Monday, January 23, 2012

Oldtimers Of Ghost Town

In honor of the upcoming "Talk-Like-A-Grizzled-Prospector-Day" on Tuesday, January 24. I'm posting a picture of a group of "Oldtimers" from Ghost Town. I had made a copy of this picture from a negative I found in a drawer in the old Pitchur Gallery darkroom, when I was a Assistant Supervisor of Ghost Town Merchanidse back in 1979-1980.

From left to right is Roy Bryant, "Fiddlin" Charlie Ware, "Chief Red Feather" Jim Brady, Virgil "Blackie" Dillion and this last one I'm not 100% sure of but I believe it's... Bill Higdon.

For this post I'm going to focus on "Blackie" the second from the right in the above picture.

Blackie was the "Old Prospector" that I remember from when I was young and attending the Farm. Also, I remember him from my first couple of years sweeping the streets of Ghost Town. Blackie lived on the property in a little shack that was located back by the railroad tracks that run along Western Ave. near the corner of La Palma Ave.

The above picture is from the cover of the Fall 1971 The Knotty Post. The caption on the inside  reads:

On our front cover are two pals of the old west, "Blackie" Dillion and his faithful friend , "Pappoose". While the prospector was all important in the building of the West, he would have been pretty helpless without the help of his constant companion, the burro.

There Blackie is again on the cover of The Knotty Post one year later, Fall 1972. The caption for this cover photo reads:

Seated beneath Paul V. Kleiben's painting of Kit Carson, a group of Ghost Town citizens enjoy a friendly dinner in the Steak House. From the expressions they  display the meal must be enjoyable.
In the photo taken by Gary Gabler of Ghost Town, L to R are Aunt Hattie Bilbrey, Ghost Towns spinning lady; Chief White Eagle; Charlene "Charlie" Boursier from Ghost Town's younger set and Gold Miner Blackie Dillion.

The next three photos are from a Camera Day at Knott's and photography contest.

The following copy is the obituary that ran in the August 15, 1975 issue of "The Nugget" the employee newsletter back then.

A Tribute to Blackie Dillion 

      Blackie Dillion is gone but he will never be forgotten.
      A Knott's personality for nearly a decade, he will live on in the memories of those who knew and loved him. And his bewhiskered, sun-weathered face will be seen and remembered by countless others who will see one of the thousands of photographs taken of him over the years.
      Virgil "Blackie" Dillion died suddenly August 5 in Cutbank, Montana, where he had gone to retire at the end of last month. He was 67.
      Knott's is saddened by his death.
      Blackie came to Knott's in 1966, and after working a year for the stagecoach, he became the miner at the Arasta near the entrance to the Gold Mining tunnel. Blackie and his burros were a familiar figure as thousands of tourists stopped to have their pictures taken with him.
      Blackie loved animals, especially his burros. He lived on the Farm near the stagecoach barns since coming to Knott's, and kept several cats and a dog.
      A veteran of World War II, Blackie had been a prospector and guide for Glacier National Park.
      He was one of Knott's most photogenic personalities. Photographs of Blackie have won many awards, including the sweepstakes prize in this year's Knott's Camera Day contest.
      His trademarks were his beard, of which he was very proud, his corncob pipe, vest, cowboy boots and hat. He was never without all of them.
      As Blackie was leaving Knott's to return to Montana, he told his friends, "I'm going where the sky is blue and the air is clear." No doubt he has.

Here is another photo from the Camera Day contest in the "Darkroom Magic" catagory and a fitting end to this post.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The 60th Anniversary of Ghost Town & Calico Railroad

This Thursday, January 12 is the 60th anniversary of the Ghost Town & Calico Railroad. Be sure to scholl all the way to the bottom of this post for news on the 60th anniversary celebration.

Here is the program from January 12, 1952, opening day of the railroad.

Below are a couple of photos from the opening day ceremonies. As you can see it was a rainly day back on January 12, 1952.

Here is a picture of the ceremonial driving of the golden spike. That is actor Sterling Hayden with the hammer and actress Laura Elliot holding the spike.

This next photo is of Mrs. and Mr. Knott posing in front of engine No. 41.

Now, for the news about the 60th anniversary celebration. This coming Thursday, January 12, 2012 at 11:00 a.m. we will be reenacting the "Golden Spike" ceremony and rededicating engine No. 41 as the "Walter Knott". On hand for this rededication will be Walter and Cordelia Knott's only living child daughter Marion Knott, Marion's son Darrell Andreson and one of Walter's other grandsons Steve Knott. Also, in attendance will Ed Arnold from from KTLA the same station that covered the Grand Opening in 1952. The anniversary will actually be celebrated the 12th through the 15th with roundhouse tours and tours of the "Edna", the Rio Grande Southern President's car. Also, on Friday and Saturday evenings they will be offering dining on the "Durango" . There will be a model train display in the Boardwalk Ballroom with a display of more pictures from opening day in 1952. Anyone riding the train during this anniversary celebration will receive a commemorative souvenir ticket similar to the vintage one shown below. Also, available will be a reprint of the "Ghost Town & Calico Railway" book that was originally printed in 1953 (also shown below). Hope to see just as many people in the Calico Square as there were back in 1952.