Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Knott's Berry Farm - From The Air!

Today we have a postcard for the city of Buena Park showing a great aerial shot of Knott's Berry Farm. This photo had to be taken sometime between 1990 and 1996, because the Corkscrew is already missing (taken out and replaced with Boomerang in 1990) but the Wacky Soap Box Racers are still there (those weren't taken out until 1996.) Boy, Knott's sure had a lot more trees back then! Many of the trees seen in this photo have since been removed. I was told by one of the saloon "bartenders", that over thirty of the trees at Knott's were cut down earlier this decade, shortly after a tree fell at Disneyland and crushed a popcorn wagon.

I have taken the same photo and circled a few of the structures/areas. I figured the location of the Log Ride, Calico Mine Train, and Sky Jump parachute tower were probably obvious to anyone that has visited the park, so I picked areas that might be a little more obscure or more difficult to identify in the photo.

The area circled in red shows the former Airfield Eatery (mentioned in my Knott's post a couple weeks ago.) This building was two stories tall and had an old biplane suspended from the ceiling above the dining room. At one time there was also outside dining on the second level. This building was demolished and replaced with the smaller and less impressive Coasters Drive-In.
The green circled area shows the Haunted Shack. This attraction had been at Knott's since 1954, but was removed in 2000. I asked about it at Knott's Guest Relations shortly after it was removed, and they told me it was "in storage." Yeah, right! In 2001, a bungee tower attraction called VertiGo was erected in it's place, and that has since been replaced with the Screamin' Swing. In my opinion, removing this classic Knott's attraction that had been entertaining park guests for 46 years and replacing it with just another carnival thrill ride was purely criminal. The photo below shows where the Haunted Shack used to sit. The three blue structures seen just to the left of the covered wagon are part of the Screamin' Swing attraction. This photo was taken from the Boot Hill area, looking towards the Roaring 20's/Boardwalk area.

The building that is circled in blue is Jeffries Barn (now called Wilderness Dance Hall) which has quite an incredible history. Click here: Jeffries Barn History to read a great post on the history of this structure over at the blog, "outsidetheberm."

The yellow circle in the photo is around the Ghost Town Calico Railroad depot. I don't know how many people know this, but the depot was moved in 1985. It used to sit just to the right (east) of it's current location in that open area in the aerial photo. At the time it was moved, it was also rotated around 360 degrees. They did this while I was working there and they explained to us that they had always felt that it faced the wrong direction and also that it sat too far from the tracks. They wanted to make it part of the queue. (It had been used at one time to sell train tickets, but guests had to do an "about face" after purchasing their tickets and then walk over to the tracks.) Notice how far the depot is from the tracks in the vintage photo below compared with the following two photos. Also notice how the side with the ticket windows that originally faced the tracks is now facing the opposite way (with the loading platform facing the Calico Saloon instead of the Fiesta Village entrance.)

The pink circle shows the school house which fortunately, is still standing today. However, over the years the school yard/playground has been reduced in size little by little until nothing is left of it. I remember playing on the swings and the teeter totter in that school yard with my brother during several visits to Knott's. I think it's interesting that the structure was actually used as a Kindergarten for the Knott's grandchildren.

The purple circle shows the Bird Cage Theater which sits right next door to the school house. Fortunately, it too is still standing, but unfortunately, it no longer has shows running daily. Last time I checked, they did still open it at Christmastime, but that may have changed. Does anyone out there know for sure if they still have shows during the Knott's Merry Farm/Christmas Crafts Festival event?

I've included a close-up shot of the sign on the left that explains the history of the real Bird Cage Theater in Tombstone, Arizona, but for some reason, I did not photograph the sign on the right. I believe that one tells the history of the Knott's replica.

The black circle shows where the Fiesta Village Merry-Go-Round has been relocated. It originally sat just a bit north of that location, but was moved in 1987 when Fiesta Village was overhauled and three new rides were installed. These three rides were The WaveSwinger, the Tampico Tumbler and the Gran Slammer (the latter two have since been removed and replaced with La Revolucion.) This was also when the Fiesta Wheel, Mexican Whip (a Tilt-A-Whirl ride) and the Tijuana Taxis were removed. At least the Merry-Go-Round was relocated and not removed entirely! There is a sign to the right of the entrance and I can't believe I didn't notice it when taking the photo. If I had, I would have definitely taken a picture of it too. I'm sure it must give the history of this wonderful vintage attraction and it's accompanying antique calliope. I must plan a trip back to the Farm to photograph these items that I missed!

