Sunday, January 23, 2011

Knott's - A "Major" Then and Now Photo Comparison & Windseeker Construction

I have said this before, but I really do love "then and now" photo comparisons. When I first saw this 1977 photo on Gorillas Don't Blog, something about it just called out to me for a "now" shot. Whether it was the fact that as a kid, we went to Knott's Berry Farm many times or the fact that having worked at the Farm, I was very familiar with this area....for whatever reason, I decided I needed to get a shot showing what this area looks like today. Before we get to that "today" shot, I would like to say thank you to Major Pepperidge for his generosity and allowing me to repost his photos here.

Okay, here it is, the "now" shot taken from roughly the same spot. So why can't we see the Log Ride maintenance doors in this pic? Well, at some point, Knott's added that building we see to the right onto the game area (formerly known as the "Pilot's Rec Area"), extending it out so that it now blocks the maintenance doors.

In order to get a picture of those doors today, it was necessary for me to move to another spot. This angle allows us to see a bit of the log flume extending out over the rockwork above. We can also get a better view of the signage for Supreme Scream, the attraction which now sits in the spot once occupied by the Loop Trainer. Of course, in between the Loop Trainer and Supreme Scream was the short lived XK-1 attraction which can be seen in (this post) from April 2009.

Supreme Scream is sort of a "reverse" Maliboomer. Fortunately, that eyesore has been removed from Disney's California Adventure!

Riders are taken up thirty stories and then dropped for a weightless "free fall" experience.

Personally, I preferred the old Sky Jump parachute attraction that was only twenty stories tall and had more of a "controlled" drop, but that attraction was removed some time after Supreme Scream was built. However, the actual Sky Jump tower and the Sky Cabin observation car that travelled up the center of it remained.

Last year, Knott's announced that the Sky Cabin tower would now be demolished and a new tower would be erected in it's place.....ten stories taller, making it just as tall as Supreme Scream. This tower would be home to a new attraction called "Windseeker."

Windseeker is a "swings" type of attraction that lifts riders to the top of the tower and then spins, swinging them out 45 degrees....and again, thirty stories high (take that, Silly Symphony Swings!)

I was feeling kind of sad about the old tower and Sky Cabin being lost. Does everything HAVE to be a thrill ride? I will go on the new Windseeker but at the same time, I enjoy attractions like the Sky Cabin every bit as much. In my opinion, these parks need to find a balance and make an attempt to appeal to both the thrill seekers and the guests that are either unable or do not want to ride such attractions (Hey Knott's, bring back the Haunted Shack and Knott's Bear-y Tales!)

Well, I guess Knott's management began to think that maybe the Sky Cabin should be kept around and refurbished. Either that, or they just realized they could save a ton of money by finding a new location for Windseeker and not demolishing the old tower.....which is exactly what they did. The new location is in Fiesta Village. Here's a shot from the OC Register that was taken during the offical ground breaking ceremony for Windseeker.

That yellow building in the background is Fiesta BBQ. The exterior sign reads simply, "Mexican Food." I remember being sent over to work in this location a few times when they were super busy and needed extra help. This was back in the day when it was a very popular buffet service restaurant called La Cocinita. After Camp Snoopy was built, the Walter K. Steamboat and the Grand Sierra Railroad attractions cut off one of the major pathways into Fiesta Village, the one that happened to lead right past this restaurant. The restaurant suddenly became hidden in a dead end corner of the park, which I'm sure had to hurt business. I remember visiting Knott's with my brother and my nephew about ten years ago and this location had been turned into a "Mrs. Knott's Chicken Express." There was nobody in line, which should have told us something right then, but we ate there anyway. That was the one and only time I've ever had "bad" Mrs. Knott's chicken. Obviously, it was not being cooked at this was being brought over from the main restaurant and sitting there under heat lamps until people dumb us, came along to purchase it.

Ahhh, but I digress......Here's a photo that I took one week ago.

And here's one that I took two days ago. Adios La Cocinita!

To give a better idea of where this is, here's a shot taken from further back. The Merry Go Round (rest in peace, Bud Hurlbut!) is seen on the right. The two photos above were taken through a small opening in that green construction wall on the left.

Here's another view of the site taken from across the lake......

....and a close up showing the restaurant.

