Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Knott's Ghost Town, 1950's

Knott's in the 1950's reached a sort of apotheosis of charm; it would continue to get bigger, and cool rides would be added, but there is just something about it at this time that I find incredibly appealing.

This first photo almost looks like a postcard. Say, that bank doesn't look like it is FDIC insured. Fix the roof at least! The bank was on School Road, right near the gun shop and the knife shop. At first I thought that the people milling around the entrance were there because it was actually a restroom (just a theory), but I guess it was a coin shop at some point. Makes sense when you think about it. The structure to our right (with the dormer window) was where you could get candy and ice cream.

A little bit further up the street you could get your grist ground good at the grist mill. "Glen, grind my grist so I can make griddle cakes!", I gasped gleefully. And then I guffawed. Any idea what that spidery structure is between the mill and the bank? A well? Some sort of torture device?

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Three From September 1976

Some wise photographer visited Disneyland in1976, and the first thing he did (I actually know it was a "he"!) was take a photo of an attraction poster - in this case one of the beautiful later silkscreened examples, created with not six colors, not eight colors, but SIXTY individual colors. Imagine the time and labor it took to produce these! I am happy to own one, if you'd like to get a better look, check it out at this post.

This next image shows the landing for the Canoes and Keel Boats, just north of where the Haunted Mansion is. This might be the only photo in my entire collection that shows the Hungry Bear restaurant (to our right), one my favorite places to eat. Even on somewhat busy days I've been able to grab a table overlooking the river. It's surprisingly peaceful and pretty, and you get to wave to the guests aboard the Mark Twain or Columbia as they pass.

It's hard to tell where this photo was taken from… maybe Tom Sawyer Island? It sure doesn't feel like we're in an amusement park, though!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Stage Coach and Sleeping Beauty Castle, 1956

Here are a few pix from early fifty six! 

This first one is neat for a number of reasons. It's a nice look at one of the Stage Coaches and the adorabobble pint-sized ponies that pulled it (they're so little that they only eat baby carrots and alfalfa sprouts). Also, the photo was taken when the load area for the coaches was relatively open, and quite close to the river. In the background you can see the peaked roof of the small building that was called the "ice house" (I only know this because Imagineer Chris Merritt said so long ago). I believe that this structure is still there, although it is mostly obscured by later additions to the river landing; Chris said that (as of a few year ago, anyway) it was still used as a break room and check-in area for Columbia and Mark Twain cast members.

And here is an obligatory photo of Sleeping Beauty Castle, taken (I suppose) just as the sun set. If you look through the castle's arch, you can see the lights of King Arthur's Carrousel blazing as if it was night time. 

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Da Subs, August 1961

Oh my gosh, that nuclear submarine is headed right for us! Somebody think of the children. If this was a video, we would hear the screeching of the submarine's brakes (they have brakes, right?). The sub contains two dozen of the happiest warheads on earth - they release the aroma of warm churros, rendering everyone within nose-shot cheerful and hungry.

I suppose this one has some merit as a photograph, but I'm having a hard time coming up with what it would be.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Las Vegas, June 1963

Now that we're finally done with Christmas, let's go to LAS VEGAS! Circa 1963. This is sort of a continuation of a post from July, which you can see HERE. It seems pointless to repeat the info that I have already given, so today will mostly be about the pictures.

Man oh man, what a sight! I've only been to Vegas once, and we never made it over to the Strip, where all of the old classic casinos once were. But I sure wish I could have seen the place when it looked like this!

I love this shot of some visitors bathed in the glow of neon and incandescent lights. 

This might be my favorite of this batch... I love the angle, and the view of the street. The California Club was a casino that operate from 1958 to 1973. Steve Wynn eventually bought it and make it part of the Golden Nugget casino. Notice the trio from the previous photo are in the crosswalk!

Speaking of the Golden Nugget...!

Aaaaaand here's a shot of the Fremont Hotel, all sparkly and twinkle-riffic. 

I hope you enjoyed today's visit to Las Vegas!

Friday, December 26, 2014

More GDB Classics!

It's time for more repeats - I mean "classics" - from the past! Tomorrowland is the theme today.

I just loved the wonderful Rocket Jets (in a picture from 1974), set way up atop the Peoplemover loading platform. You were a good two stories up before you even "took off"! Does anybody know if the Rocket Jets were the same exact mechanism as the earlier Astro Jets? It almost looks the same to me, just covered up with lots of awesome faux-NASA theming. Notice the stage in the background (to our left) with its pre-Bicentennial theme. I also like how you can see that the roofs of the Peoplemover cars are angled up, which automatically happened while it was in the load area. (Photo first posted in 2009)

Originally posted in 2008, here's a very nice shot of the blue Monorail as it waits at the Tomorrowland station (notice the Santa Fe logos). Right below it is the load area for the Submarine Voyage. This bright sunny picture (from 1963) is definitely "postcard worthy".

