Saturday, August 24, 2019

Shootout at Knott's Berry Farm, August 1959

I have a series of photos featuring a shootout in Calico Square! I believe that they were all taken from the upper balcony of the Calico Saloon. 

Some desperadoes have heard that the train was going to be carrying the weekly payroll, and they thought they might help themselves to it. One varmint has already been shot, and he is crumpling to the ground. It's so funny to see the men, women, small children, grandmas and grandpas, all watching the carnage right up close.

Is it over so soon?! Did the other gunman get away? Two train officers appear to be trying to calm the locals ("Nothing to see here folks, move along!"), and perhaps remind them that crime doesn't pay most of the time. To the right it looks like the Indian Chief is helping to keep that young boy at a safe distance from the gore.

I love observing the people in the crowd! One boy (to the left of the denim-clad deputy) is suspicious. "Hey, I think he's still breathing!".

I noticed some odd diagonal shadows on the mail car (or combine?) and decided to zoom in for a closer look...

... as you can see, it has been pierced by many arrows as it passed through the plains. That was too close.

The top-hatted undertaker has finally arrived, and the dead 'un is being hauled away to his just rewards. Boot Hill is too good for him!


"Lou and Sue" said...

Yellow babushka and white babushka! With Mabel (in between the two) wearing a funky hat with navy blue babushka that stylishly wraps around the hat band and ties.


TokyoMagic! said...

These are wonderful vintage Knott's pics, Major! Is the "dead guy" coughing up something in the second pic, or is that a mark on the slide film itself? In the third pic, we can see at least one boy and one girl holding their very long tickets for riding the Calico Railroad. One of those tickets can be seen here:

Andrew said...

People always love watching these shootouts. Personally, I think that those "varmits" were just plain dumb to try and rob the train when it was parked right in the town square. It would've been way better to amubush while on the plains.

In Ocean City, Maryland, there's a western theme park with a train and stagecoach ride that both get "robbed"... in the middle of the woods, this time! Our train was victimized, but on the stagecoach, the robbers were taking care of the train, so we escaped without a scratch.

JC Shannon said...

Knott's is truly a great park. I have great memories of of hot days running around with my family and friends all day. Gunfights, cowboys, steam trains and of course babushkas. Golly Wally, the fifties and sixties were great! Thanks Major.

K. Martinez said...

Today's photos are pretty awesome. In the first image you can see a girl covering her ears from the sound of the gunfire. A mother with daughter seems to be cringing while her husband is enjoying the show. Great people watching in these images.

Those arrows are a nice touch. Thanks, Major.

Melissa said...

Woo-hoo! Double Babushka Saturday - what a perfect way to start the weekend!

Calico Square sounds like a great place to buy a patchwork quilt.

While the cop, the undertaker, and the Indian chief control the crowds, the biker and construction worker go to inform the next of kin in the village.

Great vintage kids in the third picture. I love the little boys in Western wear to the right and the unimpressed little girl in red pants and saddle shoes to the left. I guess it took a lot to impress little girls back then. Nice of Ronald Reagan to turn up in #4 (right in front of the gap between the cars).

So, Major, would you say that car is... a Pierce-Arrow? I slay me.

Major Pepperidge said...

Lou and Sue, it was the greatest era of babushkas - everything has been downhill from there.

TokyoMagic!, I don’t think that the “something in the second pic” is a mark on the film. I wondered if there wasn’t a Wally Boag-style joke in which the dead man is wearing a toupee? It’s hard to tell unfortunately. I have several of those long Calico Railroad tickets, people include them with eBay lots of Knott’s stuff.

Penna. Andrew, I think the holdups and shootouts have been classic features of Western-themed parks for decades. They still have robbers on the Knott’s train, and those gun blanks make a really loud bang! I have photos of the Ocean City HERE

Jonathan, somehow Knott’s evokes memories of exploring in a way that Disneyland doesn’t. Maybe it’s because it had a more organic, ramshackle layout compared to Disneyland’s carefully planned layout. I loved Knott’s so much when I was a kid!

K. Martinez, I noticed that girl, so funny. As I said to Penna. Andrew, those guns are LOUD. I’ll bet the guys on the Calico Railroad like to make the passengers jump in their seats when they fire a blank!

