Hanging on to those Magic Mountain memories

Posted 4/26/16

Things that happen when you are a very young child tend to stick in your memory. I might forget what I had for lunch yesterday, but I seem to remember things from when I was about 3 years old quite clearly. I’m sure there is some scientific reason …

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Hanging on to those Magic Mountain memories

Posted

Things that happen when you are a very young child tend to stick in your memory. I might forget what I had for lunch yesterday, but I seem to remember things from when I was about 3 years old quite clearly. I’m sure there is some scientific reason for this, but I’m just glad my memories of those days are happy ones and that I have them to share with friends and family and … Well, I get to share some of them here with you, my readers.

Sometimes, my early memories actually started before I was born.

One case in point is Disneyland. It opened in Anaheim, California, back in 1955 and was a pretty spectacular place. It had rides and attractions beyond anyone’s imagination at the time. There was nothing like it and, even if you didn’t live there, you got to see it all on television. Walt Disney had a weekly television show that had various names like “Walt Disney Presents” and “Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color.” But the original program was called “Disneyland” and was produced primarily as a promotion for the theme park, highlighting the coming attractions before the park opened.

So, even though you may never have been there, you knew there was a Magic Kingdom waiting for you on the West Coast if you should ever plan to vacation there.

Meanwhile, here in Colorado we had something naturally magical to offer: Mountains.

Shortly after Disneyland opened, a group of investors came up with the idea of creating a similar theme park right here in Golden. They selected a site at Apex Gulch, bought a mountain there and hired some of the designers that worked on Disneyland to put together their own theme park. They called it Magic Mountain.

They got started and built a main street, a fort area, a railroad and several other attractions, including one of the first ski areas to function using artificial snow. They opened it up in 1959 (the year I was born) and it had many problems from the very beginning. Building something like that is a very expensive proposition. Throw in the fact that the weather made for a short season, and the rumored lawsuit that Disney filed for copying their brainchild, and the place only lasted about a year before closing its gates in 1960.

My parents took me as a baby, so I don’t remember much about it when it was running. My uncle was visiting from Chicago and bought some stock in the company, which he grumbled about for the next 35 years and the fact it sat abandoned for the next decade or so. I got to see that vacant stage because one of the kids in my grade school actually lived there. His father was hired as caretaker of the property to keep it from deteriorating and protect it from vandalism.

The place stood vacant until it reopened as Heritage Square in 1971. It was revamped and transformed into another vision and is still operating in some fashion to this day. There have been a lot of changes there over the years, but that’s another story.

The story this week is about the original Magic Mountain and where you can experience a little bit of its essence. The Golden History Center will be presenting A Night on Magic Mountain on Thursday, May 5. It’s presented by Robert McLaughlin, who will be reading excerpts from his book on the subject, Magic Mountain, and will feature some recently acquired items from the park as well as photos and a look at some of the original hand-drawn renderings of the plans, attractions and other site details. He will also have copies of his book available.

The event is from 5-7 p.m., tickets run $10 for members and $15 for non members and reservations are encouraged. The Golden History Center is located at 923 10th St. in Golden. For more information, call (303) 278-3557 or visit www.goldenhistory.org.

John Akal, Avenue Flashes, Magic Mountain, Heritage Square, history

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