Saturday, October 28, 2017

Does Beer Make You Smarter?

For those of you with who love classic jokes, you already know that the answer to the question in the title of today's post is, "Well, it made Bud wiser". Yep, it's going to be one of those days, homies. But I don't tell terrible jokes for no reason... today's "Anything Goes Saturday" definitely has something to do with Budweiser.

While scanning some vintage slides of Southern California, I found a small batch that had turned a hideous shade of magenta. But after looking a bit closer, I decided that they were worth restoring (to the best of my abilities).

Let's start with this unremarkable photo of an unremarkable building, underneath a sky that would make Sauron happy.  But there's some kind of building in the distance that rings a bell...

Ah, that's better! (Sorry, it was hard to match the color of the first image). It's the Budweiser (Anheuser-Busch) plant, located in Van Nuys. It's SO strange to see it, seemingly out in the middle of nowhere! Today one of the busiest freeways in the country runs right past it (it would eventually be  just beyond where those telephone poles are). 

Some of you know that this was also the location of Busch Gardens, a lovely, gentle amusement park that existed here from 1966 to 1979. There were boat rides, waterfalls, beautiful birds, a flume ride, a monorail that went through the factory... and more. As a kid I remember adults walking around with little metal buckets of beer, which I believe was "all you can drink", for free. 

Here's a beautiful photo, scanned from a book with the title (I believe) "Above Los Angeles", which came out for many years with many various editions. What a fantastic look at this often-forgotten park, probably not long before it closed forever - now all of that land is used to make zillions of gallons of beer - you can often smell a malty, "hoppy" aroma as you drive past the plant on the 405 freeway (in the upper right). 

Not knowing much about the history of the Budweiser plant, I did a bit of online research; an excellent site (Water and Power Associates) had some great photos and information. 

Below you can see the plant under construction, circa 1953. Supposedly the thing cost $50,000,000 dollars to build. That may be pocket money to you and me nowadays, but it's the equivalent of over $460,000,000 when adjusted for inflation. 

Here's an aerial view from shortly after the factory was completed (looking southwest). I had a hard time determining when the 405 went through this part of Los Angeles. If anybody knows, please chime in!

And finally, here's a contemporary photo, above the 405 freeway, with the Anheuser-Busch plant to our left, and the San Gabriel mountains in front of us. 


Graffer said...

I quickly learned to never go to Tommy's on Roscoe across from the plant during the Busch lunch break (which could be any time of the day or night depending on the shift). The workers ran across Roscoe to get a burger, the line was instantly unbelievable, and then there would be no seats available. They knew exactly when to leave to punch back in on the time clock and they all swarmed out together like locusts.

TokyoMagic! said...

Looking at that aerial photo from "Above Los Angeles," you can see the area that was added onto the park in the seventies when they wanted to expand and have more rides. It's that entire section south of the railroad tracks. The only way to get over to that area was to take a monorail called the Sky Trolley (which was separate from the monorail that went through the brewery), or to take that pedestrian bridge. Even though the amusement park was bulldozed and the brewery was expanded onto that property, that pedestrian bridge is still standing over the train tracks today. The odd thing is, that the concrete ramps that used to lead up to the bridge on either side, have been removed. So now it's just a bridge FROM nowhere, TO nowhere, so to speak.

Chuck said...

TM!, I wonder if that bridge also houses power, water, steam, or, oh, I don't know, beechwood chip lines that connect the southern part of the brewery to the northern part? It does seem odd to just leave it there without any purpose, unless maybe it preserves some sort of "air rights" to a crossing over the railroad tracks that the company thinks it might need for future expansion and will lose if they tear it down.

Major Pepperidge said...

Graffer, I used to go to that Tommy's with friends until it got too dicey. Later at night it was a popular place for gang members, which meant that this place that served chili cheeseburgers required a hulking security guard. After a big fight inside the restaurant (which luckily did not involve us in any way), we vowed to never to back to that place!

TokyoMagic!, yes, it always surprises me just how large the park was at some point. Just looking at that photo makes me wish I could go there. At one time you asked if some of the Monorail track was left in place, and I always thought you meant the one that went through the factor. I did not know that there was another Monorail! If I drive past the plant any time soon, I hope I remember to look for the remains of that pedestrian bridge.

Chuck, don't you know that you need balloons - LOTS of balloons - to keep dibs on air rights?

fromnabulax said...

Wasn’t there some sort of entertainment involving trained birds or something in the late 60’s. Sort of like Sea World with feathers.

Nanook said...


I think I mentioned in these pages before - many, many years ago I was watching a re-run of Highway Patrol, and there was a shot of Broderick Crawford standing in, or adjacent to, a giant bean field. And way in the distance you could see the "tower" of the Anheuser-Busch Brewery. Oh, for those days-!

