A couple of weeks ago on my usual Saturday search for the photo hunters, I came across a very interesting post all about a farm that became a successful amusement park. Ellen @ The Happy Wonderer was the author of the post. I was so taken with this article that I contacted Ellen to ask if she would let me post it on my guest appearance and guess what, she said yes!
In the 1920s, Walter Knott (December 11, 1889-December 3, 1981) and his family sold berries, berry plants and pies from a roadside stand beside California State Highway 39, near the small town of Buena Park. In the 1930s, Walter Knott was introduced to a new berry which had been cultivated by Rudolph Boysen. The plant was a combination of the red raspberry, blackberry, and loganberry. Walter planted a few plants he had received on a visit to Boysen’s farm, and later started to sell them at their roadside stand. When people asked him what they were called he said “boysenberries”.
In 1934, Knott’s wife Cordelia (b. 1890 – d. 1974) began serving fried chicken dinners, featuring boysenberry pie for dessert. As Southern California developed, Highway 39 became the major north-south connection between Los Angeles County and the beaches of Orange County, and the restaurant’s location was a popular stopping point for drivers making what at the time was a two-hour trip. Until the development of the 605 and 57 freeways in the late 1960s, Highway 39 (now known in Orange County as Beach Boulevard) continued to carry the bulk of the traffic between eastern Los Angeles and Orange Counties.
Within a few years, lines outside the restaurant were often several hours long. To entertain the waiting crowds, Walter began to build a ghost town in 1940, using buildings relocated from real old west towns such as Calico, California and Prescott, Arizona. They added attractions such as a narrow-gauge train ride, a pan-for-gold area, and the Calico Mine Ride. Frequent activities at what Knott called a “summer-long county fair” included – naturally – boysenberry pie eating contests. When Disneyland was built in nearby Anaheim, the two attractions were not seen as direct competitors, due to the different nature of each. Walt Disney visited Knott’s Berry Farm on a number of occasions, and hosted the Knotts at his own park. The two Walters had a cordial relationship, and worked together on a number of community causes.
In 1968, the Knott family fenced the farm, charged admission for the first time, and Knott’s Berry Farm officially became an amusement park. Because of its long history, Knott’s Berry Farm claims to be “America’s First Theme Park.”
Knott’s Berry farm by Ellen from The Happy Wanderer.
Ellen’s original post was full of photographs and memories of her parents’ visit to Knott’s Berry Farm, so please go and visit and read this wonderful post in full.
If you have a farming story, memory or farm visit that you would like to share then please send me your story and I will happily include it on a guest appearance post.