Fat Jones Stables

September 25, 2008

Fat Jones Stables was the top supplier of horses and horse wranglers to the movies for 51 years.  The business was founded by Clarence “Fat” Jones in 1912 when he provided horses for a Pathe Films western.

Originally located in Edendale (which today is Silverlake), the Stables moved to North Hollywood in the ’20s.  They shut their barn doors in 1963, but not before they had making an indelible mark on the screen with such stars as Flicka, Silver, Gene Autry’s Fury, and the horses which Hoss and the boys rode on “Bonanza”.

And, of interest here, Raider, the white horse of choice for one Durango Kid.  According to Charles Starrett, there were 31 “Raiders” over the years.

With a pedigree like that, we just had to visit this joint, so Briar and I set out on a little road-trip.

If Clarence had never moved his base of operations, we would have had a short drive.  Edendale is less than a mile from our home.  Mixville Studios, where Tom Mix produced his westerns, is long gone.  It served as a fire station for some years and then was converted to the Edendale Grill.  Yummy food by the way.  The drive would have been a lot more pleasant as well — winding tree-lined streets, residential homes, schools and many pedestrians.

Instead we were headed to the dark heart of the Valley, Sherman Way and Lankershim.

This has become one ugly part of town.  Body shops, discount shoe warehouses, cut-rate lumber yards, run-down prop houses.

And hot too.  It was over 100 degrees on the sunny September afternoon.

At least it was clear.

The best I can figure, a Storage business occupies the land that so many equine stars once called home.

There is no marker, no stone, no trace at all.  Not even a stray bit of dried-up hay or a faint whiff of petrified manure.

Too bad.  Briar brought her riding boots.

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22 Responses to “Fat Jones Stables”

  1. Bob Olling said

    Just found your website. We were just talking about the Fat Jones Stable yesterday at my brother Jack Olling’s Funeral in Bakersfield, Ca. He started working there when he was in High School, they took a liking to him as he had a love for Horse’s and animals. He use to take me to work with him sometimes and it was a great experience and a ton of fun, we use to ride horses and watch them wrangle the stock for transporting, building stagecoaches, wagons and anything movable, the Blacksmith Forging all kinds of parts. Great lovable people that made you feel like part of the family. Remember having Breakfast with Ben & Carol Johnson in their house on the corner of Tujunga Ave. and Sherman Way. Remember when Fat got his Crosley Convertible, it was a site to see, it was a car full of Fat. Love Em All.

  2. Anonymous said

    As I remember the place , it was on the south east corner of Tijunga and Sherman way. We used to walk through there to see the cowboys ,horses and stuff. that was about 1960.

  3. Anonymous said

    MY NAME IS gaRY LIKE ,fAT WAS MY GRANDFATHER WE HAD ALOT OF MEMRIOUS THERE , I THINK ABOUT THE PEOPLE AND FAT AND BEN AND CARROLL DAILY, ALOT OF GOOD TIMES…… 1-8-2011

  4. Anonymous said

    You would have found it at Tujunga and Sherman way where the ranch was. But I don’t think you would found anything left of it.
    Nice to still see some interest, Hi to all of you guys that where there in the hey day. Barry Jones…grand son of Fat and Nephew of Ben and Carol Johnson, Thanks

  5. Gary M. said

    We’re always looking for additional information on the life and career of Les Hilton, trainer of Francis, Flicka, Tonto, Mr. Ed, etc. who often stabled at Fat’s. We cover Les on our web site http://www.myfriendflicka.com and also set up a Find A Grave page on him. He deserves a lot of credit, as does Fat and so many others. Thanks.

    • Loretta Kemsley said

      I lived across the street from Les on Saticoy.

      He also trained Black Diamond who was used as a wild/fighting stallion. When Les got Ed, he moved Diamond to Fat’s place.

      Ed was never stabled at Fat’s to my knowledge, although Les might have taken him there to work. Ed was always stabled at Les’ home. I was privileged to work with Les with Ed and Pumpkin, Ed’s double. Nicker, our old palomino gelding played Ed’s mother.