And finally, the white circle shows where Doc Walker's cabin used to sit. The Original Berry Stand used to sit immediately to the left of it, but in this photo it is hidden by all the trees. This is where the station for the Silver Bullet roller coaster sits today. I also went into Guest Relations to ask about the Original Berry Stand when I saw that it was missing, but not only did they not know what happened to it.....they didn't even know WHAT it was that I was asking about. The person that was helping me even called a supervisor over to the counter to ask them, but the supervisor had no idea what it was either! How bad is that? This company REALLY does not care about it's own park's history! At that point, I didn't even dare ask what happened to Doc Walker's cabin, but I can pretty much guess. Does anyone know if it's sitting around in the backstage area somewhere or was it used for firewood? Doc Walker's cabin was fairly large in size and it was divided into separate rooms. You could walk all the way around it and look in through each of the windows. There were living quarters for the doctor and his family on one side and then on the other side was his dental office, which had a separate outside entrance to it. A small portion of these sets can still be seen today. Some of the props from the cabin have been arranged for a "peek-in" behind the Ghost Town Candy Shop (seen below.) This used to be the "peek-in" that contained the weird family with the bugged out eyes sitting around a dinner table.

Note the antique drill that had to be pedalled by foot and also the spittoon in the wooden holder on the floor next to the skull. I can just imagine what kind of stuff ended up being spit in there! I guess the woman and the baby that are behind the patient are just there to watch.....or perhaps they are waiting for their turn in the chair. In the room next door, Doc Walker's wife is making her special "meat pies."

I actually have a weird story about Doc Walker's cabin. At some point during the time I worked there, a coworker of mine and myself discovered that we had the key to open the padlock on the cabin door. Knott's often used one of several universal locks and keys to secure various structures throughout the park. We realized this when we noticed that the serial numbers on many of the locks were the same. Anyway, we always talked about going inside and finally we got up the nerve to do it. It was an actual cabin with separate rooms, unlike most of the other peek-ins that just featured one room, so it was kind of dark and creepy inside. It was also very dirty and smelled very musty. On our way out, my coworker grabbed a fake gingerbread boy off of a plate in the kitchen. I wonder if she still has that? We also had the keys to the back doors of the Assay Office, Hop Wing Lee's Chinese Laundry, and the Barber Shop over on Main St., but The Chinese Laundry was the only one of those structures that we ever ventured into. We weren't supposed to be going into any of those buildings, so we were always worried that security would see us. Now I wish we had taken pictures!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Roller Coaster!


Today, we will continue with this month's theme of non-Disney parks. This is also a follow-up to my April Fool's Day/Disneyland Trip Report post. I had a record number of hits with that post, but surprisingly, nobody asked me where those photos were taken, and at least one reader believed they were actually taken at Disneyland...and I apologize for that! I did go back and add "Happy April Fool's Day" at the end of the post to hopefully clear things up. Well, just in case anyone out there was wondering, the photos in that post were all taken at Hanayashiki Park in Tokyo Japan, with the exception of the Sleeping Beauty Castle construction photo.

Hanayashiki Park opened in 1853 as a flower park and in 1872, the first rides were installed. The oldest roller coaster in Japan can be found at Hanayashiki (seen below.) It was built in 1953 and was considered to be the most "modern" roller coaster at that time. What is the name of this historic attraction, did you ask? It's simply named, "Roller Coaster." I think I would have at least put an exclamation point after the name, but that's just me.

The oldest existing attraction in Hanayashiki is the "Surprising House," which was built in 1949. It was the Three Little Pigs themed structure seen in that April 1st post. The guide describes this attraction as "A mysterious house that spins around." I did not go inside at the time that photo was taken, but on a recent trip back to Tokyo and Hanayashiki Park, I did venture inside. Basically, you sit on a long suspended bench seat, which then begins to rock forward and back while the room you are sitting in does 360 degree flip flops around you. The room is "finished" with painted windows, hanging pictures, light fixtures and the real door that you entered through, so it really does a number on your head. It made me think of the 1951 Fred Astaire movie, "Royal Wedding," where he dances up the wall and onto the ceiling. (As a side note, that movie set was supposedly a real room that rotated along with the camera, as Mr. Astaire literally danced "around" the room.) This attraction was definitely not for people prone to motion sickness. I think it's kind of neat that the attraction still exists and continues to entertain people 60 years after it's debut at the park.

Below, is a view of the Sky Ships attraction boarding area. Gee, I wonder where they got the idea for flying pirate ships? If you look off in the distance and to the right, you will see a hellicopter on a track below the blue Sky Ships rail. That attraction follows the same route as the Sky Ships, but the helicopter vehicles ride on top of their track. The attraction is similar to the Sky Trip ride at Tokyo Dome City, but you don't have to pedal these vehicles yourself!

