Saturday, March 23, 2024


While going through a batch of Disneyland slides, I had a momentary thrill. "This must be some rarely-photographed corner of Disneyland!" (it's dated "June, 1962" by the way). But alas, it's not Disneyland at all. Notice the parking lot, seen just past the dining area. Just look at all those trash cans! You could barely take one bite of a hotdog before encountering a receptacle. Could this be Knott's Berry Farm? If so I don't recognize it at all, but it's not unusual to find Knott's photos mixed in with Disneyland photos. Please chime in if you know!

Next is this fun photo from Bemidji, Minnesota. There's Babe the Blue Ox, friend to Paul Bunyan, the giant lumberjack who can partially be seen to the left. According to Wikipedia, the Paul and Babe statues are "the second most photographed statues in America," surpassed only by Mount Rushmore. Did you know that Minnesota's many lakes were formed by the footprints of Mr. Bunyan and Babe? IT'S TRUE.  The Rotarians of Bemidji commissioned the statue of Paul Bunyan during the Great Depression as a tourist attraction. It was unveiled on January 15, 1937, to kick off a Winter Carnival that drew more than 10,000 visitors. I saw these statues when I was a child, and they left an indelible impression on me.

Here's a vintage decal!


Nanook said...

"I saw these statues when I was a child, and they left an indelible impression on me".

Did one (or both) of them step on you-?

Thanks, Major.

Lou and Sue said...

WHAT was the photographer trying to capture in that first image??

I bet the Walt and Mickey statue is in the #3 spot (or really in the #1 spot—cuz you can’t believe Wikipedia).

JB said...

1) I thought maybe we could determine the location of this park by seeing the license plates on the cars. But alas, only one plate is visible. The plate is yellow with black (or dark) numbers/letters. I know California plates can be that color, but in 1962? I associate a black background and gold colored text with California plates of that era. But what do I know, I'm an Oregonian.
And yes, there must have been a clearance sale on white trashcans. Buy a dozen, get another dozen free!

2) It's nice that Paul's 'home town' keeps the legend alive with these statues and celebrations. I know that there are many Paul Bunyan and Babe statues scattered around the country. (Can he be found in Canada as well?) I always think of the statues outside Trees of Mystery in northern California. They are two or three (or four?) times the size of these here. Paul seems to vary in size a lot.

3) While Babe the Blue Ox looks as expected in this decal, Paul seems a little different here: Did he smoke a pipe? (I can't recall). Did he have a giant double-barreled shotgun? Did he go barefoot? (Maybe those are his logger boots? But they look like toes to me.)

It's Americana Day here on GDB! Thanks, Major.


Major; I’m pretty sure the first image is Knott’s Berry Farm .. you are looking at the extra outdoor seating of The Cable Car Kitchen facing the parking lot. You can see the Cable Car tracks as well. Those bright colored benches used to be all over Knott’s … out and around the shops surrounding the chicken dinner restaurant and also at one point lining the entrance to Fiesta Village .

TokyoMagic! said...

What Mike Cozart said! That seating was for the The Cable Car Kitchen. You can see the same type of benches, umbrellas, tables and chairs, and the Cable Car tracks, in this pic from a 2009 GDB post:

JG said...

JB, California license plates were gold with black numbers before the switch to the black with gold numbers. I don’t know exact dates, but might have been around that time. Common to see both versions for a long time.

I’m glad the mystery photo was solved, Knotts it is…

Imagine building a a statue and having 10,000 people come admire it? Talk about a success. I had a book of Paul Bunyan tales when I was tiny, loved those stories and I would remember these statues too.

Thanks Major!


Melissa said...

These are awesome, and chock-full of You Are There. GDB is like taking a little vacation every day.

My eyes are a little blurry today, so at first glance I thought the white trash cans were tombstones. I remember that Walter Knott collected old grave markers, so for a second I thought maybe he just had some extras he threw into a seating area. Then I noticed they were way too tall, and zoomed in and had a bit of a giggle at myself.

I had to go looking to see if Paul and Babe are still there, and was delighted to see that they are! And that Paul sports one of the best mustaches I've ever seen on a statue.