And POOF, it's gone! According to Knott's, this new location is going to be a very tight fit for Windseeker. The Merry Go Round sits on one side, Montezooma's Revenge is on the other and the the Silver Bullet and Jaguar rollercoasters also intertwine around in that area. In fact, they have stated that Silver Bullet will have to shut down for one week in order to relocate one of the track's support columns. Can something like that be done all that easily?

Well, enough with the La Cocinita pics. I guess I was just a little sentimental about it because I had actually worked there a few times. Now for a few more Major Pepperidge "then and now" shots. That path into Fiesta Village that I had mentioned earlier is shown below in this photo from 1977. Once again, after Camp Snoopy came along, this was no longer a direct route, so this archway was torn down. For several years after, that part of the building on the right that the arch was touching remained unpainted and a different color than the rest of the building.....but hey, that was Knott's and they definitely WEREN'T Disney. Even Disney isn't Disney today, if you know what I mean.

Here's the "now" shot. In 1985 when Knott's refurbished Ghost Town during their "Ghost Town Alive in '85" campaign, a Pepper Tree was planted against that building covering over the previously unpainted spot. You can see the arbor over to the left is still standing (or has been rebuilt). In the early nineties, when the Indian Trails area was added to Ghost Town, the giant logging wheels visible just beyond the arbor were moved out to Grand Avenue.

By the way, that building on the right is a part of the Sutter's Fine Family Fare restaurant (formerly Sutter's Grub-Stake). If we back up just about fifty yards, and cross Market Street, we get a better view of the building. This is another shot courtesy of Major Pepperidge, but taken much earlier.....1964 to be exact. This was several years before that archway or even Fiesta Village existed. Note the Covered Wagon Show sign hanging out in front of the Gold Trails Hotel.

Here's the "now" shot. The Covered Wagon Show and sign have been removed and now the Silver Bullet rollercoaster plunges through the roof of the restaurant....or so it appears. A sign has also been added to the planter across the way dubbing the restaurant and it's neighboring Icee Stand as "Sutter's Corner." Note, the roof over the queue for the restaurant has been updated. This was done very recently. When I was working at Knott's in the eighties, one of those decorative logs sticking out from the building (seen above) fell off the facade and almost hit a guest. Knott's promptly removed ALL of the logs.

And just for kicks....and because we are in that same area, here's one more "then and now" comparison. First, is another Major Pepperidge shot taken from Market Street looking up at Sutter's restaurant from the other direction. In the foreground, the Knott's Organ Grinder and his monkey perform while a fascinated crowd looks on. One of the guests is taking a photo.....a photo that might even turn up on the blogs one day, fifty or more years later.

This "now" shot was actually taken in 2007. Note the original roof attached to the front of the restaurant. I'm surprised it even lasted until 2007 without needing was looking pretty bad! The Turquoise Jewelry stand on the right was also added to Ghost Town during "Ghost Town Alive In '85." I have some Ghost Town promotional materials and employee items from 1985 that I will try to get posted in the future.

Thank you again, to Major Pepperidge for the use of his photos!!!


Dan Alexander said...

Great photo essay, TokyoMagic!

Were you at Knott's when the Mark Harmon/Kirstie Alley movie, "Summer School" was filmed there? I always thought the park looked like so much fun during the "field trip" there. Except for the part when Alan Eakian vomited into the trash can.

TokyoMagic! said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
TokyoMagic! said...

Thanks, Dan! Hey, I still need to see that movie! I remember the music video for the E.G. Dailey song from the movie (Mind Over Matter?) showed Mark Harmon riding the Corkscrew.

I was working in the park at that time, but I don't remember anything about the filming. I worked on the other side of the park. I just spoke with a friend that worked in that section of the park and he said he does remember them roping off the area to film the movie.

Connie Moreno said...

I have seen that movie (and everything else Mark Harmon has done) and I can't believe that I didn't recognize Knott's! What a dufus!

Those were neat pictures but they made me a tiny bit sad, too.

Major Pepperidge said...

I love these "before and after" posts! And am happy to contribute as always. So amazing to see some photos taken only a week ago, and even in that short time there have been big changes.

I know that many folks prefer the big roller coasters and thrills over the old park's immersive themes and charm. Those people are jerks! ;-)

Davelandweb said...

Great before and after shots...but not so sure I like how the "after" shots look. What a mish-mash of themes and styles...the park is just crammed full of...

Paul said...
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