And finally, here's a very rare photo taken inside the "America the Beautiful" attraction (circa 1968). I love the bold graphic banners for each state, hanging overhead. Among the displays are "A Touch of Tomorrow" and "Hear Your Own Voice". I remember sitting on one of those benches while a hostess impressed everyone with her encyclopedic knowledge of area codes! 

Thursday, December 25, 2014

More Vintage Christmas!

Merry Christmas, everybody!

I thought I'd share a few more vintage Christmas photos, for lack of a better idea. We'll start with this fun image, from 1958. This kid isn't in his jammies (like I was for most of Christmas day). By gum, he is even wearing shiny loafers! It looks like he got a pretty good haul this year, including his awesome Zorro guitar. That's OK, but why would you give a kid a big drum? The parents will be hating that thing! Notice the train setup under the tree. The toy dump truck is cool, and you can work on your hand/eye coordination on that wooden Playskool-type toy.

Here's a lovely portrait of a woman from 1951. She and her husband went TINSEL CRAZY! I always liked tinsel, but my mom didn't because it was "messy". So we never had it. This friendly lady had a husband who was crazy about her, because this lot of slides had literally hundreds of photos of her in various poses and in all kinds of locations.

Here she is again, gazing into the fireplace. The stockings have been hung with care, and all of the cards they've received are displayed on the mantle. There are only two stockings, I hope that they had kids someday (the photographic evidence in my possession is inconclusive)! She looks like she would make a nice mom. 

I labeled this slide as being from the 50's, but on further consideration, I am pretty sure this is from the mid-1960's.

Now this looks more like our Christmas mornings. Everyone is lounging around in robes and pajamas. The little kid is playing with something (Tinker Toys? Pickup Sticks?), while completely ignoring that bitchin' red tractor behind him. Grandma wishes she could take it for a ride down the street.

I hope that each and every one of you has a wonderful day with your family!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas at the Park, December 1964

I wish I had lots more nice vintage Christmas images from Disneyland - just think how many zillions of photos must have been taken by guests during the holidays over the last 59 years!

Even though this one is backlit, it's still neat, with the big tree towering over Town Square. Garlands and wreaths are strung across Main Street, much like the kind you might find on a real city street (years ago, anyway). 

Here's another one of those mysteriously dark photos - somebody needed to learn about f-stops and exposures. The photo is interesting in spite its flaws… look at the crowds in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle! The selective soft focus adds to the dreamlike quality. 

Aha, now we can see why it was so crowded. There's Goofy, the Big Bad Wolf, the White Rabbit, and who knows, there may be a character or two obscured by the mob. I miss the days when characters just wandered around the park; the designated meet 'n greets make sense I suppose, but the sense of surprise is gone. Oh well.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Knott's Calico Mine Train

I love today's main photo, featuring the still-wonderful Calico Mine Train at Knott's Berry Farm! It's a beauty, with dramatic lighting that emphasizes the rock work, with a single little locomotive sitting on the track. Notice the sign on the ticket booth - "Mine Under Construction". This photo is dated November 1960, and the Mine Train debuted that very month… it sure looks ready to go!

By the way, see that framed picture in the lower left?

Here's a closer look; it's very odd to see it just leaning against the rocks like that. It's obviously a conceptual painting showing guests what to expect.

I asked Chris Merritt (Imagineer and author of the excellent "Knott's Preserved" book - now out of print, apparently) if he recognized the artwork, and he sent along two images that he allowed me to share with you. This first one shows the painting in glorious black and white.

And in this neat construction photo, you can see the artwork mounted on that pole, beneath a shady awning. I wonder if this painting still survives somewhere?

Thanks to Chris Merritt for sharing these photos from his archives!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Characters & Matterhorn, July 1967

Disneyland visitors might see Mickey, Donald, Goofy, or Tigger, or any one of the many beloved costumed characters. But I always get a kick out of seeing a rare or relatively obscure character! Bernard and Bianca from "The Rescuers"; Robin Hood; Scrooge McDuck! 

In this first photo, taken right near the Matterhorn chalet (you can just see the roof through the trees), 3 characters from "Pinocchio" (my favorite animated feature!) entertain the crowds. Honest John, I would love to see him there! And of course he will almost always be accompanied by his henchman/flunky Gideon. Pinoke hasn't learned his lesson and is playing hooky from school again.

Near the summit of the Matterhorn, we can just see a red-shirted climber. I saw climbers on the mountain when I was a kid, that was a while ago (!)… it would be nice to see them again. I've always assumed that there are permanent handholds (and footholds) along a particular path up the side, too small to be seen from the ground. The climbers are always tethered so that they can't plummet to the ground below - that would be bad.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Toy Trains (Special Guest Photos!)

I never had a toy train when I was a kid, but I love toys - especially vintage toys! And if I had oodles of spare cash, I would be mighty tempted to collect trains like the ones seen in todays photos. Which, by the way, were provided to GDB through the generosity of Ken Martinez, who snapped the pictures at the Sacramento State Railroad Museum. I have to get up there someday.

