Monday, November 30, 2020

Desert View Tower

A few years ago, Willis’ groomer had suggested I visit the Desert View Tower. Photos of it looked interesting, but the fact that it was about 80 miles east of San Diego prevented me from rushing there. Finally, for a photo shoot I trekked out to this wild and wacky place that is literally in the middle of nowhere. Once you exit I-8, you travel down a rough little side road strewn with interesting decrepit structures, debris, and “art”:

Located in the In-Ko-Pah Mountains, the elevation is 3,000 feet here. The centerpiece of this little park is the stone tower, built between 1922-1928 by Bert Vaughn, a San Diego real estate developer who owned the town of Jacumba. Vaughn dedicated it to the highway/railroad builders who opened up the area, which previously took a month to travel between Yuma and San Diego’s beaches. The five-story/70' high Tower functions as a museum and an observation deck with a gift shop at the base. Unfortunately, there was an event at the tower the day I visited and I was unable to go inside. Looks like I’ll have to go back! During World War II, the tower served as a lookout post to ensure that Nazi forces were unable to enter the U.S. via Mexico.

Boulder Park is just steps away from the tower, and is the kind of thing that kids (and adults who still have a childlike yen for exploration) will adore. Imagine caves and rough stoney-paths, sprinkled with approximately 37 large carvings of animals and shapes that literally spring out from the huge boulders.

Unemployed engineer Merle T. Ratcliffe came to the area to recover from tuberculosis and ended up sculpting the quartz granite boulders for a dollar a day and a jug of wine over a two-year period during the Depression era of the 1930’s. The carvings and tower are registered as official California Historical Landmarks (#194 and #939.3).

This wacky place is DEFINITELY worth the journey! See more San Diego and environs photos at my main website.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Jayne in Fantasyland

This May 1957 image shows voluptuous blonde bombshell Jayne Mansfield signing autographs in Fantasyland. The details in this image are priceless, like the look of wonderment on these two children as they stare at different parts of the movie star. I won’t say anything else for fear of venturing into ick.

Wish I could get more detail on what she is signing; am assuming it’s a ticket or brochure from the Park.

I noticed this poor schlub waiting in the wings with his broken finger, holding his daughter’s clear purse while she snags daddy an autograph!

Here’s a previously posted shot of Jayne from the same trip riding Dumbo with daughter Jayne Marie:

See more vintage and contemporary Disneyland Fantasyland photos at my main website.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Temple Tuesday: Claude’s Back

Veteran character actor (and Shirley co-star) Claude Gillingwater was born in Louisiana, Missouri on August 2, 1870; interestingly enough, he shared the same birthday with Myrna Loy, movie producer Jack Warner, Peter O’Toole, and Carroll O’Connor. Not bad company! But I digress…though he studied law, Claude’s heart was not into becoming an attorney. Instead, he became a traveling salesman for a wholesale firm, selling vinegar (how ironic, considering the roles he would eventually play!). At the same time, he joined a small theatrical company and was eventually discovered by Mary Pickford who had him cast in “Little Lord Fauntleroy” (1921), which launched his film career. In addition, he was a founding member of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences (1927). For Shirley fans he is best known as the grouch with a heart in three of her films: “Poor Little Rich Girl” (1936), “Little Miss Broadway” (1938), and “Just Around the Corner” (1938). From the website Old Movie Teams comes this:

Mr. Gillingwater was in his late 60s when, in 1936, he first shared the screen with Ms. Temple, then just beginning her adolescent years. Ms. Temple found him somewhat afflicted in the amount of activity his body could endure. His affliction was not entirely from age. He had suffered a severe back injury on the set of a movie he was making just weeks prior to commencing work with Ms. Temple. The pain from that injury, subsequently coupled in 1937 with the pain of losing his wife of nearly 32 years, gave Mr. Gillingwater ample motivation for playing quite well the old curmudgeon he portrayed. Despite his injury and personal loss, or his cranky disposition in front of the camera, behind the scenes, Ms. Temple found him to be a very sweet and gentle man.

The back injury referenced occurred in February, 1936, while filming “Florida Special” (1936) at Paramount studios, he fell from a platform, resulting in a severe back injury from which he never fully recovered. His general health began to decline, which obviously interfered with his ability to work. Knowing that the back injury occurred previous to filming with Shirley, I have to wonder what moron in the publicity department requested Gillingwater to pose for this still, as well as making the poor old guy give Shirley a piggy-back ride in the film?

In “Little Miss Broadway,” Gillingwater had a small but memorable part as the cranky judge who is more than annoyed at the inanity of case that reaches his court;; that is, until spunky little Shirley arrives and presents a few musical numbers as evidence.

What a trouper this guy must have been; during the entire title number, Gillingwater sits in position as Temple and Murphy dance around him, with improbably scenery appearing and lighting up all around him. If you watch carefully, you’ll see that not only does he sit there, but he reacts in delight to the proceedings. No stunt double for this veteran!

His most endearing (and largest) role in a Temple film came with their third and final collaboration, “Just Around the Corner.” As Samuel G. Henshaw, he is mistaken by Shirley for Uncle Sam, the national personification of the U.S. government. While the resemblance is definitely there, it’s definitely a stupid plot point that tends to weaken an already tepid (yet still enjoyable) film.

Still, the interplay between these two is pure screen magic!

