December 31, 2017

Photo Essay: The Faces of Knott's Berry Farm

When people think of Knott's Berry Farm today, maybe they still can smell the chicken dinners or the boysenberry pie.

Maybe they feel the jolt of the roller coasters or the racket of an Old West gunfight reenactment.

As for me, I think of the faces.

Its ghost town wouldn't seem nearly as ghostly without those haunting, creepy figures.

It started with the "Calico Belles," Marilyn (inspired by the real Marilyn Hargrove Schuler) and Cecelia (inspired by the real Cecilia Peterson)—concrete figures sculpted and painted in 1954 by Claude Bell, Knott's resident sculptor.

They were modeled after two "Calico Saloon" dancing girls named Marilyn Schuler and Cecelia Peterson and sat on a bench at Calico Square.

Back then, getting your photos taken with their facsimiles was nearly as popular as seeing the real live girls doing the can-can in a show.

Since then, they've been replaced by Ruby and Flo, and more figural sculptures "of the period" have popped up around the park—even outside of the ghost town, as far over as Camp Snoopy.

Those saloon girls were just the beginning of Claude Bell's notoriety—having created Dinny the Dinosaur (a Brontosaurus) in 1975 and Mr. Rex (a tyrannosaurus) in 1986 out of steel and concrete (well, shotcrete) to help advertise his restaurant, the Wheel Inn (now demolished), in the town of Cabazon.

Moreover, credit can't be given entirely to Claude Bell for creating some of the most memorable faces at Knott's Berry Farm, as the animals in the menagerie merry-go-round were carved by craftsmen at the Dentzel Carousel Company nearly decades before Walter Knott opened his berry farm.

In fact, this antique Dentzel—one of only three found in Southern California (the others at Disneyland and Castle Park)—is among the oldest operating ones you can find anywhere.

Built in 1902, it resided at Hershey Park in Pennsylvania until 1936, when it moved to Brady Park in Canton, Ohio. It arrived in Buena Park in 1955.

In addition to its horses, it's got a giraffe, a deer...

...two pigs...

...a goat...

...and four ostriches.

Of the three rows on two separate platforms—for a total of 48 animals—only six of them have had to be replaced with fiberglass replicas.

This 1902 model is not to be confused with the carousel that was part of the Knott's Lagoon attraction, which had its own Dentzel carousel. The Lagoon was bulldozed and paved over for parking, and that carousel was auctioned off as part of Bud Hurlbut's collection in 1990.

Now, I go to a lot of amusement parks and county fairs and such. I'm up on all the latest trends and thrills. But no matter how much G-force the modern-day roller coasters can make me experience, and no matter how "real" virtual reality becomes, nothing will ever compare to the artistry and craftsmanship of these old, antiquated, mechanical machines with their galloping horses and snickering faces.

And nothing can haunt me quite like creations of Claude Bell and the other faces of Knott's Berry Farm.

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: Upon the 75th Anniversary of the Ghost Town at Knott's Berry Farm
Photo Essay: Old Trapper's Lodge Statues
Photo Essay: The Faces of Bonnie Springs Ranch, Old Nevada
Photo Essay: Castle Park and The King of Theme Park Train Rides
Photo Essay: The Faces of The Santa Monica Pier Carousel

December 30, 2017

Photo Essay: The Visiting Tall Ship of the Mexican Navy (Armada de México)

It's only now in the last couple of days of the year that I finally realized that 2017 had been declared "The Year of Mexico in Los Angeles."

Maybe that's because our Mexican roots run so deep, it doesn't seem odd to see cultural programming related to our neighbors south of the border.

Maybe it's because our current mayor has pledged to build bridges instead of walls.

Maybe it's just that Mexican influence in LA doesn't feel like an intrusion.

This year, though, there was one Mexican visitor in particular that was especially welcome to our shores: the Mexican tall ship known as the Cuauhtémoc.

Built in Bilbao, Spain in 1982 but hailing out of its home port of Acapulco, it's a teaching ship (buque escuela) used by the Mexican Navy (Armada de México) to train officers, sailors, and cadets alike in basic navigational skills as well as sailing techniques.

