Friday, April 13, 2012

TPE: Tom Sawyer's Island

My last stop in ol' Frontierland is Tom Sawyer's Island. This vintage map should help you get the lay of the land:

Besides being a great place for exploration, the Island also had characters, such as Tom Sawyer himself:

This guy looks like he wandered off the set of "F-Troop"!

Becky Thatcher was on hand for opening day:

Even before the Swiss Family Robinson moved in, Disneyland had a treehouse:

This young lad from September 1958 is loving his birds-eye view from the treehouse:

In this August 1956 photo, the Matterhorn is absent from the background landscape:

Two vintage views of The Old Mill:

An August 1958 shot of the old fishing pier, back when you could catch fish:

Besides a lack of vibrant characters, today's Island is also missing authentically rustic signage:

I can feel my knees wobbling as I view these three photos of the suspension and pontoon bridges:

The first time I saw a photo of Castle Rock, I didn't even recognize it. It has been modified so much over the last few years that today it is almost unrecognizable. The teeter-totter rock is a thing of the past. Rocks are too dangerous nowadays!

Back when the Island had a real fort, open for exploration:

Come on in, the gates are open!

You can catch a glimpse of the cemetery through the open door:

The trashcan in this photo eventually found its way to Orlando's Fort Wilderness Campground:

The upper level of the Fort gave guests some great views, too:

I believe this barbed wire fence blocking the "Indian Territory" was also on the Island:

That concludes our vintage tour of Frontierland; come back again to see where my Time Machine takes us to next.

See more vintage & current Disneyland Tom Sawyer Island photos on my Tom Sawyer Island web page.


Anonymous said...

Did you know that Castle Rock was built to look like a giant petrified tree. You can see it in those old pics, but it's been lost in all the renovations.


JG said...

Site of some of my best memories of youth. Mom got me a first grade reader version of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, I knew those stories by heart and every detail of the island theming corresponded, right down to the shanties on the rafts that covered the diesel engines.

That map survived well into the '70's I'm sure. Thank you for posting it, I wanted a replacement copy.

I have a picture of my Dad and I in the treehouse, much like the one in your post. I repeated the process with my son last year, except he was 23.

That motif of the primal tree with streams of water bursting from it's roots comes straight out of Norse and Indo-European mythologies. I can't believe that theming was accidental, the secret hiding place of, the source of life...really complex stuff.

I believe the TSI tree predated the Swiss Tree, perhaps inspired it as well. Notice the water influences there as well.

My mom would never cross the barrel bridge, now that I see there was no netting back then, I don't blame her as much.

The old signs were so great.

I don't really mind the pirates now, I guess, but it will always be Tom Sawyer's Island to me. Pure magic.

Thank you so much.


Daveland said...

Lee - I didn't know about the petrified tree inspiration, but looking at the photos, it totally makes sense as it resembles the Petrified Tree outside the GH Saloon. Just wondering where you had heard that? Was that common knowledge back in the day?

JG: Obviously, would love to see the photo of you in the treehouse!

Douglas McEwan said...

Seeing Fort Wilderness in all its glory is still painful to me. That wound is still unhealed.

Dave Meek said...

Thank you for the wonderful memories in this post. When I was a kid, Tom Sawyer Island was my favorite part of Disneyland, so much so that my brother's and I hatched a plan to hide out and spend the night there. We never did it, but I'm sure we weren't the only kids to dream about it!

Fort Wilderness was wonderful and its fully immersive presence is greatly missed at the park today. I can still smell the cramped Secret Escape Tunnel that brought you down to the river's edge. I might have to take a trip out to Orlando just to experience the Fort again.

I'm not a big fan of the Pirate's overlay. It has some fun interactive elements but contradicts the theme of the Island too much for my liking.

I have a copy of the old Island map framed on my office wall (two sided so I can still read the back) and it is one of my most prized collectables. You didn't mention it in the post but are probably aware that Tom's Treehouse was the highest point in Disneyland until the Matterhorn opened in 1959 and was marked as such on the early Explorer's Maps. Also, the waterfall that emanates from below the treehouse was described as the headwaters of the Rivers of America.

Thanks for a great post!

Anonymous said...

Dave; Yes, it was kinda common knowledge. There were several references to old dead trees in Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer, so maybe that was the inspiration too.


Connie Moreno said...

EXCELLENT post, my friend! I had completely forgotten about the "Troopers" being at the Fort. I laughed out loud when I read your comment about F Troop as that is exactly what I said to my friends back then. Great memories. You should post a link to this on my Fort Wilderness Facebook page!