Saturday, June 05, 2010

Pan for REAL GOLD! Knott's, July 14 1964

The idea of having an attraction in which ordinary folks could pan for gold is simple and ingenious, giving suburbanites the chance to know what it feels like to strike it rich! Who wouldn't love to have the experience of moving a handful of river sediment around in a pan, slowly swirling the worthless material into the icy water (you have to do it juuuust right...) and leaving behind tiny, bright flecks of genuine gold?!


The trough is a busy place today, with folks elbow-to-elbow. Kids and adults want to give it a try. The experienced miners (packing six guns in case desperados show up) help move things along - kids would be there all day, wouldn't they. On the shelf behind the miners you can see the metal funnel used to pour each guest's treasure into a tiny plastic vial.


Usually a water wheel powers a grindstone or the belts of a sawmill, but this one just turns and looks neat. Which is OK with me! You can still pan for gold at Knott's, but the location is not so picturesque, and I think it costs 5 bucks now.

10 comments:

Chuck said...

This was one of my favorite attractions as a kid. We used to keep our vials on a windowsill in the kitchen, and it was great fun showing my north-central Californian friends who'd never been that far south the gold I'd "found." Ahh, the things first-graders will do for status...

Incidentally, the vials weren't always plastic. In the mid-70s, they were glass with steel caps (one of ours rusted), and the caps came in at least two colors - white and black. By the early 90s, when I took my never-been-to-California bride there, the caps were definitely plastic, but I'm not sure if the vials were (ours were lost - or stolen - in a move).

Can anybody out there add some detail?

Vintage Disneyland Tickets said...

Stunning pics, last one is amazing! Even as a little kid I wondered if they "placed" the gold in the water. My vials were always plastic, but they might have been glass prior to that (1970).

Major Pepperidge said...

Chuck, the vial that I picture (if you click on the words "tiny plastic vial") is one of mine from around 1970 and it is plastic with a black steel cap. I would assume that the glass vials go back to at least the 50's or early 60's. Not sure when they switched to all-plastic.

Anonymous said...

I remember hearing in the late 60's or early 70's that the Knott's employee responsible for salting the panning water was arrested for skimming a little gold each time for himself. Does anyone else remember this?

The Knott's Berry Farm Museum said...

Currently, 'Pan For Gold' costs $8.00!!!!

The Knott's Museum has on display the first panning for gold pans ever used at Knott's in 1947. It was donated by the man who sold Walter Knott his gold, which was delivered from Alaska.

Major Pepperidge said...

Whoa, 8 bucks! Kind of takes the fun out of it. Thanks for the info about the pans, I think I recall seeing the photos on your site.

Anonymous said...

My vial is plastic. And I got it in the 50s.

Anonymous said...

I had (have?) a glass vial, with a black metal cap, rusted. The water would evaporate out every couple of years and i would very carefully put more in with a dropper so as not to disturb the real gold.

I panned mine right where the left hand kid is located in the 3rd picture, in fact, with that crew cut, that might be me in the picture...except those kids look like twins, and my brother is an only child.

Thank You Major!

JG

Chris Merritt said...

Anonymous - Dean Davisson told me that story, that indeed one of the gentlemen operating the attraction was skimming gold each day - and he was a part-time minister to boot!

Great pics Dave.

Anonymous said...

My 9 year old son has been bit by the "gold fever bug" just like his old man! Currently they are using glass vials, which can be problematic, as they shatter when dropped (and that happens surprisingly frequently!)

Also, at the "pan for gold shack" they used to sell larger gold nuggets that you could add to your (or someone else's) pan, but that sture has been closed and I think it is a native american store now?

Yea, its still $8 but thats a SMALL price to pay for bonding with your son!