It was the first ship of its kind in Mexico, and it's the last vessel of a series of four windjammers.

And lucky for Angelenos, it had gone on a world tour and was making one last stop to see us in San Pedro before heading home.

Bearing the name of the last Aztec emperor, Cuauhtémoc loosely translates to mean "one who has descended like an eagle"—signifying both grace and power.

As a historical figure, Cuauhtémoc has come to embody nationalism of the indigenous peoples of Mexico.

As a name, Cuauhtémoc stands out as one of the few popular ones for boys that don't have Spanish origins.

And, bearing that in mind, it's important to remember that Mexicans are actually descended from the Spanish, who bred with the indigenous people of the area we now know as Mexico.

Mexicans, by nature, are at least partly European (although some may prefer to de-emphasize that part of their heritage).

And as a ship, Cuauhtémoc is a Class A ship with three masts, 23 sails, and a barque (or "bark") sail plan.

It's nearly 300 feet long, and its rigs are nearly 170 feet tall.

It is imposing for sure—and not just because it weighs 1755 tons.

It's an ambassador ship, sailing the world's seas and visiting the world's ports, but it's also an intimidating warship—as its design was influenced by Blohm & Voss, the German shipbuilders responsible for the Bismarck, the WWII battleship.

And technically, it's in active service—though, for a teaching ship, that means it's still actively training, not fighting.

Though, after visiting this tall ship and meeting some of its officers...

...I'd want the Cuauhtémoc and its crew on my side during any kind of military conflict.

It's in pristine condition...

...and it's been maintained beautifully...

...and clearly with pride.

It's a peacetime ship...


Its coat of arms—the emblem for the ship—features an image of the Aztec God of the Wind, Ehecatl, who blows the ship towards the west.

Perched above the emblem is the eagle from the Mexican national flag, reminding shipmates and visitors alike where the ship and its crew have come from and where they're going back home to.

The Cuauhtémoc tall ship can sleep 186 ranking officers and crew...

...and an additional 90 midshipmen and/or cadets.

It can carry enough food to last the boys 45 days out at sea.

And it can carry enough fuel to last at least a few weeks out on the water.

Given my last experience on a tall ship, I was happy to have not set sail on this one.

But when you visit such a beautiful vessel like the Cuauhtémoc, it's hard not to wonder what it must be like to watch it go.

Though I'm sure the ship is only as strong as its weakest sailor. And by the looks of it, the Mexican Armada doesn't seem to have very many weak links.

Farewell! Bon voyage! ¡Hasta próxima!

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: USS Iowa, The Last of the Battleships
Crossing the Border (Cruzando la Frontera)

December 28, 2017

Photo Essay: Top Posts of 2017

Well, here we are in the final days of 2017—time to reflect back on the year that was.

I crossed a couple items off of my bucket list, fell in love with some new places I'd discovered (but, thankfully, no people), and fell into a hole in the floor.

I rode some trains, and I paid my respects to some dead planes.

I have my own favorite moments of the year, but as is my annual tradition, here follows what brought the most eyeballs to this site. (They're not necessarily the ones that people liked the most; they're just the ones that the most people looked at.)

It pleases me to no end that one of the most-read posts of mine was a personal story—a bit of a memoir that went back almost 20 years and came full circle this year.

After all, not all regrets have something to do with a particular place, and avoiding regret isn't always about crossing something off a list.

Sentimental Lady

Photo Essay: On the Sleeper Car to San Diego

Photo Essay: Making Magic Monsters That Move at a Robot Factory

Down the Rabbit Hole

The End of the Line at the Subway Terminal Building, Underground

Photo Essay: Birding Anza-Borrego During the Superbloom

Photo Essay: A Different Type of Church

Photo Essay: The Last of Pantages' Vaudeville Palaces

Photo Essay: The Boneyard at the Former Cal-Aero Flying Academy

Photo Essay: Where Airplanes Go To Rest

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: Top Posts of 2016
Photo Essay: Top Posts of 2015
Photo Essay: Top Posts of 2014
Photo Essay: Top Posts of 2013
Photo Essay: Top Posts of 2012