A little over a year after playing “Uncle Sam,” Gillingwater found life to be too unbearable. From the Spokane Daily Chronicle, November 2, 1939:

Detectives, summoned by the kindly old fellow’s housekeeper, found the body late yesterday in a chair in a closet of Gillingwater’s quiet home, a self-inflicted bullet wound through the chest. His wife died of a heart attack in 1937. A son, Claude Jr., an actor, survives.

A suicide note stated he was worried about his failing health and the possibility of becoming an invalid. He did not want to become a burden to anyone, so he chose to take his own life. The death of the 69-year-old actor was officially ruled a suicide. His cremated remains were interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, California. His final film was “Cafe Society” (1939), a romantic comedy from Paramount with Fred MacMurray.

Random fact: besides being an actor as well, his son was apparently a painter. Found this one, titled “Pottery Market - Oxaca” for sale on ebay:

See more Shirley Temple photos at my main website.

Friday, November 20, 2020

Welcome to Calico: The Mystery Shack

One of my friends had told me that I really needed to experience the Mystery Shack at Calico. When I was walking down the Main Street, the girl working at this “attraction” who sold me my entrance ticket said, “This must be your first time to Calico.” With wonderment I asked how she knew. “Because you’re stopping to take photos of everything!” Drats...blew my cover as a first timer. In the waiting area, there are a number of these little visual puzzles. So much fun!

I had a private tour, as Calico was truly a Ghost Town on the day I visited. She was super nice and did an excellent job with the information and the puns.

I was able to see the pool table with balls that roll up:

The broom that (seemingly) defies gravity!

Thanks to the mysteries of COVID, I was not allowed to experience the chair that is almost impossible to get up from.

The floating disconnected spigot that still has water flowing from it!

Later in my visit, I took a snap of the Mystery Shack from above in an attempt to capture all of its ramshackle goodness:

Up until about 2000, Knott’s Berry Farm had a similar attraction called The Haunted Shack. It is still missed today by guests who were once able to walk through its doorways.

See more Calico Ghost Town photos at my main website.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

1950s Main Street: The Test Wall

This 1950’s shot of East Center Street at Disneyland shows a very interesting spot in the Park: the test wall. Zooming in, this little faux brick wall was apparently a test to see which type of brick would look best. It has also been suggested that this wall was not a test, but meant to be a transition into the never-constructed colonial area, “Liberty Street.”

This contemporary shot from 2008 shows the different types of “bricks” tested and also that this test lasted for quite some time. Anyone know if this wall still exists? On a Disneyland tour I took, I was told that Main Street was built with zero actual bricks; everything was done with paint as if it were a movie set.

This detailed view shows the window of Imagineer W. Dennis Cottrell as it originally looked:

…and how it looked in 2009 when I shot it:

W.H. Cottrell was the first president of the newly formed Walt Disney Imagineering when Disneyland opened. Better known as Bill or Uncle Bill, Cottrell headed the group from 1952-1964. Cottrell started as a camera operator for Walt Disney Studios. He directed the Evil Queen & Wicked Witch sequences in “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” and wrote for “Pinocchio,” “The Three Caballeros,” “Alice in Wonderland,” and “Peter Pan.” 

See more Disneyland Main Street, U.S.A. photos at my main website.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Welcome to Calico: The School House

Welcome to the Calico Ghost Town School House! A selfie was in order for my first visit here. It appears that the School House I saw is a replica of the original that stood on this location. It looks appropriately weathered.

Stepping back in time, here are two vintage views; the first shot shows how it looked back in March 1965:

…and February 1971. Not really all that different!

A different paint scheme; maybe they chose haint blue for the trim to keep the alleged hauntings down at the schoolhouse!

From the other side, I was able to capture the “Calico” emblazoned along the mountain. I wonder how often that needs to be refreshed?

When you get to the door, you are warned about the uneven ground conditions and are also rewarded by a vintage shot of the original schoolhouse:

Even though it was closed during my visit, that didn’t prevent me from getting an interior view through the dusty window:

Nothing vintage about the chalkboard!

See more Calico Ghost Town photos at my main website.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Temple Tuesday: Uncle Charley

William Demarest is best known for playing Uncle Charley in the classic television show “My Three Sons” (1965-1972) which starred Fred MacMurray. He also appeared with Al Jolson in “The Jazz Singer” (1927), famous for being the first “talkie”, and finished his career with a cameo as a studio gatekeeper in “Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood” (1976). To Shirley fans though, he’s known as her scheming stepfather, Harry Kipper, in “Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm” (1938). After thinking she failed her audition for a radio show, he unceremoniously dumps the kid off at her Aunt Miranda’s (Helen Westley) so that he won’t have to be financially responsible for her anymore. When he later learns that she has made it big on the radio, he returns with an attorney to reclaim her…and her future earnings! What a heel!

Nobody gets the best of “self-reliant” Shirley, though. She out-scams the schemer and ends up free of the no-good dirty swindler.

In “My Three Sons” history, William Frawley originally played the boys' live-in maternal grandfather and housekeeper, William Michael Francis “Bub” O'Casey.

Alcohol abuse and old age caused Frawley to forget his lines, and by the show's fifth season, he was unable to pass the studio's annual health insurance exam and had to be replaced by Demarest, who stepped in as Bub's brother, Uncle Charley, basically fulfilling the same duties as Frawley’s character. Frawley died of a heart attack a year later, five days after his 79th birthday.

Unlike his character in “Rebecca,” Demarest’s Uncle Charley was totally loveable under that gruff exterior!

See more Shirley Temple photos at my main website.