Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Inside the Golden Horseshoe, 1950s

Here are two more scans from some oversized, glass-mounted transparencies, featuring the interior of the Golden Horseshoe building. These had turned pink, unfortunately, but Photoshop helped me to correct that problem. Mostly.

I usually think of the Old West as being pretty rough, with hotels and saloons built from rough, weathered lumber. The only fancy features were those swinging doors, handy for throwing scalawags out when they misbehaved. But look at the Golden Horseshoe! So elegant, with its ornate columns and balustrades, lamps and moldings, and yes, the horns of longhorn steers. I'm going to ask the barman for a glass of redeye, but I'll class it up with a twist of lemon. Ooh-la-la!

Looking toward the stage, we are reminded that Pepsi Cola sponsored the show. No self-respecting cowboy would drink Coca Cola, am I right? Hopefully we will be able to come back to watch the Golden Horseshoe Revue, with Betty Taylor, Wally Boag, Donald Novis, and a whole bunch of pretty gals.



Nanook said...

Good luck procuring any libation stronger than a 'cola' product - but you never know. I never noticed that pair of gray, oscillating fans mounted to the 'entablatures' of the columns on the bar.

Thanks, Major.

JB said...

#1: The Golden Horseshoe look pretty spiffy; especially under this lighting. Usually we see it with the house lights down and the performance going on. Now we can see all the little details.
This setting reminds me of the scene in The Shining. That's Lloyd, the bartender of the Overlook Hotel. Is that REDRUM written in blood behind him? ;-D

#2: When looking at this photo, the word that comes to mind is "grand". Not quite fancy enough to be "opulent", but it sure is grand. I bet Walt was especially proud of this theater.

You and Photoshop make a good team. Thanks, Major.


The interior of the Golden Horseshoe is a beauty! Good color restoration Major! One thing about saloon “swinging doors” is that they are more common in Hollywood productions than they ever were in reality. For one , it was too cold most of the year in the California gold camps , the silver towns of the Great Basin or the windy Midwest. The other factor for their rarity is that they were EXPENSIVE! Few ramshackle boom towns could afford the extravagant expense of swinging doors. But when they were in use it was in mostly the lavish palace saloons of Virginia City , San Francisco , St. Louis …. And other larger frontier “towns”. In bigger city’s like Chicago there would be a separate set of street doors leading to a vestibule with the fancy saloon doors inside. I have a book on a extensive collection of “swinging” saloon doors from the 19th and early 20th century , and ironically most of the examples are from southern and eastern cities…. . They are almost always seen in the West of tv and the movies.

The interior of the Golden Horseshoe today looks pretty much the same. A few years ago several framed displays of the original show cast were placed on display.

TokyoMagic! said...

Beautiful interior shots, Major! I wonder if Bartender Brad is still with us?

I see a figure behind the bar (on the far left), doing a handstand. There was a similar figure in Club 33, about 12 years ago. I wonder if it's the same one?

Chuck said...

A bit sheepishly, I admit I spent at least two minutes staring at the segment of Pepsi-Cola script painted on the mirror behind the bartender in the first shot, trying to figure out what was wrong with it before I realized it was backwards. I was about to comment that the slide was flipped when I noticed that the Pepsi-Cola buttons in the corners of the mirrors weren't flipped. Then I probably stared dumbly at the picture for another 15-30 seconds trying to figure out how that could be before it dawned on me that the Pepsi-Cola script behind the bartender was the reflection of the stage curtain. I don't think I'm supposed to be awake right now. In fact, I'm not entirely certain I am. I didn't really ride on the front of a locomotive cab last night with my mom and then run in the snow on the beach in my socks while trying to help an innocent man accused of murder evade a lynch mob, did I?

Note the urns labeled "brandy" and "whiskey" behind the bar. Never noticed the fans, either. Or that guy doing a handstand table. What year was your Club 33 photo taken, TM!?

Thanks for the info on swinging doors, Mike. I was just wondering how accurate a period detail that was.

Cool photos, Major. Assuming I haven't dreamed the whole thing. In which case, cool photos, Subconscious.

TokyoMagic! said...

