Friday, July 14, 2017
On June 18, 1982, Six Flags Magic Mountain opened their newest ride, Freefall (an Intamin first generation "freefall" drop tower ride). However, the grand opening had originally been announced for a date prior to that.
I had gone to Magic Mountain with friends on that original opening date. When we entered the park, we immediately headed over to Freefall which was located on the far side of the park.
There were employees posted at the ride's entrance who told us that it would open later in the day, but they couldn't say exactly when. We were advised to check back "in a couple hours." Well, we did just that and we were told basically the same thing....that they didn't know for sure when it would open, but to keep checking back. We ended up doing this all day long and at some point, we were told that it would definitely be opening before the park closed. It never did!
When I got home, I wrote a letter to the company, stating my frustration at how our day was spent running back and forth to Freefall to check and see if it had opened yet, but that it never did. They sent the following reply, dated July 11, 1982 and postmarked the following day.
And here is one of the "Courtesy Half Price Rain Checks" that they sent me.
I remember going back fairly soon with the same friends and using these, but they had sent me extras so I had some left over. I used one of the tickets 12 years later in 1994 and I remember the attendant in the ticket booth having to call for a manager because she had never seen one of these before and she didn't know what to do with it. I remember the manager stating that he had also never seen one before, but I guess he could tell it was real, because they accepted it. Now I just have this one ticket remaining and even though I have been back to Magic Mountain since then, I have never tried to use it. It doesn't have an expiration date, but I wonder what their response would be if I tried to use it now....almost 35 years later! I guess I could take the letter along with me and show it to them. They'd probably think I was crazy.
Freefall remained standing until 2008, but there was a period of time between 2005 - 2006 when it was not running. If you are interested in watching some short on-board ride footage, here are a couple video clips:
If anyone is interested in seeing another letter that I received from Magic Mountain from 1978 (with the Trolls and Wizard on the letterhead), you can click here: Vintage Magic Mountain Trip Report from 1978.
And for anyone interested in owning a "Freefall" souvenir from Magic Mountain, this button is currently available on ebay. (This is not my item or auction!)
Friday, June 16, 2017
Well, it's been six years since I've done one of these Father's Day posts. Where does six years go? I don't even know where the last year went! And by the way....this is my 400th post! Okay, here we go. Today's photos were all taken by my dad at various tourist attractions throughout Southern California.
First up, we have Universal Studios. The first pic was taken in 1988 during the the tram tour of the studio backlot. This was the "Burning House." According to "thestudiotour.com," it was originally located adjacent to the Universal Amphitheater. It was moved to the location below in 1982, but was eventually demolished to make way for the Jurassic Park ride and a new fire station. (And that website didn't miss pointing out the irony there!)
The next pic was taken in the early 1970's. This was Universal's "Wild West Stunt Show." Note the man that is horizontal in mid-air to the right of the light blue building. Also note the two men lying on the floor of the arena in front of the Silver Slipper Saloon. According to "thestudiotour.com," the stunt show was only in this location from 1970-1972 and at the end of that period, this arena was expanded and turned into the Universal Amphitheater (which originally was an outdoor venue). At that time, the stunt show was moved to another location in the upper lot, where it would stay until closing permanently in 2002.
This shot from 1990 shows the western stunt show in it's upper lot location, just after it had received a renovation and a name change to "The Riot Act Stunt Show." The renovation included a new collapsing facade on one of the buildings. During the show, a stuntman would sit on a crate in the middle of the arena, while an explosion would cause the front of the building behind him to fall forward. One of the windows would line up perfectly so the building would fall down "around him"....which is what had happened just seconds before my dad took this picture.
Our next stop is at Knott's Berry Farm. This first photo was taken in 1974 at Knott's Lagoon, which was located across the street from the main theme park. The locomotive was one of the many miniature trains manufactured by Bud Hurlbut. This one is reportedly in a private collection today, but Bud's miniature train from the original Santa's Village (in Sky Forest, CA) can be found today at the Santa Ana Zoo in Santa Ana, California. And another one can be found at Castle Park (formerly owned by Bud Hurlbut) in Riverside, CA.
