Wednesday, May 10, 2017

More Snapshots from Irene

Here are three more snapshots, courtesy of GDB reader Irene and her brother! Today we're going to visit a recent casualty of the Star Wars Land construction, Big Thunder Ranch. Irene's brother took some nice photos of details that one doesn't often see - it's almost hard to believe that they are from Disneyland.

Big Thunder Ranch was located near (you guessed it) the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad; it had a petting zoo (goats, sheep, cows, mongooses, etc), a few picturesque buildings (including a log cabin and the barn pictured below), areas for arts and crafts, and even performances by Billy Hill and the Hillbillies. There was also an outdoor dining area, the Big Thunder BBQ. 

The barn seen in this photo looks like it belongs at Knott's Berry Farm. Notice the "BTR" logo/brand on the weathered board to our left. I appreciated the fact that this place was not "toonified" like so many other recent additions to the park.

It's the same barn again, looking suitably old. Big Thunder Ranch was often a nice place to get away from the crowds for some peace and quiet; spaces like that are pretty scarce these days! I almost expect a talking mule to poke his noggin out the lower window.

Sometimes you could watch a blacksmith pounding out iron horseshoes (I remember seeing a photo of a large pile of discarded horseshoes), or even a harnessmaker cutting leather for various horse tack. 

I have a few more photos from this area coming up, with many thanks to Irene and her brother!


TokyoMagic! said...

Major, you are right, it is hard to believe these were taken at Disneyland. If I'm not mistaken, I think they did eventually throw Woody and Jessie into the Big Thunder Ranch for some kind of character overlay.

And there was a large pile of horseshoes back there. What I didn't know until just a few years ago was that those were shoes that were worn by the Disneyland Pack Mules. Apparently, when the mules were re-shoed, the old shoes were thrown into that pile and over the years, they all rusted together. I asked a cast member about it to confirm what I had been told and she said it was true and that they had moved the pile a couple times over the years. She said that it had become so brittle, that they would not be able to move it again. I'm guessing that means they were tossed out like yesterday's garbage when Big Thunder Ranch was bulldozed last year. :-(

Thank you Major, Irene and Irene's brother, for sharing these!

Chuck said...

This place really was a nice, quiet corner where you could unwind, thinking about the slower pace of yesteryear. In the evening, it was a great place to sit quietly and gaze into the gas-fired campfire while the barbecue sauce and corn juices slowly dried on your face and fingers.

TM!, you are forgetting the most egregious character overlay ever - the Hunchback of Notre Dame "Festival of Foods," featuring "Esmeralda's Cottage." I remember turning the corner from the RoA, stopping cold in my tracks, and sputtering through gritted teeth " FRONTIERLAND!!?? I think my aunt and uncle thought I was going to go into convulsions.

Thanks again, Irene's Brother and Irene's Brother's Sister!

DrGoat said...

That was a great place to get a little break. Last time I remember finding a spot to do that was in 2002 I think. It was down by the Country Bear place by the restrooms. For some reason it was deserted. What a treat.

Tom said...

When we visited last in Christmas of 2015, since I knew the area would be bulldozed and gone, I hauled my family over to Big Thunder BBQ for dinner one night. Then they asked if we had reservations, and said that they were booked until January of 2016, of course. Since we cannot visit very often, I was unaware that it was a reservations-only thing... so I asked if I could take a little video footage inside so I could maybe see a glimpse of the area that used to be the Nature's Wonderland desert. They were kind and allowed that, but it was disappointing not to be able to linger a bit and soak it in before it became a memory.

All that to say I love seeing pictures of this area! Thanks for sharing!

Irene said...

One of my favorite places right up until the end. Back before Billy Hill and the Hillbillies were moved into the Golden Horseshoe they would play up at the Ranch on a small stage and people would sit on hay bales and listen to them. This is when my brother became acquainted with them. Because they were off the beaten track, they could really cut lose. Then they moved and that area was remade into the Ranch area that was there until the (bitter) end. Of course the Billies did come back to the Ranch to the remodeled former Festival of Fools arena in the 2000's. That was, looking back, the beginning of the end for them. The stage was way too large and by now new entertainment management had sniffled the Billies and their show was a shell of what they used to do up there. On a happy note though, they are back to being able to do what they want at Knotts Berry Farm. I loved the Ranch area. After the remodel it wasn't quite as rustic as when my brother took these photos but it became one of my favorite places to go and get away from the maddening crowds and relax. I was going to mention the story about the horseshoes but TM took care of that nicely. Another out with the old, in with the new decision.

Anonymous said...

Seems odd that no one in the current money-grubbing Disney management realized they could have sold those horseshoes for $100 apiece to us old folks.

For some reason, we just wandered on past this place. Not sure why. I guess we missed out.

Thanks everyone for your memories. Made it real for me for a moment.


TokyoMagic! said...

Chuck, somehow late last night when I was leaving my comment, I did forget all about the Hunchback overlay! That was a major memory lapse for me, because I even wrote a blog post about it just one year ago: The Hunchback of Notre Dame at Disneyland

Chuck said...

TM!, don't feel bad - I had completely forgotten that I had told that exact same story a year ago in my comments on the blog post that you linked to. While I may not remember telling the story, at least my memory of the story has remained remarkably consistent. :-)

Major Pepperidge said...

TokyoMagic!, I wouldn’t be bothered by Woody and Jessie at Big Thunder Ranch. Wow, I didn’t know that those horseshoes were from the Pack Mules - I just assumed that they had accumulated from the horses that pulled the streetcars. Although I believe that they might not have metal horseshoes? I can only imagine how rusty that pile of iron was after 50 years in the elements.

Chuck, ha ha, I am imagining you with sweat popping out of your forehead, neck veins about to burst - basically in “Charlton Heston” mode! “Festival of FOODS”?? What the heck. “Esmeralda’s Cottage”, who was excited to see that? Yeesh.

DrGoat, I guess if you’re lucky, maybe the Snow White Grotto will be less busy, but it sure won’t be like that bucolic ranch.

Tom, I had no idea that the BBQ restaurant required reservations. I sure miss the days when a visit to the park was all about spontaneity. What a bummer that you weren’t able to dine there one last time.

Irene, I remember hearing that the Big Thunder Ranch was a particular favorite of Bob Gurr, all because it was a quiet oasis. Something tells me he is used to the Disney company disappointing him!

JG, I was thinking the same thing, people would probably have happily paid a serious chunk of change for those rusty old horseshoes. Let’s see, if there were 1000 shoes in the pile, at $100 apiece… that’s 100 million dollars!

TokyoMagic!, oh yeah, now I remember your Photoshop alteration of that picture! Irene’s brother has lots of photos of the “Festival of Fools”, so I’ll share those one of these days.

Chuck, I hate to think of how often I’ve probably retold stories - multiple times, most likely.

DrGoat said...

I talked to my wife and she said it was more like 2004 or 2005, and it was the Winnie the Pooh place by then. All I remember it was nice and quiet and there were restrooms.