Saturday, April 30, 2016

San Diego, California

When I was a tiny child, my dad was stationed in San Diego; I only have a smattering of memories from those days, but my mom recalls it as a wonderful place to live.  

This first photo shows a fellow posing on Mission Boulevard, right where Nantasket Court crosses (thanks, handy street sign!). Presumably he and his wife lived right around there? If they stayed for a while, they would be within walking distance of Sea World. This neighborhood feels almost small-towny; no building is over two stories, and there is a definite post-war California vibe. 

Here's a screen grab from Google's street view; there are more structures, including one three-story place. But the house near the center with the red tile roof and the arched window (visible in the first image) is still there!

This photo was taken at Casa de Estudillo, a historic adobe home constructed in 1827; it is a National and California Historic Landmark. Why? It became associated Helen Hunt Jackson's famous (and extremely popular 1884 novel, "Ramona" - the story of a mixed race Indian girl who is met with discrimination in Old California. While the novel does not specify Casa de Estudillo as Ramona's marriage place, a local newpaper declared it so, and it stuck. 

The house was donated to the State in 1968; it was restored, and this painted sign was removed sometime in the early 1970's. But I kind of like seeing it this way!

Friday, April 29, 2016

Two Beauties From Tomorrowland, September 1963

Remember when moon travel was glamorous? Now it's an every-day thing, and passengers don't even dress up. Jorts and flip-flops, for cryin' out loud! But in 1963 everyone still wore silver lamé jumpsuits, which is how it should be. 

This lovely photo of the elegant Rocket to the Moon is really somethin'; the thing looks like it is ready to leap into the heavens with the push of a button (a red glowing button, of course). 

Ach du lieber! Nothing says "The World of Tomorrow" like an oom-pah-pah band. Perhaps this is a  tribute to Dr. Werner Von Braun and the other German scientists who contributed to the U.S. space program (yeah, that's it). This octet is performing right next to the rocket; their vests are color-coordinated to match the entrance to the show building. 

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Vintage Postcards - Coney Island, Part 1

Ken Martinez has more vintage amusement park postcards for you today... I especially love old photos of venerable Coney Island, so this post is an extra good one!

Coney Island Part 1

Coney Island has a rich and colorful history. It isn't so much an amusement park as it is more an amusement district with such famous parks from the past like Luna Park, Dreamland, and Steeplechase Park, to later parks like Astroland, Deno's Wonder Wheel Amusement Park, and various indempendent operators and vendors. Back in its gloden age it was the largest assembly of amusements in one area. Coney Island has gone through its ups and downs through its long history, but still remains an amusement center to this day and has recently had a revival of sorts with references to its past.

Steeplechase Park was the creation of George Tilyou and operated from 1908 - 1964. After closing, the Tilyou familyh sold the land to Fred C. Trump (father of Donald Trump). Today the Parachute Jump tower is all that remains of Steeplechase Park. The Parachute Jump was purchased by George Tilyou's son Frank from the 1939 New York World's Fair, then disassembled and reassembled in Steeplechase Park. The Park and the Parachute Jump closed permanently in 1964. The tower structure has remained dormant since then. The newly restored Tower structure was revealed in 2013 at the new Luna Park, part of the amusement district's recent revival efforts.

Trump wanted to build high-rise apartments on the land but plans fell through, so he leased the land to a group who ran it as a parking lot. Later rides were added to turn it into a small amusement park. This all happened from 1967 to 1981. Eventually Trump sold the land. Pictured here is the colorful Silver Streak ride.

The Tornado operated from 1926 to 1977 at Henderson and Bowery Street. The lengthy block it was built on was narrow with a maximum of 70 feet wide in one area and a minimum of fifty feet wide in another area. In one area the coaster structure overhung the street by five feet. The coaster reached a height of 71 feet and the coaster trains incorporated the Prior and Church design (articulated).

Coney Island's Cyclone, probably the most famous roller coaster, was located in Astroland. The structure is actually steel while the track is wood based, thus classifying it as a wooden coaster. It was made a National Historical Landmark in 1991. Operating from 1927 to 1969, it was closed from 1970 to 1975 and was in danger of being demolished to make way for an expansion of the Aquarium just east of the coaster. With a "Save the Cyclone" campaign, Astroland leased the land and reopened the classic coaster which has been operating since.

Here is the Mickey Wheel. Oops! I mean the Wonder Wheel at Deno's Wonder Wheel Amusement Park. I always wondered why Disney built the gargantuan Ferris Wheel in California Adventure when it really was a New York icon.

Hope you enjoyed your visit to some of the amusement parks at Coney Island. In a future post I will feature postcards from the golden age of Coney Island.

