Dreams do come true! Such a materialization is the Indian-Frontier Village 40 miles north of Hollywood. It has recently been brought forth, not for profit, but to fulfill the life-long dream of its creator, Robert E. Callahan. It is a work of love to be shared with all who wish to walk into the past, to see, to enjoy, and to learn. Everybody loves the place. Children love it, and learn. Old folks love it, and reminisce.
Located in Mint Canyon, near Vasquez Rocks where the notorious bandit, Tiburcio Vasquez, harassed stagecoaches for 20 years (Desert Dec. '64), visitors can now rest securely in a verdant ravine where Vasquez watered and hid his horses. Another short walk leads to a spring that supplies an old green water tank built by the Indians and is still frequented by deer and bobcats that come down the mountain slope in the early morn.
The Village doesn't stop with local history; it features that of our entire West. Near the creepy blackness of an abandoned gold mine, there's a replica of an old miner's hut, an early jail, and an outlaw's hideout. Then there's a white country church such as dotted our country from Boston to Los Angeles a century ago. Inside is a conventional altar and genuine old pews cut down from ones that came around the Horn in a sailing vessel and were used in an early Los Angeles church.
Not far from the church is a little red school house with blackboard and scarred desks. The only things missing here are blonde pigtails to be dipped into inkwells by freckle-faced boys. Other reminders of the past include a "Chic' Sayles" outhouse, which makes you skeptical about how good were "the good old days" — especially in freezing winter weather!
Scattered here and there everywhere are brightly colored totem poles. Mr. Callahan is 1/16 Mohawk Indian, which contributes to his intense interest in Indians and their tribal customs. He is also a descendant of John C. Calhoun, the renowned statesman and vice-president under Andrew Jackson.
It must not be imagined that Mr. Callahan has been a dreamer all his life. Recently retired from the business world, he has been variously a run-away boy, a hobo, a dare-devil stunt man, an author, an actor, a business man and the producer of 52 documentary educational films on the life and customs of as many Indian tribes.
For many years, Mr. Callahan operated a five-acre Los Angeles motel and trailer park, where he accumulated a collection of Indian and pioneer relics and worked constantly toward the materialization of his dream — the present Indian-Frontier Village. After a long search, he located a 12-acre tract of land in Mint Canyon and started his Village, using his famed collection of relics as a nucleus.
An outstanding exhibit is his Hopi kiva — one of the only two kivas in existence outside of Indian reservations. Both are here in the Village. Kivas are Indian Prayer Houses, but only men are permitted inside. There they go to hold religious ceremonies and commune with the Holy Spirit. There they pray for rain, or for the healing of a sick child, or for whatever is their immediate need. Ceremonies are said to be truly beautiful and deeply impressive. Here in the Village, women may enter the kiva as well as men. But all who enter remember it as a sacred place — the church of the Pueblo village.
Other tribes are also represented. There's a Mohawk wigwam of 1670, a Sioux teepee of the turn of the century; a Seminole chichee of the same period; a Cherokee lodge; a Laguna pueblo; a Navajo hogan, and many others.
Another unique exhibit is Good Luck Hall, decorated with over 10,000 horse shoes collected from Western ranches. Each shoe was actually worn by a faithful horse or mule that contributed his humble bit to the development of our great land.
Here are 140 wagon and buggy wheels that actually rolled westward, each wheel bearing a descriptive tag. Visitors delight in finding ones from their own home states. Among them is one from the buggy which carried Helen Hunt Jackson across Southern California when she gathered material for her immortal novel Ramona.
In the main building's museum hall if a wooden cradle that rocked Buffalo Bill (William Cody) when he was a babe; and another slept in by notorious Jesse James. And there stands the old pedal organ on which Carrie Jacobs Bond composed "I Love You Truly" and "The End of a Perfect Day." Mrs. Bond was a personal friend of Mr. Callahan.
It has been necessary to charge a nominal admission fee to cover maintenance costs, but once inside you may stay as long as you like and wander at will. In sharing his knowledge and treasures with the public, Mr. Callahan has made a major contribution to American history and to the culture of Southern California. Everyone who leaves the Village does so with a deeper appreciation for modern advantages, comforts and conveniences, and a hearty respect for those who preceded us here.
1. This is the Ramona Chapel, now at Heritage Junction Historic Park in Newhall.
2. Also at Heritage Junction.
3. Mission Village, a themed auto court at 5675 W. Washingon Blvd. in Culver City. Callahan opened it in 1926 and had to close it in 1962 because it stood in the way of the coming I-10 Santa Monica Freeway, which was completed in 1965.