The 'Glen Green' [or perhaps] 'Panama Blue' & white vehicle parked in front of that nondescript building is a 1955 Oldsmobile. And I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that building is on Cabrito Road, with the street turning north, as Orion Avenue. (Actually, I'm quite confident it is. The building still remains, but a two story addition added, beginning at about the mid-section, towards the east).

I remember walking across that bridge, connecting both sections of the park. And too, the goofy bird shows. Riding the monorail thru the brewery was much more fun, even though I wasn't yet "of age" to imbibe. Drat-! Strike that. [I don't mean to offend] - but who really wants to drink Budweiser, when you can partake of any number of real beers-??

Thanks, Major.

Anonymous said...

Huh! So that's Progenitor to Busch Gardens? It may not be as elaborate as the other Busch Gardens parks, but at least it actually has a brewery. Of course, I'll take thrill rides and roller coasters over beer anyday.

I actually live in-between Tampa and Orlando, in-between Disney World and Busch Gardens. Though I've only been to one park and not the other. I have a close friend who has season passes to Busch Gardens, though. Should really get the opportunity to tag along.

Anyway, I'm sure the original amusement park was...amusing enough. Not to mention a monorail that goes right through the brewery? Does that technically make it better than the Disney monorail? Course not. The Disney monorail takes you through the best hotel ever!

Anonymous said...

In the beginning it was free admission and free beer. Ah those WERE the days. KS.

TokyoMagic! said...

Chuck, I took a second look at that bridge and it doesn't appear that there is any piping that could be holding electrical or plumbing, but that makes sense about them leaving it in place for potential future use.

fromanublax, there were definitely bird shows. I have some pics that my dad took that I need to post. I think it shows a cockatoo riding a bike and crossing a tightrope.....or maybe it was riding a bike across a tightrope! There was also an aviary where the birds could fly "free." That mesh/wire structure can be seen sort of near the far right corner of the pic. The Sky Trolley went through it, but I don't remember how they kept the birds from flying out the entrance and exits for the vehicles. I seem to remember double sets of doors for entering the aviary on foot.

Major, I was actually asking about the monorail track through the brewery. I seem to remember in early 1991 when I stopped by the brewery's visitors center/store, that I could see a few remnants of the track high up outside of the brewery, even though the openings into the buildings had been sealed up. Then the next time I went by in the early 2000's, the pieces of track were gone. I'm pretty sure all remnants of the Sky Trolley track were torn down when the demolished the amusement park.

I remember visiting the park when it only had the suspended monorail through the brewery and the boat ride past flora, fauna and waterfalls. Then I remember going back after they had added more attractions. I wish the smaller So. Cal attractions like this, Lion Country Safari, and Japanese Village, could have stuck around. I guess they just couldn't compete with the "big guys."

Disney DudeBro, I've mentioned this here before, but Busch Gardens in Tampa used to have a Brewery. They tore down their brewery to expand their amusement park, while here in So. Cal, they tore down their amusement park to expand the brewery. In Tampa, the massive wooden roller coaster, Gwazi, sits on the former site of the old brewery.

TokyoMagic! said...

Nanook, last night I looked at Google "Street View" and tried to figure out if that building was still standing. I looked up and down that street and couldn't find it, but now that you've described the changes, I see it on the corner. Thanks. I love "then and now" comparisons like that!

Nanook said...

@ TM!-

I should have included: If you look at the last image, just above the railroad tracks and to the right (east) of the San Diego Freeway [oh come on - let’s still call it by it’s original name], there’s a large, “C”-shaped white building. The top horizontal arm of the “C” is essentially pointing at the west side of the building, running-along Orion Avenue, and you can see both, the intersection of the two streets, along with the addition to the structure. Pretty swell.

Chuck said...

Did they also have a monorail through the brewery at Busch Gardens Tampa, or was that at Busch Gardens Williamsburg? I remember the ride, but I can't remember which park it was at. I'm leaning towards Williamsburg.

I remember riding the Wave Swinger at a Busch Gardens and being able to see a competing brewery's brightly-lit sign (I want to say it was Miller) over the fence.

TokyoMagic! said...

Nanook, I see it now. Thanks again!

Chuck, Tampa had a similar suspended monorail, but it went over and around the wild animal section of the park, not the brewery. At one point, Tampa had the world's longest outdoor escalator that led from the ground up to the roof of the brewery to give guests a view of the property and surrounding areas. In the park's early years, the escalator was billed as an attraction in itself. They called it, "The Stairway to the Stars."

Anonymous said...

Wow, this is a great thread.

We made one visit to BG, maybe 1970?

I remember the monorail through the brewery, free admission, free beer (I was way too young to have any, and my folks didn't drink), the bird shows and the boat ride. Also recall the four pavilions in the lake shown in the aerial pic.

I didn't recall the park extended beyond the railroad, but maybe we walked across a bridge(?). Many moon, many buffalo.

Thanks Major and everyone who posted their memories. Great stuff.