When I’m out in the world and find books sitting around begging for eyes to look at them, well, I have those eyes. I could be at one of those restaurants that has shelves and shelves of old and tattered books on the wall, and I’ll be standing over the booth where YOU are eating, looking at the books on the shelves above your booth. I’m not stalking you. Really, I’m not….
Several years ago I found a book in such a fashion. I noted the title, went home and did a Google search, and found me a used copy. On January 1, 2017, I found the book and decided that it looked and sounded interesting enough to read. The book is “The Historic Backcountry” by Christopher Wray. As I was reading through it I was creating driving tours of the backcountry. Then I discovered that he already has done that, too, in his book “Highways to History.”
On January 26, 2017, I set out on one of the driving tours, “Highway 80, El Cajon to Ocotillo.” Highway 80 used to be the main thoroughfare from San Diego to Arizona. Then they built Interstate 8, and Highway 80 became an also-ran. Now it’s a “Historic Route.”
The route is about 86 miles but that’s only if you are successful in not having to do any switchbacks, wraprounds, or U-turns, and if you don’t take any of the short side trips. My trip wound up being 131 miles, one way.
One of the first stops on the tour is the ruins of Marshal Scotty’s Playland Park.
Marshal Scotty’s Playland Park was founded in the 1950s by Frank Hobbs as Scotty’s Kiddy Rides in National City. It was named for his wife, Scotty. He moved it to El Cajon (some sources say Lakeside; the two city boundaries are there) when he bought the small Wally Park amusement park that was there. Marshal Scotty’s Playland Park opened on January 1, 1967.
It grew into a western-themed 25-acre amusement park offering 15 carnival rides (Tilt-a-Whirl, a 20-foot Ferris wheel, bumper cars, mini-boat rides….), the River Canyon Raceway go-cart track, a miniature train, the Raging River Innertube Ride which snaked 500 feet down a hillside, a roller coaster, pony rides, an arcade, shops, and facilities for volleyball, horseshoes, softball, swimming, and picknicking under the California live oak trees.
Ownership of Marshal Scotty’s changed several times between 1967 and 1986 when Bill Lee bought it. Lee invested $500,000 with the intent of developing it into a world-class water park. He’s the one who added the go-cart track and the water slide, at the time the longest water slide in Southern California. Lee filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1990, from which Marshal Scotty’s Playland Park never recovered.
In 1995, the property and equipment were sold in foreclosure to United Leisure Corp. of Fountain Valley for $1.6 million. The company named the park Frasier’s Frontier ( some sources say “Frazier’s Frontier”) and established Camp Frasier, a day camp for children, on the property. In 1996 and 1997, Camp Frasier attracted about 200 campers each summer.
By 1998, United Leisure closed Frasier’s Frontier and Camp Frasier, and put the property up for sale. No buyers. It sat empty from 1998 to 2011. Rudy and Carrie Ludeke re-opened the the go-carts as Canyon Raceway on November 5, 2011, with operating hours scheduled as 5 to 9 p.m. Thursdays, 2 to 9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 3 to 7 p.m. Sundays. Canyon Raceway eventually closed but I could not find the date of closure.
What’s left of the amusement park is private property behind a chain-link fence, which is why I only have two pictures of it. However, in researching for this blog post, I found out that for the past two Halloweens the property has been open as “Marshal Scary Scotty’s Scare Trail.” The 2015 flyer said about the park that it is
“….haunted by past park employees! This year, see the Bumper Car carnage, try to stay in one piece through the Slaughter trailer and the hunted [sic] park offices, visit the frighting [sic] ferris wheel….and don’t forget to brace yourself as you walk through the remains of the death coaster. Marshal Scary Scotty’s Scare Trail is packed full of spine tingling, heart pounding effects that are so real they will keep you screaming for your life as you try to find your way out.”
Notice that for 2015 the Scary Trail was “Sponsored By Saving Horses Inc.” Apparently they plan on donating proceeds to a charity each year because a post for 2016 said, “Our Charity this year is: Lyonhearted Foundation.”
I guess you know what I’ll be on the lookout for come Halloween 2017.
The movie, “Scavenger Hunt” was filmed here in San Diego, in the locker room of the San Diego Chargers, at the San Diego Zoo, downtown San Diego, Crown Point, La Mesa, Pacific Beach, the Embarcadero, and, of course, Marshal Scotty’s Playland Park. It had an all-star cast: Richard Benjamin, James Coco, Scatman Crothers, Ruth Gordon, Cloris Leachman, Cleavon Little, Roddy McDowall, Robert Morley, Richard Mulligan, Tony Randall, Dirk Benedict, Willie Aames, Stephanie Faracy, Stephen Furst, and Richard Masur. It was released on Christmas Day 1979 with its premiere right here in San Diego.
Here is the movie from YouTube, which I will be watching later today:
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