Funland has kept four generations of one family happily employed—much to the delight of patrons.
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Randy Curry, Don’s son-in-law, has followed in his footsteps. “There are always new challenges,” he says. Today’s rides involve computers and sophisticated machinery. “They can be frustrating to work on, but it’s rewarding when you get it right.”
Al’s son Craig is an electrical engineer. Son Neal is good at running games—so good, he’s led seminars for the International Association of Amusement Parks, which include folks from Disney and Six Flags.
Henschke, who started dating Al’s daughter Gail in 1976, learned the accounting and administrative side of the business. Al’s mother, Sis, a former bookkeeper for Hershey Foods, worked in the back office until she was 90. “I kept records on the computer. She’d keep them in a ledger,” Henschke recalls. She died at age 91.
Henschke’s daughter, Erin Darr, an accountant, is his “right hand,” he says. Her husband, Chris, handles human resources. There are more than 100 employees, half of whom are foreign summer workers. Henschke’s son, Mark, went full time last summer after graduating from Salisbury State University in Maryland.
“I’ve been here 25 summers now, so coming into the business, I know how everything should be,” Mark says. “Well, I know a fair amount—not as much as these old guys.”
Like his cousins, Mark started young. At about age 9, the children stock games. Each season, Funland receives about seven to 10 containers of prizes, which it stashes in the basement. “We go through a lot,” Bill Henschke says. “People come back if they win.”
The kids graduate to selling tickets and working the arcade. “We want them to grow up seeing what’s involved in this operation,” Fasnacht says. “When we work, we work. And when we play, we play.”
Mark and the other kids relished romping in the Haunted Mansions before it opened—“once I got past being terrified of it,” he says.
No matter the pecking order, Henschke says no family member is too proud to pitch in wherever needed, no matter how unpleasant. “We do what needs to be done. If someone pukes, Al is one of the first guys to clean it up,” Henschke says.
Unfortunately, upset stomachs are a hazard of the business. Mowrey and a friend once joined a child in a crowded seat of the Sea Dragon. “He said, ‘This is my seventh time. I threw up on my second and fifth,’” Mowrey says. Fortunately, the lad’s stomach survived the seventh pass.
The family’s company not only owns the business, but it also owns the land and several houses on or near the property. Curry’s son has a bedroom whose window is breathtakingly close to the Sea Dragon. Two dormitories adjacent to the park house 27 men. (Girls are housed in subleased apartments.)
Not surprisingly, developers often make offers to buy the land. But for the Fasnachts’ heirs, Funland is a lifestyle—a family heirloom that’s treated with loving care. Family members are more likely to join the business than to leave it.
“How long will I do this?” Henschke asks. He looks around, hands on hip. Randy Curry is back at work on the cubbies. His son is pitching in with the water delivery. He shrugs. “Until I die, probably.”