In this shot from 1966, Chief White Eagle places a feather headdress on a guest in Ghost Town. The Old Knife Shop which used to be located just south of the Miner's Bank, can be seen in the background.
This Polaroid is from the mid-1970's and was taken on the front porch of the Gold Trails Hotel in Ghost Town. In the early 1940's, Walter Knott acquired pieces of an old hotel in Prescott, Arizona (including the two doors in the background) and used them on what would be one of the very first Ghost Town buildings at the Farm. The hotel housed the Covered Wagon Show which told the story of his mother's and his grandmother's journey out west in a covered wagon. Unfortunately, the show was removed and the hotel was torn down. A recreation of the hotel stands in the same spot today with the show being replaced by a souvenir shop.
I'm pretty sure that the musician on the left is "Fiddlin'" Charlie Ware. And I believe the guitarist's name is "Mamie," but I don't have a last name for her. If anyone knows, please feel free to chime in below in the comment section!
Last up we have three shots from Disneyland. All of the photos feature characters that we don't see walking around the park anymore. The first one is of Br'er Bear, who could often be seen in New Orleans Square, along with his pal, Br'er Fox. The photo was taken in 1982.
Baloo and Mowgli from The Jungle Book could often be seen hanging out (usually with King Louie) in or around Adventureland. This shot is also from 1982.
And this final pic of Snow White, Dopey and Sneezy(?) in front of Tomorrowland, is from April of 1971. Snow White can still be seen greeting guests in the park today, but it is rare to see any of the Seven Dwarfs unless it is in a parade or show.
I hope everyone enjoyed this little trip through some of Southern California's theme parks. And an early "Happy Father's Day" to all of the dads out there!
(***BONUS!!! I happen to have three vintage Disneyland postcards, featuring the same characters seen above, so I am including them below.)
Friday, May 5, 2017
I'm starting a new series of posts themed around "Places I've Never Been" and Lion Country Safari happens to be one of those places! When I was a kid, my family went to Disneyland, Knott's Berry Farm and Universal Studios a lot. We even went to the smaller parks, like Japanese Village & Deer Park (in Buena Park) and Busch Gardens (in Van Nuys), but I think Lion Country Safari in Irvine was just far enough away from where we lived in L.A. County, that it wasn't on my parents' radar.
The original Lion Country Safari in Loxahatchee, Florida (near West Palm Beach) opened in 1967 and is still in operation today. It's success spawned five more parks across the country, with the Southern California version opening in 1970 and closing in 1984. The other four parks, which were in Grand Prairie, Texas; Stockbridge, Georgia; Mason, Ohio and Doswell, Virginia, have all closed as well.
I picked up this brochure for the California location when I was a kid, and I've kept it all these years.
I do remember hearing that the animals were never out in the numbers that were shown in television commercials, or in promotional photos like these. I also remember people saying that most of the animals were asleep when they went. Maybe someone out there can tell me what their experience of visiting the park was like!
Sleeping animals or not, I always wanted to go for the rides....even though they didn't appear to have very many. In my child's mind, it looked like they had their own versions of the Disneyland train, Motor Boat Cruise, Autopia, and Jungle Cruise.
Adults, $3.95 and Children, $2.75.....the prices seem reasonable enough.
Well, even though I never got the chance to see Lion Country Safari for myself, some of my family members did go in June of 1976, so I'm including the photos that were taken during their visit.
Apparently, the park offered rides on baby elephants. I hope this is something that would not be allowed today....at least not in the U.S.
This baby zebra reminds me of the statue of the dog that used to be in front of the Candy Parlor at Knott's Berry Farm, and also the statues of the burros that used to be in Knott's Fiesta Village area.
Hippo-shaped pedal boats! I wonder what happened to Lion Country Safari's rides after the park closed? I hope that at least the train was saved and went on to have a second life.
