park and ultimately the use of the Armstrong building to house the Shack. It is also of note that Duncan said Tracy had a very detailed scale model of the Shack that he used on-site while installing the ride. The roof of the model was removable and miniature replicas of the stunts were inside. Duncan tried obtaining the model from Tracy on numerous occasions with no success. Its whereabouts are unknown.
Paul Nelson, owner of Waldameer Park since 1978, was able to provide insight into Tracy as a business man. Nelson commissioned Tracy to build the Shack in 1969, and invited him back two years later to build the Pirate's Cove walk-thru fun house which sits a stone’s throw away from the Shack today. Tracy was also coerced by Nelson to build a scene in the park’s L. Ruth Express Train tunnel. Nelson went on several trips with Tracy to observe other attractions, spent time with him at amusement conventions, and recalled several times he and his wife would meet him for dinner and other recreational activities such as fishing. Steve Gorman, who assumed the position as General Manager for the park in the mid 1990s, was instrumental in our successful meeting with Nelson.
During the early 1970s, Tracy sent a personalized painting to Nelson as a holiday gift wishing him and his family well. To this day, the painting still hangs in Nelson’s office
and is signed “W Tracy.”
Longtime ride operator and dark ride enthusiast Randy Skalos has been an incredible resource in solving some of the Shack’s biggest puzzles. Skalos is adamant about preserving the ride and maintaining its original Tracy flavor, and that is why he embarked upon a major restoration process of the Wine Cellar stunt during the winter of 2010. Due to vandalism of the stunt in previous seasons, it was no longer recognizable, and Skalos wanted to do something about it. Using his artistic techniques, he reassembled the body and painted it with florescent colors as Tracy originally did 40 years ago. He also installed a new water pump to circulate water on the body to finish the effect. Needless to say, it looks incredible.
Before and after comparisons of Wine Cellar.
Skalos was also able to provide insight into a mysterious birdcage prop that once hung in the Tilted Room but removed several seasons ago. The birdcage is identical to the one used as a prop in a photo on Tracy’s 1968 promotional brochure and is thought to be the same one. The birdcage is currently kept in storage where an original ornamental piece of the ride’s façade is also kept.
Skalos has dedicated much of his time guaranteeing the Shack’s success, as well as the continued operation of Pirate's Cove, the park’s other Tracy-built attraction.