Pre-1950 photos from the collection of Ernie Hickson, nephew of "the" Ernie Hickson
who founded the Placeritos movie ranch in Placerita Canyon. Photos were shot either by the
younger Hickson's father, Russ, or by "Uncle Ern." Several are family photographs;
several show the condition of the 110-acre ranch prior to the elder Ernie Hickson's death on Jan. 22, 1952, and the ranch's subsequent sale to Gene Autry, who renamed it "Melody Ranch." Snow photos are probably from the big snow of Jan. 10, 1949 (thanks to Dan Tillmanns of Ridgecrest for the date
A set decorator with a traveling theater troupe, Ernie Hickson came out West from Ohio in 1922
and applied his talents to the screen, earning his first move credit in 1924. By 1930 he was building
Western sets in Placerita Canyon for producer Trem Carr. The first sets were erected just east of
today's state Route 14, where the Walt Disney Co.'s Golden Oak Ranch is located today; in 1936 Hickson
moved them to the site of today's Melody Ranch. In the 1930s and '40s the name was Monogram
Ranch (Carr co-founded Monogram Studios). Hickson and Carr eventually parted company; Hickson bought out Carr's interest in the business and renamed it Placeritos Ranch on June 21, 1941.
Hickson leased his ranch to production companies that churned out dozens of "B" Westerns each year, and he opened it to the public on Sundays when production wasn't underway. In his final years, 1949 to 1951, Hickson hosted a giant Fourth of July celebration for the Newhall community, transforming his movie ranch into the Old West town of "Slippery Gulch" for the occasion.
Click here for the complete
Monogram/Placeritos/Melody Ranch story.
EH5001: 1200 dpi jpeg from 2½-inch transparency.