Author’s visit brings nostalgia to communty

Longtime residents reminisce about Magic Mountain, Heritage Square

Posted 5/10/16

The theme park might have failed as Magic Mountain, then closed as Heritage Square after 45 seasons, but what is important to remember is that it did succeed in delivering Walter Cobb’s vision to provide destination for many, many children to …

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Author’s visit brings nostalgia to communty

Longtime residents reminisce about Magic Mountain, Heritage Square

Posted

The theme park might have failed as Magic Mountain, then closed as Heritage Square after 45 seasons, but what is important to remember is that it did succeed in delivering Walter Cobb’s vision to provide destination for many, many children to enjoy for many, many years.

That’s according to Bob McLaughlin, author of “Magic Mountain,” which was released on April 25.

“People today might not remember Magic Mountain,” said Goldenite Bill Robie, “but they will remember Heritage Square.”

And both parks, he added, are a “very significant part of Golden’s history.”

McLaughlin, of Massachusetts, who is also the author of “Freedomland” and “Pleasure Island,” visited the Denver-metro area May 4-8 for book signing and lecture events for “Magic Mountain.”

McLaughlin has done so many lectures on “Freedomland” and “Pleasure Island” that he could probably do them in his sleep, he said, but the Denver trip was his first time to present on “Magic Mountain.”

“I am so pleased to come out here and do this,” McLaughlin said.

The Magic Mountain theme park was Cobb’s dream, McLaughlin said, and it was designed by Marco Engineering of Los Angeles — made up of former Disneyland employees. Sadly, though, McLaughlin said, Magic Mountain went bankrupt, and was only open from 1957 to Labor Day weekend in 1960.

The Cobb family lived in Wheat Ridge at the time, and Walter Cobb’s daughters still reside in Jefferson County — Sharon Gardner and Kathryn Anderson live in Arvada, and Karolyn Moody lives in Lakewood.

“Dad was really enthusiastic about it,” Moody said. “He was a kid at heart.”

Her sisters agreed.

Magic Mountain “was one of his crowning achievements,” Gardner added.

He put in a lot of hard work for the park, Anderson said, and added that the family is happy McLaughlin wrote his book. “This is the way that Magic Mountain should be remembered.”

Plans for Magic Mountain fascinate people, said Shelly Bleckley, the Golden History Museums’ visitor services coordinator.

“If the park had been completed, we would likely be looking at a very different community than we have now,” she said. “Imagine living within a few miles of Disneyland — that’s what the developers were hoping for.”

Although short-lived, Magic Mountain offered its guests some amazing performances, local historian Rick Gardner said. There were live, Old West shootout re-enactments between outlaw bank robbers and Wyatt Earp and his posse, a group of high schoolers went around the park in two wagons performing plays such as the “Wizard of Oz,” and Blinky the Clown also performed there, he said.

“The entertainment history there is fun,” Gardner said.

The theater experience at the location began with the Magic Mountain Play House, which hosted live melodramas, Gardner said. Then, when the park was rebooted as Heritage Square in 1971, a group of players from Estes Park started the Heritage Square Opera House, and they performed live melodramas. It became a dinner theater in 1973. In 1988, under the direction of T.J. Mullin, it became “the Heritage Square Music Hall that everyone knew and loved, hosting comedic plays and musical comedies,” he said.

Rory Pierce opened the Heritage Square Children’s Theatre in 1993, but in 2013, both the Music Hall and the Children’s Theatre closed. However, in 2015, “Pierce and the rest of the gang got together” and started the Children’s Theatre at Miners Alley Playhouse in downtown Golden, where it still continues, Gardner said.

Times were lean when Betty Bloom, 82, came to Golden in 1959, she said, because her husband was attending the Colorado School of Mines as a doctoral student. So, although she knew it existed, she never had the opportunity to go to Magic Mountain, but did go to Heritage Square. Bloom loved going to see the melodramas at the Opera House.

“It was the best,” she said.

Barb Warden of Golden also used to go to the Music Hall at Heritage Square because her neighbor, Carol Quirk, had children who worked there. However, Warden enjoyed the Alpine Slide, and her fondest memories of Heritage Square come from taking her daughter — who is now 23 and living in Nebraska — there for birthday parties.

Gardner’s father, Conrad Gardner, whose brother married Sharon Cobb, has fond memories from his 20s of spending time at Heritage Square.

“Heritage Square brought lots of joy to lots of kids,” Conrad Gardner said.

He especially liked the trains at Heritage Square because of his interest in trains from working on the Santa Fe Railway.

People did very much enjoy the trains, said Rich Purcell of Arvada, the former train engineer at Heritage Square.

Most of Colorado’s railroads were originally Ute Indian trails, which became wagon roads to haul ore to Golden, then became narrow-gauge railroad beds and eventually today’s highways, Purcell said.

“It’s a piece of history people don’t think about anymore,” he said.

This trip to the area was McLaughlin’s ninth trip for “Magic Mountain,” he said, and one of them included a Magic Mountain 50th anniversary reunion in 2007, which, unfortunately, only about 10 people attended.

Getting the information out there is important for preservation and for future generations, said Genesee resident Lee Katherine Goldstein.

“What connects us as a community,” she said, “is our history and heritage. And it’s not just to each other, it’s also to the place.”

Magic Mountain was the beginning of Heritage Square, McLaughlin said.

“There would not have been a Heritage Square without a Magic Mountain,” he said. And Heritage Square “brought happiness and many outstanding opportunities for new businesses and young people for 45 seasons.”

Heritage Square, Magic Mountain, Cobb, Disney, Bob McLaughlin, Christy Steadman

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