One of the side effects of changing elementary schools so many times was learning about some things more than once. Five units on Eli Whitney were enough to make me sick to death of him and his cotton-pickin' gin, but I had just enough repeats of Paul Bunyan to make me fond of the big lug. I always liked the bit about the lumberjacks tying bacon to their feet to skate around and grease the griddle for his pancakes. And "Paul's Wife" is one of my favorite Robert Frost poems. I played "Paula Bunyan" in a skit we wrote in Grade 5 (I was always the tallest kid in the class until high school when the boys started catching up).

I think today's VFA goes to Paul himself; I like that even an 18-foot-tall man has the fashion sense to cuff his jeans.


In 1956 the United States , Canada and Mexico All standardized their automobile license plates to 12” long and 6” high . In California there has been a few color variations but most in 1956 were yellow with black lettering. In 1963 it was switched to black with yellow lettering . In 1970 it became blue with yellow lettering . 1982 they became white with blue lettering. There were other alterations over time with some colors and locations of identification markings . Today for an expensive extra charge you can purchase california plates in any of the 1963 to current color schemes. This is very popular service for car collectors who want period correct looking plates.

I learned this while researching information to make accurate historical models : American STOP SIGNS were yellow with black lettering until 1954…. US mail boxes were green till 1954 …. Then became blue /white /red … then in 1971 became blue. In California our first freeway signs were blue and white before being converted to green and white in the 1950’s .

You can only image how fun I am to watch period movies as I notice this incorrect details in them ….

Nanook said...

"In California our first freeway signs were blue and white before being converted to green and white in the 1950’s."

Unless that was the darkest of dark blue, make that black and white.

Although I assume the California freeway signage color change from 'black and white' to green and white was tied to the Federal Highway Act of 1956, but from personal experience can attest to black and white signage persisting easily into the early 1960's - if not beyond. This memory seems to follow the federal Bureau of Public Roads final approval of the white-on-green design in January 1958. As an example, the "San Diego Freeway" (I-405) sections running through the Santa Monica mountains was completed in 1962, with white-on-black signage, that eventually gave-way to the white-on-green design at some point in the 1960's.

I had totally forgotten about the color changes in USPS mailboxes (but not Mr. ZIP-!) Thanks.

K. Martinez said...

Love the Crazy House in the second pic. Maybe it's a portal to another world.

Thanks, Major.

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, don’t make fun of my, or I’ll cry!

Lou and Sue, ya gotta admit, those are some amazing trashcans. Sadly, you are probably right about the Walt and Mickey statue - or maybe it has even moved up past Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox?

JB, now California license plates are made with glue and macaroni, with glitter if you are willing to pay a little extra. Unique! I’ve seen photos of some other Paul Bunyan statues, and some are truly grotesque, which is awesome. I read that the one that shows up in the movie “Fargo” was made just for the film, I wonder why? There were lots to choose from that they could have shot for free. Paul Bunyan with a shotgun, I’ve never heard that one before. He was more of a switchblade man.

Mike Cozart, thank you! I had a feeling it could be Knott’s, but really had no idea, so it’s good to have the confirmation.

TokyoMagic!, thank you for that link to that cool blog, it’s hard to believe that there is actually a blog as cool as that out there. ;-)

JG, I thought the gold plates with black numbers were older, I’m pretty sure that 1939 plates have those colors (because I’ve seen them for sale on eBay - part of the San Francisco World’s Fair thing). I built a statue of Justin Bieber, but hardly anyone comes to see it.

Melissa, ha ha, a restaurant with tombstones, I like it. “This may be your last day, so enjoy this dry hamburger!”. I was sure that I had a photo of me and my family posing with Paul and Babe, but looking closely, it’s my uncle and my cousins. So I threw it in the trash and placed a curse on it! I loved those old folk tales like Paul Bunyan, John Henry, and Johnny Appleseed, somehow it makes sense that Walt and his boys (and women, yes, women too!) chose those classics for animated short cartoons. I suggested to Walt that he should animate some limericks that I found, but he said that they were not suitable. Go figure! Pix of you as Paul Bunyan, by the way??

