Knott’s Preserved

By now it’s no secret I have fallen head over cowboy boots in love with Knott’s Berry Farm. The literal farm turned theme park has one of the most unique, interesting, and classic American dream stories that there is. The book that helps tell that story best is Knott’s Preserved: From Boysenberry to Theme Park, the History of Knott’s Berry Farm.

With extensive research, interviews, and massive collection of vintage photographs and ephemera, co-authors Christopher Merritt and J. Eric Lynxwiler, weave a tapestry of berries, chicken, and a sudden theme park that sprung up as a result.

Walter Knott, along with his wife Cordelia, began their small berry farm in Buena Park in the 1920s, and eventually Knott cultivated an unnamed berry he acquired from Rudolph Boysen, who had long given up on the hybrid of blackberry, red raspberry, and loganberry. Walter took the plant and nurtured it, and soon it was producing large berries that were rich in flavor. Knott chose to name the berry the boysenberry, after Rudolph Boysen. Walter sold berries and other fruit from a small roadside stand, and a tea room was added where Cordelia sold sandwiches, rolls, jam, and fresh berry pie. It was really a family operation, as the Knott children helped in making the pies. When the Great Depression arrived, the Knott family looked for a way to raise their income, and one night in June of 1934 Cordelia did something that would change their lives and the southern California landscape forever, she made fried chicken.

Word spread that this was the best fried chicken, and very soon Cordelia’s Tea Room had regular customers, and long lines. Soon one of the Knott daughters, Virginia, began selling small gifts from a card table in the lobby to aid both income and in entertaining people awaiting tables, and in 1938, just four years after serving the first dinner, the restaurant saw its first expansion, and Virginia got her very own gift shop, which still bears her name to this day.

But guests were having to wait a rather long time to be seated. And Walter wanted to entertain them. With volcanic rock he ordered from Death Valley, Walter built a waterfall for guests to enjoy while waiting. He quickly followed up that project with another, a millstone vignette, where guests waiting were encouraged to sing “Down by the Old Mill Stream”. Then inspired by a trip to Mount Vernon, Walter recreated George Washington’s fireplace. These were the first “attractions” Walter built to entertain customers waiting to be seated, and guess what, these three attractions are still at Knott’s Berry Farm, and free to the public. They are also something I have wanted to share for awhile, and this book offers a nice way to introduce them.

Today, tucked behind the Berry Market (which is part of the larger Marketplace shopping center just outside the main gates of Knott’s Berry Farm) you can still find these three original attractions. So if you stop in for a bite at Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant, be sure visit these hidden treasures.

But these small things couldn’t entertain the thousands that were flocking for a taste of Cordelia’s chicken, sometimes waiting over three hours, and soon Walter got the idea to pay homage to his grandmother, who came to California in a covered wagon. In 1940, construction began on what would become the Gold Trails Hotel, and would house a unique diorama depicting a wagon heading west. From this, Walter thought he needed more western buildings to give frame and context to the Gold Trails Hotel, and soon a real life Ghost Town sprung up! Here, guests could spent time as they waited for their tables at the Chicken Dinner Restaurant.

Soon Walter’s Ghost Town grew to have a life of its own, and buildings continued to be added, some of which were real buildings that he relocated to the property, others were built. Some of these buildings were called “peek-ins” as guests could literally peek in through the window and see a scene, like a barber giving a shave or card game being played at the sheriff’s office. These peek-ins were followed by panning for gold, a real antique train guests could ride, and before Walter Knott knew it, he had a full fledge them park. What is so wonderful is that Knott’s Preserved offers a perfect commentary on how each attraction was developed and added, and how the Farm had to change with the times, including stories I had never heard before. It also discusses the many hard working people who joined the Knott family with their project, including the self-taught wood-carver Andy Anderson who bought so many of the original peek-in characters to life, and artist Paul Von Klieben who designed buildings, painted gorgeous images for various locations, including the awe inspiring Transfiguration, which you can see and read about in my post about the Knott’s Berry Farm auction.

People came from all over southern California to visit. Patrick’s grandmother originally hailed from Nebraska before moving to California, and after marrying an Italian immigrant, she stuck to cooking Italian food for her family, but every once in awhile the family traveled to Buena Park from Burbank just for fried chicken and so she wouldn’t have to cook. My dad recalls visiting often (although from the much closer town of Downey), and I am lucky enough to have a handful of photographs from his visits (which I’m planning to share in a vintage Knott’s Berry Farm photograph post).  And stories like these aren’t at all uncommon as Knott’s Preserved shares.

Knott’s Preserved beautifully describes the path of Knott’s Berry Farm from its first steps as a simple farm, through the development of Ghost Town, and the later themed “land” and ride additions were made, not all of which were successful. I learned so much about the Knott family, long forgotten attractions, unrealized attractions, and how the Farm grew into what it is today, including the origins of Knott’s Scary Farm in 1973, and the unique addition of the Peanuts Gang in 1982.

