Tuesday, August 09, 2011

More WDW Top of the World & Contemporary Hotel

Daveland reader Greg Kelly generously shared some photos from his collection as well as a few memories of working at the Top of the World Restaurant in The Contemporary Hotel at Walt Disney World.

I worked at the Top of the World Restaurant in the Contemporary Hotel from 1974 through 1976. These pictures were taken in 1974, probably in the summer. The camera I had (and still have!) was a small Kodak. If only the technology was as it was today, I would have some great shots!

The pictures of the King Sisters came out too dark (old flash cubes!) but I still thought I'd include them with the others. All were taken from the Top of the World catwalks. I took one of the Contemporary Hotel from a distance; I was lucky to be out in Florida when it was wide open spaces!!!

The King Sisters:

I have many happy memories of my days as a cast member at the Top of the World. One of my favorite would be during the second show, all of us would go in the break room and watch Saturday Night Live back in the day when it was just starting and hillarious!

Meeting celebrities was great too. I've been around a lot of celebrities ever since I was a kid, as my Dad sang with the Modernaires (1958 to 1964) and sang on the Red Skelton Show and the Danny Kaye Show. Thanks to that, I was used to it. In fact the Modernaires played at the Top of The World for a week and it was great seeing them as they (Paula Kelly, Vern Polk, and Hal Dickenson, God Bless their souls) watched me grow up.

I think the best story I can share was when my friend and I were taking a break in the cafeteria on a slow morning and our colleague came down and his eyes were as big as saucers. He said John Lennon was in the dining room. Well, we thought he was kidding, as we used to kid around a lot. Sure enough though, John Lennon was sitting on the lower level with a whole bunch of kids and probably Yoko Ono's family. That was a trip seeing him and being that close to him! My friends followed him to the restroom and got his autograph. I couldn't as I had been around several celebrities in the past as I mentioned, and felt I should leave him to his privacy! Still, it was an experience I won't forget!

One other quick one I can share was serving Lawrence Welk (just pouring his coffee) and he tipped me $5.00 dollars. In 1975, $5.00 had a bit more mileage to it!! He was a very cool guy. So was Buddy Greco; super cool as a matter of fact! Mel Torme, Rosemary Cloney, etc. Another interesting experience was when The Amazing Kreskin was peforming for a week—he was quite a talent!

I was quite fortunate to get hired at The Top of the World and to have been part of Walt Disney's dream! It was an honor and I had such a great time. Now it is the California Grill. The new Top of the World is in the structure next to the Contemporary Hotel which is a private club or special "Key Club.”

I can't wait to go back and visit. Just to see WDW and all of its growth seems so exciting!

Thanks to Greg for sending his stories and photos!

See more vintage and contemporary WDW Contemporary Hotel photos at my main website.


TokyoMagic! said...

Nice pics! That first one shows the road that goes under the lake.

I wish I could have seen WDW at this early period in it's history!

Thank you Greg, for sharing your personal photos and memories with us and to Dave for posting them!

Suzannah said...

I have wonderful memories of the Top of the World and Broadway at the Top as well. It was the pinnacle of our Disney trips at the time (along with the Gulf Coast Room). I remember being quite sad when they closed it down.

Thanks for the fun pics!

Major Pepperidge said...

My interest in WDW's early days seems to be growing all the time. Like TokyoMagic!, I would have loved to have seen the Magic Kingdom back then!

JG said...

That one shot looks just like the model city in the Carousel of Progress, very striking.

Thanks for sharing the memories.

Lawrence Welk, heh heh. Love that guy.


Chiana_Chat said...

Well those pics are plenty neat to me. What a fine hotel, beautiful lake and all that bold style. Those striking pool designs are interesting and clearly made to be enjoyed from overhead as well as in.

I heard people aren't to bathe in the lake anymore - they were back then, in fact I'm sure I went in the water in the 1980s - and I think all those garden wings around the front and side of the Tower were completely removed some years back while a huge new tower has been added.

I also see a wonderful steam boat in one of these pics that went over to that island in the lake behind the Tower. There was an animal sanctuary of some kind people could visit on that island wasn't there? Gone now! Boat too. Not sure the island's used for anything. Sure, some of it was simpler back then and there have been many swell additions, but that was a great time at a great place.

Thank you Greg Kelly for the pics and recollections from the Top of the World!

C.R. Metzinger said...

Thanks for sharing these pictures with us, and for the memories too! I never knew such well-known personalities performed there, it's no surprise though that Lawrence Welk did. He had alot of connections with Disneyland and him and Walt were quite similiar in ways.

:DISTherapy said...

I simply LOVE your photos and memories! You might be interested in our series, "40 days to 40 Years" at http://www.distherapy.com/
Old is in!!! Thanks for the shots :D