Mike Cozart, I remember when my parents got their first blue and gold license plate, I was kind of excited because it was different. But then I realized that I liked the older black and gold color combo better. I have some Disneyland souvenir license plates that are blue and gold, and two license plates that were put on strollers (bigger than the souvenir examples, but smaller than a real plate). I’ve seen old photos with the yellow stop signs, and I feel like I might have seen blue and white freeway signs in other states - maybe a long time ago.

Nanook, I wonder if the switch to green and white was simply the fact that green was more attractive to the eye than somber, funereal black? “Trees are green, kids!”. How the heck do you remember a freeway sign as far back as 1960s?? I had a toy mailbox bank when I was a kid, it was old even then, and I always wondered why it was green. Now I know.

K. Martinez, yes, I want to visit the Crazy House. OR MAYBE I’M ALREADY THERE?!

Anonymous said...

It was a great spot to grab an ice cream on a hot day, sit and watch the cable cars came and go as this is where they made their turnaround to head back out to the parking lot. And other than the ice cream...that experience was free. As a teenager I was on a tight budget.

Mike, thanks for the tutorial on signage colors. I remember the white on black signs on freeways, as well as stop signs in yellow and black. People don't believe me when I tell them that's what they looked like. KS

DBenson said...

My parents and older siblings went to the Seattle World's Fair; my younger brother and myself were deemed too small and spent those days with my aunt and her family (fun folk, so no sense of loss). Anyway, I received a postcard of Paul Bunyan's Birthday Cake, a gigantic confection you could actually buy pieces of (cut from underneath).

The Paul Bunyan I remember is, unsurprisingly, the Disney version that would crop up on "World of Color". Sixty-three axe handles high, with his feet on the ground and his head in the sky ... It echoed Disney's version of Pecos Bill, with a catchy song and tall-tale deeds, plus an ending that replaced Bill's lost love with John Henry's story.


NANOOK : I doubt the color change on any of these things took place overnight - let alone years ….


My dad belonged to a car club and members were always on the lookout for vintage double set plates … for their restored cars … however at some point the California DMV stopped activated or re-instating vintage auto plates … the oldest that will be done now is 1963 and after. But now that most of the vintage colors (albeit the layout and tag placements are modern standards ) are available again , it kinda pacified the car collectors . You can also get special license plates for vintage automobiles that are white & black for vehicles from the 1900’s thru 30’s although I’m not sure of the date range.

I used to think it was funny to see the blue and yellow license plates on each of the Disneyland Parking lot trams …. I don’t think I’ve noticed any plates on the current trams now … maybe they are not required since they no longer drive on any none Disney roadways …. Or I just don’t notice.

Nanook said...

"I wonder if the switch to green and white was simply the fact that green was more attractive to the eye than somber, funereal black?"

Well, since you asked... yes. And now I can't locate the source explaining how green was chosen above other (non-black) color choices that would still provide enough contrast to offset the white characters.

Of course, you are correct about the time frame of changing-out all existing white-on-black signage. [At least in southern California] the white-on-green signage didn't appear until the 1960's.

I noticed the same thing regarding the [older] parking lot trams. I always assumed the license plates were needed due to the trams crossing-over [the then] West Street...


Interesting: white on green freeway and interstate signs became standard in 1954 … 2 years before the passage of the interstate highway act. The determination of white on green was done in 1948. Prior to 1954 freeway and interstate directionals could be any color at all … if they were even provided at all . Drivers were required to use road markers and maps.

Green was selected as it blends in to most surroundings and is non alarming to motorists. The white was chosen as it is reflective at night.

Ironically despite STOP SIGNS being red. … the color red blends in as well and is why you see no red roadside warning signs other than the stop sign. many municipalities even have gone away from painting emergency equipment in red in favor or more visible yellow , white or lime green.

Major Pepperidge said...

KS, that sounds like heaven! I was too much of a little pipsqueak to be able to enjoy Knott’s on that level, but I sure wish I could have just hung out there, watched the cable cars, etc. What a time!

