Saturday, March 24, 2012

Knott's Berry Farm - New Hire Stuff & The Giant Chicken!

Thirty years ago today, I had my employee orientation at Knott's Berry Farm! Having been hired just one week earlier, I had been scheduled for the employee orientation as well as two "cash handling" training sessions. The employee orientation was held in an auditorium that is located on the second floor of Independence Hall.

This staircase leads up to the entrance of the auditorium. A film was shown about the history of Knott's and afterwards, we were assigned to an employee "tour guide" and taken on a tour of the park.

This is my name tag that I was given to wear during the orientation. We hadn't been issued our official name badges yet, so we wore these stickers......and yes, I have saved it all these years. If you read my "I Was A Teenage Christmas Tree At Disneyland" post from December 2010, then you might remember that I also saved the "new hire" items from my short stint at Disneyland as well.

A week after the employee orientation, I had my cash handling training which was held in the Conference Room building that sits adjacent to Independence Hall. It was a two-day training session and on the first day, I stood outside of the locked building with three fellow new-hires waiting for our trainer to show up, but she never did. Oh, and it was pouring down rain! It was a weekday in the "off-season" and the entire Knott's Lagoon and Independence Hall area was abandoned and kind of creepy. As the sun went down, we waited in the rain (and the dark) wondering how long we should stay there. I don't remember how much time passed before we finally decided to go across the street to the Cable Car Kitchen, which was the location we had been hired for. As it turned out, our trainer had completely forgotten that she even had a training class that day. She showed up for our second day and had to cram everything into one session! Having already been through the employee orientation process at Disneyland, I remember that I kept thinking, "This would NEVER happen at Disneyland!"

If I remember correctly, the Knott Family used to have their board meetings in that Conference Room building. And speaking of the Knott Family, shortly after being hired, this welcome card arrived in the mail.

Here's a small booklet that was given out to Food Service employees. The inside shows the exact date of my employee orientation, the cash handling training classes, and my first day of work which happened to be the first day of Easter Vacation/Spring Break that year.

This card was given to new employees to show them where they were allowed to park. Over the years, most of these areas eventually became restricted and everyone was expected to park in the Employee Lot/School Lot across Western Ave.

So thirty years to the exact day of my Knott's employee orientation, I found myself going to Knott's to see Jay Jennings' "The Art of Knott's Berry Farm" photo exhibit. On my way there, I was delayed by one of the park's stagecoaches as it was en route to the stagecoach barn across La Palma Ave.

The exhibit was held in one of the banquet rooms of the Chicken Dinner Restaurant.

Here's Jay Jennings presenting Dean Davisson with one of his 1950's-inspired black and white photographs. Mr. Davisson was the head of Knott's public relations department from 1958 to 1976.

I took this next photo as I passed by the front of the Chicken Dinner Restaruant. Do you notice anything missing?

The giant chicken is gone! I noticed it was missing a couple months ago. I know it wasn't original to the Farm....and it wasn't even there back in the eighties when I was working at Knott's, but it was one addition that I never minded.

I'm guessing that this sculpture was a real vintage roadside sign that Knott's acquired within the last 20 years or so. Does anyone know where it came from originally? I'm hoping it was just placed into storage and that it wasn't tossed out!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Sky Cabin At Knott's Reopens! - Part 6

After a slight break, it's now time for more "then and now" photos taken from the Sky Cabin high above Knott's Berry Farm. Hey looky to the photo of the Sky's Greased Lightening! Remember that attraction?

Today, we are looking in a southern direction. This is the current view.

And through the magic of Major Pepperidge's time machine, we can take in the same view as it appeared in 1977. That round structure in the lower right corner of this first pic was the Whirlwind attraction (later replaced by Greased Lightening).

Here's the current pic again, but with some of the sights highlighted. I mention them often, and there they are....the Haunted Shack (circled in red) and Knott's Berry Tales (circled in yellow). The property that the Haunted Shack used to sit on is now the location of the Screamin' Swing, an up-charge thrill attraction (meaning it's not included in the price of admission). The old Knott's Bear-y Tales/Kingdom of the Dinosaurs space is unfortunately not being used at this time, but it's just begging for a new dark ride!

