Friday, November 30, 2012

A Bird's-Eye View, August 1971

I love aerial shots of Disneyland; they give a fantastic overview of the park all at once. In this August 1971 shots, there are a few things that stand out to me.

First, it's wonderful to see the Chicken of the Sea Pirate Ship still around. What a lovely and lively spot to be in Fantasyland, especially with the Skull Rock Cove area.

Over in Tomorrowland, Space Mountain is still years away. Underneath those canopies is the Tomorrowland Stage.

In this August 1972 shot, you can just barely see it on the left-hand side.

Zooming in for a closer peak. Check out those rainbow colors! The design is reminiscent of the Hollywood Bowl.

This undated construction shot also shows the Tomorrowland Stage. With the Tomorrowland Terrace in existence, the need for this additional stage was somewhat of a waste of space. I doubt that it is missed.

See more vintage Disneyland aerial photos photos on my Aerial web page.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

That Old Sinking Feeling: JC Memories

Daveland Reader Ken has pulled through a third time, with a very entertaining tale about the Jungle Cruise. Let the adventure begin!

The Jungle Cruise at Disneyland has become a well known institution over the decades. The antics of the skippers are legendary, and sometime infamous (you can take your pick). I’ve heard that today’s management has toned things down. Probably with the inclusion of female skippers now in the ranks, it’s become more homogenized, less of that “frat” party environment it once was and that many repeat guests had come to expect.

My time on the JC was in the 70s. I’d like to think of that as a ‘golden period’ of the attraction. Those who worked as skippers seemed ready to further the cause of the fraternity by upping the frivolity, the devil-may-care-spiels, pushing the envelope and most of the time getting away with it. Management would look the other way on lesser infractions and deviations from the spiel and other actions too numerous to mention. I’ve seen recollections from some that I worked with of the period published in the Mouse Tales series.

But so far, there’s been nothing said about the day the skiff sunk under Schweitzer Falls.

Funny what time can do to one’s memory. Exact times and dates for some things can be immediately recalled. And yet other memories, the visions of which remain clear, the date just blurs.

I believe it was 1975. A sunny and (fortunately warm) Sunday afternoon. The JC had recently re-opened after its annual maintenance rehab. Problems could be expected to happen with the start-up and on this particular day they did.

I was working load position when we heard 3 shots out in the Jungle, a mechanical breakdown. Back then there were no special loud blanks for breakdowns like today; all our blanks were of a sufficient charge to be heard. And that’s why we were instructed to shoot the hippos between the bow cleats and not closer to the guests in the front of the boat.

We would first wait for a period until we heard the two shots meaning “all cleared”, but none came. And as there were no further boats passing Trader Sam and arriving at the dock, we knew we were “101,” aka shut-down.

Note: Here's a photo of an early skiff, from May 1959:

The option to reach the troubled boat normally was for a mechanic, along with a skipper taking the controls of the skiff, a small 2-3 person boat tied in a corner of the lagoon with outboard motor, out into the Jungle. That afternoon, the lead told me I’d be that skipper, thinking that I had been trained in the use of the skiff. I hadn’t, but hey, it looked like fun when I saw others doing it, so why not me? I figured it would be simple enough.

So into the skiff I went. Trying as hard as I might, I never got the outboard to start, pulling the starter rope many times, manually choked and not choked. Since the JC had been down for rehab for a number of weeks, it’s likely the motor hadn’t been run in a long time. Perhaps the gas in the tank was old and was mixed with water from condensation. After a few minutes the mechanic came aboard, told me to move away, made a few tweaks to the settings, pulled the cord, and the motor started-up, no problem.
The mechanic took us through the Jungle, past a few boats, by the elephant 'squirter,' along the Falls, and up to the opening of the hippo pool where the stalled boat and passengers sat. Within a few minutes, the boat was running and the mechanic told me to follow behind in case it stalled again and I would have to push the boat through the attraction into the dock.

And so we moved forward slowly. Me, controlling the outboard behind in the skiff, with other boats following. That is until we approached the “backside of water”…Schweitzer Falls.

The troubled boat continued under the ledge and past the Falls. But as I slowed the throttle on the skiff, the motor died. Not to worry, I’ll just pull the cord to restart it. Sure! I can’t recall the number of tries, but it wouldn’t start and the skiff began to drift into the Falls. It’s one thing to be on a JC boat under the Falls’ ledge. It’s another in a small skiff heading directly toward the water itself. I tried frantically to restart the motor, but to no avail. A few feet from entering the Falls, it was time for “Plan B”.