Here is a photo showing both a Sky Ship and a Hellicopter vehicle passing each other. In the background is the "Kiddy Ferris Wheel" and in the foreground is the park's Merry-go-round.

Last up for today is a full view of Hanayashiki's Merry-go-round.

I may do one more non-Disney park post just to finish out the month (perhaps another Knott's post) and then we will get back to Disney stuff. I did visit Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea during my recent Tokyo trip, so I will definitely be posting some current photos and items from those two parks!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Knott's Berry Farm - Roaring 20's Airfield

This is a follow-up to my last post. After posting about Tokyo's parachute attraction and comparing it to Knott's Sky Jump, I remembered that I had this mini-poster from 1976 that Knott's Guest Relations sent me years ago. As a kid, I used to write to both Disneyland and Knott's and ask about "future attractions" and they would usually send me some really neat stuff.

I love the artwork on this poster. It's sad though, to look at it and realize just how much of this is now gone. Actually, everything here might now be gone except for the Sky Cabin that travels up and down the former Sky Jump tower. The Sky Jump itself closed shortly after Knott's opened Supreme Scream (personally, I would rather ride the old Sky Jump attraction.) The Cycle Chase was converted into the Wacky Soap Box Racers, which was then replaced (along with the Gasoline Alley cars) with a roller coaster called Windjammer, which has now been replaced with Xcelerator. The Flying Machine (Loop Trainer) was replaced by XK-1, which was later replaced by Supreme Scream. I really liked me it was kind of like riding the Rocket Jets at Disneyland, but on the Knott's version, the joy stick allowed you to do "barrel rolls" and go completely upside down....though none of the cars appear to be doing that in the photo below. Note the "round house" for the Ghost Town Calico Railroad in the background.

Knott's Berry Farm's "XK-1" - 1995

Well, I'll continue on with the Airfield attractions history, just in case anyone is interested.....The Propeller Spin was replaced by Whirlpool (an indoor "scrambler" attraction) which itself, was relocated to make room for Perilous Plunge. The Airfield Eatery was a "buffeteria" style restaurant inside of a building that resembled a huge airplane hangar. While I was working there, it was renamed Captain Kelly's....I never understood why. It was probably just to keep someone in a job (the job of "name changing" and "poor decision making.") That building has now been torn down and replaced by Coasters Diner. I believe the Cloud Nine Ballroom building is still there. The last time I was at the park, it was called the Boardwalk Ballroom but I don't think it has been used for dancing for many years.

Below, is a Disco Fever Club card that gave various discounts, including reduced admission to the park after 7 p.m. on select nights. This was offered back in the day when the Cloud Nine Ballroom was THE place to go dancing at Knott's (way before there was ever a Studio "K".) You could get this card at the grocery store by purchasing Pepsi products. Remember Aspen soft drink? It was apple flavored!

In the eighties, Knott's put a 3-D movie in the Cloud Nine Ballroom called "Sea Dream." This was to try and compete with Disneyland which was currently showing EPCOT's 3-D film "Magic Journeys" on their Space Stage at night. When I worked at Knott's, we would have to go every year to employee "summer kick-off" meetings. At every single one of those meetings, the general manager would try to tell us how great the new attractions were going to be that summer and how they were going to be so incredibly better than what Disneyland was doing that year. The example that really stands out in my mind is in 1983, when he tried to convince us that DL's "New Fantasyland" wasn't going to be able to compete with the newly opening Campy Snoopy. I remember always thinking that they should just be themselves and stop comparing everything they do to Disney and just accept that they will never be able to compete with them on the same level. This was back when the Knott family still owned the park. Marion Knott would also speak at those meetings. I wonder if the new management has stopped trying to compare themselves to Disney?

Well, this really is my last post before I leave on my trip. I should be posting again in about a week and a half.

Happy Easter to everyone!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Welcome to Parachute Land!


Or is it one word....Parachuteland? It's shown each way on two different signs. This magical land can be found at Tokyo Dome City in Tokyo, Japan. Located next door to the Tokyo Dome sports arena, this amusement area was founded in 1955 and consists of three sections or "lands", Parachute Land, Tower Land, and LaQua.

Parachute Land does indeed contain a parachute ride and it's called the Sky Flower. This attraction was made by Intamin AG, the same company that made Knott's Sky Jump tower, as well as several parachute towers for other amusement parks across the U.S.

Tokyo's Sky Flower

For a comparison, the photo below shows Knott's Berry Farm's Sky Jump tower, (This photo was borrowed and used with permission from the Vintage Disneyland Tickets blog. Click here: Vintage Disneyland Tickets to see fantastic trip reports of Disneyland, Knott's and Magic Mountain, in addition to great vintage park tickets, brochures, maps, guides and much more!)