The Buena Park Hotel can be seen off in the distance (circled in blue). The hotel was purchased by Knott's in 1998 and is now called the Knott's Berry Farm Hotel. The white circle is around a section of the Knott's parking lot that for years was just an empty field. I remember hearing a story when I worked at Knott's, that some guy owned the property and had been feuding with the Knott Family for years and refused to sell it to them....but then as soon as he died, his family did just that. Maybe that was only an urban myth. I think I remember hearing something very similar about the guy that used to own the strawberry field down the street from Disneyland (now the Toy Story parking lot and supposedly the future site of Disney's "third gate" in Anaheim.) Does anyone out there know the truth about these pieces of property?

The Calico Mine Train's show building can be seen on the left (circled in orange). The side facing the Roaring 20's was once themed to look like a vintage bath house. Here's a shot of the sign that used to hang on on the backside of the show building.

The Charleston Circle fountain can be seen circled in pink. This fountain was actually a movie prop that was used in the film, "Hello Dolly." When it was first installed at Knott's, it was not a working fountain and it's base was just a planter.

In the eighties, someone got the idea to have it actually function as a fountain. Note the water on the ground in the photo below. At first, Knott's did not make the pool below big enough and water constantly splashed all over. Some time later, a larger basin was built to correct the problem.

This is how the fountain appeared a few months ago, but the last time I went to Knott's, this area was under construction and it looked like the trees had been removed and replaced with smaller ones. That's a Johnny Rockets visible in the background. It opened in 2006 in the space formerly occupied by the old Lindy's hot dog stand and also a portion of the Buffalo Nickel Arcade.

The area circled in green in the vintage photo is the old Starlight Pavilion stage. In 1986, this area was converted to Pacific Pavilion and a pool was built in front of it that featured "Dancing Dolphins" and "Diving Doggies."

Today the area is part of the Perilous Plunge attraction. Geez, that ride has to be one of biggest eyesores at Knott's! I would trade it in a heartbeat for the Whirlwind/Greased Lightening and Propeller Spin/Whirlpool attractions that used to sit in it's spot.....along with the small grove of palm trees that used to exist just to the right of the Starlight Pavilion.

The purple circle (just below the hotel) is around the old Knott's Preserving Kitchen. This building sits in the backstage area, but was converted to office space when a new preserving plant was built in Placentia in the eighties. That newer plant is still producing jams and jellies under the Knott's Berry Farm name, but it is now owned by the J.M. Smucker Co.

And finally, the area circled in black in the photos, is the site of Lakeside Terrace, an employee restaurant that was built in 1982 on the land between the Cloud 9 Ballroom and the Calico Mine Train. This article from the employee publication, "The Berry Vine", talks about a contest to name the new "Employee Dining Room" and shows an artist's rendering of the exterior.

This photo appeared in an issue of "The Berry Vine" one month later. There was originally a patio/balcony outside the dining room where you could sit, eat your lunch and enjoy a view of the Corkscrew going by over the lake below. It was pretty nice. Unfortunately, the balcony has since been demolished. The floor to ceiling windows are still there, but I would really like to know why they got rid of that balcony. Also, I've heard from a current Knott's employee that the restaurant inside closed years ago, leaving only vending machines available to the employees for breaks and lunches. This person also informed me that the tables inside are always covered thick with trash and that nobody clears them off. Nice! Who made that decision to neglect something that was built to benefit the employees?

This is how the building appears today. It's not the most attractive piece of architecture, but it did look nicer with it's awning-covered balcony. When the Corkscrew was removed, the lake below also disappeared and was eventually replaced with remote control cars. Maybe they should change the name of the building from Lakeside Terrace to Roadside Terrace? Hall Of Vending Machines? The Big Ugly Gray Box?

There will be one more part to this series, which will include some miscellaneous views from high above Knott's!

