Saturday, October 05, 2019

Busch Gardens, Van Nuys - 1970

I recently found a small group of photos from Busch Gardens, the Van Nuys park that I visited when I was a child. My grandparents lived about 10 minutes from the place, so (in retrospect) I'm kind of surprised that we didn't go there more often.

As you can see, there were no roller coasters at Busch Gardens - it really was a place where folks could enjoy beautiful scenery from a gentle boat ride, take a monorail around the park and through the brewery, see birds (in an aviary, or just hanging about near the artificial lakes), or drink as much beer as you wanted from your metal bucket (seeing men drinking from those metal buckets made a big impression on me, it seems!). In this photo, it's lunch time, and guests are relaxing in a shady pavilion, with ponds and fountains nearby.

I originally posted this way back in 2008, but according to my math that was six years ago, so it's worth another look. Here's a photo of yours-truly (a mere Private) riding the flume ride with my siblings in 1970. Instead of the traditional log conveyance, the boats were made of metal beer casks!

There must have been a sale on Flamingos back in the 60's and 70's, because every amusement park in California (except Disneyland!) seemed to have some. They can stand on one leg, or "kneel" with those freaky backwards-bending knees like creatures from another dimension. Yog-Sothoth.

It's hard to believe that this was smack-dab in the middle of a (frankly) congested neighborhood, within spitting distance of a major freeway.

There's more o' them darn flamingos! Why get plastic ones when the real ones were available at every corner store? There were performing parrots too, I recall - seeing a parrot on a tiny tricycle was the best thing ever.

Storks - why did it have to be storks? Maybe those aren't storks, but at least they aren't flamingos. As always, a roaring waterfall is a welcome sight (and sound); whoever did the rock work gets an A++ with a smiley face. 

The Van Nuys Busch Gardens was torn out in 1979 to make way for more beer production facilities.


"Lou and Sue" said...

Our leader!!! What a cute kid! Major, I wonder what humorous thought you were having, at that moment. Any inkling you'd be leading a troop of mouse fans?

BTW, that's really weird - seeing a flamingo kneeling like that! He looks broken.

Thanks for posting these!


Melissa said...

Aww, lookit those cute little rugrats on the kegger flume! It's our own Minor Pepperidge!

I was surprised to see a huge flock of flamingos (or flamignos, as I call 'em) on the Kilimanjaro Safari at Disney's Animal Kingdom. The guide said they just showed up, moved in, and sort of took root, as it were.

Lovely pictures overall today - compliments to the photographer!

TokyoMagic! said...

Hmmmm, I never thought about how so many parks did have flamingos, including Knott's Berry Farm. I think Disney should add live flamingos to the croquet scene in Disneyland's Alice In Wonderland attraction!

I'm so glad that I got to visit Busch Gardens both before and after their expansion and the addition of more rides. I really liked that park and I still miss it!

Thanks for the great pics, Major!

Chuck said...

Flaming O's! I love 'em! Almost as good as penguin when served with farva beans and a nice chianti. Slup-slup-slup-slup-slup!

Wish I'd been able to see this place. Seems so nice and peaceful. Hard to think that all of that beauty is now just another industrial production facility.

When I was a kid, my dad gave me a metal Olympia bucket he'd brought home from some event at the Officers' Club. I used it to store my "little guys," a bunch of 1/72 scale Airfix soldiers that got played with daily, and assorted toy cars and other ephemera I would play with with them. I remember it still smelled faintly of beer years later. I still have it in a box somewhere.

Andrew said...

I found a postcard of the monorail here at a local antique store. That was cool to see. And on the beer-keg log flume...hooray for some individuality!

If you look away from the flume and such, this Busch Gardens appears to be a very well-done zoo that reminds me of Animal Kingdom in Florida. Thanks for sharing these!

JC Shannon said...

I sense a beer theme here. I love Flamingos, they are so mid century retro cool. I bet it has gone to their heads though, they probably yell at waiters and demand upgrades when they fly. Wouldn't it have been cool if they used beer instead of water in their flume ride? For a Private, you look like you are having Major good time. Sorry, I couldn't resist. Thanks Major.

stu29573 said...

I went to the Busch Gardens in Florida on the same trip that I first went to WDW. There was only the Magic Kingdom at the time, so you needed to go to other things to fill a week. I don't remember if they had beer buckets. My step dad got a beer in a decidedly less cool plastic cup. It was free, however.

