Pieces of Childhood

After Disneyland was opened in 1955, for whatever reason (economy? inspiration? copycatism?), many communities seem to have opened small local theme parks. I say this because every park I read about seems to have opened between 1958 and 1962. In 1961, we didn’t have much to do at home on summer days; we had longer […]

After Disneyland was opened in 1955, for whatever reason (economy? inspiration? copycatism?), many communities seem to have opened small local theme parks.

I say this because every park I read about seems to have opened between 1958 and 1962.

In 1961, we didn’t have much to do at home on summer days; we had longer summers (because school got out when summer started and went back when fall started, unlike today’s ten week summer vacations). We had no home video, no arcades, no wii, no ipods and internet. We had to go someplace.

In the bay area, we had parks like Frontier Villiage, Santa’s Villiage, Happy Hollow, Children’s Fairyland, and Marine World.

These parks were simple, inexpensive to visit, often incredibly cheesy. They had no roller-coasters, minimal rides. They were more akin to what we’d think of as a carnival today. No one traveled here from elsewhere for them; they were local attractions. By today’s standards they seem quaint and ridiculous.

However, for those of us who grew up with them, they were wonderful places.

Most of them are gone now; and I imagine that’s true most everywhere. Victims of better parks with wilder rides, of increased travel, and later, of sheer quantity of other entertainment, few of them could make make it. hose that survive are mostly now part of chains like six flags, and cater to modern crowds with cookie-cutter rides.

A few of the old ones survive. One such is Happy Hollow, a park every bit as silly and down-home as it sounds. This is a park my family visited often in the summer. Decades later, the park survives, changing little and slowly decaying. I haven’t been back since I was a teenager, even when my kids visited with other friends and family. I couldn’t quite bring myself to go see how small and silly it had gotten when in my memory, everything was new, shiny, and huge.

This weekend, Happy Hollow auctioned off some old artifacts. The claim is that they will modernize without changing the look and feel; new attractions, more environmentally friendly rides (ie, no more diesel). I assume some of this is seismic retrofit, and some of it may be a need to bring things up to modern safety standards for insurance reasons. The story sounds good, and the park remains under the same ownership, not part of some huge corporation. I hope what they do is to preserve this piece of americana, rather than obliterate the other-time-and-place sense old parks have.

I hadn’t planned to buy anything at this auction; I went more to see what the old park looked like, and to see what was being sold. But auctions, you know, they have a way of catching one up.

Next weekend I take delivery on the lamp, below.

This thing is fifteen feet tall; I’ve no idea who built it, but it was one of four, built in 1961.

Sometimes, one just has to own a piece of childhood.

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0 thoughts on “Pieces of Childhood”

  1. OK, now I’m gonna cry.

    When i was living in Scotts Valley during the 70s a friend of mine and I used to sneak into Santa Village and do some fishing in their stocked creeks and pools. What fun.

    I’d love to have some of the giant mushrooms and goofy north pole kitsch that they had in there.

    Where did you hear about this auction?

    Oh and congratulations that is awesome!

  2. My family was true to Fairyland. In fact as I got to high school I had actress friends who became characters at Fairyland. And as I was a poor student/ mother- I took my daughter there.

    Never got to Happy Hallow. But the memories are very vivid of the magic that the Bay Area made.

  3. *sigh*

    I completely understand…I KNOW that lamp. I wish I had a red and white spotted mushroom from Santa’s Village. I wish I had a plastic key that played stories from Fairlyland. And I wish I could ride the Haunted Coal Mine ride one more time at Frontier Village…

    Time passing is a booger.

  4. I so grew up somewhere else… Everywhere actually. Military brat. I have a such a thing for short hair.

    But the lamp is so damn cool!

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