Saturday, February 27, 2010

And Now for Something Completely Different

Artistic rendering showing the Cotton Blossom.

Its been a while since we took a step back to look at park history, and there is no time like the present to look back at the past! For the last several months Jeff and I have been borrowing the park's photo archieves. Hopefully over the next several months I will be able to share most of those photos with you, and as there are hundreds it should be a good time!

When the park opened one of its major anchors was its three major ships (I made a pun!), the Henrietta at the park entrance, the Victrix schooner and of course the Cotton Blossom. I decided that we should start with the grand lady of all three, the Cotton Blossom. Bought by Hunt Midwest during the famous MGM studio auction for only $18,000. Cotton Blossom of course most famous for its roll in the 1951 "Show Boat", but also stared in Rain Tree Country, and was used also by the Warner Bros. Studio and many commerials (including one selling beer).

Is this the Cotton Blossom being left for neglect? Well yes, but not when or where you think. This is our oldest photo showing the Cotton Blossom in its original California home awaiting its new owner.

Once Hunt Midwest had purchased Cotton Blossom came the daunting task of disassembling the boat, moving, storing, and then reassembling a 134 foot long, 34 foot wide movie model. Cotton Blossom was shipped cross country using 6 rail cars, and then stored in Hunt's under ground caves for 2 1/2 years before the park began the attempt to re-assemble on July 5, 1972.

Overlooking what will someday be the Americana and Orient sections of the park. The Cotton Blossom is rising in the direct center. You can also see the hillside to the left that will someday be home to the Patriot roller coaster.

Here's more of a close up. You can see the recognizable paddle wheel at the stern.

JE Dunn who was responsible for construction on the entire park also assisted with re-construction of the Cotton Blossom. However the park also brought in specialized help include Glenn Robinson and his crew from California. Glenn originally was in charge of special effects at MGM studios when the Cotton Blossom was originally built.

Vertical construction is progressing with the first and second floors finished.

A little further along now.

Another problem arrised with re-construction when it was discovered the supposably individually numbered parts were not ALL individually numbered, causing for atleast a brief time the concern that re-construction of the Cotton Blossom might not even be possible at all. It was at this point the park brought in a local retired ship builder, Wyman Beardsley to assist with finishing the construction project. Finally after 10 months of construction and most likely stress and frustration the dream became a reality. Cotton Blossom, though not a truly moving craft lead the park through its formative years as one of its main attractions. It was sadly destroyed after the 2005 season.

A craftsman finishes up one of the many intricate wooden detail pieces.

Cotton Blossom in all her glory on Opening Day, May 26, 1973

1 comment:

Mike Koder said...

Oh! My Boat! My very first position at WOF was on the Cotton Blossom and I managed the boat for many seasons, many other seasonal employees called it "Mike's Boat". I cried when I heard it was gone. I have so many memories from the Cotton Blossom. I remember being there (on the Boat) when the Timber Wolf opened. I watched the parade up to the Wolf that was shown on your other Bolg from the front deck of the Cotton Blossom. I miss it so much! Thanks for the memories.