Saturday, August 23, 2014

Freedomland, June 1960

In Soviet Russia, they had amusement parks such a "Gulag World" and "Proletariat Park". But in America, we had FREEDOMLAND! Here are some photos from June, 1960 - the very month the park opened.

This first view was taken from one of the Tucson Mining Company ore cars (aka the sky ride) as is passed over the section of the park known as "The Great Plains". The "Chuck Wagon Snack Stand" has a circle of not-yet-covered covered wagons to provide seating for some folks who prefer to not eat at a picnic table. In the distance, the Borden Dairy Company sponsored "Elsie's Boudoir", which is just weird. Apparently Elsie was quite the attraction though, and guests flocked to see her in her luxurious living quarters. Her husband Elmer (of glue fame) went out for cigarettes one evening and never came back, leaving her to raise young Larabee and Lobelia by herself. 

Now we can see a stage coach (is that another one to the extreme left?), part of the "Pony Express" ride that took guests to "The Old Southwest" area. Also to the left is a large tethered balloon, presumably there to add visual interest. Or to bring down strafing Messerschmitts. You'll see nearly-identical balloons in some of the very earliest photos of Disneyland's Tomorrowland. Notice the stockade with the target...

…. it is a shooting gallery known as the Cavalry Rifles. I can almost see the moving targets in my mind. Herds of buffalo; Indians (I have no evidence, but it wouldn't surprise me); desperadoes; prairie dogs; werewolves; the usual stuff. The sign on the corner seems to be unfinished.

There are a few more Freedomland images to come!


Chuck said...

Loves me some Freedomland, the park that proved that C.V. Wood was no Walt Disney...and that it's a bad idea to build a theme park on top of a municipal landfill.

My research on the Cavalry Rifles shooting gallery indicates the werewolf targets didn't last long, only operating a few consecutive nights during the first 28 days the park was open. The silver pellets used to take them down proved to be prohibitively expensive.

Matterhorn1959 said...

Yes more Freedomland. Thanks!

K. Martinez said...

I Love Freedomland images. I hope someday, a book will be written about Freedomland on the same scale as Merritt's POP and Knott's books. With its place in theme park history, it definitely deserves it.

It wasn't until Six Flags Over Texas did they finally get the non-Disney theme park formula right.

Incidentally the man who's firm designed Freedomland (Randall Duell) also helped designed Six Flags Over Texas, the Great America parks, the Universal Studios Tour, Six Flags Magic Mountain, Opryland and Astroworld plus several others.

Nice post today. Thanks, Major.

Unknown said...

I pity the poor kids that were told they were going to Disneyland; only to have their Ovaltine spiked with knockout drops and waking up in Freedomland.

Alonzo P Hawk said...

I really miss Proletariat Park. It was my favorite. But alas it all went down hill when they closed The Carosel of Glasnost and the Perestroika-mover all in one year. Thus began the real fall of the Soviet Union.

Melissa said...

Elsie's Boudoir started out at the 1939 World's Fair. You can see a photograph of it and read more about her at

Major Pepperidge said...

Chuck, as far as I know, none of the parks that C.V. Wood had a hand in survive to this day. Even though they weren't quite up to Disneyland's high standards, some of them look like they were still pretty sweet. Did the landfill at Freedomland cause problems?

Matterhorn1959, if only I had a lot more!

K. Martinez, I would love it if Chris Merritt decided to write a Freedomland book! But I have the feeling he might be fried after some 20 years researching the Knott's and POP books. Still, we can hope.

Greg Ottinger, that sounds like the plot to a "Lemony Snicket" book.

Alonzo P Hawk, don't forget Borscht Mountain, which Disneyland totally ripped off!

Melissa, I am a big fan of the '39 World's Fair, and am aware (and a little puzzled) by Elsie's fame! I once found a pinback button in a thrift store that says "Where's Elsie?", and I knew it was from the '39 Fair. Because I see all, know all.

Chuck said...

I remember reading in Van France's "Window On Main Street" (unfortunately lost somewhere in storage, crying pitifully for someone to find it and love it again) that they had problems with things like bedsprings working their way to the surface and through the asphalt to trip up guests. There may have been problems with the land settling as well, although I have no clear memory of reading that and may very well be making that up - just like 73% of what I write here (or maybe that's 37% - which sounds more believable?).