Chuck, that photo of the table at Club 33 was taken in March of 2010. When I went back two or three years later, the table was still there. I'm not sure if it survived the remodel/butcher job that was done to the space in 2014.

Brad Abbott said...

Very cool look at the interior, and the prominence of Pepsi. You don't often see pictures of an empty stage with the curtains closed!

JG said...

I’m not sure which I like more, the fans (which I just noticed) or the bulls horns regularly spaced about. The horns lend a sense of rustic symmetry that helps offset the dandy paint and moldings. Very subtle.

Good info about saloon doors. Makes me think of the few months where Placerville CA (then called Hangtown) had both the tallest building, and the only elevator west of the Mississippi…

Thanks Major, these are pretty special pics today. I’ll have a shot of buttermilk…. …in a dirty glass.


DrGoat said...

Great pics of the Golden Horseshoe. As a kid way back when, we thought it was great and exciting to see a live show, but our minds were on the other lands. By the end of the sixties, I looked around and realized what a grand place it was. Many fond memories. My Mom and Dad loved that place. I was always a Pepsi guy, Coke occasionally) so the Pepsi Cola's we had were extra special. Soon to be followed up by a bag of Fritos from the Frito Kid.
Greta job Major, thank you.

Anonymous said...

Major, I had some mounted bull horns (purchased in Mexico) for a while. I hung my hats on them, but I disposed of them at some point.

The Placerville hotel was four stories, I think. Might have been five. It was an incredibly rich gold vein there and fancy buildings follow money. The prominence didn't last since the downstream cities of Sacramento and San Francisco could multiply the value of the goods sold into the foothill mines. We've all read how the Big Four became so rich from the gold rush, without any of them ever being miners, get rich selling shovels instead.

The hotel is still there, and we had a nice stay. Original elevator was still running, the cab was original and the whole thing was very slow, but beats dragging your luggage to the top floor. Oldest in the state according to the brass plaque.

The Cary House Hotel, Placerville. Check it out. My browser won't get me a map link, but google says it is still there.


Melissa said...

Absolutely gorgeous. That first picture looks like a still from the Old West version of The Shining.

Dean Finder said...

In some of the other GDB pictures with the girls on stage, the place looks toy-sized. But devoid of people, the hall looks enormous in the first picture. It's a convincing piece of forced perspective.

Anonymous said...

A rare sight...empty and with the curtain down. The ghosts of the old cast likely behind it ready to put on another performance. So much history on that stage. KS

Major Pepperidge said...

JG, my mom had some friends who had some bull horns (maybe longhorn?) and I seem to recall that somebody actually injured themselves on the horns. The bull got sweet revenge from the grave. I was thinking that gold rush money must have been the reason behind the elevator. Five stories! Man was not meant to live so high up in the air. I’m thinking of going into the shovel business, so hopefully I will become a billionaire. Amazing that the hotel is still there!

Melissa, your comment made me wonder if there has ever been an “old west” ghost movie?

Dean Finder, you’re right, the GH looks pretty impressive without a beautiful dancing gal for scale.

KS, did they usually leave the curtain up between shows? I have no idea.

Anonymous said...

A quick tour of Daveland's amazing photo archive shows that the electric fans were already gone by the mid-1960's.

Decorative medallions cover up the junction boxes where they used to be, or maybe the medallions were there all along, and the fans covered them up. Pic no. 1 shows a medallion visible on every alternate column.


Nanook said...

In the grand scheme of things the GH's auditorium may be on the small side - a "jewel box", if you will - but it still has to deal with the same physics as the big boys' do. [At least two of] the supply registers are surrounding the canopies of the chandeliers, as seen in the 2nd image. Don't know how many additional supply registers there are, and if the ones pictured are Concentric, Supply/Return Diffuser units or simply supply diffusers, and if there are any linear diffusers running parallel along the balcony edges. (Seems unlikely back then, but...) Either way, those fans - I presume a matching set of fans was also positioned along the audience left side of the house - could definitely help move the air around where the audience is sitting.

