Thursday, December 17, 2015

Vintage Postcards - Santa's Village, Part I

Today I am happy to present a special holiday-themed edition of Ken Martinez's vintage postcards - Santa's Village style! Here we go (take it away, Ken):

Santa's Village - Part One

Once upon a time  there were three Santa's Villages. The first one opened in Skyforest, California on Memorial Day in 1955 (six weeks before Disneyland). The second one opened in Scotts Valley, California in 1957, and the third and last park opened in Dundee, Illinois in 1959. All three parks have since closed and are long gone.

One of the interesting things about collecting postcards of Santa's Village is trying to figure out which of the three parks the postcard represents. This is an issue when the card does not give the location or it has been mislabeled. Sometimes it's obvious, sometimes it's not. The Dundee location is usually easy to figure out because of the terrain and foliage. The only park I visited was Scotts Valley because it was 10 minutes away from home.

This card is labeled Santa Cruz (Scotts Valley) but I'm not thoroughly convinced it is. There is no Snowball Ride out front to the right. This is why I think it is Skyforest.

This one is easy to identify because the Bumble Bee Monorail was unique to the Santa's Village in Skyforest.

This one is a tossup. I think both Scotts Valley and Skyforest had a Magic Train Ride. Does anyone know which location this is? Love the golden pine needles covering the ground.

This looks exactly like the Mill Wheel Funhouse/Puppet Theater that was located in the Scotts Valley Santa's Village.

This Santa's Sleigh Ride was located in Scotts Valley and traveled in a clockwise direction. The Sleigh Ride in Skyforest came out of the tunnel from a different angle.

Here's a GDB image showing the Sleigh Ride in Skyforest:

This is the first part of two posts related to Santa's Village this month. Stay tuned for part two.

Information source material:  History of Santa's Village

Major Pepperidge again; I still find it somewhat unbelievable that my grandparents never took us to the Skyforest Santa's Village - but that's the sad truth. I'm happy we have Ken's postcards to look at!

Thanks as always to Ken Martinez.


Nanook said...

Oh, Ken-

Love these images. Somewhere there are pictures of me at the Skyforest location - in the winter. But who knows where.

Thanks for sharing these images.

TokyoMagic! said...

Ken, I was struggling to see the number on the front of that train. If that reads "1030", then that train is Bud Hurlbut's Magic Train from the Skyforest Santa's Village and you can still ride it today at the Santa Ana Zoo in Orange County, California! Here are some vintage pics and current pics: Santa's Village - Magic Train

Chuck said...

Ken - I'm positive that first postcard was taken at the Skyforest location. The Scott's Valley entry building had an extension to the left of the left-most A-frame "tower" that the Skyforest location didn't have (eventually, an extension was added at Skyforest, but it looked different). Check out the following photos to compare:

Scott's Valley:

Skyforest (From "Meet the World"; thanks, TokyoMagic!):

(From "Stuff From the Park"; thanks, Matterhorn1959!):

1950s and 2010s comparison at Skyforest:

Thanks a bunch, Ken! Looking forward to the next installment! I love exclamation points!

MRaymond said...

I've been to the Skyforest location several times as a kid. My dad like going to Arrowhead in the summer and we would pass Santa's Village and we had to stop.

I think Adam the Woo has also snooped around in there. Do a search on Youtube.

Monkey Cage Kurt said...

Skyforest??? I never knew there was a Skyforest in the San Bernardinos. We always referred to it just as “Santa's Village” or “Santa's Village up in the San Bernardinos”.

The San Bernardino Santa's Village was a big part of my childhood. We also went up to Big Bear every now and then, and passed the place on the way. It was less expensive than Knott’s or Disneyland so dad was more willing to take us there. I was very young at the time, but I remember it vividly. Lots of REALLY old 1960s memories.

Also (dare I say) some friends and I squeezed through the gate long after the park closed (don’t judge me). We just looked around though; we didn’t get into any unruly mischief (like the Knott’s thing). We just walked around a bit, in fact we bumped into the owner himself. He was cool about it, he even showed us around a bit before cutting us loose with only a simple “just don’t vandalize anything”. He told us old stories and talked about Walter Knott and Walt Disney as if he knew them fairly well (not too sure). Years later my friend Jonathan still remembered his name “Putnam Hanks”. I have no idea how Jonathan remembered that name (it’s just so off the wall).

These were a lot of fun! Thank you Ken for sharing another part of what I am assuming is your VAST collection!

K. Martinez said...

Nanook, I know all too well about lost family photos. There are photos of me with my dad and mom at Disneyland in 1963 (my first trip) but they’re probably lost somewhere with other family members who all live far out of town, so basically lost forever.

TokyoMagic!, It does look a lot like the train in your links and it probably is. The locomotive does look like a match. Thanks for the links. Your article was an enjoyable read.

