Pollardville was a small roadside restaurant attraction along east side of Highway 99 between Lodi and Stockton that no longer exists.
Originally, it was established at the Red Gate Farm in Castro Valley, California in 1944 as the Chicken Kitchen restaurant. Mosher Slue moved it to the west side of highway 99 in Stockton in 1946. When fire destroyed the original Polynesian-themed restaurant on Pacific Avenue in Stockton, it was moved to the east side in 1957 and was developed by Ray and Ruth Pollard and became the “Chicken Kitchen and Palace Showboat Dinner Theatre” surrounded by a ghost town.
It was hard to miss the big chicken on top of the tall sign as you drove past. The little ghost town had its own sheriff that lived up stairs in the showboat theatre. He roamed the town and with other local actors had various old time dramas acted out on the streets through out the day. The main feature was the showboat looking dinner theatre where you could reserve a table and watch an old vaudeville revue while eating a chicken dinner. I took my girlfriend there twice back in the 1960’s and it was really fun.
It flourished at one time, but I am sure over the years it was harder to maintain. I believe most of the actors were local citizens and volunteers and interest slowly declined. It ceased to exist around 2006.
Sheriff John Hoffman. Every town has it’s characters and Pollardville definitely had one in Sheriff John. Neil met Sheriff John at Big Oak Ranch frontier town in El Cajon, Ca. and offered him a job in Ghost Town and he was there from 1963 until his untimely death in 1979. He died in the Ghost Town apartment of an apparent heart attack with his boots on and his guns hanging over the bed stead.
left to right, Lindstrom, Sheriff John, Mark Tierney, Fast Fester or” Fat Fester” as Sheriff John nicknamed him, (His real name was Eugene Mecum), unknown gunfighter, and fast Fester’s daughter posing in front of the General Store.
Early Gunfighters. Top Left to right, Fast Fester, Neil Pollard, Sheriff John, Stoney Saccucci. Bottom left to right, Greg Pollard
A picture from Wed., July 28, 1965 in the Modesto Bee.
“Mayor” Ray Pollard, founder of Pollardville, talks over the day’s activities with “Sheriff” John Hoffman, an employee, who bears a good resemblance to Richard Boone, the gun slinging Western hero of television fame, “Have Gun Will Travel”.
After it closed, one long time guest wrote,
I really miss the food…unique chicken. I wish somebody would purchase the recipe and open up another restaurant. Sad, another Highway 99 roadside attraction gone…We used to go to Pollardville Chicken Kitchen many a Sunday afternoons out on Highway 99, and attached to the back of the restaurant was a hometown spun ghost town. Looking back on it as a kid I thought the place was the size of an actual town but knowing now it was probably 5 or 10 acres. It was complete with a small train, picnic grounds, jail and even the world’s smallest post office if I remember right. During the 80’s the place was downright busy…it always seemed like there was something going on, some shop that was selling something or a “gunfight” after lunch. It was something straight out of the Route 66 book…pure Americana. I don’t think you would get anything close to this today if you tried to start it up yourself. It’s another relic of a different time and a place I will have fond memories of forever.
I miss this place. Pollardville was a destination almost every Sunday after church when I was growing up. If I finished my meal, I got to ‘explore’ the ghost town.- I loved the train, the picnic area, the ‘gold mine’, the pond with the ducks, the gunfights on Main Street, the different vendors, the old jail, and post office.
The Pollardville Palace Saloon closed its doors on March 31st and the Chicken Kitchen Restaurant closed on April 1st with a closing ceremony. The 1870’s era Jamestown jail was dismantled, moved, and reconstructed somewhere. The Sonoma Area Foundation and the Irving J. Symons Foundation was key in its relocation.
The attraction closed in 2007 and demolition started in the early morning of April 13, 2010.
The locomotive engine named “Chiggen,” (Pollardville slang for chicken) that was part of the billboard of Pollardville for 30 years from 1967 to 2006 has an interesting history, which is retold below. Enjoy.
Built in 1909 by H. K. Porter, this oil-burning 0-4-OT standard gauge tank engine served the Santa Cruz Portland Cement Company #2 in Davenport, California as a materials hauler.
It was sold in 1949 to the Bechtel Kaiser Rock #2 that was used in switching hopper cars in Oroville, California.
In 1967 it was then sold to Ray Pollard where it remained stationary for 30 years to help promote Pollardville, a fried chicken restaurant and tourist attraction until it was sold to Efstathios I. Pappas in 2006.
Efstathios, or Stathi as he was affectionally know, had a long history in connection with the railroad.
The Chiggen was stored indoors at the Northwest Railway Museum in Southern California, then moved to Washington State where restoration began in 2009 and completed in 2013.
First the boiler was sent to Washington for restoration then the entire chassis followed.
In 2014, shortly after restoration, this engine pulled excursion passenger trains at Niles Canyon Railway, Roaring Camp Railroads, and at the Northwest Railway Museum in 2016. It was then planned to move the engine from the indoor museum to Folsom, California to begin excursion service in 2020.
In May of 2020 it was rolled on to a flatbed-construction-equipment-hauling-semi and brought to Sacramento, and was temporarily displayed at the California State Railroad Museum.