Thursday, June 18, 2015

Some Vintage Knott's - 1950's

Oh man, it is a bummer to look at my box of Knott's slides and see how few I have left to share. Because I love Knott's Berry Farm! 

This first one, showing the old Wagon Camp, has a lot of 1950s charm, thanks to the few visitors milling around. "Tomato red" was popular! I had a red felt cowboy hat just like that kid, and wore it until it fell apart. Note the high-quality plywood sound system!

Here's the famous volcano... "The only active volcano in Southern California - Moved in from the Mojave Desert, Complete, and has been erupting faithfully ever since". This feature was added by Walter Knott way back in 1939 as a clever way to hide an ugly cement irrigation pipe. Occasionally, the volcano would vent steam, and colored light would be emitted from inside the cone.

In spite of the blur, I love this nice shot of one of the Stage Coaches toodling along the gravel path, carrying full load of passengers. In the background is a neat little red caboose. Buena Park still looks very rural. You can still ride a stage coach at Knott's, though the encroaching city makes the scenery a little less appealing.


Nanook said...


It's always fun to see early pics from Knott's. As they used to say: "Minutes from Disneyland... World's Apart".

Thanks Major.

TokyoMagic! said...

Also, "Acres and acres of free parking." Speaking of parking, you can see the cars parked right up against the Wagon Camp on the other side of the covered wagons. I guess back in the day, the Wagon Camp was just open to stroll around in. We have several family pics taken in there and it doesn't appear that any show was going on at the time.

I was trying to figure out where that last pic was taken. There appears to be a double R.R. track in the photo, so I'm going to assume this is where the double tracks still exist today, right alongside the Log Ride. And looking at old maps, it appears that there used to be a parking lot where the Log Ride sits today, so I guess that reinforces my theory. Does anyone know for sure?

Nancy said...

love the row of wagons surrounding the camp in the view; what sort of show did they have in this venue? that sound system must have been top notch back in the Old West days :-)

I also noted how close the parking is in both the first and third views. nice action shot there as well. i can hear the galloping of those beauties. :-)

Steve DeGaetano said...

I don't believe there were double tracks along the log ride; the only place I thought there were more than one set of tracks was back near the roundhouse. This may have been before a structure was built to shelter the engines, and explain why the caboose is just sitting there.

Steve DeGaetano said...

TokyoMagic, yes, I recall tracks along the splashdown area of the log ride (I thought you meant alongside the ride structure itself). I still think these tracks are closer to the edge of the Park, where the roundhouse now stands.

Monkey Cage Kurt said...

Nancy, they often had a gunfight/stunt show in Wagon Camp while I was growing up, but I also have vague recollections of music and sing-along’s.

The wagons of Wagon Camp always seemed to be the highly coveted seats when I was a kid, but in all actuality they really weren’t the best for viewing the shows. Still, it gave you a more immersive feeling, like you were just getting more out of the overall experience when you sat in them.

Monkey Cage Kurt said...

Oh, I also seem to recall a fire pit located toward the middle-front of the semicircle seating area. I think they had that burning at nighttime during the sing-alongs.

Chuck said...

Major - loving the prime 1950's example of the "Red Shirt School of Photography" this morning. I know this wasn't posed like a National Geographic spread, but those reds definitely add some color interest to and otherwise brown-and-tan scene. It would still be awesome without the reds, but it seems to add something special to this one.

Wagon Camp seems smaller than I remember it. Has it been expanded over the years? (I'm too lazy to look at my Chris Merritt book this morning.)

Monkey Cage Kurt - you can see the Wagon camp firepit just behind and to the right of the speakers in the lower-left-hand corner of the photo. The iron crossbeam there was designed to hang kettles and Dutch ovens over the fire for cooking. I don't know if they ever actually cooked anything there, but it's an authentic detail.

K. Martinez said...

Major, you mentioning the encroaching city reminds me of how several areas of Knott's Berry Farm today are practically right up against the sidewalk/streets of Buena Park with only a lathed chain-link fence separating the two worlds. This is especially in the Boardwalk and Fiesta Village areas. And now next to the current Wagon Camp theater you have the Silver Bullet flying by. Thanks, Major.

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, I’m not sure I ever knew that Knott’s slogan! Sounds like it might have been from the 80’s or 90’s?

TokyoMagic!, I wonder if the sound of car engines ever disturbed the performances at the Wagon Camp? I honestly don’t recall ever even seeing the Camp, after all of my visits when I was a kid. I suppose our kid brains were not interested in an empty amphitheater. Hopefully somebody more knowledgeable will have an idea about the location of the third pic!

Nancy, there was live music and square dancing, I’ve seen some great photos of that.

Steve DeGaetano, I will bow to your expertise! I certainly have no idea. Do you happen to know when the structure that housed the engines was built? I have images showing the “Galloping Goose” just sitting out in the elements.

Monkey Cage Kurt, I didn’t know they did stunt shows in the Wagon Camp. Interesting! The wagons themselves look like OK seats, though they are also the farthest away. As for the fire pit, I have seen night shots (publicity photos, probably) with a nice fire going during a performance.

Chuck, the red accents remind me of old postcards, in which clothing was often retouched so that there were a few bits of color that really popped. As far as I know, the Wagon Camp has not been expanded. And yes, there’s the pit (though it looks so small) in the lower left!

K. Martinez, the last time I rode the train, I was very disappointed to find myself looking out the window at wooden fences for much of the journey. At least they still had the train robbers, the sound of their pistols made me jump about three feet out of my seat!

Chuck said...

Major - the stunt shows were a staple when we were visiting in the mid-70's and again in the early 90's. I guess the amphitheater just seemed bigger because I was smaller.