Chuck, I knew you’d figure it out. It certainly doesn’t look like the location in Scotts Valley which I was familiar with and I know it isn’t Dundee, IL. That’s why I thought it strange it was labeled Santa Cruz (Scotts Valley location). Thanks much for the research and links. You always come through. I love exclamation points too! In fact I probably over use them.

MRaymond, Thanks for the suggestion. I did look it up on Youtube. Very cool footage of the abandoned amusement park.

Monkey Cage Kurt, No judgment from me. I must admit a friend and I did a sneak into the Scotts Valley Santa’s Village once through the exit while people were milling around. We slipped in unnoticed. Of course we didn’t have any tickets to ride anything so we just walked around looking at stuff. Glad you enjoyed these. And yes, I have much more to share from my collection.

Major, I'm shocked you didn't make it to Santa's Village! Just shocked! Of course I never made it to Coney island to ride the Cyclone when I was in New York City. For an ACE member that is unheard of!

Monkey Cage Kurt said...

I just looked up that video link. We did a lot of the same things these guys did. There was an extension ladder there so we used it to climb up and sit in one of the bees. I have a bunch of pics of that day. I thought about sending them to the Major for a post, but you know how strait-laced he is, and I just didn’t think he’d approve of that level of riff raff.

I also just looked up Putnam Hanks. It’s “Henck” not “Hanks” Putnam Henck (I guess Jonathan’s memory is not as good as I thought). Anyway, Putnam took us into some kind of dark ride walk-through tunnel thing. There was a little drawing of Mickey Mouse on one of the walls. He claimed Walt Disney drew it himself.

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, I am in the same boat regarding so many places that my family visited. Japanese Deer Park, the Buena Park Alligator Farm, Knott’s and even Disneyland… for some reason we just don’t have photos from these places.

TokyoMagic!, interesting… a reader sent me some photos and I have been trying to ID one of them… it might be one of Bud Hurlbut’s old trains. I need to find it and compare.

Chuck, most of my Santa’s Village photos are not identified as far as the specific SV. I will pay you one million golden pazoozas to do the research! Oh wait, I am fresh out of pazoozas.

MRaymond, there was an X-Files episode that was supposed to take place at an abandoned Santa’s Village type park. I finally managed to rewatch it, and was very disappointed to discover that it wasn’t filmed at the Skyforest location. I’m sure it was just some sets.

Monkey Cage Kurt, I’m sure most people called it “Santa’s Village”. The “Skiyforest” moniker seems to be more aboiut delineating which SV was being discussed. I think. Love your story about bumping into the owner of Santa’s Village and how relaxed he was about your shenanigans! Sounds like a cool guy.

K. Martinez, we never made it to P.O.P. either, much to my disappointment!

Monkey Cage Kurt, I am sure that all the GDB readers will be happy to hear that you have amazing photos of Santa’s Village that you won’t share here because I am “straight-laced”! (I generally try to not offend people, but you know, that just seems like a good policy in life).

K. Martinez said...

Monkey Cage Kurt, About your Santa's Village photos, email Major about them. You never know until you try. They do sound interesting.

Looks like Putnam Henck lived a good long time to the rip old age of 91. One of my favorite features from the Santa's Village parks were those cool colorful oversized mushrooms. I wonder if that was his idea.

Monkey Cage Kurt said...

It’s a very good policy indeed Major, and I certainly hope I didn’t offend you.

Irene said...

We used to go to Santa's Village "up in the San Bernardino Mountains" not Skyforest quite often in the 1950's. I have old home movies but no photos (just like Disneyland) - what was up with that Dad is what I would ask him now if I could :) This is hopefully coming back and they had hoped to be open by now but it looks like it won't be open until Summer of 2016 (according to their Facebook Page). Here is a link to their web site.

K. Martinez said...

Major, Oops! I missed your comment and see you already addressed MCK's photos.

And yes, I only reference Skyforest to differentiate between Scotts Valley and Dundee. Otherwise, locally I refer to ours up here as just "Santa's Village" too.

Thanks again!

Chuck said...

Major, I can take an IOU. I won't even charge interest.

K. Martinez said...

Irene, sounds interesting. For some reason your link goes to the site which continually says "Not Responding" on my pc, so unfortunately I can't explore it. I was able to view the Facebook Page though. I'll definitely be watching this development. Thanks for the heads up.

Monkey Cage Kurt said...

Hey Ken, sorry I totally missed your post to me. I’ll have to scan them in and do a bit of Photoshop, they are REAL dark as it was getting toward sunset and the trees were thick as well. They’re not vintage or anything (I think), maybe around early 2000s or so. I could send them to the Major and see what he thinks.

Major Pepperidge said...