Information source material:
The Great American Amusement Park copyright 1976 by Gary Kyrazi
Funland U.S.A. copyright 1978 by Tim Onosko
Roller Coaster Database

Oh man, do I wish I could have seen these places back in their heyday. That includes the older parks such as Luna Park and Dreamland too. Fantastic! Thanks so much to Ken Martinez for yet another great post.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

More Devlin Family Photos - Part 12

Today I present the dozenth (that's a word, right?) post from the Devlin family. Hooray!

We're right by City Hall (in friendly Town Square). There's "Mama" (as the slide is labeled), mailing a postcard (?) to some lucky recipient. Maybe it was a rare Art Corner card! A squeaker, or a "flasher". Or a "jumbo" card, I especially like those.

This one is neat, I've never seen another photo of somebody actually having their silhouette cut! I think Grandfather is waiting patiently to the right (partially hidden). If you look at the reflections in the glass, you can see the Penny Arcade and the Sunkist Citrus House (more on that in a future post). 

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Fantasyland & Frontierland, August 1970

Avast, ye landlubbers! You'd think that after looking at countless jillions of photos of the old Chicken of the Sea Pirate Ship, I might be sick of it. Nope! Sure, this feature was a restaurant, but what a restaurant! Walt and his Imagineers made it spectacular to look at, even if you were just passing by. If you wanted, you could climb aboard and explore, talk to a pirate with a real wooden leg, and even get  a nice elevated view of Fantasyland in the bargain. After 1960, you could relax behind the ship in a cool, shaded area away from the riff raff. We miss you, Pirate Ship.

By now these rock formations are a familiar site on vintage Disneyland blogs. The antelope in the foreground don't even notice them anymore. Some of these rocks survived the change to the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and from what I've heard, they will continue to be preserved with the addition of Star Wars Land. It's enough to make a Wookie smile.

Monday, April 25, 2016

A Pair From 1956

Today's photos are both full of sweet, juicy 1950's goodness. They have also been fortified with iron and nine essential vitamins and minerals.

This first one is kind of neat, taken from the Skyway as we (presumably) head toward Fantasyland. I like seeing the castle from this unusual angle. In the lower right is Holiday Hill; below us is a mysterious dirt path, and a wall to prevent guests from wandering back there. I believe that the path once led to the short-lived Mickey Mouse Club Circus.

Next is this nice shot of the Mark Twain heading out through a very raw and rather barren landscape. The warm tones of the colors really amps up that vintage, nostalgic feel. I wonder if the boulders that are scattered about were man-made, or if they were found on property during excavation? Or maybe they were purchased at "Just Boulders", right up the street.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Town Square and Plaza, May 1966

Today I have two square-format slides from 1966, taken on a gray day. I get so used to seeing sunny days at the park that it is a bit odd to see it so wintry, with guests wearing coats and sweaters. 

We'll start with this shot taken from the steps of the train station, looking north on Main Street. A handsome horse waits patiently as passengers unload from their Streetcar. A banner welcomes members of the U.S. Air Force.

After heading up Main Street, we've reached the Plaza. Say, it looks like there are three fly-boys in front of us. Thanks for your service, fellas! Babushka alert (not on the airmen). Am I seeing things, or are there climbers on the Matterhorn? I think I spy two red dots toward the top. Notice the yellow, peaked roof of the little souvenir stand, and an Omnibus hiding to our left.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Long Beach, California, August 1959

As a kid I spent quite a bit of time in Long Beach (California), because my dad was stationed at the Navy base there. But I sure don't remember ever seeing anything as pretty as today's first photo, probably taken from the end of a pier (the Rainbow Pier?). The word of the day is BLUE.  Cobalt blue skies, ultramarine water. 

The taller building is the historic Villa Riveira Hotel, built in 1929. The 16-story structure is "French Gothic". I know you were curious. It went condo in 1991, and still stands today. The building just to the right is the Pacific Coast Club, completed in 1926. You can't tell here, but the once-luxurious building had already fallen into decline. It was finally torn down in 1988, but I prefer to look at this photo and think of the way things were in happier days.

It looks like it was a beautiful day to be at the beach. Folks are working on their tans, or seek refuge beneath colorful umbrellas.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Indian Village, 1959

Let's start today's photos with this beautiful shot of the old Indian Village in Frontierland (from 1959, probably early in the year). Our photographer would have just emerged from the tunnel entrance. Doesn't it look fantastic? To our left is the "wigwasigamig", a birch bark lodge house that looks very authentic. Except for the dun-colored tarp on top. I love all of the details, from the ladies in their 1950's outfits, to the colorful teepees, to the skull on a pole.  Do you think that that is a torch next to the tree stump trash can? I see a few others in the distance; this area must have looked very moody and romantic at night.

