Shane, you might find this story about Marshall Scotty's partial revival interesting.
Story by Karen Pearlman
Thursday, November 3, 2011
Marshal Scotty’s Playland, the beloved East County park that has been renovated, redeveloped and renamed several times since its 1967 grand opening, is getting new life.
The once bustling park off Interstate 8 where Lakeside and El Cajon meet, vacant for the last 17 years, is set to reopen Nov. 5. The latest, and its owners hope final, incarnation will be called “Canyon Raceway.”
While the Tilt-a-Whirl and roller coaster won’t be part of the action, the site’s husband-and-wife owners Rudy and Carrie Ludeke are opening part of the park for go-cart racing, one of its most popular late-era features.
Rudy Ludeke, who owns a fabrication business in El Cajon, traveled to Texas two weeks ago to bring back five of the six go-carts that will be used at the track on Ridge Hill Road near Lake Jennings Park Road.
“My husband has always had a dream to open up the track,” Carrie Ludeke said. “This has been his quest for months. We both would go (to the go-cart track) all the time in high school, when we went to Granite Hills. We loved it. It was so fun to go at night and race under the lights in the back country.”
Carrie Ludeke was reluctant to say how much they invested in opening part of the park but “basically it was everything we have... retirement, savings, everything... down to the last penny. We are saying a big prayer for opening day.”
The park will be open, at least for the time being, from 5 to 9 p.m. Thursdays, 2 to 9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 3 to 7 p.m. Sundays. As the Ludekes gauge the park’s popularity, hours of operation may change.
The park had a “work the quirks out night” last weekend, Rudy Ludeke said. People from around the county heard by word-of-mouth that the raceway was opening soon, and many paid a visit to see the coming attraction, Rudy Ludeke said.
“It was great to see smiles, blast from the past, are you kidding me?” he said. “Old school Cajon Speedway racers came, Barona racers came. The smiles, the expressions, the emotions were high. I had people telling me, ‘I remember back in the day’ stories. Nobody can fathom that it was 17 years ago! The track looked great, too. Everybody was really stoked and energetic about it.”
For people like Lakeside native Jennifer Griggs, the park can’t open soon enough.
Griggs worked at Marshal Scotty’s from 1993 to 1995 and her last year was spent in the ticket booth at the go-cart track.
“I have lots of wonderful memories and funny stories,” Griggs said. “My favorite is meeting my husband at the track. I was going to college and would sell tickets and do my homework in the booth. My now-husband loved racing go-carts and came to the track almost every night. We soon started dating and now 16 years later we’re still happily married with two children. Our son is 10 and races go-carts, and in fact was the 2010 So-Cal Oval Karters champion.”
Marshal Scotty’s heyday was in the 1970s and ’80s and even into the early ’90s. The Western-theme park was often filled with kids hopping on and off its miniature Tilt-a-Whirl, a dipping “Bulgy the Whale” ride, ring-the-bell boat ride, roller coaster, 20-foot-high Ferris wheel, airplanes and bumper cars.
Frank Hobbs, who nicknamed himself Marshal Scotty when he got into the carnival business in the early 1950s, opened the park on Jan. 1, 1967.
It changed ownership several times before Bill Lee took it over in 1986. Lee’s dream was to develop Marshal Scotty’s into a world-class water park and in 1989, he invested $500,000 to add a go-cart track and install the longest water slide of its kind in Southern California. By 1990, Lee had filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 11, and Marshal Scotty’s Playland never recovered.
In 1995, the property and equipment were sold under foreclosure to United Leisure Corp. of Fountain Valley for $1.6 million. The company named the park Frasier’s Frontier and established Camp Frasier, a day camp for children, on the property. In 1996 and 1997, Camp Frasier in El Cajon attracted about 200 campers each summer.
But by 1998, United Leisure closed Frasier’s Frontier and Camp Frasier, and put the El Cajon property on the market. It had sat empty since then.
The Ludekes hope this is the end of problems for the property, and the beginning of a promising future.
“The long-range hope is that as long as people are smiling, we’ll keep it going,” Rudy Luedeke said. “Smiles keep it going. I definitely want this for my son so someday he can take it over. He’s 8 years old. And my daughter, who is 11, she also wants to take it over. We’re looking to the future.”