K. Martinez, you just don’t see too many people with the name “Putnam”. Maybe it was common 100 years ago. My grandmother was named Ruth… when was the last time you met a “Ruth”?

Monkey Cage Kurt, no offense taken, I was just ribbing you!

Irene, I don’t even know, do they still call the area “Skyforest”?? I’ve never been up that way. My grandmother said “San Berdoo”, but she may have picked that up later in life. I had heard that the old Santa’s Village was being restored to some degree, I will be very curious to see how it turns out.

K. Martinez, NOW I am offended! (Joking of course).

Chuck, hmmm, I like you suggestion, especially since I always welsh on IOU’s!!

K. Martinez, I’m surprised that you didn’t know about the restoration of the Skyforest Santa’s Village, since you have your finger on the pulse of the amusement park world!

Monkey Cage Kurt, I am sure that your photos would be of interest to many GDB readers. Are they slides, or photo prints? If they are slides you can often glean more detail than one might expect. Thanks for offering to give it a go… I would definitely be up for sharing them here!

Monkey Cage Kurt said...

Well that’s good Major, cuz I was just ribbing YOU.

The photos I have are prints, and not even 35mm like most of the GDB stuff. I may have the negs somewhere, but I don’t have a negative scanner. I haven’t looked at those photos in a longtime; I hope they have a bit of redeemability.

No wonder I never heard of Skyforest, I looked it up on Wikipedia. There was not much more than a blurb and it didn’t even mention Santa’s Village.

I just looked at the Santa’s Village – Skyforest FB page. WOW, like they’re not kidding! They are completely restoring the place, like it’s an historical landmark or something! Looks great!!! (exclamation marks)

Monkey Cage Kurt said...

TokyoMagic! That train looks a LOT like the Bud Hurlbut train at the old lagoon area on “the free side” at Knott’s. The pinstriping is not quite the same. Are they sisters or related in some way?

Here’s a link to a post the Major did featuring that train back in August 2009.

TokyoMagic! said...

Monkey Cage Kurt, I would say that they were sister trains in that they were both designed by Bud Hurlbut. I'm not sure about the similarities or differences in engine sizes, etc. I've heard that the Knott's Lagoon train went to a private collector. At least the Santa's Village train can still be enjoyed today by the public!

Donald Benson said...

RIFFTRAX has a DVD of three short films shot at one or more of the Santa's Village parks (the credits acknowledge all three). They don't really show much of the attractions, mainly using the North Pole-type buildings as a backdrop for barely coherent stuff involved a cat, a wolf and a skunk (unappealing walkaround costumes). One includes clips from "Santa Claus", the famous Mexican feature.

If you like Mystery Science Theater-style riffing, they're fun. But they're a bit frustrating in how they seem intent on not showcasing the parks themselves.

Fred Cline said...

Aww, Maj. Pep...Santa's Village in Scotts Valley was my childhood stomping ground (having grown up in nearby Santa Cruz) - when I was not at Disneyland, of course. This is where neighborhood kids had their birthday parties (when money wasn't tight). Mrs. Clause had a bakery there in a pink A-frame with lots of snowy "gingerbread" (the architectural kind). There was a "North Pole" which was just a pole with refrigerant inside so they could cover it with ice and kids could put their hands all over it on a hot day. Very unsanitary - it probably wouldn't be allowed by the health department today. There were giant fiberglass mushrooms painted all kinds of wild colors with polkadots, etc. at the entrance to the park. Kids would climb on them while they waited for their parents to pay for tickets. Someone still has a salvaged mushroom in the front yard of a residential neighborhood in the Ben Lomond area nearby. Over the hill in San Jose was another park with a western theme...Pioneer Village. My brother had his birthday party there one year and his friend got sick by eating too much junk food and then traveling back over windy highway 17. That kid threw up out the back window of our Country Squire.

Major Pepperidge said...

Fred Cline!! It is great to hear from you. Your descriptions of the Santa’s Village in Scotts Valley are just like the photos I’ve seen (such as that bakery with the snowy gingerbread and the North Pole covered in grubby ice). Very cool that somebody has a giant mushroom in their front yard… much better than a plastic flamingo. Could the other park you mentioned be “Frontier Village” and not “Pioneer Village” (there IS a Pioneer Village in Nebraska)? There is a similar post for San Jose’s Frontier Village, see September 10, 2015. Anyway, kids throwing up in the car is a rite of passage… at least the kid you mentioned had the courtesy to do it out the window. Hope all is well with you and your family!

Anonymous said...

Hi, the first photo looks like the trees in the background are California Redwoods, which would confirm that it is Scotts Valley. Redwoods only grow along the coast from Monterey Bay north to Washington, and Scotts Valley is in the redwood forest area of the Santa Cruz mountains.