Throughout our entire trip there was lots of yelling “I’m pulling over!” or “Pull over!” depending on who was driving. Sometimes it was quite frantic. I have been called “dramatic” at times. But I just can’t help myself when I see a good vintage neon sign! And boy were there a lot of good ones! Some were attached to businesses still operating, others abandoned. So, in my last road trip post I share a collection of all of the gorgeous signs we saw, plus a few images of their accompanying buildings if the were pretty neat looking too!
When it comes to my passion for photographing abandoned Americana, my love really is with places from the mid-20th century or older. However any place that is abandoned I’ll check out, even if it was abandoned just thirteen years ago, which is the case with Lake Dolores’ Rock-a-Hoola Waterpark off Interstate 15 in Newberry Springs.
Originally, the area around Lake Dolores was a private resort, but opened to the public in 1962. By 1998, it had new owners, and a massive remodel, which added the Rock-a-Hoola Waterpark with the most horrendous and gaudy “retro” theme, which ended up looking like a that 1980s vision throwback to the 1950s. You can check out a video of what it once looked like here, now it has been overrun by graffiti, and I was able to only locate one spot that featured the original “Rock-a-Hoola” text. The park closed in 2004.
Today, a hill looms high with nothing but oddly foreboding supports from the long disappeared waterslides over tag ridded buildings that continue to fade and decay in the hot Mojave sun.
I took loads of photos, so gear up for a pretty picture heavy post!
After visiting Corriganville, Patrick and I headed to Valley Relics Museum. Valley Relics is a museum dedicated to preserving the history of the San Fernando Valley, with a wide array of wonderful and impressive artifacts from businesses from the San Fernando Valley, including a fantastic collection of vintage ashtrays, ephemera, neon signs, and more. And when Patrick told me they had some items belonging to western wear legend, Nudie Cohn, I was even more excited to visit!
The Palomino sign was quite impressive and one of my favorite pieces, as it was where many country-western legends performed, including Johnny Cash, Buck Owens, Patsy Cline, and personal favorite, The Flying Burrito Brothers.
Valley Relics is located in Chatsworth, about 33 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles. It is only open on Saturdays, from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm, and is free to visit, but donations are always happily accepted.
Over the weekend Patrick and I visited Corriganville Park, the former location of Corriganville, a western backlot and amusement park of sorts from 1949 to 1965.
Corriganville was built by movie and TV actor Ray Bernard, but better known as Crash Corrigan. After going on a hunting trip in Simi Valley with fellow actor, Clark Gable, in 1935, Corrigan fell in love with the area. In 1937, Corrigan purchased over 1,000 acres of land, and built his home there. He eventually went on to build an entire western backlot, dubbed Silvertown, and many films and TV showers were filmed there, including Fort Apache, The Bandit of Sherwood Forest, How the West was Won, Lassie, The Lone Ranger, Gunsmoke, and more. In 1949 Corrigan decided to open his backlot to the public, and the area turned into an amusement park on weekends, while still being a fully functioning backlot during the week. Think of it like a blend of Knott’s Berry Farm and Universal Studios.
He also allowed film crews to build their own sets, as long as they left them standing after filming, which is how the area got a “Corsican Village” after Howard Hughes’ 1950 film Vendetta.
After selling Corriganville in 1965 to Bob Hope, the area suffered two fires, one in 1971 and another in 1979, leaving almost nothing standing. Today, Corriganville is a park, and visitors can walk among the concrete foundations and visit what remains of a man-made lake that was originally used for the Jungle Jim series, but was used in for a variety of films, including Creature from the Black Lagoon and The African Queen, as it featured a camera house built under a bridge with thick glass windows, allowing for underwater filming.
Continue reading for images of the remains of Corriganville, postcards of what it looked like, and more!
Recently I found out that another SoCal institution will only be a memory, the Fun Factory at the Redondo Beach Pier, which has been an oceanside attraction since 1972. Much like Gill’s in my last post, I can claim no fond memories of birthday parties spent running around playing the dozens of arcade games or countless rides on its indoor tilt-a-whirl, but some of my friends do.
If there was ever a place that made me feel like I was in an episode of The Twilight Zone, this place is it. Inside Fun Factory you will find a games ranging from an original Pong console to slightly newer things like Dance Dance Revolution, with everything in between. The place is decorated with a massive collection of old signage, from gorgeous old hand painted menus to political signs and other random things, like bicycles and dusty old piñatas. And what can you win with all of the tickets you get? Everything from a little doll to kitchen gadgets to art prints and even mystery boxes filled with the most random assortment of items. It’s just plain bizarre.
It’s unclear just when Fun Factory will shut its doors for good, as it recently negotiated with the City Council, and simply came to the agreement that it must vacate within the next three years. What will take its place? A new shopping center. I am eager to know if there will be an auction, as I would love to own some of the signs that cover the walls and ceiling.
Being the fan of westerns that I am, I was immediately taken in by the new HBO incarnation of Westworld. Even though I enjoyed the original 1973 film, it wasn’t without its flaws, which is why I was open to a new take on it, and I can say the show did not let me down, and ended its first season with me begging for more. Parts of the show, including its jaw-dropping finale were filmed at the very accessible Paramount Ranch (which we visited before, back in 2015, you can view that post here) so I felt it was time for a revisit! I also took along my friend, Kaitlyn, also a fan of the show, who had never visited Paramount Ranch before.
If you didn’t read my previous post on Paramount Ranch, but are familiar with the 1990s TV show Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman, then this will look very familiar, as it was used for Colorado Springs. It was also used in the sci-fi sudo-western, Firefly.
Between our first visit and this one, little changed, with the exception of fresh paint and the addition of the church, which was used in Westworld, and I was delighted to find still there.
Keep reading for more images of Paramount Ranch!