As if the 1970s weren’t dangerous enough for kids, Magic Mountain let children pet and sit atop a heavily sedated lion inside their “Enchanted Cottage” attraction. Named Major, the lion once starred with Johnny Weissmuller in Tarzan.
Magic Mountain opened in Valencia, California (now Santa Clarita) in 1971. I was almost four-years-old and living in Hacienda Heights at the time. Fortunately, I was lucky enough to visit the amusement park once as a child and once as a teenager. I loved Disneyland more, but Magic Mountain with its Wizard and Trolls, also claimed a piece of my little kid heart forever. Remember Bleep and Bloop!?
Unfortunately, I never got my picture taken with the ferocious Major the Lion. ROAAAARRR!
Magic Mountain Animal Chatter
Major the Lion was part of a show at Magic Mountain called Animal Chatter. It featured a variety of animals including reptiles, exotic birds, elephants, cubs, and at least one king of beasts. Very little has been formally reported about Major. Most of what I was able to find were anecdotes in public posts on Facebook. According to one person, Major’s tail had been bitten off. Hopefully, not by a young Gen-Xer.
The 1970s Were Kind of Dangerous
Growing up in the 1970s, life was a dangerous adventure. For example, I never used sunscreen or bug spray until I was well into adulthood. In addition, I didn’t start wearing a seat belt until I was a teenager and I most certainly never wore a bike helmet until I had kids of my own. Most days, starting around the age of five, I ran the neighborhood until the proverbial streetlights came on and I regularly came home from school to a completely empty house.
My friend Peggy and I got lucky once scraping our knees at the same time on the gravel playground at Giberson Elementary. We promptly solidified our bond by rubbing our wounds together to become blood sisters. My dad swabbed those same scrapes with pinkish-orange Mercurochrome, which burned like hell. The amber glass bottle of antiseptic had a faded yellow label and lived inside our medicine cabinet my entire childhood and youth. I kid you not, in 1975, it was an artifact from his Korean War-era days.
Routine and Unimabinable Escapades
Ultimately, between drinking from a lead-laden garden hose to crossing a state highway with my friend Cindy to buy her mom cigarettes, my Gen-X childhood was one unimaginable escapade after another. At the same time, these events and experiences were routine. The smalltown carnival swings spun me against the dark West Texas sky. The same sky over which a young girl my age went missing. I heard about her while passing through the living room while my mom watched The Love Boat. I was 10.
There were also the hitchhikers my father picked while I slept in the back window of his old automobile. Also, the downtrodden people he brought home for dinner, all in service to the local ministerial alliance.
But, I can say this. I never sat atop a doped-up lion. Under normal circumstances, Major would have eaten all those children. Instead, he looks mostly dead in the pictures.
Sadly, there is no mention of Major, the Enchanted Cottage or Animal Farm on Magic Mountain’s Wikipedia entry. Still, we have the grainy pictures to prove that was upon a time you could go to an amusement park in America and hug a lion.