Saturday, January 16, 2016
It's time to head waaaaay out into the Mojave desert to Calico - the former mining town that became a ghost town when the silver dried up, and then became a tourist destination when Walter Knott bought the place in the 1950's and turned it into a sort of annex to his famous Berry Farm in Buena Park.
Calico really is out in the middle of nowhere... over 100 miles of harsh desert and rugged terrain are between you and Los Angeles. You are basically halfway between L.A. and the Nevada border. But when shiny metal calls (and borax, let's never forget about that borax!), hardy people will put up with just about anything.
Here's a general overview of how the place looked in 1978... that light streak in the distance appears to be a dry lake bed, though I can't seem to confirm it. If you took away the buildings and the few scrubby plants, and gave the photo a reddish tint, it would probably be pretty convincing as the planet Mars. There's Matt Damon now!
You'd hardly know that these pictures were taken over 35 years ago. I've always loved that they went to the trouble to put giant letters spelling "CALICO" on that mountain top. I wonder if that was a Walter Knott thing.
From the looks of it, Calico was not generally a place for kids - I don't see a single child in this image. My grandparents did take me and my siblings there once or twice when I was little, and I enjoyed it. Ever since I had been given a map (probably bought at Knott's Berry Farm) showing the many ghost towns and mining towns all over the State of California, I had dreams of exploring the mines and striking it rich! But then I remembered that there were cartoons on TV and that I couldn't drive a car yet.
As you can see, there was a real gang problem at Calico in the 70's. Groups like this would intimidate visitors with their rough appearance and crude manners. Right after this picture was taken, the guy on the left pulled out a switchblade!
This blog is nothing if not classy, which is why I chose to end the post with this photo!
I don't actually think this was an old outhouse, but what else could it be? A prospector's tiny abode, built with scrounged sheet metal and wood? There were few amenities, but you had access to plenty of free scorpions.