Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Knott's, Knott's & More Knott's!

WHO: Eric Lynxwiler and Chris Merritt. WHAT: Their soon to be released book, "Knott's Preserved" which is about the history of Knott's Berry Farm. WHERE & WHEN: They will be signing copies at Knott's on April 18th. (The whole day is going to be filled with all sorts of special events. To read more about what's scheduled for the day and to purchase tickets, you can click (here) to view the official Knott's event information and order form.) ***Update: I have just learned that the special event is sold out, however the book-signing is open to everyone!

This upcoming event had me thinking back to last August when Jay Jennings was at Knott's signing copies of his book, "Knott's Berry Farm: The Early Years." I did go to his book signing and I meant to follow up with a post, but never did. So here it is....8 months later!
Below is a pic of Jay Jennings, Steve Knott (grandson of Walter & Cordelia), and Jo Burdick, a former Calico Saloon can-can dancer.

The photo of Jo Burdick below is from the book. She was also signing that day and shared wonderful stories about what it was like working for Walter Knott.

After having my book signed, I wandered around the Knott's Marketplace. Having spent seven and a half years working at the Farm (two of those in the Marketplace), and having visited Knott's dozens of times as a child, it really brought back memories. The banner in the photo below shows that the Chicken Dinner Restaurant was celebrating it's 75th anniversary. I was working at the Farm in 1984 when it was celebrating it's 50th.....wow, where does 25 years go??? That was the same year that they remodeled the restaurant as well as the surrounding area and shops and gave it the name "Knott's Marketplace."

The photos above and below both show the old logging wheels that have been moved all around the farm over the years. They now sit just outside of the tunnel that leads underneath Beach Blvd.

Here's a vintage shot of the logging wheels next to the Music Hall. When I worked at the park in the eighties, they sat just a few feet from this spot, alongside the Stage Coach path.

Here is what the entrance to the park looked like mid-day on that Saturday right before Labor Day weekend. There were no lines at the ticket booths either. Maybe it was/is the economy.

A close-up shot of the grill work over the entrance....boysenberries!

This next photo shows where the original entrance once sat. I believe the entrance was moved to it's current location in 1976, about the same time the Knott's Roaring 20's Airfield opened. (Someone please correct me if it was actually the following year.) The Volcano used to sit in the area that is to the far left in this pic.

Here is what that original entrance looked like back in the early seventies. Note Gypsy Camp is listed on the sign. The Roaring 20's replaced that area of the park in 1975. This photo is used courtesy of the Orange County Archives.

Here's another current shot of the same area. That piece of wall on the far right is the last remaining section of the original wall that was put up around the farm when Knott's began charging admission back in 1968.

This opening in the wall is now boarded up with plywood, but I remember as a child looking through the bars and seeing the Wagon Camp and the miniature miner and his mule that sat atop a fountain just inside the entrance. That fountain can be seen (here) at the blog, Let's Talk Knott's, who recently did a great Knott's "Then and Now" post. I have always loved "Then and Now" photo comparisons!

If we were to turn around at this point, immediately behind us would be the former Cable Car Kitchen. This is where I spent my first two years working at the Farm. Once upon a time, the Cable Cars used to pass right by here in front of the Ice Cream Parlor and then turn and go down between the fast food counter and Virginia's Gift Shop.

First, let's take a look at how the Ice Cream Parlor appears today. These employee's were very nice and humored me when I told them how I used to work there a gazillion years ago. Well maybe not THAT long ago. The Ice Cream Parlor has had at least two remodels over the years. This current photo shows the "drop ceiling" that was added back in the nineties.

Here are a couple vintage shots (again, courtesy of the Orange County Archives) that show what the Ice Cream Parlor used to look like. The ceiling was much higher and the counter actually ran a different direction, but the doorway to the back area has remained the same....even if the actual door itself keeps changing. Also, the stools were taken out many years ago....long before I was working there.

This current shot was taken on the opposite end of the building where the Cable Car Buffet used to be located. It is currently a Cinnabon, but it has also been a Mexican Restaurant and a Mrs. Knott's Chicken Express in recent years. The California Shop used to be an indoor dining room that was once connected to the Cable Car Buffet.

Check out this next photo taken from almost the exact same spot....several decades earlier (1967.) Those trees are still standing today! And note the Cable Car tracks going right down the middle of the walkway. This photo is used with permission from Major Pepperidge of Gorillas Don't Blog. A day NEVER goes by that I don't check out the Major's great vintage photos and humorous commentary.

Here we are on the south side of the Cable Car Kitchen. This shows the Ice Cream Parlor doors on the far left and the doorway into the former Buffet (Cinnabon) on the far right. In the middle is the fast food section, which has recently been turned into a Pink's hot dog stand.

Here's another photo courtesy of Major Pepperidge, that was taken back in 1965 from the same spot. The Cable Car blocks most of the building, but if you look through the windows of the vehicle, you can just make out the word "Parlor" on the other side.

Here is another photo courtesy of the Orange County Archives (again, from the same spot.) Note how the roofline of the building has changed slightly with the addition of the "turrets." This photo shows a contest that was held to name the new restaurant before it opened in 1959. Once again, Cable Car tracks can be seen on the ground. That wonderful old tree was there for years and was only recently removed. Why? Okay, well at least it was replaced with what appears to be a Crepe Myrtle.