The skiff contained a paddle for emergencies like this. So grab the paddle I did. But unknown to anyone…or perhaps as a prank placed by someone earlier…the paddle had a crack in it between the handle and the base of the blade. With my first stroke, the paddle separated and floated away. With just the handle in my hand being of no value, I tossed it overboard. By then, the Falls were now hitting the front portion of the skiff…there was no escape.

Sensing my impending doom, and hearing the boatload of guests and skipper behind me in near hysteric laughter, I decided to milk it. Hey, I’m going down one way or another. So I grab my straw hat and start bailing. After a few tries the water is falling on my head. I stand up, put my hat on my heart, give a salute and down I go.

All I remember is skimming the surface to stay afloat, with the broken paddle nearby. The boat of guests behind me tilting on its side as EVERONE is attempting to take a picture of this new feature of the attraction…a floating CM. The skipper (Jim Snowden) laughing so hard, he was bent over on the floor and all I could hear was laughter over the speakers and seeing coil of the mike he was holding. I later learned that the mechanic on the forward boat saw the entire event and broadcast it on the security channel..the message going out throughout the park that the skiff had sunk.

Somehow, soaking wet, I was able to climb aboard Jim’s boat and sat on the bow, taking over the mike and completing his spiel as we sped to the dock. The entire dock crew applauding as we came along side. They knew they were going to get a few hours off as the skiff needed to be found and refloated.

It was a long walk to wardrobe for a change of clothes. For several days thereafter, and attempting to keep a low profile, I would hear other CMs talking about the ‘guy who sank in the JC.' There was no reprimand…I had plenty of witnesses.

To this day I wonder why some guest in Jim’s boat didn’t send us a copy of their photos. Talk about making memories for our visitors. They certainly got more than they imagined for the price of admission.

And perhaps I am the only one who has been involved in two sinkings, the other being the canoes.

BTW, about a year later, I was instructed to man the skiff on another breakdown. I was in shock to be asked. New foreman. This time, it went without a hitch. But when I reached Schweitzer Falls, the pumps had been shut down. Maybe Maintenance knew I was coming.

Anyone out there have photos of this Jungle mishap?

See more vintage & current Disneyland Jungle Cruise photos on my Jungle Cruise web pages.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Indian Village

The Indian Village lasted for 16 years at Disneyland, inhabiting a few different locations during its tenure. Shot #1 is from January 1964.

These two young ladies from August 1966 are exploring the teepees that are part of the Indian Village exhibit.

Zooming into the signage, we learn that this is the Chief's Council Tepee.

This particular closeup shows the guidebook that she is carrying. Vintage Disneyana Geeks pay attention!

These July 1967 images show the totem poles again...

as well as a stuffed bison/buffalo.

It would be interesting to see how the Indian Village would have done in present times. It seems that today's generation mainly associates Indians/Native Americans with casinos instead of the early history of our country. Edu-tainment was a specialty of Walt's; whether he could have overcome the labor disputes between the Indians (one of the main reasons for this area's termination in 1971) and kept this area fun and informative remains to be seen. It would still be a huge improvement over its bland replacement, Critter Country.

See more vintage Disneyland Indian Village photos on my Indian Village web page.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Welcome to Disneyland, July 1967

Originally, I was just going to feature this recently acquired entrance photo, but then thought I'd check to see what else I had from July 1967. Consider this a "best of" July 1967 post.

I love that the boy in the middle features my alma mater on his t-shirt! He obviously has great taste.

Whoever the photographer was on the next two shots, they obviously had great respect for the Kodak picture spot, as you can see the inspirational sign to the left on both shots.

Town Square looks so empty; what a great day this would have been to visit.

A beautifully uncluttered and welcoming entrance to Tomorrowland.

Zooming in to see The PeopleMover and the Astrojets back when they had some impressive height; what a view they used to provide!

This adorable little tot in the mouse ears is sure enjoying his day at Disneyland.

I believe these two young lasses are enjoying the company of Gideon from "Pinocchio."

The Swiss Family Robinson is one of the last places left that guests can get an almost-birds-eye view of the park.

Just another day on the Rivers of America, when New Orleans Square was but a year old.