Melissa, with two babushkas, you’d think this was a holiday. But no, it’s just an ordinary Saturday here on GDB! I agree that it is fun to observe the crowd, especially the kids. I would have been one of those obnoxious kids who would notice the “dead man” was breathing heavily in spite of his closed eyes. “Pierce-Arrow”, OUCH.

Anonymous said...

It certainly was a different time...we all had cap gun 6 shooters and played out western adventures daily. KS

Nanook said...

@ Melissa-

"While the cop, the undertaker, and the Indian chief control the crowds, the biker and construction worker go to inform the next of kin in the village". So... is this the inspiration for the Village People-? Hmmm.

Perhaps the Disney parks should consider using the 'shootout' as a deterrent for all those guests caught guilty of trying to smuggle-in one of those "land yacht"-sized strollers-! That'll teach 'em-!

Steve DeGaetano said...

Those arrows piercing the combine are a GREAT touch! Awesome detail!

While a great admirer of Walter Knott, I sure wish they had left the "Red Cliff" name on Engine No. 41. That name was oh-so-much-more evocative of the romance and adventure of the "Old West" for a 13-year-old fascinated by steam trains (the former me) than the current name, however respected.

Alonzo P Hawk said...

I like most who have visited this park over the years enjoy the mock train robbery and shootouts in the street.

I just hope that with the changing times, real deal horrors in our schools, shopping malls, bars, and other public places we don't have to end/remove these kinds of "re-enactments" for fear of causing mass panic or a stampede.

"Lou and Sue" said...

I can't believe I didn't notice her earlier! - It's the Queen on the left in the 2nd pic!

Thanks for posting these, Major!


Melissa said...

I never thought about it before, but I guess the holdup gag on The Great Movie Ride at Disney's Hollywood Studios could be seen as an offshoot from this kind of amusement park performance.

"Lou and Sue" said...

Melissa, isn't it hard to believe that The Great Movie Ride is now a thing of the past?!?!


JC Shannon said...

Lou and Sue, it does look like Her Majesty. Maybe she needed a break.

"Lou and Sue" said...

JC Shannon, yes probably, and I wonder what she had in her purse?



The last few times at Knott’s , the Stagecoaches were no longer held up. The Calico And Ghost Town Railroad WAS held up but the “robbers” did not fire any guns nor brandish any guns or weapons as they created their ruckus waking through the passenger coaches.

I don’t have the dates on hand but in the 1980’s Disneyland performed ( again) shoot outs and some minor western stunts around the Golden Horseshoe. This didn’t last very long and was discontinued for whatever reason ( most likely a cost cut-back in the entertainment budget during the Eisner era ...... or should that be Eisner Error?)

Andrew said...

Major Pepperidge, thanks!! Those vintage pictures of Frontier Town are super cool! The train going now is the same one as back then, and the stagecoach likely is the same as well. The park certainly had its share of startling guns in its lineup of shows, but now that I think about it, the train robbery didn't involve any jump-scares. Also, the "Pecos Bill" statue seen in your pictures is still there, but it's been modified to have the man looking at a can-can girl.

I think that my next blog post will feature some of the pictures I took at Frontier Town.

Chuck said...

This is a nice photo sequence, Major.

Every firearms safety fiber in my being is cringing at the railway policemen waving his rifle at guests in the second photo. You should never point a firearm at anything you don't intent to shoot. I'd hate to see these kinds of shows go away, too, but they should only stay if they are executed in a safemanner .

Steve DeGaetano, I wish they'd kept the Red Cliff name, too, but I sure am glad that paint scheme is a thing of the past.

Andrew, looking forward to your next post!

Melissa said...

Actors LOVE to brandish, wave, and gesture with weapons in a way that would result in a lot of lost eyes if they were real.

JG said...

This is a great post, Major.

Like other commenters, I'm afraid that these play-shows will be removed. Around here, if someone tried this without a whole bunch of disclaimers beforehand, police would come, alerts would sound to "shelter in place" and bad things might happen.

The fact that made these shows entertaining was that no one believed something like this would happen in real life. Sadly, today, no longer the case, and the good guys don't always win.