If we turn directly around. This is the view we would see behind us. Virginia's Gift Shop is on the left, the Chicken Dinner Restaurant is straight ahead, and the old Information Room (now a shop) is on the right.

When I first began working at Knott's, this is what sat in this spot....a cross section of a Redwood Tree that was several hundred years old. There also used to be a drinking fountain in the shape of a tree stump that sat next to it. These were both removed in 1984 during the "Knott's Marketplace" remodeling and replaced with the Pepper Tree you see above.

If we keep turning around, just a little to our right is this wonderful old tree (pictured below.) I'm not sure what kind it is, but I'm sure glad it has been allowed to live. At one time, the Cable Car Kitchen had a large popcorn wagon underneath this tree and I got to work in it from time to time. I should say I HAD to work in it because it wasn't always pleasant. Being pretty tall, I just barely fit inside of it. You were also alone out there with no way of contacting the employees in the main building. They would come out and check on you from time to time and to give you breaks, but sometimes they would forget about you. When Camp Snoopy was built in 1983, they moved the larger popcorn wagon to the new area and replaced it with a smaller version that was similar to the ones at Disneyland where the vendors stand outside of the wagon.


As a side note, I'll share a story that sticks in my mind about working in the popcorn wagon. At the end of the day, whatever popcorn was left over was NOT to be thrown out. We were informed by management that it was to be scooped up into a trash bag and brought inside the main building at night. The next morning it would be taken back out to the wagon and dumped into the popcorn bin. A fresh batch of popcorn would then be made and mixed in with the old batch from the day before. It was then sold to customers. I was only seventeen at the time, but I remember thinking, "How cheap can these people be???" It was ONLY popcorn....and it was bought in bulk...how much could it have really cost them?

If we venture away from the Cable Car Kitchen (finally, huh?) and stroll down Grand Ave.....past Virginia's and past the Chicken Dinner Restaurant, we find the Berry Market which sells Knott's jams and jellies. If we enter that shop, there's a pair of glass doors in the back that lead to a magical little area. Okay, not so magical, but for "Vintage Knott's" fans, a hidden gem. Here we find a hidden rock garden and waterfall.

Today, the area is filled mostly with Philodendron plants, but from looking at the vintage pic below, it looks like there was once a larger variety of plants including....orchids?

Just next to the gardens, is the long forgotten "Old Mill Stream" vignette. Water still flows here, but the trough is rotting away and the wooden water wheel no longer turns. That wheel laying on it's side in the forground is an old mill grinding stone.

Here is the scene in it's earlier days.

Just to the left of the "Old Mill Stream," is a recreation of George Washington's fireplace from his Mount Vernon home.

The story goes that Walter and Cordelia visited Mt. Vernon and were so impressed with the fireplace that they decided to recreate it at the Farm. If you compare the shot above with the vintage shot below, you can see that the hook is still there inside the fireplace, but without any pots or kettles. The andirons on the hearth even look like they're the same! Nobody's removed them after all these years?

Well, it's time to leave the Farm for now. As we drive away, we pass the corner of Crescent Avenue and Beach Boulevard, where Henry's Auto Livery once sat.

Here's a photo taken by my dad in the sevenites of my brother driving one of the antique autos. I think I'm in the car that's way off in the distance. Beach Boulevard can be seen over to the right on the other side of that hedge. I miss this attraction....and the Cable Cars....and the Lagoon attractions across the street....and the Volcano.....and Knott's Berry Tales.....and the parachutes....oh, and the Cycle Chase. I wish I had taken more pics while I was working there!

Okay we're almost done for today. This has been my longest post ever....even longer than my Mickey Mouse Revue posts and my previous Knott's From The Air Post. I will just leave you with these last two photos. The first one shows what currently sits directly across the way from where Henry's Auto Livery once sat........

.....and this next photo shows what used to sit on that same spot. I remember many trips to Knott's ending with us stopping at this Sambo's restaurant across the street on our way home. (The restaurant later became a Baker's Square...."Come for the food, stay for the pie!") This photo was borrowed and used with permission from Synthetrix.com. Check out his site for incredible vintage postcards and personal photos.

I will try to do a similar post in the future (but maybe shorter) on a few of the buildings in Ghost Town.


outsidetheberm said...

Wow, you need to bottle that ambition! Impressive post. Thanks so much.

Daveland said...

Excellent post - gets me fired up for the 18th!

Dan Alexander said...

Wow, what a post!!!

I really want to visit Knott's (I'm sure it's not really the same these days, but I still want to check it out).

Let's Talk Knott's said...

Super Post! Glad to see that someone else appreciates that little piece of wall that is left near the old entrance.

Vintage Disneyland Tickets said...

WOW!!!! Dave is right, I'm fired up too!

This post is perfect for the upcoming event, I'm going to study it for the next week :-)


...But It Wasn't Always That Way! said...

Let's so eat at Sambo's! Time machine...!!!

TokyoMagic! said...

BIWATW, I just recently discovered that the original Sambo's Restaurant is still open and run by the grandson of the original owner. Unfortunately, it's up in Santa Barbara and it doesn't look like the Sambo's that I remember around here in So. California....I'm not sure if it's was remodeled at some point or not.