Say hello to two fun gals. The one on the left has a movie camera. I wish I could see what she captured! Hopefully she didn't use too much film on the Indian dancers nearby. Those teepees are pretty big - much bigger than the vinyl toy teepee that I had in my backyard as a kid. Who knew.  I suppose I should mention the babushka!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Vintage Postcards - Six Flags Over Texas, Part 3 - France

Here's more from Ken Martinez's collection of vintage amusement park postcards!

Six Flags Over Texas, Part 3

Continuing with the Six Flags Over Texas series in which Mexico and Spain were already covered, today's article features the French section of the park. Previous articles are located at:

The French section of Six Flags Over Texas featured only one attraction back in the early days of the park. La Salle's River Adventure was an original opening day attraction which entertained park visitors for 21 years before closing in 1982 to make way for Roaring Rapids raft ride. Also featured on this postcard is Fort St. Louis. The people on the bridge crossing over the river are waiting in line for a ride on the River Adventure while guests glide above on the park's AstroLift.

La Salle's River Adventure was similar to Disneyland's Jungle Cruise. It featured a captain-narrated boat trip down the Lavaca River in search of an alternate route to the Mississippi River. Along the way the boat passed by several animated scenes including a recreation of a Spanish fort pictured here. The finale of the ride featured a dead end of the river into a waterfall covering a rock wall. The boat would stop, the waterfall would park, and a cave door would open up. The boat would then proceed into the Indian treasure cave and exit into the loading dock area.

Besides the LaSalle River Adventure, the only thing in the French section was a small gift shop called Pierre's Treasures. I wonder if these wonderfully themed buildings are still standing today.

I hope you enjoyed your visit to the French section of Six Flags Over Texas.

Information source material: 
Funland U.S.A. copyright 1978 by Tim Onosko
Park Times -

As always, many thanks to Ken for sharing his collection!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

More Devlin Family Photos - Part 11

Today we continue with the Devlin family photos that may or may not be from January 1965, despite the date stamp. 

Once again, "Mama" and "Grandad" are the stars; here they are, posing with the Matterhorn, which looks particularly striking as it gleams in the morning sunlight. I think I spy a single Bobsled (right at the top of the waterfall). Notice the Monsanto House of the Future, just visible. Grandmother has her coat, because it is bound to get chilly as the day goes on.

From morning to afternoon, we get this warm, colorful photo of Fantasyland as seen from the Skyway. The grandparents are in the bucket in front of us (Grandad is waving). Even the Rocket to the Moon and the red Monorail made special guest appearances here!

Many thanks to the Devlin family for sharing these wonderful photos.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Rescans, Continued

Scans; rescans. It's pretty simple!

Here's a view of Tomorrowland's Skyway station (circa 1957), along with the Space Bar and the load area for the Richfield Autopia. This one was originally posted back in 2007, and looks pretty awful.

This is quite and improvement! I never tire of early photos of Tomorrowland, and now this one is a real beauty.

This next one was taken just past the entry into Tomorrowland; it is also from 1957, and was originally posted in 2007. It's not great.

This is better; looking at it now, I feel like I could do a bit more to improve it, but at least it is less murky and a lot clearer. To our right would be the 20,000 Leagues exhibit, with its fearsome giant squid. To the left, the "Satellite View of America", also with a fearsome giant squid. And in the distance, and entirely squid-free Rocket to the Moon.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Girls in Fantasyland, mid-1960's

Don't you hate it when clueless people walk right in front of you just as you're taking a picture? The lady to our left is completely oblivious. Oh well, we still have a cute photo of two girls (two very plaid girls!) posing with one of the Little Pigs. Is he the Piper Pig or the Fiddler Pig? Without his musical instrument, we may never know. Maybe he is their cousin, the Fender Stratocaster Pig.

The Mad Tea Party attraction fulfills the fantasies of people who have always dreamed of sitting in oversized crockery. Hey, I don't judge. I would prefer a gravy boat (I have long legs), but beggars can't be choosers. You can see our two girls (and a smelly BOY) in their pink teacup.

Also in frame is the Dumbo attraction, the Skyway chalet (and buckets), the Casey Jr. ticket booth, Cinderella's castle, and the Chicken of the Sea Pirate Ship.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Jungle Cruise, 1959

Here are two OK photos taken while aboard the Jungle Cruise; they could be sharper, but are still kind of nice.

