Silicon Valley Fall Arts Preview

'It Takes A Village' at NUMU

Intro | Music | Stage | Visual | Film | Classical | 'Proof' | APE Expo | Flash Fiction

JURASIC JAUNT: It used to be just a short drive for South Bay families to visit the Lost World theme park, off of Highway 17.

From 1961 to 1980, the Frontier Village theme park was a San Jose destination. Every weekend, families from all over the South Bay would pile into station wagons and make the journey to the famous, Wild West-style destination, located just off Monterey Highway in what is now Edenvale Park.

Nothing in San Jose, before or since, compared to Frontier Village, as it successfully brought Disney-style savoir faire and bombast to what was then an unknown suburb. Visitors to the park could expect to encounter numerous staged gunfights, wait for the next express train at a Victorian-style terminal, sip on a sarsparilla at the Silver Dollar Saloon, and enjoy various other animal and water activities, kids' adventures, roller coasters, magic shows, train rides and all sorts of shenanigans—all with a Wild West theme. Countless celebrities appeared at the park, including Lorne Greene and Tennessee Ernie Ford, plus Epstein and Washington from Welcome Back, Kotter.

Debuting November 7, the New Museum of Los Gatos will stage an exhibit of Frontier Village memorabilia, along with similar items from Santa's Village and Lost World—two more theme parks located along Highway 17 near Scotts Valley.

"Whenever you mention Frontier Village, people get excited," says Amy Long, the exhibit's curator. "Every time I bring it up, it's like nostalgia crack. Anybody who grew up in this area, everyone went there, everyone had their birthdays there, everyone went to family picnics and company picnics. It astounds me how big this park is in peoples' collective memories."

All three tap into definitive post-WWII childhood nostalgia that still percolates. Former Frontier Village employees stage a reunion picnic every summer. Many South Bay married couples originally met at Frontier Village. Twelve thousand people are on the Facebook Page.

In the era of Frontier Village, no one had smartphones or Xboxes. Kids were more inclined to hit the great wide expanses of suburban sprawl and be curious.

"We're exploring a time period when childhood was driven more by imagination and creativity than technology," Long says. "This was a different time to grow up in and peoples' attentions were more focused on outdoor activities where you got out and did something. It was about imagination and play."

During the same time, Santa's Village, just over the summit on Highway 17, provided a Christmas wonderland for thousands of visitors year round. Nearby, in the forested green shadows of Scott's Valley, families marveled at the life-sized dinosaurs and botanical wonders of Lost World.

The exhibit will feature original costumes and a slew of relics, large and small, from all three places—many of which were loaned by former employees and other collectors who never got rid of their stuff. The show will fill the 3,000-square-foot space on the lower level of the museum.

"There will be things people haven't seen since the '70s," Long says.


New Museum Los Gatos

November 7, 2015- May 1, 2016