Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Alligator Farm, June 1960

There once was a time when people got a hankerin' to see some big scary reptiles. But they were few and far between in Orange County. Unless, that is, you went to the fabulous Alligator Farm in Buena Park! It was across the street from Knott's Berry Farm, and I am happy to be able to say that I went there several times as a kid. Check out this awesome sign at the entrance. "Drop In", ha ha!

The Buena Park location opened in 1953 (after having been in Lincoln Park since 1907).


Nope, it wasn't glamorous, but it was good for a few hours of fun. I remember that it smelled, but maybe no worse than your average zoo. I also remember how many of the alligators were missing toes...were they bitten off by other gators? There was one HUGE fella in his very own pen. As scary as he was, I couldn't help thinking that he must have been lonely. You could also thrill to snakes (such as queen snakes and cobras), tortoises and lizards. I remember a large monitor lizard, its tongue flicking out ickily.


Alligators are cold-blooded of course, so they don't tend to do much unnecessary moving around. If you were lucky you got to witness a feeding or two. They'd dangle chickens (not live) from a line so that the gators would have to snap and stretch and compete to get a piece. According to what I've read, you could have your photo taken sitting on a gator wearing a bridle of some sort (although I don't remember this). Some people say he was alive, others claim he was stuffed. Let's just say he stayed mighty still.

Below you can see one fellow going up a ramp...


...and he'd slide down the other side. Just like in nature! If you see a big slide in Louisiana, look out! There are gators about. They are drawn to slides like moths to a flame.

Below you can get a feel for the premises. I believe that the Alligator Farm lasted until 1983, when it closed due to low attendance (I blame MTV!). The critters were moved to a private estate in Florida where (as far as I know) they still live happily today.

8 comments:

Matterhorn1959 said...

Wow- an amazing collection of slides. I have only a brochure and a postcard from the Alligator Farm. And you were also lucky as I don't think my family ever made it to the Alligator Farm as we were always drawn to Knotts Berry Farm. Thanks for the posts on this obscure part of the Orange County amusement park realm.

Tangaroa said...

Great images! No one posts Alligator Farm photos!

Peter VINCENT said...

In the immortal words of Bob Hope..
"thanks for the memories"

Although I've never been to the Alligator Farm in CA. You've reminded me of the fun (and similar experiences) I had as a kid at Gatorland in Orlando FLA.

james said...

I remember this! I only went there once, as my family was Disneyland fanatical, but I remember it vividly,and yes it did smell bad!Very cool to see it in pictures.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the memories! I remember going there as a kid and watching a guy poke the big gator with a stick and also the gator on the slide and also the dangling of the chickens. Made a big impression on me, I can tell you. There was also a Japanese Deer Park nearby that had the same sort of ambience, and also closed at roughly the same time.

Trish said...

Wonderful. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I went there several times between 1971 and 73. I remember the reptiles inside more than I remember the ponds out back. I bought a brass triceratops there.

The Japanese Village and Deer Park was nearby, as was a park with hand-cranked water fountains that sprayed water into a pond. There was also a giant cage that looked like some monstrous animal had escaped from it.

Connie Moreno said...

I love this post! I never got to go there - I wanted to so much but no one in my family had any interest in going. Phooey!