A giant python (or is it a boa constrictor? I can never tell) winds itself snakily around a dead tree trunk, and looms above the passing boats. It grabs a single passenger out of each jungle launch and gobbles him up like Pringles. CHOMP. Who will it be this time?! 

Remember when Schweitzer Falls (named after Carl "Alfalfa" Schweitzer) really looked like a waterfall, and not some two-bit plumbing leak? A boat is just about to pass beneath the overhang, allowing guests a rare view of the back side of water. 

I never really thought about it before, but I like the way the plants overhang the banks, and hang down into the water; it almost looks as if the river is extra full, perhaps due to recent rains.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Frontier City, Somewhere USA

I found today's slides featuring a humble Western-themed amusement park years ago... they are dated "June, 1961", but that's all the info I really have about them. To some degree they qualify as "Mystery Slides".

As you can see, this first image at least gives us a name - "Frontier City". It's just generic enough to be of little use! There is still a park called Frontier City in Oklahoma City; I don't think this is that park. There was another Frontier City in Onstead, Michigan. Well... maybe. But I believe that the park shown in today's photos was near Virginia Beach, Virginia. 

The Frontier City in Virginia opened in 1961 on 26 glorious acres, and featured a paddlewheel steamer, a stockade, a Longhorn Saloon (hey, that's the name of the saloon in this photo!), an Indian village, a steam train, and a stage coach. I love the quaint "mom and pop" appearance of this place.

I guess that's the Indian Village? Or part of it, anyway. "Snake Dancers" were listed as one of the thrilling attractions; as a kid I would have insisted on seeing them! They'd better not be using any rubber snakes.

Fort Dodge - a civilized refuge in the middle of the wilderness! As for visiting Boot Hill... we'll all get there soon enough.

This stage coach looks charmingly home made, its simple design betraying its plywood construction. You know what? Once you were on board, it was probably just as much fun as fancier versions found elsewhere.

After opening to some success, attendance began to suffer, and by 1965 - only four short years after opening - the owners sold the land to make way for an apartment complex. I would imagine that that would make these photos pretty rare.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Fun Photos, 1957

For a short while (possibly only one season), the Disney folks placed plywood flats around the Plaza, allowing guests to create their own "Fun Photos", for their scrapbooks, or to send to their frozen relatives back east. Sometimes you just want to stick your head through a hole in a piece of plywood and have your picture taken. Is that so wrong?

This first example is the most spectacular version, in my opinion. You don't just pose with Captain Nemo, you actually get to be Captain Nemo! Did you know that Nemo was the son of an Indian Raja? He was a genius who harnessed a mysterious energy source to power his submarine, which enabled him to conquer the seas and seek vengeance on cruel Imperialists. Some fun!

This flat was placed next to the Red Wagon Inn, which looks like an ordinary tract house from this angle. There was another elaborate flat allowing kids to be Davy Crockett. I don't have a photo of that one, but Daveland has several.

If ol' Nemo was a bit too intense for your tastes, you could always pose with Donald Duck. Why, he'll even let you wear his hat! Mighty neighborly of you, Donald. 

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Vintage Postcards - Six Flags Great America

Can you believe that this is the 25th installment of Ken Martinez sharing his collection of vintage amusement park postcards? Wow! I am very appreciative of all of his time and effort, and I'm sure all of you are too. Today, Ken presents:

Marriott's Great America

The Marriott Corporation oopened up two theme parks almost simultaneously in 1976, just in time for the nation's bicentennial in both the San Francisco ZBay area and the Greater Chicago area. Originally three identical theme parks were planned, with the third park in Maryland, serving the DC area. While both started out nearly identical, they developed very differently as owners took over. The original themes of both parks were Carousel Plaza, Hometown Square, Midwest County Fair, Yukon Territory, Yankee Harbor, and Orleans Place. While the Gurnee, Illinois Park was surrounded by green tree-filled terrain, the Santa Clara park was built in the brown barren flat land just south of the San Francisco Bay. Today, the California park is owned by Cedar Fair and the Illinois park is owned by Six Flags.

The Columbia Carousel is a double-decker merry-go-round located at the entrance to the park, where it sits at the end of a reflective pool. Along with the Sky Whirl it gave the park a sense of grandness. I really loved this park (Santa Clara) as it's one of the few I actually visited very close to opening day and went constantly until the Marriott Corporation sold it. I consider Great America along with the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk home parks. The Columbia Carousel featured here was in Santa Clara, California.