The 'physics thing' [hot air rises, and all] has to be calculated-out correctly in order for the air currents to properly "co-mingle" forcing the chilled air down, displacing the naturally warmer air that's rising, and collecting around the ceiling - especially with the ceiling height in this venue. Sometimes (particularly back when Disneyland was being built), "getting it right" is more dumb luck than a 'science' - just don't say that to the mechanical engineers... [An 'energy re-tuning' of a very large gathering space I worked at - with an 80-foot ceiling - yielded a very positive outcome in terms of getting all that conditioned air down to the floor where [coincidentally] hundreds of folks often gather]. However, that space has an HVAC system with a sophisticated controller, [VFD] supply & return fans, etc.; something the GH clearly didn't have back then (and maybe even now). Oscillating, wall-mounted fans seems both a good and expedient solution - or a 'good-enough' one.

Nanook said...

@ JG-
In one of the Daveland images, you can clearly see each of the power cords for those fans trailing-off up to the balcony, where they are presumably plugged in. In a later image (the graphics on the mirrors have moved-ahead from Pepsi-Cola to simply Pepsi), a lone fan can clearly be seen - but its power cord is hanging down [bad show-!] and is getting its power from somewhere other than at 'balcony level'.

Anonymous said...

Nanook, you are right. The fans are definitely a temporary expedient.

I've been involved in quite a few theater designs, some fairly exotic, and the HVAC for these is always a challenge. Big volumes, weirdly shaped, short on wall area due to balconies and acoustic draperies, can't have perceptible air movement or sounds, lots of hot wet bodies in the audience, etc.

My latest one, with all the "green" stuff, relies heavily on underfloor distribution to get the air where it needs to be, meaning all those plenums have to be waterproofed and at least somewhat accessible for cleaning. There is a computer-room type access floor (with concrete-filled metal tiles on pedestals) in the lobby to expedite plenum distribution. Units with Variable Frequency Drives and some with VRF, Variable Refrigerant Flow, which is apparently the Next Big Thing, although used abroad since the 80's.

Disney did just fine with the GH with the tech available then. I wonder how many times the GH HVAC has been remodeled since.


Chuck said...

I was thinking the fans were there to blow the smoke away from the bar from all of the cowboys shooting up the place in drunken revelry, but I think Nanook’s explanation is probably more accurate.

Spent a good chunk of the morning trying to identify the familiar-looking, wrongly-accused man in my dream from last night before I realized it was Lloyd Austin, our current Secretary of Defense. Sometimes I wonder about that subconscious of mine. And then I think about waffles and forget all about it.

Dean Finder said...

Nanook & JG, I see concerts at a few historic theaters (Wellmont and Jersey City Loews in NJ, the Beacon and Webster Hall in NYC) and I spend an inordinate amount of time looking at the HVAC fixtures in the ceiling while waiting for the show to start or during intermission. I always wonder if the carefully integrated diffusers and returns were original or added later.

On another topic, I just noticed the red color in the the lamp bases. I think that suggests kerosene lamps. At least the fancy all-glass hurricane lamps my dad had on his mantle had dyed red kerosene in it.

Melissa said...

JG, that green theater design sounds pretty awesome! The HVAC stuff running under the floor reminds me of the time I was in a production of Amahl and the Night Visitors, staged in a lovely old circa 1900 Arts and Crafts church. What we didn't know when we blocked it was that the space was heated with forced air that came up though a grate halfway down the center aisle. As our column of singing shepherdesses processed through the house to greet the Magi on opening night, our skirts blew up one by one like so many Marilyns Monroe.

Chuck, your dreams are far more interesting than mine! I dont even have to think of waffles to forget them. I just think of waffles for their own sake.

Nanook said...

@ Chuck-
I was also thinking the same thing about "corralling" the ammo smoke, but, dunno.

@ Dean Finder & JG-
I always cringe when thinking about all the 'junk' that ends up in under-floor ducting, and the fun process of cleaning it all out - but so often the best way to move air through large auditoriums.

