Wednesday, 22 March 2017

National Parks in the Time of Grizzly Peak

Disney California Adventure park's Grizzly Peak Recreation Area and Airfield have been reset from the Nineties extreme sports era to the vintage time period of the early Sixties. This makes it contemporaneous with Disney's True-Life Adventures films, Humphrey the Bear shorts, and the Golden Age of the Great American Road Trip that brought so many visitors to the National Parks along the newly christened Interstate Highway system.

One could do worse to capture a feel for the period than to watch the True-Life films and Humphrey shorts, as well as Disney's later animal features like Yellowstone Cubs (some of which are specifically referenced in Grizzly Peak as films being shown in the late-night ranger program). Nevertheless, there is a wealth of available material out there, above and beyond one's old family photos. For example, the following Vacation Land U.S.A. program presented by the Ford Motor Company features Yellowstone circa the late Fifties.

Castle Films presents this 1965 short on Grand Teton Country, featuring Pioneer Days at Cheyenne, Wyoming, and Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks.

The next travelogue is of Glacier National Park around the early Sixties, this time presented by Great Northern Railway. Clearly they are keen to have guests at their chain of rustic lodges sprinkled throughout the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, reached by a ride on a streamlined Great Northern train. But at this time, railway travel was steadily dying out to highway travel.

Here is another take on Glacier National Park in another mid-century travelogue from Great Northern Railway.

The next film takes us on a black-and-white tour of the crown jewel, the Grand Canyon, circa 1958.

This silent film produced by Castle makes a nice virtual tour of the "Grand Loop" through Bryce Canyon, Zion, and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon via Utah Parks Company tour bus. Passengers would disembark the Union Pacific Railway at Cedar City, Utah, stay a night in one of the Hotel El Escalante's 23 rooms, and then hop on the subsidiary company's bus for a round trip through each of the region's great chasms.

The following film from 1957 is a promotional film for the Pacific Northwest in general, but pays more than ample attention to Olympic, Mount Rainier and Crater Lake National Parks, and Mount Hood National Forest. The volcanic mountains that shape the geography of this region also shape human life there, from industry to recreation.

More specific than just the National Parks, Grizzly Peak is meant to invoke the Sierra mountains and its parks: Yosemite, Sequoia, and King's Canyon. The following vintage film from the Fifties features Yosemite and is light on footage of the tourists themselves, which isn't so bad.

Of course it's always fun to see how the National Parks Service promoted themselves. There are no scenes of happy tourists in the following video produced by the NPS, but there is lots of vintage footage, some hilariously overzealous narration, and an insight into how Americans perceived their national story in the Fifties.

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