Knott's Sky Jump

Riding in these baskets gave me a major flashback to my childhood visits to Knott's. It also took me back to a time when I worked at the park. On the Sky Flower, you are taken up and dropped twice....just as in the old days at Knott's. (Knott's changed this at one point and only took guests up once.)

This is the view from the top during the day.

And this is the view looking down on the Tokyo Dome sports arena at night.

Parachute Land also has it's own "PeopleMover" attraction called the "Sky Trip," and it's just like Disneyland's used to be....except the vehicles are different colors...and the cars only hold two people....oh, and you have to power them yourself by peddling! Other than that, they are JUST like the old PeopleMover. The next photo shows a Sky Trip car leaving the station. That's a hotel rising up in the background. It kind of gives the park a "Disney's California Adventure" feel to it.....but not in a good way.

Here is a blue and a pink car going around the base of the parachute tower.

And here's another view of the vehicles looking straight down from the top of the Sky Flower. An orange Sky Trip car can be seen at about "eight o' clock" and a blue one can be seen at about "ten o' clock."

I hope everyone enjoyed this visit to Parachute Land! I will try to do a post on the other two "lands" of Tokyo Dome City in the future, but I probably won't be blogging for a little while now, because I am leaving in just a few days for Tokyo. On April 15th, Tokyo Disneyland will be celebrating it's 26th anniversary with the opening of their new Monsters Inc. Ride and Go Seek attraction. I hope to bring back lots of new photos to share!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Disneyland Trip Report

Today, we are at Disneyland in Anaheim. Walt Disney once said that Disneyland would never be completed....and to this day, the company strives to uphold this wish. Yes, Disneyland is always changing and growing, and it only seems to get better and better. Since I had not been to the park for quite some time, I figured it was time to grab my camera and head on over there to check things out. Here are some of the recent changes that had been made to the park, as well as some of the future projects that were under construction.

Since Fantasyland had not undergone any kind of major renovation since 1983, I guess it was time to update it and give it a fresh new look. After the success of the Sleeping Beauty Castle walk-thru, the company has decided that there will be many more "walk-thru" type attractions in the future. Of course, we know that these also cost much less to build than an actual "ride." The first entirely new attraction of this type to open, is the Three Little Pigs walk-thru. Management however, decided to use only one of the pigs in this attraction, citing that it would be too costly to include the other two. They have chosen Practical Pig and designed the show building to resemble his house made of bricks. Note the Big Bad Wolf on the roof in the photo below.

Overhead is the new Peter Pan's Flight. The company also decided that it was too costly to keep up with the interior and exterior maintenance of this aging dark ride, so they eliminated all of the interior sets.....and removed the exterior walls too! They figured that this will also satisfy all of the fans that complain about missing the Skyway attraction. Now once again, guests can get a bird's eye view of well as Tomorrowland! The attraction has been extended in length and renamed Peter Pan's Flight to Tomorrowland...unless you board it in Tomorrowland and then it is called Peter Pan's Flight to Fantasyland. Of course, these are both "one way" trips only. And management will no longer have to worry about people being able to see the rooftops of the Fantasyland darkrides, because eventually all of their rooftops will be removed.... along with their walls too!

Disney recently announced that Walt Disney World's Hall of Presidents attraction will be permanently closing due to the high cost of staffing and maintaining it. Unfortunately the new Barrack Obama figure had already been completed and was just about to be installed when this announcement was made. Fortunately for Disneyland however, the figure has been sent to Anaheim along with the other 43 presidential audio-animatronic figures, where they are now being installed in pairs, at the bow of each Peter Pan ride vehicle. The photo below shows the first completed vehicle featuring both Obama and former president Bush. Of course these figures will no longer be audio-animatronic. They are the first of a new generation of figures called non-audio-statics.

Last up for today, is a shot of the newly extended Peter Pan attraction going over the redesigned Tomorrowland Autopia. In the background is the "Matterhorn Lofts" construction. It seems that Disney has never been happy about the exorbitant cost of maintaining the Matterhorn attraction. That, coupled with the recent success of the Disney Dream Suite, led management to ask themselves why they should allow only a select few to spend the night inside the park and most importantly, why they should let them do it for free. So they came up with the idea of converting the Matterhorn into lofts and letting guests pay for the privilege of spending the night in the park. It's a brilliant marketing idea, really.

Well, that's it for this trip report. Who knows what you'll find on YOUR next visit to the park. I hear they have plans for replacing the Haunted Mansion with a 3-D movie about a Haunted Manison. Sounds like fun!
Happy April Fool's Day everyone!