Walter Knott's Catawampus has quite a history! But sadly, no official birthday as no one felt to write it down in the late 1930s. Surely the folks who brought the Catawampus to Knott's never would have expected the critter to remain on the Farm as long as he (she?) has.
The Catawampus was born in the late 1930s and found itself in a corral near the Knott volcano. The wooden creature (made of a branch, a scrub brush, and a set of ram horns) was one of the amusements Walter Knott invented to interest guests coming to Knott's Berry Place to sample Cordelia's fried chicken dinner. Along with George Washington's fireplace, the old mill wheel, phosphorescent rocks, and an orchid grotto, the Catawampus was among the simple, amusing vignettes that Walter used to keep people occupied as they waited hours for their dinner service.
Ghost Town filled its role in 1941 when it debuted, and the Catawampus found a new spot at the very back corner of Main Street near a corral of scrap wood. His sign read, "Of the vast herds of Catawampus which centuries ago roamed the western plains, this is the only one left. According to Prof. Ananias, when this Catawampus is gone, the species will be extinct." With a nearby bucket of water and trough of hay, the Catawampus survived longer than the good professor could have ever dreamed.
The critter lasted so long, in fact, that there were a few (ahem) surgeries and repairs along the way. Wood doesn't last forever, and bits and pieces of the Catawampus came and went with time. Pictures across the decades show its wild evolution. By 1964, a little help came along in the form of wood artist Forrest Morrow who brought a talent for tree sculptures to the East side of Beach Boulevard and the ticketed playground known as Jungle Island. While Morrow maintained and grew his own cadre of Woodimals near the Knott Lagoon, he also took care of Walter Knott's little, antique Catawampus in Ghost Town.
The contented Catawampus outlived Morrow and then outlived Jungle Island when it closed in 1983, but the ol' Caty remained stalwart at the foot of Main Street near the Livery barn where it remains today. Look for the happy Catawampus under the windmill at the Livery barn. Perhaps you'll see a little surprise in the corral, the Kittywampus, a recent and inexplicable Caty offspring! But don't walk on too quickly. Stay awhile and listen as the Catawampus sometimes has a word or two to share with a patient visitor. And ten times out of ten, that word is... most certainly... Moo.
Special thanks to Eric Lynxwiler and the Orange County Archives for the story and photos