Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Knott's Berry Farm

What? Three days in a row without Disneyland? It's true! And I've got new for you - tomorrow won't be photos of Disneyland either.

While going through a large lot of slides, I found a batch of about 20 from Knott's Berry Farm, probably from the early 1960's. "Whoo-hoo! Knott's!" I exclaimed, jumping into the air and clicking my heels together. But soon my happiness turned to sorrow when I saw that all of the slides had badly faded color, and some showed damage to the emulsion. Moisture damage? Deadly Maylasian fungus? Radiation burns from the atomic wars of the 1970's? Whatever the case, I very nearly chucked them into the "reject" pile. 

But after I enjoyed a healthy snack of "ants on a log" (peanut butter and raisins on a piece of celery) and a bottle of Yoohoo, I had a change of heart and decided that these imperfect images still deserved to be seen. To paraphrase Linus, "It's not such a bad slide, Charlie Brown; it just needs a little love".

Check out those strange orange "blossoms" of damage; and this isn't the worst of them! Some were so far gone that I couldn't do much to make them presentable. The photographer did not use Kodak film, sadly - if he had, I think these would have been some pretty stellar pictures.

Ah, the old Livery Stable. It's where all the liverwurst was stored in the heat of the summer, beneath layers of winter ice and sawdust. Kids from that era remember following the old liverwurst cart down the street, hoping a piece of sausage would fall into the road. What a treat!

Notice the sign for the Bird Cage Theatre.

Doc Skinem's Medicine Show should never be confused with "Doc Mal De Mer's Medicine Show", found elsewhere at Knott's. Folks never saw much of Doc Skinem - perhaps he was in his cart, sleeping it off. His horse was definitely ossified. 

If you've made it this far and your eyes aren't bleeding, then perhaps I will share more from this batch in the weeks to come.


Nanook said...


"His horse was definitely ossified". Funny, that's exactly the way my skin felt this morning. Thankfully, following a quick application of Snail Cream, my skin then resembled that of a fine young lady.

In one of my careers as a projectionist, mostly of revival films, I've both seen and projected my share of just about every sort of film fading known to man. But on one occasion, we had a reel of film specifically used to test-out 4-Track, magnetic stereophonic sound systems, so the image was inconsequential. But on this particular print (with 'Color by DeLuxe'), the fading was so bad, there was almost no image remaining, other than the faintest of pale pink outlines around what at one time, must have been the original objects photographed.

So, in spite of the attacking 'orange blobs' and fading, these images are awright by me.

Thanks, Major.

TokyoMagic! said...

You know that I LOVE vintage Knott's! I never knew that at one point, the Livery Stable had an opening on opposite sides of the building. I was trying to see if any part of Boot Hill was visible through the doorway and then I noticed Chief White Eagle (I think) standing in the road on the other side of the building! That was a common location for him to be hanging out and posing for pics. I have a pic of him standing in that very same spot with my uncle.

I'm looking forward to more Knott's pics from this batch, Major!

Stefano said...

Yes Major, more Knott's please! You can smell the Eucalyptus and Pepper trees in these photos. Maybe Dr. Skinem preserved things as well as Cordelia did her jams.

Nanook, the temporarily closed New Beverly Theatre in Los Angeles only shows film prints, in 35mm or 16mm. I've seen some flicks from the 70s and 80s projected in wondrous shades of pink and rose; "De Luxe", that process wasn't. About Movielab, what can one say. Nitrate Technicolor prints from the 1940s have not faded a jot, so I scoff at most "progress".

TokyoMagic!, it was fun for kids to walk all the way through the dim Livery Stable, to inspect all the vehicles which included a child's hearse (shudder). Parked outside on the west was an adult hearse, though it moved around to other locations in later years. Inside it a well dressed corpse sat up and turned his shot-in-the-forehead face to the observer; the floral tribute beside him was from Goldie herself, Ghost Town's own madam.

Irene said...

I too am a big Knotts fan and enjoy these photos. Looking forward to more from this batch even if they have gone south. I wonder if the stable has been rebuilt? Some buildings had to be due to rot and termite damage. The stable that is there now looks much better than this. I also like what they are doing with the current one. They finally took out that very out of place toy and other stuff store and made it look like a real stable. They bring two of the horses over from the real stables across the street (there are about 40 (!) horses over there which are used to pull the stagecoach)and put them in there along with one of the two burros, Betty and Brutus. One of them is usually walked around Ghost Town once a day. In the Spring they get some 4H animals in there like goats and sheep. It's proven to be very popular especially to us that miss Big Thunder Ranch at Disneyland - not that I go there anymore (no more Pass) but I was upset they tore that all out to make room for Star Wars.

Another thought - the title for the medicine show sure would not fly in this day and age!!! LOL

I remember those hearses and the guy with the bullet hole in his head. I don't remember seeing any of that when some of the really old stuff was auctioned off but then my memory is kind of shot these days.

Thanks for taking us to the farm today!

Anonymous said...

These are fine pictures, Major. Really takes me back to the old Knotts.

