History talk relates rise and fall of Little Beaver Town

Visit the parcel of land at the mouth of Tijeras Canyon that now belongs to Albuquerque’s Open Space Division and one may find pieces of plaster, foundations of adobe walls and concrete slabs where buildings once stood. Known as “Little Beaver Town,” the now-vacant parcel was a favorite spot for teen off-roading and parties in the 1990s.

But for a brief period in the 1960s, it was an actual Western-themed park called Little Beaver Town. On its opening day in July 1961, more than 5,000 showed up to see what looked like a Wild West movie set, complete with a mercantile shop called The Rattlesnake, daily gunfights and a local saloon featuring can-can dancers.

Amateur historian Roland Penttila will describe Little Beaver Town’s rise and fall during a free public talk at 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 11 at the little historic church in Tijeras, hosted by the East Mountain Historical Society. Weather permitting, he will lead a car caravan to the site immediately after the talk.

Penttila will describe how in early 1960, a group of retired Standard Oil executives sold stock at $3/share, obtained a lease on the land along Route 66 and partnered with Colorado artist Fred Harman to create Little Beaver Town. Harman was creator of the newspaper comic strip “Red Ryder and Little Beaver,” whose popular crime-fighting characters were featured in comic books, a radio show, TV series and more than 30 movies. Penttila will also relate how the venture fell apart.

Penttila is a retired civil engineer and amateur photographer who moved from California to New Mexico in 1998 to work on the N.M. 44 highway project. After retirement in 2012, he became interested in Albuquerque’s history. He is currently on the board of the Albuquerque Historical Society, is a volunteer who gives free walking tours of downtown and is a docent at the Albuquerque Museum.

Penttila’s talk kicks off the East Mountain Historical Society’s free public talks for the new year. Refreshments will be served and the society will be selling its East Mountain history-themed products, including: 2018 “Then and Now” calendars that feature historic East Mountain photos, maps of vanishing East Mountain landmarks, Route 66 reproduction post cards, history booklets and more, proceeds from which further the non-profit society in its mission of preservation and sharing of East Mountain history. For information about the all-volunteer East Mountain Historical Society, its preservation projects and how to join, visit eastmountainhistory.org.