Friday, January 23, 2009

The Old West at Gammons Gulch

From Gammons Gulch Old West Movie


[NOTE: to see larger version of any picture, left-click once on the picture, and click the back arrow to return. To see our whole Web Album about Gammons Gulch, left-click the blue link beneath any picture. Click the back arrow once (or more) to return to the story.]

Gammons Gulch is a living museum, an authentic ghost town movie set, and it’s only twelve miles from Benson! Our friends Dick and Jeri Hamel had come the 47 miles from Bisbee to join us for lunch at the Apple Farm, and wondered if we’d ever been to Gammons Gulch; we said, “No, let’s go!”

[From their flyer] “Imagine yourself stepping back in time, walking down the main street of an old west town. In the distance you hear sounds of a honky-tonk piano slip in and out of the still, eerie silence as you walk past the saloon. At any moment you expect to see a cowboy step out of the doorway, or hear the pounding of a blacksmith’s hammer. Or maybe feel the rumble of driven horses as the stagecoach churns up the dust as it rolls into town.”

It’s real! It’s happened here in Gammons Gulch! It’s a real Wild West movie site, and every building, every artifact you see is genuine! While the major western films have been shot elsewhere, some scenes from them have been shot here, and the town’s artifacts have been seen in the “biggies” with John Wayne and other major stars.

From Gammons Gulch Old West Movie Site

Even the town’s owner, Jay Gammons, has played opposite John Wayne and others, from the age of eleven until well into adulthood. Jay’s father was one of John Wayne’s bodyguards!

We arrived at Gammons Gulch at 1:30 and were met by the owner, Jay Gammons, in the parking lot. Jay immediately made us feel welcome and started his description of the town.

From Gammons Gulch Old West Movie Site

Our first stop was the saloon (and visitors’ center) where he played his honky-tonk piano for us. Then he personally escorted us, talking all the way, through the blacksmith shop, the barbershop, sheriff’s office and jail, the mercantile, drug store, and the hotel.

From Gammons Gulch Old West Movie Site

Jay and his wife actually live in the hotel, and their sitting room is filled with movie memorabilia, including photos of him and his father acting with some of the big (and lesser) stars.

Jay’s been building his town for 37 years, actually importing many of the buildings, board by board, from other Arizona towns like Show Low, Bisbee and Benson, and he says the job will never be finished.

From Gammons Gulch Old West Movie Site

People have donated artifacts, equipment, even automobiles, or he’s been able to buy some of them for a song. Right now, some Canadians who are staying at an RV park here in Benson are spending most of their time at Gammons Gulch helping to rebuild parts of the hotel that have been destroyed by termites. They are giving their time to have something to do while they are here!

Jay is very protective of his little town, turning back suggestions to get a beer and wine license (he offers old time root beer in glass bottles without charge, although he will point to the donation jar as he serves them), pony rides, shoot-outs, tee-shirts and caps, and other souvenir gadgets. If you want those, he suggests you “go to Tombstone,” only 35 miles south, or Mescal, just a few mile west. He won’t put a sign up by the highway. If you want to learn more about Gammons Gulch, simply click on

To finish the tour, Jay led us back to the saloon where he played another number on the honky-tonk piano then turned to the banjo for a couple of numbers.

From Gammons Gulch Old West Movie Site

Although he didn’t demonstrate, he told us he plays 14 different harmonicas, and invited us to another RV park in Benson for a jam session with himself and several other participants.

From Gammons Gulch Old West Movie Site
For us and for Dick and Jeri Hamel, it was a wonderful day in the old Wild West, at the spur of one moment in … Our Life on Wheels!


  1. Nicely written with great photos of our visit! Loved the link to the album containing many more photos! Yes, it was indeed a wonderful way to spend the day with good friends and meet a fascinating and dynamic induvidual.

  2. We toured Gammons Gulch several years ago. What a neat place!

  3. Great post! We will put this stop on our list of places and things to see.
    Yes, we will definitely make a point to introduce ourselves to you at Nick's rally. Sounds like you plan to stay busy.

    See you there!
    Joy and Phil


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