I just can't muster up the energy to go now, when everything is covered with roller coasters. It just isn't right. I'm better off with my memories, and these pictures.



K. Martinez said...

Hey, Major. I'm loving the break from Disneyland. Especially since you've been featuring Universal, Knott's and Ella's adventures in Hollywood. All good stuff. Thanks, Major.

Warren Nielsen said...

This is the classic Knott's that I remember and love. Walking the streets of Ghost Town looking in at all the little scenes in the storefronts, the livery stable, the blacksmith shop, panning for gold, the old steak house, the grist mill, the trolley thru the parking lot that would drop you off at the main entrance when there was no admission charged. Buy a ticket for the mine ride for what? 50 cents? And read the back of the ticket about Deideshiemer and his square set timbering. The models of the missions along El Camino Real. The church by the lake. Knott's certainly isn't what it used to be, where a lot of the entertainment was created by a kid's own imagination. Knott's has lost a lot of its charm for this kid, and it is hard to visit there now.

If you have more pics Major, faded or not, please bring them on.

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, “Snail Cream” - my niece and her friend bought some sort of skin treatment that was supposedly made of snail mucus. Yikes! Your description of those pale pink outlines sounds like an Oskar Fischinger film!

TokyoMagic!, I know that you are the #1 fan of Knott’s - at least in these parts! Good eye on Chief White Eagle, I didn’t notice him. Is there a particular reason you were looking for Boot Hill?

Stefano, I would be happy if I had many more Knott’s slides. And I do have perhaps a hundred or so that I haven’t scanned yet, though they aren’t all winners. I’m surprised that the New Beverly shows prints of films that have faded so badly. I suppose they are notable films that are only available in poor shape. In a way I’d almost rather see them reduced to black and white. As for the corpse in the hearse (in the old Livery Stable), I remember him sitting up, but not turning to face the observer, and not with a hole in his forehead! It is possible that I just didn’t notice the hole. Do you remember an eerie green light inside the hearse?

Irene, I’m glad they are not tearing Ghost Town out, and are taking the time to rebuild the old, rotten structures that had been there for 60 or 70 years. But it still makes me sad that they removed the “peek-ins”. I know a lot of people love the “Knott’s Alive” thing (or whatever it is called), but I loved the history and the simple appeal of the peek-ins. They couldn’t have been expensive to maintain, could they? Oh well, that’s just me.

JG, it would almost be worth a visit just to see Ghost Town and ride the Log Ride and the Calico Mine Train! I think you would still have fun. I still like coasters (to a degree!), but they have some not-great ones at Knott’s. “Ghost Rider” is a rough and unpleasant experience!

K. Martinez, way back when I started GDB I did “A Week Without Disney”, but that was planned. This just sort of happened! On Friday we’ll return to the park with some Frontierland pix.

JC Shannon said...

People say to me "Hey Jonathan, what do love almost as much as the original Disneyland?" I always say "Knotts, of course!" Growing up in North Hollywood, we went alot. I remember a birthday for one of my friends in particular. It was summer and hot, and I remember my mom worried about me getting dehydrated. I was having so much fun, I don't even remember being thirsty! The very best of times. Warren said it all for me, in his excellent post today. Thanks to Major for salvaging these faded, but great slides.

Melissa said...

Sometimes you take vacation to Disneyland, other time Disneyland take vacation from you!
/end Yakov Smirnoff voice

When I was really young, I thought there was an actual pool of liver in Liverpool. When I got a little older and wiser, I figured it must just be a pool shaped like a liver. (Must not make wurst/worst pun… must not make wurst/worst pun…) Anyway, I’m glad these pictures weren't consigned to obliveron.

The silhouetted family in the door of the stable looks really cool.

And that's no film defect; somebody out of frame was just brushing a cloud of Cheetos dust off his hands.

Before following GDB, I had no interest in Knott’s at all. Now, it's on my must-do list if I ever make it back to SoCal. I'll tell them Major Pepperidge sent me; maybe you'll get a free berry or something.

Major Pepperidge said...

Warren, I think that Knott’s often didn’t get the recognition that it deserved; maybe it all felt so haphazard and organic, and not planned (the way every inch of Disneyland is). But in its day, Knott’s was a ton of fun, and very different from their neighbor in Anaheim!

Jonathan, for a few glorious years, we lived in Huntington Beach. Knott’s was close enough and cheap enough that my mom took us there a lot. I felt like I knew the place like the back of my hand! Wonderful memories for sure.

Melissa, I knew that you were a fan of Yakov! I heard a radio interview with him a few years ago, it was nice to know that he was doing OK and was grateful for his success. Mmmm, a pool of liver! What a dream. Why IS Liverpool called “Liverpool”?? Cheeto dust - I would pay a pretty penny for a large bag of it. Same with the stuff they put on nacho cheese Doritos. I hope you get to go to Knott’s someday!

TokyoMagic! said...

