Saturday, June 23, 2012

Grace goes to Columbia

Taking a one-day break from all things Disney, I interrupt with a post about a childhood memory that returned thanks to the acquisition of vintage photo #1.

As a child, one of the highlights of our annual trip to California was the time that our family spent with my Aunt & Uncle up in Tuolumne County, 45 miles northeast of Modesto. Nearby was Columbia State Park, a quaint little historic town that preserved what Frontierland attempts to recreate. From the California Parks website:

The town's old Gold Rush-era business district has been preserved with shops, restaurants and two hotels. Visitors have the chance to time-travel to the 1850s, imagining life when gold miners rubbed shoulders with businessmen and the other residents in Columbia. Visitors can experience a bygone era watching proprietors in period clothing conduct business in the style of yesterday. There are opportunities to ride a 100 year-old stagecoach, pan for gold, and explore the real working businesses of Columbia.

I still have fond memories of panning for gold, shopping for rock candy (it came in the same type of pan you'd use in panning for gold), and riding the stagecoach, which invariably got held up by some nasty varmints that were all part of the fun.

Photo number one from today shows Grace Kelly in Columbia, where they were filming scenes for the classic western "High Noon." Grace played Amy, the wife of Sheriff Will Kane (Gary Cooper) in Fred Zinnemann’s classic film. Fictitious Hadleyville, New Mexico’ was to have been filmed on Columbia State Historic Park's Main Street, but by the time the crew arrived, spring had arrived and the bleak, bare main street of Columbia had burst into green leafiness. Western Street on the Columbia Pictures lot in Burbank ended up standing in for the real thing. Oh the irony...shooting Columbia at Columbia.

There are still a few scenes that were shot in the real Columbia, such as the one showing the white picket fence of Sam Fuller (Harry Morgan), the cowardly friend who sends his wife to claim he's not at home. This is the Wilson House on Main Street, a few doors away from The Visitor Center, and the last privately-owned home in the town.

In this vintage shot of the Columbia Hotel/Fallon Theatre, you can see where Grace was standing.

An interior shot of the Fallon Theatre where I once saw a live stage version of "Dracula." It was very well done, and the memory of the "bats" flying over the audience still lingers with me today.

Another vintage shot, showing the Stage Driver's Retreat:

Last one for today is a May 1963 view of the Stagecoach. One of these days I'll have to find the shots of my family's visits there.

Follow my Daveland updates on Twitter and view my most recent photos on Flickr. See more vintage Columbia State Park photos on my Columbia State Park web pages.


K. Martinez said...

When I was a kid in the 60s, our family trips used to include Columbia quite bit. I loved that place and I do remember that rock candy you mentioned. Thanks for posting the images. I'd nearly forgotten about those trips of yesteryear.

Douglas McEwan said...

VERY interesting post. Though I've spent a lot of time in the Merced-Tuolomne area, it's been mostly in Yosemite and El Portal, and I've never been to Columbia.

How lovely Grace Kelly was. I have visited her grave, in the church where she was married in Monaco, and driven the road off of which she was killed.

Daveland said...

I've always wanted to go back, but part of me wonders if Columbia is one of those places that might not match the golden memories I have of it from childhood.