In 1964, the Mill Chute was renovated by the renowned dark ride and funhouse master Bill Tracy and Outdoor Dimensional Display Company. The new ride was now called The Lost River, with an African jungle theme and featured an animated fiberglass elephant which stood guard atop the ride’s ticket booth. To me the creature was very realistic and second only to a Disney Audio-Animatronic (which I knew then only from Disney’s Wonderful World of Color on television).

The tunnel exterior was completely repainted in bold stripes of brown, orange, red and yellow. Boats entered through the base of an erupting volcano, complete with rumbling audio. The tunnel scenes were now far more elaborate than those of the dated Mill Chute. Some of the new interior stunts included an animated Swamp Ghost, a giant lunging bat on overhead track, and Tracy’s now-famous Hippo and Nile Queen with a heaving bosom. The scantily-clad mannequin sat astride a hippo and sang “I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles", as real soap bubbles emanated from the hippo’s ears.

The left bend in the tunnel and appearance of light brought one final surprise. To the left was Tracy’s famous “Stanley and Livingstone” stunt. Henry Stanley, crouched on his knees, is prying open the jaws of a large crocodile. Peering out from inside the croc’s mouth is long-lost missionary Dr. David Livingston, bespectacled and with a pipe. Repeated every few seconds, Stanley inquires, “Doctor Livingstone, I presume?” The boats then proceeded to the lift hill and splashdown as before.

The newly refurbished ride was very popular. Perhaps I’m a traditionalist, but, as with the Pretzel, I much preferred the far more basic Mill Chute to the Lost River. The Lost River operated until 1972 when it was severely damaged by the flood waters of tropical Hurricane Agnes.

I’ve often thought what a privilege I had to be able to enjoy the Philadelphia Toboggan Company creations at Hershey in their twilight years before they were totally revamped or demolished. The hundreds of dark rides, funhouses, old mills and mill chutes built across the country during the early part of the 20th century are now almost nonexistent. They were the originals, the prototypes for today’s Splash Mountain, The Amazing Adventures of Spider Man or Haunted Mansion. While they may seem archaic, even crude, by today’s hi-tech standards, each one was distinct and had an undeniable charm and appeal. For those who had the opportunity to ride and enjoy them, they conjure up happy memories of a bygone era.