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Saturday, June 23, 2007

Highway 99: Pollardville & The Chicken Kitchen

20070318 Pollardville
Pollardville's Sheriff

Just north of Stockton on the frontage road paralleling CA 99-what was US 99-stood the Chicken Kitchen Restaurant and the roadside delight known as Pollardville. Named after the founders of the restaurant, Ray and Ruth Pollard, Pollardville was set up as a ghost town, with two authentically historic buildings, and the movie set from The Big Country (a 1958 western starring Gregory Peck). Future dinners in the restaurant (chickens, that is) mingled with tourists roaming this quaint roadside attraction.

20070304 Pollardville
Future Chicken Dinner

The Pollards appreciated old things, and collected anything they considered of value and stored it at Pollardville. You could find the barber's chair from Back to the Future 2, antique farm equipment, and salvage from historic buildings that had been torn down. Many of the items were available for purchase, and there was a small antique store in one of the movie set buildings.

20070318 Chair from Back to the Future 2
Chair from Back to the Future 2

A narrow gauge railroad ran throughout Pollardville, and visitors could ride it for a small fee. On my ride, a gate had been left closed, so the train had to stop for the conductor to open it.

20070304 Pollardville

Video of the Train Passing

Inside, the restaurant featured more antiques and memorabilia. For a special treat, you could dine in a jail cell, or a stagecoach. The menu of the Chicken Kitchen naturally featured fried chicken. On one of my last visits, people at the table behind me, who had driven a long ways to dine there, were disappointed to hear they were out of gizzards, so next time there I made sure to order the mixed giblets (gizzards and livers).

20070304 My last meal . . .

20070311 Mixed Giblets
Mixed Giblets

Next door was the Palace Showboat, a building that looked very much like a riverboat. It was used as a theater. To attract the attention of people on the freeway, there was a giant sign out front, with a chicken up top and a lighted arrow pointing down. A locomotive stood at the base of the sign.

20070311 Palace
Palace Showboat

20051017 Pollardville

Pollardville closed forever on April 1, 2007. The restaurant continued to sell food to go for a couple of months afterwards. Before closing, the owners made nearly everything for sale. I would have liked a souvenir, but the prices were way too high for me. I did get myself a t-shirt and a postcard, in addition to my pictures and video footage.

I was worried about the fate of the Jamestown Jail, a brick building built in 1897 that was moved from Sonora County to Pollardville. A historical society from the county was trying to raise $35,000 to save it and move it back. Fortunately, their website indicates that they were successful.

From what I have read, the developers' plans for the area are to construct a shopping center and gated community.

20070304 Jamestown Jail
Jamestown Jail

Below is the story of the restaurant as told in a handout that was available on the player piano near the restaurant's entrance. I've copied it as is, mistakes included.


The Pollardville Story

The original Chicken Kitchen was first established at the Red Gate Farm Chicken Ranch in Castro Valley in 1944 by Ray and Ruth Pollard. It evolved from a roadside business selling eggs and poultry to selling chicken sandwiches and then to the original "Chicken on a Bun" was born and served thru a window to become the first or one of the very first food to go restaurants. In 1946 the business was moved to Stockton on the West side of the highway by Mosher Slough opposite Ashley Lane. It opened to accommodate 18 patrons served at a counter, three tables and a take out window and over the next 10 years grew to a capacity of 125. In 1957 having outgrown the premises the restaurant was moved to the present 16 acre location and Pollardville was in its beginning of phases of permanent growth. As its business grew so did the ghost town which included the smallest post office in the U.S. purchased from Mountain Ranch, CA., another authentic building was the Jamestown Jail on Main Street. To help complete the town the entire movie set from the 1957 film "The Big Country" was added, along with on half mile C.K.R.R. Narrow Guage Railroad, a stage coach line and occasional shoot out on Main Street.

The town was on its way. 1965 saw the first melodrama Vaudeville show open at the Palace Showboat Dinner Theatre. Then the fire of Dec. 1984 leveled the entire main restaurant. Not undaunted Neil and Tracy Pollard in March 1987 reopened by moving yet another structure with charm and character the Islander Restaurant that stood on the corner Benjamin Holt and Pacific Ave. in Stockton and remodeled to fit the Pollardville theme. The project now at hand includes development of a wedding reception, concert and company barbeque picnic area. This is just another chapter in the on going building at Pollardville.


Schocker said...

When i was a young child (in the 70s), Pollardville'sGhosttown was in its last days of its heyday. there was a "sheriff" (sheriff john) who i think was the old man Pollard and who actually LIVED in the 'ghost town' on the second floor of what was then a sort of candyshop/antiques place, i suppose. they used to have a noon shoot-out and the sheriff would lock kids up in the jamestown jail. i can stil, to this day remember my older cousin locked in the pokey! they used to have rail service on the CKRR and a "great train robbery" would be staged out by the back of the place before you hit the tunnel. by the time of the mid 70s it had been closed to visitors, tho i would sometimes sneak in with the local kids (i was visiting my granny) and we'd fool about in there at night and dodge the 'sheriff'. also i don't know if they still had the "old mine" which was really nothing but chicken wire and plaster of paris but really cool to an 8 year old and the saloon - which back in the day, actually had a barkeep and sasaparilla and some old penny arcade machines of the kind that showed pictures or movies, i believe (and some dummies set up as tho playing poker!)

wow! this brings back SOOOO many memories......