Warren Nielsen said...

We went to Busch Gardens a couple times in the early 70s, and we always found it a refreshing change of pace after DL and Knott's. The gardens and birds and the general 'slow down and soak it in' atmosphere was re-invigorating. It's a shame in a couple ways that it had to go to make room for more 'industry.'


Major Pepperidge said...

Lou and Sue, I was probably thinking about when the next meal was. Plus a mantra that went “Ner ner ner ner ner ner” endlessly in my head. Drooling optional. I wish my legs bent backwards like a flamingos.

Melissa, are there feral flamingos in Florida? I could imagine people having them on their estates back in the 30’s and 40’s, and escaping to thrive in Florida’s tropical climate. Or else the guide was just having a laugh!

TokyoMagic!, Disney should add live Flamingos to Galaxy’s Edge. They can give them a silly space name (any ideas?). I miss Busch Gardens too!

Chuck, that part of Van Nuys is not exactly the prettiest area in the world, so you’re right, it’s hard to believe that there were once acres of ponds, lush gardens, tropical birds, and a few gentle rides for fun. Your Olympia beer bucket sounds cool, I like advertising stuff!

Penna. Andrew, I wish I remembered the Busch Gardens monorail ride better; it took guests through the beer factory, but I don’t recall it in detail.

Jonathan, yes, they should have had a beer river & waterfall, just like the chocolate version that Willy Wonka had! Men would regularly fall in “by accident”!

stu29573, the idea of giving out free beer would probably be a disaster these days; there was that famous baseball game with “free beer night” that turned into chaos. A few bad apples ruin it for everyone!

Warren Nielsen, the laid-back atmosphere is one reason I’m surprised my family didn’t go there more often. If my grandparents just wanted to go someplace near their home and relax, Busch Gardens was right there! Maybe they didn’t like it that much? Seems impossible.

Nanook said...

I’m with you in the memory department when it comes to remembering the details of the Monorail ride through the brewery, proper. (I’m going to use the excuse of being just a bit ‘tipsy’ to achieve clear thinking).

As I’ve mentioned before on these pages, there’s at least one episode of Highway Patrol, 1955-1959, showing the immediate area surrounding the brewery, and it’s nothing but bean fields. Hardly “pretty”, but a far cry from the unabated “development” that eventually took over Van Nuys as it has been now for, seemingly, forever.

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, I don't know if you remember, but a while ago I posted a photo of the Annheuser-Busch factory, pre-405 Freeway. See it HERE

Nanook said...

I DO remember that post. (Thanks). That was the one where I [apparently, again] referenced an episode of the Highway Patrol showing-off the [relatively] undeveloped area in close proximity to the brewery. A lot of that 'undeveloped, bean field look' may have been due to the camera angle, only capturing the "flora" and the apparent juxtaposing of the towering brewery in the distance. No matter the actuality of development at that time, we all know it was a far cry better than what eventually "grew-up" around the Anheuser-Busch Brewery-!

Anonymous said...

My great uncle and aunt lived down the road about a mile west of the place. I remember it being built and enjoyed the gardens several times..even taking a date there one day. That's when one could easily travel the freeway to and from Orange County.

Turned out to a an oasis within the urban area. And it was free for a while. In beer!! There were pavilions each serving a different brew. I also recall carts placed within the gardens where you could walk up and ask for a can of whatever beer happened to be in it. Yes, there were checks for ID, but it was that simple. KS

JG said...

We visited this park once, and had a great time. My parents were serious NON-drinkers, and even they admitted that the beer was low-key and well under control. There were non-alcoholic drinks and food as well. I vaguely recall the flume ride, and there were boats in one of the lagoons.

As I recall it, admission was free, but the monorail was a small fee. The park landscaping was amazing, a whole other world. I have an aerial photo, maybe from GDB that shows the park was two parcels, with the railroad dividing it. I remember crossing on the bridge.

I didn't know they enlarged the park or added more rides. It's kind of a mystery why it was built at all, it doesn't seem central to the idea of beer-making. There's nothing like it at other A-B breweries either.

Thanks for the pics, Major. Really a nice interlude.

JG said...

Major, I just saw your link to the earlier post, that is the photo I referred to. What a weird idea for a park in two isolated parts, no way to share maintenance infrastructure.

I also just saw a reference to a Busch gardens in Florida? First I have heard of this, is it still there?

Also, I hear that flamingo pate' can be pretty good, although an acquired taste.