On Nov. 7, the New Museum Los Gatos (NUMU) hosted over 500 people for the opening of It Takes a Village: A trip back in time to Frontier Village, Santa’s Village, and Lost World. Presenting three lost-but-not-forgotten local theme parks, NUMU’s exhibition was not unlike a theme park on opening day.
Whether it was learning to lasso with “the one and only” Miss Wild West of Frontier Village, mailing a letter to a perennial Santa’s Village or posing with exotic animal statues from Lost World, children and adults -- but mostly the adults -- were giddy with excitement at NUMU.
If you were a South Bay kid in the 1960s and '70s, you were probably begging your parents to take you to Frontier Village in San Jose, or trying to convince them to stop at Santa’s Village and Lost World on your way to and from the beach.
Today, the most prominent remnant of these parks is probably the sign for Santa’s Village Road on Highway 17, which tends to confuse more than excite. Santa’s Village was more than just a quirky pit stop though; it was a part of the first franchised theme park in history.
After World War II, when McDonald’s was just starting to open franchises and Disneyland captured the imaginations of children and investors, undeveloped property in the South Bay seemed perfect for theme park development.