Melissa, THANK YOU!

DBenson, now that you mention it, I remember seeing a photo of a giant cake from the Seattle Fair - I think I may have even shared a picture of it on this blog, though I’m not sure I knew it was supposed to be Paul Bunyan’s birthday cake. I love that Disney cartoon, it was always one of my favorites. I think maybe they even showed it to us in school?

Mike Cozart, yes, the wheels of change grind slowly!

Mike Cozart, this is kind of a tangent, but I used to drive up to the city of Ventura, and there is still a RR bridge that crosses over the 101 Freeway. Many years ago, there was a Santa Fe sign on that bridge, and I always dreamed about taking it, but… I’m not really a “stealing” kind of guy. Then one day it was gone, and I regretted that I’d blown it! My guess is that the sign had been obsolete for many years by the time it disappeared.

Nanook, for freeway signs I wish they’d used purple backgrounds with pink lettering. And sparkles!

Mike Cozart, I know there was a lot of “beautify America” talk when I was a kid (and before); freeway signs were a necessity, but there was no need to make them unsightly. Green seems at least a little easier on the eyes. I feel like I’ve seen brown background/white lettering highway signs in my lifetime, though perhaps that is just a drug-fueled hallucination!

Nanook said...

Thanks for that info, as I had mis-construed the color for basic freeway signage with the color used for the Interstate guide signs...

"Federal Highway Administrator Bertram D. Tallamy of the BPR (Bureau of Public Roads) preferred blue, the color of the signs on the New York State Thruway he had helped to build as Chairman of the New York State Thruway Authority. Other officials preferred green.

To resolve the issue, the BPR, in cooperation with AASHO (American Association of State Highway Officials), staged a 2-week test on an unopened section of the Capital Beltway near Greenbelt, Maryland. Experimental signs were erected in blue, green, and black, some reflectorized, directing motorists to "Metropolis" and "Utopia." Hundreds of drivers - checked to be sure they were not colorblind - were recruited. With a recording official in the vehicle, each driver commented on the color, shape, and words on the signs. The recorder also noted when the driver noticed each sign.

The results were clear, with 58 percent picking the green background. The motorists preferred capitals-and-lower case letters over all-capitals, as well as reflective backgrounds. Tallamy approved the white-on-green design in January 1958"

Unfortunately, there's still the unanswered question as to just where "Utopia" was located...

Anonymous said...

Just to stir things up some more, I've noticed many states and (national?) parks have signage with brown backgrounds. Not sure why this is done, since green is a nice outdoorsy color. Blue is also used on some, but I can't remember what types, I think these are referring to wheelchair accessible locations.

I do remember white letters on black on some of the state highways in the area where I grew up. It was kind of a backwater that was always behind the times so it was probably last on the list to be updated. Even now, folks say if you are worried about the end of the world, go to Fresno because everything happens there 20 years later.

Makes sense about Title Case being seen to be more readable. I find all-caps very difficult to read and I'm glad it was not selected.

Nanook, Re: Utopia, Thomas More might know, but probably not James the Lesser.

Melissa, that story of skating on the skillet with bacon skates is my favorite Paul Bunyan story.

Thanks Major.


Nanook said...

@ JG-

Go nuts...


Santa Fe still exists but it merged with Burlington Northern. ( BNSF) what is cool is that often alongside new logo equipment they will take the BNSF logo but use a heritage color scheme from
Santa Fe ( like the red or blue war bonnet scheme) or a 60’s Burlington Northern green and white color scheme .

Down in San Diego there were some railroad bridges that had the blue and white Santa Fe shield sign …. Eventually they were covered in graffiti then replaced with San Diego Trolly signage when the transit began to use the railroad right of way.

Major : next time take the sign ….. joy now - guilt later .

Dean Finder said...

Mike, emergency vehicles have had to add reflective striping in addition to the brighter colors. My volunteer EMS squad gets dinged on ambulance inspections for the oldest one that doesn't have reflective striping on the back to reduce the risk of rear-end collisions when we work on a highway.