Campbell Man's Backyard Homage To Long-Lost Amusement Park, Built Over 20 Years, To Soon Close - NBC Bay Area
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Campbell Man's Backyard Homage To Long-Lost Amusement Park, Built Over 20 Years, To Soon Close

Campbell Man's Homage To Long-Lost Amusement Park, Built Over 20 Years In His Backyard, To Close Soon

There are many people who visited San Jose's Frontier Village more times than Shaughnessy McGehee, but few who loved it more. (Published Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2015)

There are many who loved Frontier Village.

There are few, if any, who have taken that love as far as Shaughnessy McGehee has.

Over the course of 20 years, McGehee has built an homage to Frontier Village, the San Jose amusement park that existed from 1961 until 1980, right in his Campbell backyard.

McGehee, a skilled carpenter, has built close to a dozen structures that echo the western-themed park and added many original pieces of the park he has picked up over the years.

“It was just a simpler time and it… just gives me that loved, simpler-time feeling,” McGehee said.

It was a feeling McGhehee loved to share with the public. He would not only open his backyard up for gatherings of fans of the old park, but often for people who would just wander in off the street.

But just as Frontier Village didn't last forever, neither will McGehee's version of it. After the death of his mother and a pending layoff from work, McGehee and his wife have decided to sell their home and move to Oregon. He will not take his creation with him, though, believing it belongs in the South Bay, close to the people who most fondly remember Frontier Village.

McGehee said it was a hard decision to make.

“It’s finally setting in… I feel like the whole park is closing again,” McGehee said.

McGehee's love affair with the amusement park began around the age of five. McGehee says he remembers being chased by his aunt after immediately taking off running towards the schoolhouse when they walked through the gates of the park. From then on, Frontier Village has always held a special place in his heart.

“That was my first experience with it and I fell in love with it… It was just an enchanted time, an enchanted place.”

McGehee said his favorite attraction was the antique car ride. He now owns five of the eight miniature cars that were part of the ride.

Though he says he probably went only eight or nine times, when he heard the news that the park was closing in 1980 and its contents auctioned off, he was devastated. 

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He never purchased anything at the original auction, and it wasn’t until six years later that a trip to neighborhood took him past the closed park rekindled his interest in it. Another nine years went by, and in 1995, McGehee started to build and recreate what he could remember from the theme park.

Over the years since, Shaughnessy has continued to add and improve various elements of his version of Frontier Village. A personal passion of his, he says that this two decade project has made not only him happy, but brought joy to many others who come through it.

“The biggest thing is I wanted to share it with people… It’s my backyard, but I just kinda of feel like a caretaker,” McGehee said.

It will now be up to others to be the caretakers, though.

Many of the original artifacts he owned from Frontier Village will be part of an upcoming exhibit at New Museum Los Gatos. After the exhibit closes, those pieces will go to other, private collections of Frontier Village memorabilia in the South Bay.

McGehee said he has also had interest from nearby amusement parks about acquiring the western-themed structures he has built. 

  

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