This smaller flyer appears to be from a bit later than the first brochure. It shows a one dollar increase in adult prices and mentions that Lion Country Safari is "Freeway Close To Everything.....a Gas Savings Convenience!" which would probably date this from the mid-1970's when the country was experiencing an "energy crisis."
Convertibles and pets are not permitted in the park! That's nice that they provided free kennel service for pets. And even though the park itself didn't move, the back of this flyer now lists the park's address as Laguna Hills instead of Irvine. That reminds me of when the Matterhorn at Disneyland "moved" from Tomorrowland to Fantasyland!
Of all the animals that resided at Lion Country Safari over the years, two of them became somewhat famous. Frasier the Lion was a "star attraction" at the park back in it's heyday. Frasier was already a geriatric kitty cat when the park acquired him from a Mexican circus in 1970 and he only lived a couple more years after that, but he sired more than 30 lion cubs during his time at Lion Country Safari! This 1972 photo of Frasier and his "family" is from the Los Angeles Times.
Frasier was even the subject of a motion picture in 1973, Frasier the Sensous Lion. A stand-in lion was actually used for Frasier.
Bubbles was an eight year-old hippo that became headline news after she escaped from the park in 1978 and roamed around free for almost 3 weeks. (I actually just heard Richard Dawson make a "Bubbles" reference on Match Game '78, on the Buzzr Channel last night.) Unfortunately, her story ended more tragically than Frasier's, and can be read about here if anyone is interested: Bubbles the Hippo. This 1978 photo of Bubbles and her daughter is from the Los Angeles Times.
I remember reading articles about the death of both of the animals and sharing the one about Frasier during "current events" at school. I wish I had saved those articles. I saved a lot of newspaper clippings from childhood, but unfortunately the obituaries for the two Lion Country Safari residents are long gone.
The death knell for Lion Country Safari itself, came when the park went bankrupt and closed permanently in 1984. Wild Rivers waterpark was built on the site two years later. Wild Rivers closed in 2011 and the Los Olivos Apartment Village sits on most of the property today. (In 1981, the Irvine Meadows Amphitheater was built on a portion of Lion Country Safari's land but it was torn down in November of 2016 and will be replaced with more apartments.)
As I mentioned earlier, the original Lion Country Safari in Florida is still operating. About ten years ago, I acquired a family's set of Florida vacation slides from 1975. The set included pics of Walt Disney World (which I have posted in the past), Cypress Gardens, Busch Gardens, and Lion Country Safari. Here are the pictures that were taken at Lion Country Safari in Loxahatchee. The slides are dated March, 1975 and these are all in the order that they were taken.
Note the hood of the car and the side-view mirror in the next two pics:
A lone rhino:
The color on most of these had turned. I tried to correct them the best that I could, but I don't have Photoshop. I do realize that there is too much green in most of them. I was tempted to just convert them all to black and white!
A lone ostrich:
I'm not sure what kind of animal this is. It looks a little bit like a deer. Maybe it's an antelope?
And now we get to the animals that the park is named after:
I'm guessing that tire was thrown out there for the lions to play with, or maybe it was used as a scratching post? I suppose it could be all that's left of some visitors and their car after breaking down out there!
Just like the park in California, the original had an amusement area adjacent to the drive-thru section and included animal shows, bird feeding pavilions and a few rides. Today that area is called Safari World and includes a small water park. I believe this first pic was taken at the entrance to the park. I'm basing that off of the current park map, but these pics are 42 years old, so a lot could have changed since then. If anyone knows for sure, please chime in below in the comments!
I hope everyone enjoyed this 1970's visit to two of the five Lion Country Safari parks! I'm going to end this post with a clip from an episode of The Simpsons, when they go to a fictional park called, "Discount Lion Safari." The episode is titled, "Old Money" and is from Season 2 of the show. It's kind of a sad episode. This two and a half minute clip includes the part where the family goes to the drive-thru safari park: