Nostalgia Corner (Also, the Missed Knott’s-Disney Love Connection)

Kevin here, again.  It’ll only be a little while longer until Shelby comes back home from Vermont and starts producing hot and fresh content for your delectation (yes, yes, you’ve been reading her posts this week — she wrote them before she left and put them away to be republished later, like carefully-wrapped casseroles in the freezer).  Until then, here’s a mini-post from me.

Last week, Theo and I spent four days up in our local mountains at my grandparents’ vacation cabin.  Like any vacation home worth its salt, the cabin has a stash of ancient National Geographic magazines — emergency intellectual nourishment, I suppose, to be read after you’ve exhausted all other possible options.  (The literary equivalent of those 2004-vintage cans of Dinty Moore stew that are in our garden shed earthquake kit.)

One issue is of particular interest to fans of Disney and Disneyland: August, 1963.  This issue is basically a love letter to the Walt Disney Corporation, with pages and pages devoted to activities at the Studios and Disney’s relatively new theme park, Disneyland.  The reader gets a National Geographic-quality photo tour of the park.  Coming attractions, like the Tiki Room and Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, are introduced.  Things that are now commonplace cultural knowledge have to be explained (“Sprouting mouse ears testify that this young Disneylander is a Mousketeer, a fan of Mickey’s”).

At the end of the article, the author asks Walt “What happens when there is no more Walt Disney?”  Walt essentially dismisses the thought, saying that while he’s handing over more responsibility to others, he’s “61.  I’ve got everything I started out with except my tonsils, and that’s above average.  I plan to be around for a while.”  Since we know now that Walt would die of lung cancer just three years after this article was written, this brings the piece to a bittersweet close.

The “Modern Mechanix” blog has scanned in all of this giant fifty-page article, in three parts:  One, Two, and Three.  Part two contains a particularly nice fold-out map of 1963-era Disneyland.

Two ads elsewhere in the magazine caught my eye:

The Disneyland Hotel -- This IS Southern California (Click for a larger version)

The Disneyland Hotel has had the same basic appearance for my entire life; much like Disneyland itself, it’s hard to think of a time when it was actually brand-new.

PLAY and LIVE in ANAHEIM -- home of Disneyland! (Click for a larger version)

Living in Anaheim, you pretty often hear it referred to pejoratively (Anacrime, Anaslime, etc., etc.) by the kind of people who prefer the spic-and-span planned communities of South Orange County.  While I quite like our town, even I think of it as ‘old’, probably because we live in our 1920s house in the historic Anaheim Colony (founded by German immigrants in 1857) area downtown.  So, it’s a little mind-bending to see it advertised nationally as the progressive and balanced (and atom-powered, no doubt) City of Tomorrow.

The Knott’s-Disney Connection That Almost Was:  I can’t believe that I forgot to mention this in my article on Knott’s Berry Farm.  In the days of Walt Disney and Walter Knott, there was a spirit of friendly competition between Knott’s and Disneyland, with each man visiting the other’s park to check up on the latest developments.  In the 1990s, the two parks almost became much closer, joining the same family in a theme-park version of The Brady Bunch.  Essentially, the story is this: before developing California Adventure, Disney was exploring ideas for a “second gate” in the Orange County/Los Angeles area.  At the same time, the Knott family was looking for a buyer for their amusement park.  In response to both of these, Disney’s Imagineering staff came up with an idea for how Knott’s could be rethemed and expanded into “Disney’s America”.  In the end, the deal was scuttled because of logistical issues (how to move thousands of people between Anaheim and Buena Park?), Disney execs not wanting to refurbish someone else’s dirty ‘ol park, and (O the irony) the Knott heirs’ fear that Disney’s retheming would wipe out their parents’ legacy.  You can read more about “Disney’s America” here.

Not-Disney: Knott’s Berry Farm

Guest Post Alert:  Hi, everyone — I’m Kevin!  Careful readers of this blog already know me as Shelby’s husband, or “that guy in the background who’s holding up Theo in some of the pictures”.  Since I’m not Shelby, I’ll be writing about something that’s not Disney: Knott’s Berry Farm.

Knott's Berry Farm front gate

People who live in Southern California are stewing in year-round amusement parks.  Within a few hours’ drive, there are FOUR major choices: the Disneyland Resort, Knott’s Berry Farm, Universal Studios, and Six Flags Magic Mountain.  If that’s not enough, there are smaller local parks, like Adventure City in Anaheim or Castle Park in Riverside.  (Growing up in that atmosphere, imagine my surprise when I moved to San Jose after college to find that there was only one local park  — Great America — and that it was CLOSED much of the year for something called the ‘off season’.)

With all of those choices, as a kid, I went to Knott’s most often.  I think that there were three big reasons:

  1. It was cheap.  Not only were normally-priced Knott’s passes cheaper than Disneyland, it seemed that every other can of soda came with a $5 off coupon, or that there was always a grocery store running a discount-ticket promotion.  This made it much easier to wheedle a birthday or Christmas trip to Knott’s — and bring a friend along!  Later, when I was working on summer camp staff and getting paid a $250 ‘honorarium’ for the entire summer, there was no question which park we were going to for our end-of-summer blowout.
  2. It was my Mom’s park.  Growing up before the park was fenced (in 1968, to keep the hippies out — yes, really) and charged an admission fee, my Mom had fond memories of riding her bike to Knott’s and paying a quarter to ride the cool indoor rides on hot summer days.
  3. There were lots of things for kids to do.  When I was little, there was an admission-free ‘lagoon’ across the street from Knott’s — you could pay a pittance to ride a merry-go-round, a miniature steam train, or take a paddlewheel boat around the lake.  In the center of the lake was an adventure playground, with all kinds of imaginatively-carved wooden animals and play structures.  In 1983, Knott’s built Camp Snoopy, a kid-oriented, Snoopy-themed section of the park that was Valhalla for a Snoopy-loving kid like me.  (And — ahem — they simultaneously bulldozed the lagoon to make up for the parking lot that they lost when they built Camp Snoopy.  You can’t have everything, I guess.)  We collected a double set of McDonald’s Camp Snoopy glasses.  I salivated in front of the TV commercials until I got my chance to go for the first time.

Years later, we go to Knott’s for the same reasons.  It’s still cheap — next year, when Theo is 3 and no longer gets a free ride, we can buy a family set of Knott’s passes for the cost of one Disneyland annual passport.  Knott’s is now ‘my’ park, with years of warm fuzzy memories.  And while Theo frequently wakes up asking to “see Snoopy” (that is, go to Knott’s and see Snoopy), he’s never asked to go see Mickey Mouse.

But yet, Knott’s leaves me feeling conflicted.  For while on trips to Disneyland, Shelby often gets to listen to me complain about Disneyland tearing out the Skyway and the Motor Boat Cruise, Knott’s is screwing with my memories on a far grander scale.

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