As a kid, I loved the Western film themes loop that would play while you were waiting for the show to start, and I can remember alerting on the pop versions of the themes from "How the West Was Won" and "The Magnificent Seven" when they played on the radio, not because I'd seen the films but because I'd heard them at KBF.

My sister had a similar experience withe Scott Joplin's "The Entertainer," which was played during the can-can show in the saloon, when she was five. I remember the music coming on the radio and her face lighting up as she squealed "Knott's Berry Farm!!!" To this day (and she's 43 now), that's our family's name for that tune.

Monkey Cage Kurt said...

Oh yeah, I see the fire pit now. Guess I didn’t look real hard the first time.

The gunfight/stunt show they did really wasn’t all that great. If I recall it was more of a comity routine. There was more slapstick than stunts, and there were more puns than there were guns.

Anonymous said...

Great picture of the volcano. This was a favorite feature of mine. Someday, someone will find a picture of the little devil in the box around the corner. It was all so weird, twisted and entertaining.

Thank you, Major.


TokyoMagic! said...

The Wild West Stunt Show is still performed in the Wagon Camp today. In the late eighties, I remember Elvis impersonator, Raymond Michael doing his act in the Wagon Camp every night during the summer. The arena size has stayed the same, but they removed some of the wagons when a second entrance/exit was added on the opposite side of the arena and also when a control booth was added in the back. The fire pit is still there. They have placed a water tank on the ground next to it, which is used during the stunt shows. I took a picture of the arena from almost the exact same angle just last month. I'm posting it here without any other info about it just in case anyone wants to compare "then" and "now": Knott's Wagon Camp - May 2015

Steve DeGaetano, this is the map I was looking at to try and figure the location of that last pic: Vintage DL Tickets Knott's Map. It shows the double tracks being alongside the stagecoach route and next to the future site of the Log Ride (as you mentioned, the splash down part) I think it's interesting that the parking extended all the way over in front of the Mine Ride. Older maps show it extending over that far even before the Mine Ride was built. That is what made me think the pic might have been taken along that section of track. And Major, now I'm wondering when the roundhouse was built. Could it have been built when the Log Ride was? Or even later when the Roaring 20's Airfield was built?

Monkey Cage Kurt said...

TokyoMagic, there you go again, always a great wealth of park info. Your knowledge is overwhelming.

It breaks my heart to see the highly homogenized Wagon Camp of today. It’s lost all its “old west” charm, and the roller coaster really detracts from the ambiance. The map is awesome, really brings me back. I never knew the cable cars went that far into the park. I guess they altered the route once the fence went up. Thanks so much for posting those! Oh, and thank you too Major!

Omnispace said...

The little devil that turned the crank to make the volcano rumble was definitely cool! I'd love to see a photo of it again myself.

TokyoMagic! said...

Thanks, Monkey Cage Kurt. Did you notice the Monkey Cage on that map? It isn't labeled, but it's there!

Chris Jepsen did a post about the devil and the volcano back in 2011 with a picture of the devil in his little "control booth": Knott's Volcano & Devil.

Monkey Cage Kurt said...

Oh yeah my namesake, underneath the word “REAL”. THANKS! Nice article about the volcano devil too. I haven’t seen that guy in years. I think I should hold him responsible for my old teenage Knott’s antics “the volcano devil made me do it!”.

Anonymous said...

The cable cars were great. It was fun just to sit near the CC Kitchen and watch them drop off passengers and head back around. Hey my future wife worked there (didn't know at the time...we met later while working at Disneyland). It's been a long time since I've been to Knott's. After looking at then 'then and now' shots, my vote goes to the past. So much of the ambiance that made the park unique is gone. Glad I was there to experience it in its prime. Still have my vial of gold too. KS

Major Pepperidge said...

Chuck, huh, I thought they only did the stunt shows in Ghost Town (so that a yellow-bellied varmint could take a dive from the roof of a building). I used to be quite a collector of soundtracks, and loved those classic Western themes. I particularly like the one from “The Big Country”.

Monkey Cage Kurt, I know that I have been contacted by former Knott’s stuntmen, I wish one of them would chime in! That would be cool.

JG, if only I could find the only color photo that I have ever seen on the devil; but I don’t know where it is, AND, since it’s not mine, I’m not sure it would be OK to share it.

TokyoMagic!, an Elvis show in the Wagon Camp?! It was probably popular, but come on! Your knowledge of Knott’s never ceases to amaze me. Man, that picture of the wagon camp as it is today is sad. The roller coaster is such an eyesore. Info about the roundhouse HAS to be online, don’t you think? I’ll have to do a search!

Monkey Cage Kurt, you are right, all of the charming rough edges have been smoothed out, and it feels very sterile compared to the view in today’s picture. I know which one I’d rather see.

Omnispace, see TokyoMagic’s link below!

TokyoMagic!, it’s funny, I sent that exact link to JG, guess I should have shared it here on the blog. But you did it, so I don’t have to.

Monkey Cage Kurt, funny, I thought the monkey cage wasn’t there until the 1970’s, but clearly that is not correct. These days you probably really COULD blame the little volcano devil, and all would be forgiven.

KS, I always felt like I knew Knott’s like the back of my hand when I was a kid, so it kills me to see so many things that I just don’t remember. Like Henry’s Livery, or the Wagon Camp, or the Cable Cars. How could I have never seen these things??

Monkey Cage Kurt said...

Indeed Major, the new Wagon Camp looks like a really bad knockoff of the vintage one; it’s more like “Knott’s Nara Dreamland” if you’re asking me. In the old rustic rendition you can almost feel the splinters in your pants. Give me splinters any day!

Anonymous said...

Major...I recall all three that you mention. The wagon encampment really added to the feel of the place. I coveted those wagons for seating at the evening shows. And yes, they would have the fire going too. It was the real deal. KS