      Les also owned and trained a black quarter gelding who played Smoky in one of the remakes about Smoky, Will Jame’s book. Will worked at Fat’s in the earliest years before he left to write Smoky and his other books.

      I used to hang out at Fat’s place. Rode horses for Jack Levine who rented corral space there on the back side. After Fat died, Jack rented a place up in Sylmar. Ben and Carole lived there, along with Henry and Pedro, barn help. After the freeway took that place, Ben and Carole bought a house about a block from ours (we’d moved to Sylmar too). They later moved to Thousand Oaks.

      I remember Danny, a nephew of Fat’s who hung out. Young teen when I knew him. I also met Fat’s brother once. When he heard my last name, he said he’d wanted to open a pony track but couldn’t because those darn Kemsley’s had so many of them, there wasn’t room or business enough for another. LOL. Nice guy.

      When Les moved from Saticoy, he moved to Burbank. I saw him there for the last time at the old Pickwick show arena. I was showing, and he rode over on Smoky. He had emphysema by then.

      Wonderful times. Wonderful people.

      • Loretta Kemsley said

        Oh, forgot. For those of you who might remember Diamond, he was kept in the big barn and had a steel door on his stall because he kept tearing up wooden doors. He was mean and no one except Les would work with him. Les told me he was sorry he’d every trained him to fight because he wasn’t mean before then.

  6. Caroline Fox said

    Fat Jones’ Stable was FAMOUS in the 50’s, when I grew up. A highlight for me was visiting and petting the Bonanza horses there–The horses Ben, Adam, Hoss, and Little Joe rode–Still, at age 76, I NEVER miss their re-runs. Remember the Spahns’ North Hollywood Stables??? I, with my Pinto, Joya, spent my teen years there–Oh, the memories

  7. I worked at Fat Jones Stables 1961-1063.
    I was working there when Fat died and Dyke Johnson took over. Ben Johnson helped me get my job there.

    • I worked at Fat Jones Stables 1961-1963.
      I was working there when Fat died and Dyke Johnson took over. Ben Johnson helped me get my job there.

      I also knew Jack Lavine and worked for before I worked for Fat.

      I spent a lot of time at Ben and Carol Johnson house which was on the ranch at that time.
      Many happy memories of those years.

  8. Russell Paris said

    Just found this old post. You say that Fat Jones Stables closed it’s doors in 1963. I have a catalog from the Public Sale of the items on the property and it is dated October 1969.

  9. tim2kirk said

    Thanks for sharing that, Russell!

  10. Anonymous said

    My folks and I lived next door to Fat Jones and his wife Harriett on Craner Avenue throughout the 50’s. I do recall in a general way that both were very nice folks, especially to the neighborhood kids — and there were many of us in the 50’s. Once, Fat hosted several of us kids to a visit at the Stables. I’m not sure, but I think it was a birthday party for his granddaughter — although I may have come up with that “fact” as a reasonable explanation for the visit. Lots of horses and lots of different sorts of wagons; to a little kid it felt like being suddenly in the middle of a western movie.

    It seems like they also kept a few thoroughbreds, always with the word “blue” in the name. I must admit that if that’s accurate, my memory is better than I’ve thought it was.

    Good memories!

  11. Regina Dergan said

    I went to Fat Jones Stables to visit my grandfather who was very important to me but probably not remembered by most. His name was Willi Wigratz a German man with heavy ascent he one of the blacksmith’s, and helped build the stagecoaches. I loved going to the Valley and visit and looking at the horses, anyone remember the German man that shoed the horses?

  12. Raul Gomez said

    They were located at Sherman Way and Tujunga. Stayed open til around 1970 and then gradually closed their operation, relocating next to Devonshire Downs in Northridge before pulling the plug. My grandfather worked there from 65 to 69. I helped him and did take care of the Bonanza horses.

  13. tim2kirk said

    Great info, Raul. thanks for sharing it!

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