For some, Knott’s Preserved will be a walk down memory lane, for others, like myself, it offers a wonderful glimpse into what Knott’s Berry Farm was once like. It is something any person interested in Knott’s Berry Farm should read.

Knott’s Preserved is available for purchase at Knott’s Berry Farm, both at stores inside the park, as well as Virginia’s in the Marketplace. It is also available for purchase through the the publisher’s website.

Disclaimer: I was not approached by the authors, publishers, or any employee of Knott’s Berry Farm to do a review Knott’s Preserved. I wrote this review of my own accord.

Vintage Reno Signs

I literally took thousands of photos on our road trip, 3322 to be exact. Most were of abandoned buildings and killer vintage signs, which are my two favorite things to photograph, and our road trip was full of them! So much so my photos are coming to you in three, yes, three, separate posts! First up I’m sharing the sights of Reno! Now, if you follow me on Instagram and checked out any of my stories while we were on the road, you may have seen me fawning all over some of these signs, and I am so happy to finally share them with you in all of their glory in this post!

Most of the signs you’ll see are from motels, and I’ve even included some images of the actual buildings if the building was cool too!

If you liked this, there will be another signage post in the near future! So stay tuned!

The Neon Museum

If you only go to one museum in Las Vegas, it should be the Neon Museum. The Neon Museum is rich in what made Las Vegas famous – neon. That spectacular glow of gases swirling inside glass made the lure of Las Vegas so bright and people flocked. Sadly though, over the years, many motels, hotels, casinos, and businesses have either bit the dust or “updated” their signage. But thankfully some of that signage is laid to rest in the “Neon Boneyard”.

The Neon Museum doesn’t just let these old signs sit out, they are also actively restoring their signs, slowly, one at a time. The Neon Museum offers both daytime and nighttime tours, and Patrick and I did both during our stay in Vegas, so we got to see the restored signs lit up. You’ll see a combination of both visits throughout the post.

The Neon Museum is a photographer’s dream, and I took hundreds of photos! And even though I narrowed it down, it was still quite a lot!

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Knott’s Auction

Late last week, Knott’s Berry Farm auctioned off a wide array of items that once dotted the famed amusement park. From paintings to coin-op amusements to animatronics to even a covered wagon, fans of Knott’s could view the items prior to the auction, then try their luck at bidding in the live auction.

We attended both the preview and the auction, because some of the items were incredible pieces of history, including items from attractions long since gone. But since I know most of you come here for my outfit posts, I’ll first share with y’all what I wore to the auction, followed by image of the items, and share with you what some of those amazing pieces went for!

I actually made this Knott’s Berry Farm themed parasol last summer, for those hot days during Ghost Town Alive, but it somehow manage to never get photographed!

Keep reading to see images from the auction!

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Greetings from Portland

Patrick and I are in Portland for a couple of days for his work, and I tagged along to spend some time with friends, see my dad, and do a bit of shopping. I felt it was a perfect opportunity to share more of my vintage postcard collection! This time I bring you vintage Portland postcards!

I can’t help but say that I fee like these postcards totally lie about what the sky looks like in Portland! It’s not blue with little fluffy clouds. It’s more just grey…because the sky is just full of clouds! Seeing blue sky is a rarity in Portland, and when you do, you instantly think the city had a population boom! Even as I type, it’s grey out, with a chance of rain.

Anyway, I’m off to shop!

Other Vintage Postcard Posts
Los Angeles
Palm Springs

Corriganville

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!

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Palm Springs Postcards

Eons ago I shared a selection of vintage Los Angeles postcards I had collected over the years, mentioned it would be a series, sharing other vintage postcards from my collection. Well, here we are well over a year later and I am finally going to share some more gems with you! I decided to share vintage Palm Springs postcards, as Patrick and I just returned from there, after spending the weekend for some of the Modernism Week events, and I don’t have anything to show for it! So vintage postcards it is!

One of my favorite areas in Palm Springs is La Plaza, a shopping center from the 1930s located in the heart of Palm Springs.

Here are some bonuses regarding La Plaza. I snapped these enlargements of articles and pamphlets during my 2013 visit to Palm Springs. Click to enlarge them and read what La Plaza offered in the 1930s and 40s.

To see what La Plaza looks like these days, check out the following posts.
La Plaza
La Plaza Dos
Out and About in Palm Springs

I’ll end with two postcards from Smoke Tree Ranch.

Smoke Tree Ranch is made up of privately owned homes, as well as rentals for getaways and facilities for events. One of its most notable frequenters was Walt Disney. Walt loved Smoke Tree Ranch, and could often be spotted sporting a tie featuring the Smoke Tree Ranch brand embroidered on it. In fact so frequent was it, when the first Partners statue (the statue of Walt and Mickey) was created for Disneyland Park in 1993, the brand was placed on the tie. Look for it next time you visit the Disneyland Resort. You can read more about Walt and Smoke Tree Ranch here.

I hope you enjoyed! Hopefully it won’t be over a year between this and my next vintage postcard post!

Other Vintage Postcard Posts
Los Angeles
Portland