Thursday, September 10, 2015

Frontier Village Postcards!

Here is the fifth installment of scans featuring vintage postcards from the collection of Ken Martinez! Today's subject - Frontier Village - is one that interests me a lot, although I didn't know anything about it until years after it had closed. As always, Ken has provided lots of great info:

Frontier Village, San Jose, California

Frontier Village was a western themed amusement park located in San Jose, California. It opened on October 21, 1961. It was one of several local parks that dotted the an Francisco Bay Area along with Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, Santa's Village, and Children's Fairyland in Oakland. Like the other three parks, it was a place I spent time at during my childhood.

Probably the most iconic image of Frontier Village was the main entrance to the park which consisted of two wooden frontier blockhouses. Here visitors would pass the block houses, cross a bridge over a lagoon and venture onto Central Square. In the distance is the Frontier Village train station.

Here's the Frontier Village Victorian train station in Central Square. It's one of the first buildings seen after entering Frontier Village. From Central Square visitors would venture further and enter Main Street.

The first building visitors saw entering Main Street was the Silver Dollar Saloon. Many of the buildings on Main Street were two-story with the upper story comprising of offices for park personnel. Also on Main Street were the General Store, Marshal's Office and Jail, Arcade and Last National Bank.

In front of the Frontier Village Marshal's Office on Main Street we have the marshal greeting a young cowpoke. Located in this building were Lost and Found and First Aid. Here visitors could also buy tickets or report any problems. There were several men that played the role of Frontier Village Marshal throughout the park's history.

Here we have one of the Frontier Village's costumed characters "Tumbleweed" posing in the opening of the Lost Dutchman's Mine. Other characters included Theodore the Bear and the fluorescent green gorilla "Kaktus Kong". I'm still on the lookout for any ephemera of postcards showing the elusive gorilla.

The "Lost Dutchman's Mine" was manufactured by Arrow Development Company. A conventional black light dark ride, it would carry riders through a subterranean world aboard "ore cart" vehicles. If you look close enough you can see the bus bar track that powered and guided the vehicles through the cavern, passed waterfalls, glowing stalactites and bubbling pots.

The Lost Dutchman's Mine also called Lost Frontier Mine had a haunted theme so it was filled with several skeleton miners including the one shown here who would ignite the box or TNT creating an "explosion" and flash of bright light startling riders in the "ore carts".

Frontier Village closed forever on September 28, 1980. There were plans to expand the park in the late 1970's, but competition from the new Marriott's Great America theme park which opened in 1976 and local neighborhood resistance ensured its demise. Hope you enjoyed your visit to Frontier Village.

Information Source material:
Frontier Village (Images of America) copyright 2013 by Bob Johnson
Frontier Village

It makes me sad that this charming park is now history; when my niece and nephew were little (and lived in San Jose), we certainly would have visited Frontier Village many times! Oh well.

THANK YOU, Ken Martinez, for sharing more of your vintage postcards, and for all of your research! I truly appreciate it.


Nanook said...


Yes, thanks, indeed - for sharing these images that from all accounts looked like a great little park. I never quite made it there, which was certainly a shame. (I was probably too busy heading 'over the hill' to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk to pay much attention to this one. More's the pity.

Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

I remember knowing about Frontier Village in my youth, but San Jose was almost as far away as Disneyland, so we never went there.

Now that we live closer, my kids have been to Great America several times, but I've never seen that either.

It's too bad they closed, but practically inevitable. I think the Storyland in the Fresno Roeding Park is still open, it was/is very similar to the Oakland park.


Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, I think that the charm of Frontier Village is a lot like Knott's Berry Farm (although it lacked the long history that Knott's had). Frontier Village was a small park, without lots of thrills - which I suppose made it "old fashioned". In my book that is not a bad thing, but people generally want thrills these days.

JG, at some point, all 3 of my siblings wound up living in the San Jose area. When I first heard of Frontier Village, I asked them all if they were aware of it (not knowing that it had closed years before). It made me very sad when I learned that I would never get to see it.

K. Martinez said...

Nanook, There's a few parks I passed by that I could kick myself for not visiting. One of those places was Coney Island when I was in New York in 2001. Unbelievable for a former ACEr.

JG, I don't think you're missing much with California's Great America as it is today. If you check out its former sister park Six Flags Great America you can tell which fared better and which didn't.

Major, If anything, I remember Frontier Village being a great family park. No hype, just plain old-fashioned fun.

TokyoMagic! said...

Looks a little like a cross between both Disneyland and Knott's. I wish I could have experienced that Lost Dutchman's Mine dark ride!