Zooming in you can see a yet-to-be-opened Haunted Mansion.

What a great overhead shot of Fort Wilderness.

Zooming in yields this detail of a young boy savoring his popcorn.

And I'd be remiss if I didn't show the signage.

Last one for today is a shot of one of my favorite areas in the park, before it became crammed with cheap merchandise.

See more vintage & current Disneyland entrance photos on my Disneyland entrance web page.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Faux Barnes, Mom's 80th, and a Classic Sweater.

Recently, I headed back east to celebrate Mom's 80th birthday. Unfortunately, it was the same time that Hurricane Sandy chose to pay a visit to the coast as well. My trip was delayed by a few days, but at least I made it home in time for the big day, and also a visit to the Faux Barnes Museum. If you haven't read about the years of litigation and strife over the art collection of the late great Albert C. Barnes, then let me give you a summary. During his lifetime (January 2, 1872 – July 24, 1951), Barnes managed to amass one of the most amazing collections of Impressionist and Modernist paintings ever put together in one spot. What is even more amazing is how he displayed them. Using his theories of aesthetics, he hung them together with hand-crafted ironwork, artifacts, and pieces of furniture, creating a teaching tool for the school that he ran for many years in the suburban neighborhood of Merion.

Snubbed by The Philadelphia Museum of Art, he had very little love for them as well, and proudly barred many from seeing his collection, especially if they practiced the brand of snobbery and elitism that pervaded the museum society of the day.

This is where the irony comes in. Creating what he thought would be an ironclad will, Barnes left money to run his Foundation after his death, mandating that the collection not be rearranged or moved. Flash forward to the present, and Barnes' collection (valued to be 10-20 times more than either the Carnegie or Rockefeller Corporations) became a highly coveted prize to be achieved.

The same people that he hated managed to break the will, build a new museum in Philadelphia, and moved the collection lock, stock, and barrel from Merion.

Claiming that the Merion location was no longer financially viable, this group was able to move Barnes' art much closer to the Philadelphia Museum of Art (though not quite within a comfortable walking distance) AND have the benefit of a larger building that could host parties and fundraisers; just the kind of thing Barnes detested.

The new surroundings and building are not my taste, especially when compared to the beautiful Paul Cret designed structure in Merion (see below).

The new building is a totally different aesthetic and feel. Marketing touts that the two buildings are kindred spirits; I'd like to know who conducted that seance. The new campus seems cold and bleek.

I have to wonder at the logic of the group who wasted millions on busting the will, purchasing a new location, and constructing a new building (whose interior attempts to replicate the old one) when a gorgeous original already exists. There were no crowds the day I visited, although each guest was slightly chastised if they didn't have a ticket. "You can check at the desk and see if there are any tickets available today." None of them were turned away. There were plenty of tickets, despite the impending doom of the staff that not-so-warmly welcomed those who had dropped by unannounced, and would be charged $15 just for parking alone. This seemed to lack the spirit of "come one come all" that the new Barnes museum was supposed to be putting forth.

There is an entire room devoted to Barnes and his history, and in a great touch of irony, there is an entire case of "visit denied" letters that Barnes wrote to the great art snobs of his day. The funniest one was to critic Alexander Woollcott, who sent his request via telegram (collect, of all things!), made sure he pointed out his importance, and then had the gall to say he just wanted to drop in to see a few of the paintings in the short amount of time that he had allotted.

The names of those who made the move possible have proudly slapped their names on the building's interior, proudly patting themselves on the back for their accomplishment. It made me very sad to see the whole thing, and definitely tainted what had once been a joyous experience. What a waste of resources, and tacky enough to warrant a Faux-D© photo:

On a happier note, you may have previously seen this November 1965 shot of my mom riding the Pack Mules at Disneyland.

Although it may be hard to believe, my mom still has that sweater, from which I had to remove the drycleaner tag to take these shots.

Mom's birthday dinner was at the Dilworthtown Inn, which has been around since 1780.

Very traditional, very historic.

Dinner was delicious, and coincidentally, there was a 90 year old woman celebrating her birthday in the same room as us. The photo here is of my mom, not her older birthday counterpart!

The out-of-this-world sweet potato cake was made by Sweet Jazmines, a delicious local bakery.

Mom successfully blew out her candle as she celebrated eighty years of excellence.

More to come from this trip; stay tuned!

See more Barnes Museum photos on my Barnes web page.