Anonymous said...


(THEY USED to have a BOX, marked, 'DANGER, BABY RATTLERS' and when you got up to it closer, it was a wooden box with chickenwire on the top and it contained about 8 BABY rattlers (the plastic kind for intants) lying on a bed of straw

(and a! so much nostalgia for this place - and that big train was REALLY COOL to climb all over....they don't make 'em like that anymore)

thanks for sharing this stuff

Anonymous said...

I have a post card signed by "Sheriff John". I remember the shoot out they had too.

Breee said...

I worked at this place since I was 14 and I loved everything about it. The food was great and the people were outstanding there. If anyone has ever been there you'd know an old man named Jessie who was just the cutest old man ever! I miss everything about it

Anonymous said...

My grandpa was the sheriff there for over 10 years. I grew up there and spent every weekend and summer of my childhood there. They are some of the best momories i have, that place was amazing. I was so sad to see it go I still almost come to tears when ever I drive by it. I remember getting free ice cream and train rides when ever i wanted and always rode up front with the engineer. I knew everyone that worked their and they were all great people.

Tiburon said...

When I was a young boy, my mother and I would drive from Sacramento to Capitola (near Santa Cruz) to visit my grandparents several times a year. In those pre-interstate days, that involved driving down US99/US50 to Stockton, where US50 split off and crossed the mountains to San Jose. The trip always put us at Pollardville about lunchtime, and we would always stop for chicken.

My most vivid memory of Pollardville was from 1959. We had finished lunch and were headed out to our '57 Plymouth Fury (the one with the huge tail fins). The newspaper was for sale there, with the headline anouncing that Alaska had been admitted as the 49th state.

Funny the things that stick in your mind. I haved always associated Pollardville and Alaska.

Anonymous said...

For everyone's information, Pollardville is no longer. The location was officially closed, left abandoned for months while the Ghost Town and other salvageables were carted away.

After being stripped the buildings were left to deteriorate until On April 14, 2010 the remains were raized. All that stands is the Pollardville sign, the only reminder that anything stood in that place.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know what ingredients were in Pollard's deep fried chicken recipe?

Anonymous said...

That is a shame that pollardville ghost town i gone, is the rest. and show place gone too? Does anyone know what happened to Donald Morris, and Toni Mcclellan (sp?). I miss all of those peeps from about 82-85 I hung, out played Annie Oakley in the gun fights a few times. I had fun. just a cool place to hang out if anyone remember me my name is Kimm (James, Smith then, now Sloan). Man I miss all you guys.
My mom dated a guy from there he was a gun slinger/fighter named Jessie....

Terry from Sacramento said...

My entire family used to drive from Sacramento to watch the performances and always made sure to get there in time to have the unforgettable broasted chicken dinner. It was so much fun for all of us -- we'll always remember the cheering and booing. So sad it's all gone now!

Karen said...

I too enjoyed Pollardville. I loved the entertainment at the Palace Showboat. If anyone can share any information on the shows that were held there I would love any info you could share with me.

Bart Gripenstraw said...

Does anyone know what happened to the old home that was in Pollardville that used to be located at 231 E. Channel Street in Stockton? Would love to see pictures as well. Any help would be appreciated.

Bart Gripenstraw

Anonymous said...

great memories and wonderful times, like a disnelyand of sorts for us kids back in the 60's and 70's

Unknown said...

Wonderful memories as a kid and my mom used to play music there in the white cabouse.

HEALER said...


Annette Still said...

Lol, I was just thinking about those baby rattlers and then I see your comment!I remember as a child looking into that same box!! Every time expecting snakes, lol.

Annette Still said...

The shootouts were awesome!

Annette Still said...

Just passed that sign coming back from Long Beach from our cruise!! Couldn't wait to see it again, it's been too long! I live in Portland Oregon now and my opportunities are limited!

Annette Still said...

All I know is that it was broasted.

Annette Still said...

We did too! Honestly haven't had chicken like that since!

Annette Still said...

We did too! Honestly haven't had chicken like that since!

Annette Still said...

All I know is that it was broasted.

Rick Welch said...

I too was from that area, and I haven't heard those names since forever. Do you remember Tony Torris?

Anonymous said...

I remember this in the early 60s, I have never forgotten Pollards, Never had since, Was raised in Stockton till 70s, Melinda Meckler Conner...memories...

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I love to learn about, visit, photograph, research, and write about everything that is interesting, unique, and historical about Northern California, and wherever else I should be fortunate enough to find myself.  I've spent many years scouring the roadside in my little car for interesting subjects and walking down hiking trails in the Sierra Nevada and along the coast to get to know the wonder that is Northern California.  I share most of this via photos on Flickr, and as much as time permits me to on my blog, the NorCal Explorer.  Fine art prints of my photos are for sale on Imagekind.