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!


Vintage Disneyland Tickets said...

Wonderful detailed post, I love it, thanks so much! I thought the train station was moved, thanks for confirming that. I plan to get to Knott's in early May for a long photo shoot, I hope nothing else is missing!

Let's Talk Knott's said...

That is a great post card. You can also see the train store behind Jeffrie's barn and the knife shop on the side of the miner's bank. The mystery lodge is not there yet and I believe that debuted in 1994 so I'd guess this is sometime between '90-'93. I wish I could jump inside that photo and spend the day there. Thanks for the great post!

outsidetheberm said...

What a nice, comprehensive post. Thank you.

Doctor Walker's cabin was completely eaten by termites (again, a maintenance issue) and was torn down. However... all the doors and windows were purchased and are in use here at the studio ranch. Hope that's some good news for you.

TokyoMagic! said...

Thank you very much VDT, LTK and OTB! I appreciate the information on Doc Walker's Cabin, OTB. That is good news to hear that some parts of it survived and are being used.

Anonymous said...

The Bird Cage Theatre is still used during the holiday season (The Gift of the Magi). They also have the Calico Saloon show in there when the Calico Square stage is being used for an all-day event and the Saloon show would not be able to be heard.

About the Haunted Shack. It is sad that it's gone, but it wasn't removed because Cedar Fair is greedy or anything like that. The building was condemned due to a termite infestation. It was removed in the late 90s.

Also, they're about to take out the Screamin Swing. I hear they're going to be putting in a Free Fall ride.

Kelly said...

From this aerial postcard of the park, you can see the Soap Box Racers' roof that had a blue and gray diamond checkerboard pattern. It was changed to an aerial view of three soap box cars racing around a rectangular track between later '90 and '93. I too want to jump in that photo and spend a day there.

California Bear said...

If you miss the Birdcage Theatre performers, many of the actors that used to work at Knott's have set up shop in Long Beach at the All American Melodrama Theater and Music Hall ( They are still doing ye' olde corny melodrama!