KNOTT what it seems

This post is a companion piece to this week’s Sepia Saturday post at Tattered and Lost Vernacular Photography.

The following images are all from Knott’s Berry Farm located in Buena Park, California.

I first went to Knott’s Berry Farm in the early 1950s, before Disneyland was even open. I have two vivid memories; one involved the train, the second involved the jail.

This lovely old train was one of the few rides in the park. I don’t remember why only my mother and I went on it, but I can tell you I was screaming at the top of my lungs before it was over. Everything seemed to be fine and dandy as the train moved around the park grounds. And then THEY came aboard with guns drawn, kerchief masks over the faces. They were train robbers and I thought it was all very real. I was terrified as they came down the aisle demanding our valuables. I don’t know how my mother got me calmed down, but we forever remembered that ride.

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The second memory involves my grandfather and the trick he played on me. Behind some old buildings on the main street is the old jail. You walk up a wooden sidewalk and look inside to see the poor fellow below. Again, I was a little girl, probably around 4 or 5. Imagine my surprise when I looked through the jail house door window and the prisoner, Sad Eye Joe, started talking to me, using my name. How could he possibly know who I was? My folks stood by laughing. I was creeped out. And for some reason my grandfather was no where to be found. It wasn’t until I was older that my folks let me in on the “secret.” Anyone could go to the building in front of the jail and give a man the name of someone who was approaching the jail door. Then this fellow would start talking into a microphone as you looked in the door. I got to finally do it to a friend in the early ‘70s. She was old enough to know the dummy was not talking, but it took her awhile to figure out how it had happened. I have a photo of her peeking through the door. I just wish I had a photo of the look on her face when she turned around.

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I haven’t been to Knott’s Berry Farm in a very long time. I have such good memories of how it used to be before it became just another park with rides. It was a gem when life was slower. Chickens roamed around the parking lot, long lines of people waited to eat in the chicken restaurant (not to go on rides), and just walking up and down the dirt covered streets with the old buildings was an adventure. As to the parking lot chickens…I have no idea if the lot was searched each night for road kill to serve the next day at the chicken restaurant.

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  1. Wow. You have all my same memories. You really brought me back with your descriptions of the scary train ride and the jail. Knotts berry farm is not at all how we remember it. Such a shame. Oh and what about panning for gold?

  2. That prisoner speaking my name would have me running away very fast. I wonder why some adults think it’s funny to scare small children in this way. It could all have been avoided with a little explanation beforehand too. Lovely stories.

  3. What a wonderful post full of memories. I would have been freaked out too, if I had been involved in that train robbery reenactment! Great story about the jail too.

    We went to Knott's Berry Farm in 1978 as part of our honeymoon trip to CA. I barely remember it though. I do remember that most of the rides in Disneyland were closed down for refurbishing. I guess that is what happens when you get married in January.

  4. I was an easily frightened child with a very vivid imagination. I don't even want to tell you what the story "Peter and the Wolf" did to me.

    Oh yes, the panning for gold! And the wonderful building that was full of doll houses. One little house even had a tiny working tv.

    And buying candy at the general store was always fun.

  5. What a funny bunch of memories. I've never been to Knotts Berry Farm but I've had their jelly -- does that count? (Are they the same people??)

  6. Yup, same jam. It used to be when you went in for the chicken dinner you got hot biscuits and a big pot of jam to slather on the biscuits. That was truly the best part of the meal, though the rhubarb was also a huge treat. Somewhere along the line they took the pot of jam off the table and just gave the crummy little plastic thingies you find in coffee shops. I think they were losing a mint in jam at those chicken dinners.

  7. What glorious memories even if some were a little scarey at he time.

  8. It looks like (and sounds like) a wonderful place. So typical of its time - probably not sophisticated enough for the tastes of the 21st century.

  9. I was at Knott's Berry Farm about 1971. The reason I was there is that Disneyland was closed that day. I never did get back to California or to Disneyland.

  10. Amazing the things they did to children in the name of fun. It's a wonder we aren't all traumatized for life. A pretend holdup? Still, what fun in the retelling!

  11. Felix0912/06/2012

    Oh, yes . . . good memories!