Friday, August 06, 2010

Yippie “Invasion,” pt. 3: 40th Anniversary

Hard to believe this occurred 40 years ago, let alone at all. This startling photo shows a line of police officers in front of the castle. The snipe from the photo reads:

“STRANGE SCENE AT FANTASYLAND—Police officers line the street in front of Disneyland’s Fantasyland castle, at Anaheim, Calif., last night as the huge amusement park was closed for the day because of demonstrations. Several hundred hippie-type youths refused to stop parading on the streets and climbing buildings. About 29,000 people were in the park. There were 18 arrests.”

Recently, I was contacted by Barry, a former park employee, who shared his vivid memories of the day:

I was a supervisor at Disneyland from 1969-1974 and remember that day well. It was my day off but all supervisors were required to be “on call” that day. The LA Free Press advertised the Yippie Day event and Disney officials (Dick Nunis, Ron Dominguez and Jim Cora) were going to make absolutely certain that Disneyland would be prepared for any disruption that might occur.

I remember meeting in the Mickey Mouse Theater (with all other park supervisors) earlier in the week. I believe Disney management brought in a representative from the Anaheim PD- That part of the meeting is fuzzy but I do recall that all of us were assigned specific responsibilities. I was assigned to the Main Street hub area in front of Carnation Plaza Gardens. My assignment: sit on a bench all day watching for any signs of trouble. Shortly after I sat down, a “hippie” sits down next to me, notices my Mickey Mouse watch, and asks me if I work here; cover blown.

It was a long day and nothing really happened in my area until late afternoon- A Conga line was forming and about 25 or more Yippies snaked through the Main Street hub area chanting “LSD has a hold on me.” Funny how I can still vividly remember the chant and see the happenings before me with crystal clarity. The rest of the day was a blur; I knew that Orange County’s finest were in the staging area between Main Street and the Administration Building in full riot gear. I remember the Seal Beach PD had quite a reputation for brutality and they were there.

Word filtered down that the Yippies had taken over Tom Sawyer’s Island and had replaced the American flag with the Viet Com flag which ultimately was the final undoing of the Yippies. The police came out, the announcement was made that the park was closing and people were being asked to leave. I was on Main Street near Carnation Ice Cream Parlor and watched the police push the Yippies down Main Street toward the park exit. As I followed the action, I found myself pushed down the street and ended up by Hills Brothers. I watched the ultimate—some Yippie trying to pull down the big American flag in Town Square and Dick Nunis, head of Disneyland, punch the guy in the face. The crowd continued to be herded out to the parking lot. It was beginning to get dark and plan “B” was put into affect. All of the supervisors were asked to report to their perimeter positions to safeguard the park from any Yippies who might to climb the fence. We were actually given steel poles to bash fingers if they tried to climb the fence. I had a prime spot at the parking lot exit directly across the street from the hotel—lots of yelling, screaming, and tear gas. Things quieted down about 11pm and by midnight we were allowed to leave our post and go home.

For several years after, no one with long hair was allowed in Disneyland. Working at Disney back then, the grooming standards were strict. For males, it was no long hair, no facial hair, side burns to mid ear. From 1967-1971 the Marines would frequent Disneyland and the Harbor Blvd/Katella area- kind of a last R and R before they want to Viet Nam. We were always asked if we were marines on leave because of the short hair. I did not do well in the social arena outside of my Disney social network! However, I did meet my wife at Disneyland (a waitress at the Blue Bayou) and 35 years later we are still going strong!

Could a riot like this happen today? Naturally, anything is possible, but the chances are slim. There is so much going on behind-the-scenes to prevent something like this occurring that even if it started, it would be hard to imagine that it could escalate to the level of violence that erupted 40 years ago today. I remember being at Disneyland one day a few years ago with my staff; we got in the wrong line for Splash Mountain. Since we had fast passes, we crossed over the queue into the correct line, and it couldn't have been more than 20 seconds later that a cast member appeared out of nowhere to tell us that we should not have crossed the queue. We showed our tickets and all was right as rain, but from that day on I knew that no matter how much of a private day you may THINK you're having at Disneyland, Big Brother is watching you. On one hand, it can make you feel safe; on the other, it is also a little creepy. Just a necessary evil because of all the looney tunes that are out there.

See more Yippie Day photos on my regular website.


stu29573 said...

I don't care what your politics are, but acting like an idiot in a place filled with children is just plain wrong.

By the way, one of the Yippie "events" was supposed to be roasting Porky Pig. What the heck does Porky Pig have to do with Disney? So much for research!

Connie Moreno said...

I totally remember this day! I was so worried that those a$$ (fill in the blank) were going to ruin Disneyland. Go, Dick Nunis!!! I'd love to shake his hand!! I know what Hippies are but what the hell are Yippies?? Great post!! Oh and are so right!

Snow White Archive said...

WOW! I had never heard of this before. Great post Dave and thanks to Barry for recounting the story.

What a surreal image that is of the police in front of the castle.

Katella Gate said...

Yippie: members of the "Youth International Party". Basically politically militant hippies. Exactly what their politics are depends on who you talk to, but Dope Smoking and Marxism seems to be big with them.

For a classic over-analysis see Wikipedia.

Anonymous said...

Happy Yippie Anniversary. 40 years ago today. I can relate to Connie. I too was at work that evening at Hill's Bros. While I did not see Dick in action, I saw the lines of police..the streaming crowd re-routed through the side lot and back into Town Square. I heard the annoucements as they shut the park down land by land. It was a very weird sight to see. There were many police cars lined up near the DRC. My girlfriend (also from HB) and I trapped in her car when we attempted to get out of the parking lot at West Street while the Yippes ran by and lines of police marched them further away. Glad to see a blog site who remembers this one-in-a-lifetime event. I got paid a full day...for shift that was supposed to run to 12:30am. I think we were released at 8pm.

ericpaddon said...

Bravo, Dick Nunis!

kdt said...

I was there that day, just a kid from the midwest visiting with my family. We were staying at the Disneyland Hotel, and I remember two things vividly: having to leave the park early and seeing a Disney castmember with a broom and dustbin angrily sweeping what in my memory looked like lemons off of the street (it was the only time I'd ever seen an angry castmember!); the other thing I remember is seeing three kids skipping hand-in-hand through an arcade area of the hotel, chanting "Hell no, we won't go!" My tender ears were shocked at the language, and I was a little scared to be around these bold, loud kids.