A long time ago, in a neighborhood actually very near, there existed a place where children’s imaginations could run wild like the mustangs and frolic in the memories of bygone eras. No, I’m not talking about the Children’s Discovery Museum. That’s still there. You should maybe take the children in your life there sometime. I’m also not talking about Happy Hollow. That’s also still there. In fact, not too long ago, it got a pretty great face lift. Might want to put that on the to-do list also. No, I’m talking about a little land of wonder called “Frontier Village”. If you haven’t heard of it, and aren’t over the age of 35, don’t fret. It left this Valley before you arrived. And yet…something survived.
Frontier Village was first built in 1961, the brain child of Joe Zukin after he visited Disneyland, and decided San Jose also needed such an attraction. It had gunfights and burro rides, and even a roller coaster. What it didn’t seem to have, unfortunately, was enough visitors. In 1980, after 19 years of operation, it sadly closed its gates to the children who had played there. But as it happens, some of those children didn’t feel going along with that version of the story. Shaughnessy McGehee was 16 when Frontier Village finally succumbed to the pace of life in the Valley, and missed the magic he felt there. And so, when the park was parceled out and and sold at auction, he began what was to become a lifelong passion for collecting bits of it. He managed to get miniature cars and toy horses and signs, and the things he couldn’t get, or couldn’t fit into his sizable backyard, he decided to recreate, on a more manageable scale. And a very impressive collection it became.
But like the park itself, all good things must come to an end. McGehee will be moving soon. His collection may not be. He can’t take it with him, and those to be the new owners of his house don’t share his love for this particular piece of history. Thankfully, Great America and New Museum of Los Gatos have both agreed to take some pieces of his collection for their displays. And Frontier Village will live on, at least a little longer. Of course, if you would like to see it for yourself, there will also be an opportunity for that. New Museum will be holding their first showing on Nov 7th 2015. The exhibits taken by Great America will open some time later. But the last viewing of these relics in their second home, the Final Frontier, as it were, will be an open house (really an open backyard) being held by the McGehees on Halloween, Oct. 31st 2015. Come and experience this second-hand piece of San Jose history first-hand!