A world of fans plead ‘Save the Ponderosa’
INCLINE VILLAGE – With the recent sale of the Ponderosa Ranch, the feelings of worldwide fans of the television show “Bonanza” are centered on one plea, “Save the ranch house.”
It was announced July 9 that the Ponderosa Ranch, which takes its theme from the television western “Bonanza,” will be sold to local businessman David Duffield, who has not yet revealed his plans for the theme park.
In 1999 and 2002, several devotees to the show held their convention in the Lake Tahoe area, with the highlight being a pilgrimage to the Ponderosa Ranch, which has been an Incline Village tourist attraction since 1967. The next convention was planned for 2005 and was to include another visit to the Cartwright house.
Carla Ledford of Cincinnati, co-owner of “Bonanza Legacy,” a Web site devoted to the television show, asked visitors to the site to voice their feelings, via e-mail or phone calls to the North Lake Tahoe Bonanza.
In one afternoon, the paper was besieged by two dozen e-mails, from as far away as Australia, Scotland and Argentina, not to mention a similar number of phone calls from Florida, New York, Missouri, New Jersey, Ohio, Colorado and Pennsylvania.
While the fans of the show are keenly aware that very few scenes were filmed there, with none filmed in the ranch house, they still feel the house is a cultural symbol and should be saved.
“So why do I care? It’s simple,” Claire O’Neill of Edinburgh, Scotland, wrote. “The show is about love, family and about having the courage to stand up and say what is right and to fight to preserve everything that is decent. The ranch house is a symbol of all that, set amidst some wonderful scenery.
“Is it progress to destroy that? Some things deserve to be preserved, to remind us that there is a haven from the stress of everyday life and a dream of a better world.”
Gillian Lubansky of Melbourne, Australia, wrote, “I’m an Aussie, but I hold my memories of visiting the Lake Tahoe area and especially the Ponderosa very dear indeed, a very special place.
“I’ve been a longtime fan of ‘Bonanza,’ about 40 years at last count, and it has always been nice to know that I am not alone in the appreciation of a fine show that for many people was the ultimate western. I would be very sorry to hear the Ponderosa was gone. Saving the Ponderosa ranch house would be a good thing.”
Many of those who wrote or called described themselves as “baby boomers,” who were children when the show began its run in 1959 and stuck with it as it went into reruns.
“I have been a fan of ‘Bonanza’ since the beginning. I was only 3 when it first went on TV but I watched it with my parents,” Eva Mayer of Quebec, Canada, wrote.
Sue Grote, a retired executive for Proctor and Gamble, wrote from Cincinnati, “I followed the show from the beginning and always loved the family values that were very much a part of the show. The ranch house is all we have left, besides the reruns, and it would be a shame to see it go.”
Even though the fans noted that they knew that the house was never used in an episode, they still felt it was a symbol of the show.
“It’s a shrine to the golden age of television,” Carol Marcello said by phone from New Jersey. “The house is an American possession and the fans are hoping that the new owners preserve it for all of us who have come to love it over the years.”
Jennie Allender of Port Charlotte, Fla., called the ranch house “a part of television history,” adding that “it’s the only tangible symbol left of the show, besides Pernell Roberts (the actor who played oldest son Adam Cartwright) and he’s not talking.”
Allender also pointed out that Sept. 12 marks the 45th anniversary of the premiere of “Bonanza” on NBC.
Several voiced fears that the house might not be around during the 2005 “Bonanza” convention.
“Well, I can’t exactly say what the ranch house means to me because I’ve never been there before,” wrote Caroline S. from Portsmouth, Va. “I’m just a 15-year-old girl who right now can’t afford a trip to Nevada. I would like to go when I get a little older, but I don’t think I’ll have that chance if they’re closing it down. I always thought the house would be there so when I got older I could meet some of my Bonanza friends from the Internet that have really changed my life for the better.”
“I hope and pray they don’t close it down. To me, it’d be a crying shame,” wrote Jenny Dick of Australia. “I have never yet had the pleasure of seeing first-hand the Ponderosa house at Lake Tahoe and was looking forward to the prospect of seeing it at the 2005 Bonanza Convention that was planned to be held there. You can imagine what a disappointment this is.”
New York City resident Gail Lockhart was also disappointed as she and her husband had planned their once-in-a-lifetime trip to the 2005 convention.
“It was my all-time favorite western and we were so looking forward to seeing the ranch house and spending time in that atmosphere. We’re devastated,” Lockhart said.
Duffield has said he has no immediate plans for development of the Ponderosa property, so the rest of the world must wait upon the fate of the Cartwright’s house, which one caller referred to as “an icon of the American television Western.”