|Some years ago [Dick] Curtis lent an old lady twenty-five dollars to pay a doctor bill, and when she found herself unable to return the money, she gave him a deed to a few square feet of California sand somewhere north of Los Angeles. After a while Curtis sold the sand lot for a hundred and fifty dollars. He took the money to a Southern Pacific (R.R.) land agent and said, "Put this in some more sand for me." The original investment of twenty-five dollars pyramided until the actor awoke one day to the fact that he owned a considerable piece of property somewhere out in the desert. He had never seen it, and he assumed it to be nothing more than a large parcel of solid sand, worthless to anyone but a manufacturer of hourglasses. So he went out to look at it and had to ride horseback to get to it, and when he did reach it he had his dream.|
In the mid 1940's, Dick Curtis visited the area that would become Pioneertown and was convinced that a movie ranch as well as homes, resorts, and dude ranches would be ideal and become a money maker. Curtis, along with 17 investors, including Roy Rogers, the Sons of the Pioneers, Russell Hayden, Frank McDonald, Tommy Carr, Terry Frost, and Bud Abbott, in 1946, each invested $500. A corporation was established with offices in Studio City. The company purchased 32,000 acres, the entire valley that Pioneertown now sits in.
Curtis soon after left the company and Russell Hayden took over as president of the company.
Originally planned on being called "Rogersville", the town that was established was named "Pioneertown", in honor of the singing group.
A western street set was begun with several businesses, including restaurants, established in the buildings--fully functional buildings, not just facades or sets.
In 1950, the property was estimated in excess of $1.5 million. Unfortunately, there was one problem with the area--an inadequate supply of water. It appeared that the venture was going to collapse when Philip N. Krasne, a movie producer who was producing the Cisco Kid series for United Artists, visited the area, probably in early 1948. He liked what he saw and brought the production company to Pioneertown for filming.
He built the sound stage/livery stable.
Many of the Gene Autry Flying A television productions shot at the site, including "Range Rider", "Annie Oakley", "Buffalo Bill Jr.", and "The Gene Autry Show". Other notable television shows that utilized the area were "Cisco Kid" and "Judge Roy Bean".
It wasn't long before the finance company gained ownership of the property. Hayden purchased a small track of land across the road from the town and built movie sets for his "Judge Roy Bean" television series, which were still standing in 1999. Like the Pioneertown buildings, these sets were also fully functional--in fact, when the Hayden's retired to Pioneertown after living in Arizona, they lived in one of the buildings.
DIRECTIONS: To reach Pioneertown, head east from Los Angeles on Interstate 10, about 2 hours. Take Highway 62 north to Yucca Valley. Turn left onto Pioneertown Road. Pioneertown Road will intersect with Mane Street after you have passed by the western street. Turn right onto Mane Street.
During construction--taken from roof of the Golden Stallion restaurant.
Click on image for larger view
Wintertime during construction.
Fun during a break from construction.
The Red Dog Saloon in 1950.
(by permission of Stephen Lodge)
Roy Rogers throwing the first ball down the alley in the Pioneertown Bowl. Some of the Sons of the Pioneers in the background.
|Pioneertown shareholder's dinner in Golden Stallion restaurant, possibly to celebrate the completion of Pioneertown. Dick Curtis at head table; Bob Nolan on left of left side table.|
The old sound stage.
One of the many buildings that still exist from the filmmaking days.
Map of Pioneertown
"The Valiant Hombre" (United Artists 1948) Directed by: Wallace Fox. Cast: Duncan Renaldo, Leo Carillo, John Litel, Barbara Billingsley, Lee "Lasses" White, Stanley Andrews, Frank Ellis, Herman Hack, Ralph Peters.
"The Gay Amigo" (United Artists 1949) Directed by: Wallace Fox. Cast: Duncan Renaldo, Leo Carrillo, Armida, Joe Sawyer, Clayton Moore, Fred Kohler Jr., Walter Baldwin, Kenneth MacDonald, George DeNormand, Fred Crane, Helen Servis, Bud Osborne, Sam Flint, Beverly Jons.
"The Daring Caballero" (United Artists 1949) Directed by: Wallace Fox. Cast: Duncan Renaldo, Leo Carrillo, Kippee Valez, Charles Halton, Pedro de Cordoba, Stephen Chase, David Leonard, Edmund Cobb, Frank Jaquet, Mickey Little.
"Satan's Cradle" (United Artists 1949) Directed by: Ford Beebe. Cast: Duncan Renaldo, Leo Carrillo.
"Cody of the Pony Express" (Columbia 1950) Directed by: Spencer G. Bennet. Cast: Jock O'Mahoney, Dickie Moore, Peggy Stewart, William Fawcett, Tom London, Helena Dare, George J. Lewis, Pierce Lyden, Jack Ingram, Rick Vallin, Frank Ellis, Ross Elliott, Ben Corbett, Rusty Westcoatt.
"Indian Territory" (Columbia 1950) Directed by: John English. Cast: Gene Autry, Smiley Burnette, Pat Buttram, Gail Davis, Kirby Grant, Chief Thundercloud.
"The Girl from San Lorenzo" (United Artists 1950) Directed by: Derwin Abrahams. Cast: Duncan Renaldo, Leo Carrillo, Edmund Cobb.
"Silver Canyon" (Columbia 1951) Directed by: John English. Cast: Gene Autry, Jim Davis.
"Whirlwind" (Columbia 1951) Directed by: John English. Cast: Gene Autry, Smiley Burnette, Dick Curtis.
"Barbed Wire" (Columbia 1952) Directed by: George Archainbaud. Cast: Gene Autry.
"The Last of the Pony Riders" (Columbia 1953) Directed by: George Archainbaud. Cast: Gene Autry, Smiley Burnette, Dick Jones, Kathleen Case.
"On Top of Old Smokey" (Columbia 1953) Directed by: George Archainbaud. Cast: Gene Autry, Smiley Burnette.
"Shelter From the Storm" (Movicorp 1994) Directed by: Gregory Scanlan. Cast: Sheila Ryan, Wiley M. Pickett, David Dunard, Jacqueline Wright, Dan Woren.