NEW LOOK AT OLD KNOTT'S: At the risk of sounding like a fuddy-duddy - and that's if you overlook the fact that we just used the word "fuddy-duddy" - we liked the old Knott's Berry Farm better than the thrilling version. Because, at the risk of sounding like a 'fraidy-cat, there are a minimum of five things we don't enjoy:
1. Being upside-down
2. Going backward
3. Going fast
4. Going up
5. Coming down
None of that happened at the old Knott's Berry Farm in the years before the park/farm became overrun with terror rides.
The most fear we experienced at the Knott's of our youth was (if you factor out the train robbery, which pretty much made us pass out like a possum) was the water flowing up into the tap at the Haunted Shack. The most unpleasant feeling we experienced at the old Knott's was the scratchiness of the Pendleton shirts sold at the Men's Shop.
In many ways, we enjoyed Knott's more than Disneyland. It was cheaper, for sure, with admission being free until 1968, when Knott's almost priced itself out of our market by charging a quarter to get in.
But basically we just enjoyed the old-fashioned simplicity of the place: the Seal Pool, the Covered Wagon Camp, the Rock Shop, the Pitchur Gallery, the Candle Kitchen and of course Mrs. Knott's Chicken Dinner Restaurant.
Everywhere along the park's El Camino Real and Main Street and School Road were windows you could peer in and see real or fake people hard at work, or you could sit down with a pair of entertaining ladies or a couple of old cowboys and pose for pictures.
All of this is detailed brilliantly in a long overdue book on the park's past, "Knott's Preserved: From Boysenberry to Theme Park, the History of Knott's Berry Farm," by Christopher Merritt and J. Eric Lynxwiler.
The book will jar loose a lot of things visitors to the old Knott's may have long forgotten. Among its 200-plus pictures of the park, one of our favorite images is on its inside front cover: a map of Knott's that visitors picked up at the entrance.
All that stuff we wrote about? We'd forgotten (except the train robbery. You don't forget a train robbery.) until our friend Timothy Patrick McRaven loaned us the book, with very long odds of getting it back anytime soon.
Actor/author/comedian and former banjoist at Knott's Bird Cage Theater, Steve Martin is blurbed on the book's back cover as saying "Everyone who cares about the old Knott's Berry Farm will love this book. I care; I loved."
LOCAL ANGLE: The "Knott's" authors reckon that that the most-photographed feature of the park throughout its history is the pair of sculpted cowpokes known as Handsome Brady and Whiskey Bill, forever perched companionably on a bench outside the Gold Trail Hotel.
The old boys were created by artist Claude Bell, who made sand sculptures in the 1920s on the Atlantic City strand and elsewhere on the Eastern seaboard before moving to the correct coast in 1940, when he began making his art at the Pike in Long Beach.
Shortly after that, Bell became friends with Walter Knott, who paid him to make more permanent works of art for the then-new park.
FRIDAY PLAYLIST: Sunday marks the 38th anniversary of Led Zeppelin's famous 1972 concert at the Long Beach Arena.
Frankly, we preferred the Rolling Stones' tour that year, hot off the band's "Exile On Main Street" release. But today we're looking for sheer volume to drown out the neighbor kid's vuvuzela horn. Stupid soccer.
Here is a list of our favorite 10 songs from Zep's 16-song set at Long Beach, in order of performance. Play it real loud or don't play it at all.
1. "Immigrant Song"
3. "Over the Hills and Far Away"
4. "Since I've Been Loving You"
5. "Stairway to Heaven"
6. "Going to California"
7. "Dazed and Confused"
8. "What Is and What Should Never Be"
9. "Dancing Days"
10. "Whole Lotta Love."