Wow, look at that setup! Ken tells us that this is a Lionel tinplate roundhouse that could be expanded by adding sections. It's fantastic. I'll bet that when this was produced (I dunno, the 1930's?), only a rich kid would have had anything as nice as this. Any idea what those yellow things are supposed to be at the ends of the tracks (with the red lights on top)?

Look at this beautiful Lionel power station accessory, embossed and lithographed with bright colors. I'll bet Ward Kimball had one of these (his collection of toy trains was legendary, and I believe that when it was auctioned after his death, it fetched over 5 million dollars). I love the details like the cows, lamp posts, etc. It's the toylike quality that I find so appealing.

Now THIS is the kind of thing that I would have wanted to build! A bridge spans a chasm where a river (controlled by a dam) provides power for the townsfolk. The papier maché mountains are wonderful. The lights actually light up! There's even an airplane up above the hills. And it appears as if the houses get smaller as they go up - the same forced perspective that you find at Disneyland.

MANY THANKS to Ken Martinez for sharing these neat pictures with us!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Random Vintage Christmas!

I like Christmas, but when I was a kid, I looooved Christmas. I guess it was just that thing, your kid brain amps everything up and makes it more exciting and magical. My dad would dust off his favorite LP's of holiday music (Nat King Cole, "The Nutcracker Suite" by the Boston Pops, Bing Crosby), we'd salivate over the new Sears "Wish Book", and we would enjoy a variety of Christmas-themed arts and crafts in school (glitter, pipe cleaners, macaroni, and glue were key ingredients). 

Speaking of school, here's a photo from a classroom from sometime in the 1950's. They've got their tree all decorated; I wonder if the kids dressed up for this photo, or if this is just their regular school clothes?  The kid with the bow tie (lower left) is my hero. It sure looks like nighttime, so maybe this was some sort of Christmas party.

Meanwhile, in another classroom, children wear traditional diapers on their heads (now that's a party!) as Santa Claus and the Monsignor (Catholic school!) make surprise appearances. The Monsignor is there to make sure that things don't get too secular.  

Santa looks like he is wearing a blond wig as a beard. There's no way that bag holds enough presents for every child in the classroom. Unless they are tiny presents. 1961, they can't be "Hot Wheels". And all I want is Hot Wheels! Notice that there is snow outside - the only time I really miss snow is during Christmas.

Here's one from Balboa Park in San Diego, circa 1964. I like the brightly-lit Santa with his sleigh and eight reindeer - if that's Rudolph at the end (see his bright red nose?), shouldn't there be nine reindeer? The amazing thing is that I believe that this very same tableau can still be seen in Balboa Park today, a full 50 years later. Ho, ho, ho!


Friday, December 19, 2014


You know 'em, you love 'em, it's those nutty square-format photos from a Kodak Instamatic!

I like this unusual angle looking at Sleeping Beauty Castle, with several foot bridges (long gone, I believe) and the lovely moat, with the star-topped Matterhorn in the distance. This was another brutal SoCal winter! Seems there are rumors that the star might make a comeback; presumably it would be updated with energy-efficient LEDs. That would be cool!

Sticking with the Christmas theme, let's take a look at the big tree in Town Square. Look at all of the folding chairs, presumably set up for guests to view the upcoming holiday parade? I feel sorry for the cast members who had to put those out (and put them away). What are those things on top of the buildings across the way? Lighting rigs? Giant mutant ants? 

I'm out of Christmas Instamatics, so i'll finish up with this sunny, summery view of the castle; Goofy can be seen mingling (he's a people person), and he's drawing quite a crowd!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

More Special Guest Photos!

Today I am sharing part two of some photos shared with GDB by reader Scott Heinz (who fights crime at night under the name "Alonzo P. Hawk"). They show scenes from the Christmas Fantasy parade from the late 1990's.

There are those goofy reindeer… they've been marching in Disneyland parades since the 1960's; I remember seeing them in commercials when I was a kid.

There's that jolly old elf himself, St. Nick! That sleigh is sort of hovering up high, I wonder how he got into it? Probably by magic.

Yay, Pinocchio! The star of my favorite Disney feature. I'm always happy to see Little Wooden Head.

A toymaker is a natural addition to a Christmas parade, and Geppetto is one of the best. His right arm is perilously close to that bladed propeller thingy - it's giving me the yips.

Scary giant dolls rampage down the street, terrorizing those children! I wonder if those kids are in the parade every day, or if they were picked out of the crowd and allowed to participate?

Mrs. Claus seems to be sitting in front of a Burtonesque machine that separates the naughty kids from the nice ones. I used to always worry, would Santa think I was nice?

"A" is for Ariel, the Little Mermaid herself. She's got gadgets and gizmos aplenty!

This float features a music box, complete with a pretty wind-up dancer. I think she's doing the Shmoney Dance! At least she's not twerking.

Hey, she's looking more or less in my general direction! I think she likes me!

The marching wooden soldiers are another classic feature of Disney Christmas parades, and are a perfect way to wrap things up. 

A BIG thanks to Scott Heinz for generously sharing his personal photos with all of us here on GDB!!