So he decided to surround himself with something that would always keep his memories alive: He built a scaled-down version of the park in the back yard of the Campbell home where he grew up and where he and his family now live. There, among towering oak and eucalyptus trees, he's re-created the western-themed park's Silver Dollar Saloon, the Lost Dutchman's Mine, Rainbow Falls, a water tower, a grand two-story playhouse, five rope bridges and a sky-high tree house.
Those were some of the best days of my life,'' McGehee said. ``I want to hold onto them. This is a way to do that.''
McGehee's paean to his beloved park has been a decadelong labor of love, and he's pressed most of his family members into working on it. His kids -- ages 9 through 15 -- haul wood, help clear sections of the yard and wield hammer and nails to help turn once overgrown brush and weeds at the half-acre site into a new play space.
I love working on all of it,'' 15-year-old Michael said. ``Not many kids can say they have a saloon in their back yard and that they helped build it.''
McGehee has only a few artifacts from the shuttered Frontier Village, among them a kid-sized Model T Ford that was part of an antique car ride and an almost-life-size ceramic horse called Crazy Horse that once graced the park's entrance.
A self-avowed pack rat, McGehee trolls garage sales and junk yards in search of scrap wood and old fencing for his project. Friends and neighbors always think of him when they're unloading old lumber and building materials. The corners of the family's lot have piles of wood, bricks, old car parts and gas pumps that someday will be incorporated into a western-style general store, jail and schoolhouse.
My wife teases me that when I go to the dump to drop stuff off, I bring home twice what I took,'' he said.
Wife Cindy said, ``sometimes it makes me crazy that he collects everything. But when he finishes building something, I love to see his excitement. He's like a kid.''
McGehee, a facilities manager at a Menlo Park venture capital firm, first visited Frontier Village in South San Jose near Monterey Road and Branham Lane when he was about 5 and his father's company held a summer picnic there. He was hooked. The Lost Dutchman Mine roller coaster, the antique car ride, burro rides and fishing for trout at Rainbow Falls are among his favorite memories.
It was so magical,'' he said. ``The biggest thing you felt was love. You felt totally embraced by this warm and fuzzy feeling. I was heartbroken when it closed.''
Frontier Village provided homespun family entertainment on a smaller scale than today's large amusement parks, such as Paramount's Great America or Six Flags Marine World. It was a safe place to take your children and not worry about them running around without knowing exactly where they were, McGehee's mother, Sharon, said.
McGehee is part of a group of former Frontier Village employees and parkgoers who have developed a Web site (www.frontiervillage. net) and hold reunions each summer to reminisce about the park. They meet at the spot where Frontier Village stood, now a city park called Edenvale Garden Park. A large portion of the one-time 39-acre site has been developed into condominiums.
McGehee's enthusiasm for things western also led him to join the Gunfighters of the Old West, a group that dresses up in western gear and re-enacts shootouts. Many of its members are former employees and stuntmen who performed shootouts at Frontier Village when it was open between 1961 and 1980.
I actually dream that I am there again, and I wake up and my heart aches,'' McGehee said, tears welling in his eyes. ``People say to me, `If you ever grow up, we're all in trouble.' ''