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Sky Cabin At Knott's Reopens! - Part 5

Today we are STILL riding aboard the newly reopened Sky Cabin at Knott's Berry Farm! This vintage shot of the Sky Cabin is used here courtesy of the Orange County Archives.

We are now looking in a northeastern direction. The sun is behind us at this point and it's casting some pretty long shadows. In fact, if you look closely, you can see the shadow of the Sky Cabin and it's twenty-story tower being cast across La Palma Avenue (just to the left of the center of the pic).

Here are two more 1977 pics from Major Pepperidge's collection.

I've circled some more points of interest. The green circle is around the old California Alligator Farm site. Knott's bought this property after it closed down and it is now used for overflow parking.

In the vintage photos, the Alligator Farm property can be seen with a fence around it. Just to the right of that (not circled) is the old Cottage Pottery shop that used to be at the corner of Beach Blvd. and La Palma Ave. Does anyone remember that? Claim Jumper's restaurant sits on that corner today. I've circled the Galloping Goose railcar and one of the Gasoline Alley cars in blue, but we saw a close-up look at them in yesterday's post.

It will be difficult to see due to the shadows and trees, but the red circle is around the old brick arches that still stand along La Palma Ave. Did I hear someone say, "What brick arches?" Well, we will take a closer look at them in just a minute.

The yellow and the purple circles are around two former Home Savings and Loan locations. We'll be taking a more detailed look at them as well.

First, here are a couple souvenirs from the old Alligator Farm. This was a Southern California attraction that unfortunately I never made it to, but I do remember the large Alligator sign that used be out near the street. I would love to find an old picture of it!

According to Wikipedia, the Alligator Farm was originally located in a Lincoln Heights neighborhood in Los Angeles, next door to the Los Angeles Ostrich Farm. It opened in 1907 and was moved to Buena Park in 1953. It closed in 1984 due to a drop in attendance and the alligators were relocated to a private estate in Florida.

These are the brick arches mentioned earlier. They aren't that easy to find in the park. They are visible when riding the Stagecoach......

....or when riding the Dragon Swing!

This piece of architecture has a long history at Knott's as seen in this vintage photo used here courtesy of the Orange County Archives. Note the old sign for the Alligator Farm on the fence across the street. The trees behind the arches seemed to have survived at least until the 1977 photos were taken, but have since been cut down.

Now we'll look at a couple structures across the street from Knott's. The building that was circled in purple in the aerial shots was the first of two Home Savings and Loans built at the intersection of Beach Blvd. and La Palma Ave. Home Savings and Loan was an institution that was known for incorporating artwork into the design of their buildings.

Let's take a closer look at the mural above the entrance.

The yellow circle in the aerial pics was highlighting the property just across the street. In the late seventies, Home Savings and Loan moved out of their original location on the southeastern corner of the intersection and into a larger building on the northeastern corner. In fact, if you look at the pics from 1977, the lot is being cleared and prepared for construction. Today, Chase has moved into the newer building after acquiring it from Washington Mutual. And look, there's IHOP sitting right next door just as it did in 1977.

We'll zoom in closer on the mosaic above the entrance. The subject of this mural happens to be Knott's Berry Farm! Who knew?

An even closer look reveals the detail. This particular mural is the work of artists Susan Hertel and Denis O' Connor.

We will end today with this small photo. It's a close up of the old Buena Park Mall sign and it can be seen off in the distance (circled in pink) in one of the vintage aerial pics. The mall was built in 1961 and for years the sign read "BPC" which stood for "Buena Park Center." I believe it was in the late seventies that it was changed to "BPM" for "Buena Park Mall" after a roof had been built over the outdoor shopping center. The sign has since been torn down and the name of the mall has changed once again to "Buena Park Downtown." Couldn't they have left this cool mid-century modern sign and just swapped the "M" for a "D"? I stopped by the mall a few months ago for the first time in over twenty years and found it to be in pretty sad shape. I took some photos of the interior and will possibly include them in a future post.