Major, I was just sort of surprised to see a door on the other side of the Livery and I was pretty sure that Boot Hill was directly on the other side. I guess that was the only reason I was trying to see if I could identify anything specific through the open door. Taking a second look today, I can now see two barrels, one on top of the other (just to the right of that couple in the doorway). Those barrels would be part of the Barrel House, which still stands today, near the entrance to Boot Hill.

And I just can't get into that whole Ghost Town Alive thing. I think it's great if other people like it so does seem to be popular. I'm wondering how much of my dislike of it stems from the fact that they removed the figures from those "peek-ins" and never put them back. Those figures had been there for 70 years! When I worked there in 1985, they did a very similar "Ghost Town Alive (in '85!)" type of promotion. They had actors out in the streets playing various residents of the town and telling stories and acting out little skits, so this was by no means a new concept. The difference is, they didn't remove the figures from the peek-ins back in 1985. And I don't think it was necessary to do that today....especially since they do not put the figures back for the rest of the year when the "Ghost Town Alive" promotion is done.

Stefano and Irene, the adult-sized hearse is still at Knott's although for the first time in many years, I dont think it is under a protective roof. I know it's parked over in Boot Hill now, and I believe it is just out in the open and exposed to the elements. The last time I was there, the man with the bullet hole through his head was still inside, but he was not rising up like he used to. The baby/child-sized hearse used to always be parked near the other one, but it was auctioned off last year.

Warren Nielsen said...


You are correct that KBF didn't get the recognition that DL did and still does, but the homebuilt, not quite perfect, haphazard layout and execution of the place is what gave it so much charm, at least for me. Slower paced and maybe a bit more inspiring to my imagination, it just struck a chord with me all those years ago. When the park passed from family control to corporate control, I would guess there was more $ available to put into the place to attract the thrill seeking crowd. How many coasters are there now? For Kai and I, a lot of the stuff that made KBF special had been removed.

I really miss the 3 minute Covered Wagon Show.


JC Shannon said...

The 1950s and 60s were a simpler and slower time. No cellphones, no social media and very little instant gratification. You didn't have to scare the dickens out of people to entertain them. A family was satisfied with being together and enjoying a relaxing day. There is something special about a place you can take three generations of family, and everyone has a great time. I probably sound like an old fogey, but I do like the Timber Mountain Log Ride, the interior is great and in the 70s they even injected pine scent. I always liked the attractions that created their own little world. For a few moments, you were transported to another time or place. That was the genius of DL and KBF, in my opinion. Thanks to Major and everyone for the very excellent comments.

Major Pepperidge said...

TokyoMagic!, I did not know that the Barrel House still stood - I was excited to have an old photo of it, but now I know that it’s worthless. WORTHLESS! Obviously I agree with you about “Knott’s Alive” and the tragic removal of the peek-ins. Years of history erased in a blink. And it’s not like they could have cost a lot to maintain, could they? I’m just not the audience when it comes to interacting with actors. Leave me alone! How could I have never noticed the bullet hole in the head of that corpse? So crazy.

Warren, oh man, that covered wagon show! I first saw it when I was about 7 when our school took a field trip to Independence Hall and then we saw that covered wagon show. It was surreal to have those static figures with the voices piped in. “I’m thirsty, mama!”. But I loved the change of the lights, from day to night. And the eucalyptus trees really did add to the atmosphere of the whole place.

Jonathan, the Timber Mountain Log Ride is a great ride! I went to an event where somebody claimed that the pine scent was just the smell of the actual rough lumber, but I find that very hard to believe. The Calico Mine Train is another one, a classic that should never be removed!

TokyoMagic! said...

Major, those peek-in dummies were always covered with dust and dirt, so I don't think it cost them much of anything to maintain them. I hate it when places like Knott's and Disney....and even Universal, get rid of things that have been there for decades. By then, the things that they are getting rid of are classics and should be left alone. The time to get rid of something is before everyone has grown attached to it for 70 years. The Covered Wagon Show had been there for close to 50 years....if not more than that, and they tossed that in the trash like yesterday's garbage. And that wasn't Cedar Fair that did that. That was the Knott Family getting rid of their own family's history.

And I don't want to interact with actors either! However, the first time I went to Ghost Town Alive, I went to look inside the first building I came to (the Assay Office). I had already heard that they took out all of the figures, but I was just looking in to confirm that. Well, some actress came up to me right at that moment and asked if I was looking for "Mister somebody-or-other." And I just asked her what happened to the wooden figures that used to be in the buildings. I guess that threw her for a loop, and she didn't really know what to say to that. She tried to stay in character and tell me that "Mister whoever it was" was out of town, but I said, "No, seriously....where are the figures and are they eventually going to be brought back?" She said (in character), "So you like wooden people more than you do REAL ones?" I thought about my answer and then said to her, "Yes, as a matter of fact, I do!" I think she was so relieved, because right at that moment a little kid came running up to her, so she was then able to turn away from me and not have to continue the conversation. Just call me a party pooper! (Or say that I pop out at parties!)

I'm looking forward to seeing your pic of the Barrel House. I have photographed it in recent years, so just let me know if you'd like a current pic of it for comparison!