When I first started working at UCLA, all of the original buildings also still had their original HVAC equipment. A few of the motors were "upgraded" in the 1950's or '60's - but even those were still being 'speed-controlled' with manually-adjusted, stepped, resistor loading of the 3~ motors. And the original motors (of which there were still plenty in-service in 1980), were open-frame. [No touching-!] OSHA, undoubtedly apoplectic at the thought of it all. Good times, indeed.

The other wonderful thing was the sizing of the original air handlers and ducting - not merely large - but incredibly large. Many air handlers easily eight feet high, with initial duct sizing to match. The original squirrel cage blowers were almost as large in diameter, and being driven by 6" wide, flat, leather belts running at an insanely-slow speed - translating into enormous amounts of air being moved at a very low velocity - and practically silent. Those days are long since gone, though.

Nanook said...

@ Melissa-
" the space was heated with forced air that came up though a grate halfway down the center aisle." And very-possibly fed from an early HVAC system (from the 1920's) not unlike the one I described, above. 'Good times' for you too, I see - but for a different reason.

"Lou and Sue" said...

Great you-are-there scans! Thank you, Major.

Major Pepperidge said...

JG, it is a humbling experience when my readers wind up doing much more research than I do!

Nanook, my guess is that those diffusers (I would have never known to call them that) in the ceiling were probably the only outlets for the refrigerated air, and I’m sure you are right, even with cold air sinking, it probably did not distribute as much as could be desired. Hence the unlovely but helpful fans. I’m sure guests appreciated it on a hot summer day, imagine the fug inside that place when it was full of guests in mid-August! My sister’s house has a two-story high living room, it’s hard to heat on cold days, so they actually have fans trying to blow some of the warm air up top back down to where the people are. The jury is out as to whether it actually helps much. Where she lives, they have San Francisco summers (I’m sure you know the famous Mark Twain quote). Thanks, Nanook!

Nanook, hey, it’s you again! I suppose that most people had their eyes turned toward the stage, and didn’t pay much attention to what was going on at the bar, or at least that’s how it should be. A dangling electrical cord is not great, but sometimes they had to make do. I forgive them!

JG, “hot wet bodies”, what kind of theaters did you work on, anyway?? ;-) This is a family blog! Your description of the modern theater sounds very complex. And expensive. Why not just give everyone a block of ice to hold on their laps? See, I come up with solutions!

Chuck, you might be right about the smoke from the guns, and I wonder if folks actually smoked during the show as well. I remember the days when people would smoke in movie theaters, because as a kid I was fascinated by the way the light from the projector looked as it cut through the smog.

Dean Finder, ha ha, I had no idea there were HVAC fans! You learn something new every day. Red-dyed kerosene! I thought that the lamps were supposed to be made of cranberry glass, or maybe of what my mom called “red flashed glass” (clear glass with a coating of red glass over it).

Melissa, the show became known as “Amahl - AFTER DARK!”.

Nanook, who knew that the main subject of today’s comments would be the heating and cooling of theaters! Those giant ducts with the squirrel-cage blowers (powered by real squirrels) sound neat.

Nanook, I feel like a chump, warming my place with newspaper burning in an oil barrel.

Nanook said...

... squirrel-cage blowers (powered by real squirrels)". It's kind of like the mechanical equivalent of "1,000 Island Dressing - made with real islands"-!!

JG said...

@Dean Finder, thanks for looking at mechanical registers, now I know I'm not the only one doing that. I love the old theaters.

@Melissa, thank you. I'm pretty sure the underfloor HVAC on the new projects won't have the results you describe. That must have been quite a surprise for everyone.

@Nanook, high volume, low speed, theatrical air distribution in a nutshell. That old equipment is always so interesting to see. By coincidence, I am working on a UCLA project right now, where we are replacing some 60+ y.o. services.

@Major, I'm glad you noticed my purposely garish terminology. In a theater, the audience is a big part of the load consideration. People put out a lot of heat and water, even if they are watching something boring on the stage (nudge nudge). The bodies in the seats also affect the acoustic response of the room. The newer high-tech theaters include adjustable acoustic components like draperies (often remote electric operation) and movable panels to compensate for changing audience sizes and to keep the acoustic responses of the room consistent during rehearsals when there is no audience.

Its all beyond me, other than coordinating my work with it.