The Sky Whirl was a Triple-Tree Ferris Wheel Intamin creation. Atop the 115 foot pylon sat a tree-like arrangement of three massive arms each holding a wheel with 12 passenger gondolas. While the wheels rotated, so would the entire tree rotate on the pylon to allow for a continuous load cycle. The tree would tilt to lower a wheel flat to the ground and load guests, then lift back up and rotate clockwise, then tilt again to lower the next wheel flat to the ground for the next group of guests. This cycle would continue all day long thus allowing two wheels to operate while one was loading. The entire ride lasted 17 minutes and offered great views of the park. This was one of my favorite attractions at the park because it looked so greand towering over the park. The ride also had a unique motor sound which could be heard around the park. The Sky Whirl featured here was in Santa Clara, California. Both Sky Whirls are now gone.

The Demon roller coaster was born out of the "Turn of the Century" roller coasters in both Great America parks. The ad campaign claimed the older coaster (Turn of the Century) became possessed by the Demon. This was my favorite coaster at the park until I eventually couldn't fit into the car because of the too tight OTS restraints on the Arrow coaster trains. It featured a fog tunnel, two loops through rock formations, a light tunnel and a corkscrew through a blood-red waterfall. The Demon shown here is in Gurnee, Illinois.

Hope you enjoyed your vintage visit to the Marriott's Great America parks.

Information Source Material:
The Great American Amusement Parks, copyright 1976 by Gary Kyriazi
Funland U.S.A copyright 1978 by Tim Onosko
Roller Coaster Database

THANK YOU Ken Martinez!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

More Rescans

I've been rescanning more old photos, and have been getting some dramatically improved results in some cases. Today's examples are pretty good!

Some of you may recall this view of the Skyway, circa 1958 (originally posted way back in 2006). Notice the wall, blocking the area where the Viewliner used to run. The Skyway buckets are strung along their cables like Chinese lanterns, heading toward Holiday Hill.

Here's the rescan, looking SO much crisper and nicer. I might add that this slide (along with the next one) had turned magenta, so this is my new attempt at restoring the color. I just love those Skyway buckets! We've got a funky olive-on-swizzle-sticks light fixture, a few posters, the Astro Jets, and you can even sort of make out the Viewliner sign still standing, just to our left.

This next image shows the Pack Mules (sans riders) loping through the Rainbow Desert, circa 1956 (and originally posted in 2006). I've seen this one being shared on Facebook, reduced to black and white for some reason. 

Here's the latest scan, looking considerably sharper, with better color (though it still leaves something to be desired). Besides the natural rock formations, we see a coyote peeking out of his cave, while a dry watering hole with a warning sign is just visible at the bottom edge. Do you think this was taken just as the park opened, and the mules were being brought from the backstage pony farm?

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Vintage Souvenirs!

So... I recently scanned a bunch of random vintage paper items; only a few of them were Disneyland related, so you just never know what you're going to see! I have boxes full of stuff, and I might as well share it. Today I picked an eclectic bunch to post.

About 10 years ago I helped an elderly couple with their computer. AOL - there's the regular Internet, and then there's America Online. Oof. Anyway, when I was done, the man gave me a few items in appreciation, which was very nice. One of them was this envelope from legendary animator Bob Clampett - these folks were friendly with Bob, and he had visited their home several times.

As you probably know, Clampett came to prominence as an animator and director of some of the most vivid and looney Warner Bros. cartoons until he left that studio in 1946. After that he had much success with a puppet show called "Time for Beany", and a later animated show, "Beany and Cecil". I am very happy to have this humble piece of ephemera!

Keeping with the envelope theme, here's an example postmarked "September 26, 1960" - part of the postmark encourages us to "See the BELL SYSTEM exhibit at Disneyland". I wonder if this once contained a paycheck for an employee working at "America the Beautiful"?

And finally, here is a scan of a nicely illustrated envelope that contains a pre-written souvenir letter that one could send to the folks back home. In the lower right you can see the date "1950"; I would imagine that this item was sold for a number of years around then.

This letter was no quick note... it unfolds to nearly 23" in length, and is written in a fun, descriptive style that makes me wish I could be there. Which was the point! I'll include some larger scans so that you can read it for yourself.

Here's the first half of the letter - it makes for an entertaining read. I love the way it relates some of the history of the Berry Farm, and even gives a shout out to the good old U.S.A. I feel like Walter Knott had something to do with the content of this narrative. 

The Hangman's Tree, the Covered Wagon Show, the Silver Dollar Saloon, Sad Eye Joe... this letter has it all, including fun little doodles. As old as this souvenir is, examples can be had for just a few bucks today. I wonder if the letter was changed as new attractions were added to KBF? Notice the mention of the steam train, which debuted in 1952.

I hope you have enjoyed these vintage souvenirs! There will be more to come.