In case you're not aware, Werner Weiss' wonderful yesterland.com is a website that's been up since the Nineties, depicting the various Disneyland attractions which have come and gone over the years. In terms of web site style, it remains, like my own websites, charmingly rooted in 1990's-era HTML. Every Southern Californian my age and younger has grown up regarding Disneyland as his own special playground, and I am no different. So I look around at yesterland.com every now and then, just to reawaken dormant braincells.
Skull Rock - I have vivid memories of this macabre sight as a little boy. I found it somewhat disquieting, despite its presence in a cheery theme park. Sure, I knew it was only a place in the Peter Pan movie. But I didn't want to sit around it and the sight of it at night bothered me. Lurid green eye sockets! And I was always somewhat creeped out in the Peter Pan ride when the galleon ride vehicle took a dip towards the little rock therein. What was far worse to me, however, was the nearby pirate ship which served as an outlet for Chicken of the Sea tuna sandwiches and pies. When it was hot - and it always seemed to be hot when I was in the park - the whole thing reeked of tuna, and the interior of the ship was unbearably close and smelly. P.U.!
The PeopleMover - One of my favorite rides wasn't a thrill ride at all. It was a leisurely stroll around Tomorrowland in a motorized cart. I liked the fact that you could look out at all the motion going on - the monorail, the subs, the Autopia cars, the people milling about - from an elevated, shady vantage point. I guess it appealed to my desire for eye candy. best of all, there was never a line - the thing kept moving and the load time was very quick. It was a pleasant way to spend sixteen minutes. When we first moved into our townhouse in Springfield in 1987 I read in the paper that there was a proposal to erect a PeopleMover-type transportation device at the Engineering Proving Ground area near our home to and from the Springfield Mall. "That would be cool!," thought I, recalling Disney's admirable theme park. Good thing it was never built. Nowadays it would be a means of transporting the members of the local chapter of the MS-13 gang in the derelict mall closer to our neighborhoods. Yikes!
Rocket Rods - What to put on the elevated PeopleMover track now that the PeopleMover is gone? Rocket Rods. The page states "Long wait. Short ride." and so it was. My friend Mike and I rode these at a visit to the park in August 1998. 75 minute wait time? Ha! It was more like two hours! And sure enough, the thing kept breaking down. In fact, we got two rides because the first was filled with long pauses for the system to restore itself. What a mess. No surprise they took it down. So now there's an unused track around Tomorrowland. Restore the PeopleMover!
The Carousel of Progress - Even when it was new in 1967 I accepted that it was an endearingly goofy and cliched attraction, the kind of thing you just sort of wince at. I can still hear the song in my head, "It's a great, big, beautiful tomorrow..." This show was full of the gushy gee whiz won't the future be great? optimism that has utterly disappeared from American life. And no wonder. From the show: Father: "Our television console is more than just a TV set. It has a built-in video tape recorder." Mother: "Now we can record our favorite shows for viewing at a more convenient hour. And television programming is so much improved today." Yeah, right. Maury Povich. Judge shows. Married With Children. Dumbed down brain-killing crap on hundreds of channels. The Carousel of Progress was replaced with Innoventions, which I visited in 2002. Horrible. No different than a visit to a Best Buy. I didn't pay $80 admission to visit a Best Buy.
Adventure Thru Inner Space - I liked this one because it was vibrant, well themed and dramatic. In my mind I can still hear Paul Frees, popular 1960's voice artist, fearfully wondering if he was about to get crushed by snowflake molecules, gasping at wonder at viewing the nucleus of the atom, passing through quakes and sub-atomic particles, etc. On one ride I also recall seeing the evidence that some oaf reached out of his car and stuck a Six Flags Over Texas bumper sticker onto one of the snowflakes. As if I needed another reason to resent Texans. Later on, I learned that this ride was the ultimate Disneyland make out environment for teens - but I failed to take advantage.
Casa de Fritos - For some strange reason I have vivid memories of putting a nickle in a slot, hearing a statue of the Frito Kid run his mouth about how delicious Fritos Corn Chips were, and seeing a small bag slide down a chute. We Baby Boomer kids were such easy prey to corporate marketeers... The whole Frito Experience is described here in detail. To this day I love Fritos.
Motor Boat Cruise - Another vivid memory as a small boy. The boat was on a track, of course; when Mom told me I could steer I was gobstopped. She's letting ME drive THIS? I was actually concerned about navigating the boat past the rapids and around the rocks. When we pulled back onto the loading platform I felt a real sense of accomplishment. Years later I was told about the rail. Buzz kill.
Captain EO - I first saw this with my wife. (1995?) At one point in the presentation Michael Jackson, his cutsy space friends and everybody else was oddly lined up by files in a room and Cari, unimpressed, announced in a deadpan voice, "...and now they're all going to dance." Then the dance beat began. I think I had tears in my eyes, I was laughing so hard.
Swiss Family Treehouse - This was and is (in its Tarzan incarnation) awesome. There was enough of the nascent engineer in me as a kid to appreciate the clever running water solution and all the other ingenious inventions of a mythical family living in a mythical treehouse. When I was twelve or so I climbed trees around my house all the time - a trip up this was viewed by me as being sort of the ultimate tree climb. And to this day I can hum the Swisskapolka (which was played endlessly on an organ) note for note. You knew you were in Disneyland when you heard the Swisskapolka. A wonderful attraction.
Skyway Buckets - A common enough theme park ride (Busch Gardens has one, for instance), as a little kid I always marveled at being transported in the sky by a slender cable. Scary! Later on, as a young man, I knew better than to walk under these during Marine Corps Day, Mormon Day or Burbank Day at Disneyland. Guys dropped crap. (For the record, my observation for the most poorly-behaved crowd was Mormon Day, despite the fact that I once dropped a wad of paper onto a lass with a rather low cut top during a Burbank Day visit....)
Fantasyland Theatre - As a boy I regarded this with contempt. Who goes to Disneyland to sit still and watch a movie? I was and am a ride-the-rides type of guy.
Submarine Voyage - I loved this one as a child, and so did my Dad. In the early Sixties I think it had the creative reputation that Pirates of the Caribbean later acquired; there was always a long line for it. I know it's weird, but I loved the bubbles! This ride was reopened as a Finding Nemo attraction, and we went on it last month. Frankly, I was disappointed. I prefer the old ride, with the military gray subs and all of its Cold War resonance.
Rocket to the Moon - As crazy as I was for space as a kid, you'd think I would have loved this ride. But I didn't, really. The problem was that the Griffith Observatory had the same sort of show and by the time I saw it at Disneyland it was simply more of the same, except with shaky seats. The Mission to Mars which replaced it in 1975 was, predictably, a better show. But by then I was nineteen and not so much in love with space.
Passenger Train - I wasn't big into trains as a kid, so when my parents took me on this one night as we were about ready to leave the park, I was kind of bummed out. It was dark and shaky, and everyone faced forward. As a child I associated it with the idea that "Fun's over." On another occasion I recall riding this through the section showing the Grand Canyon; I was impressed that a thunderstorm was depicted in the diorama, and when Mom and I exited the train the pavement in the park was wet - it had also rained outside!
Dumbo Flying Elephants - I once read somewhere that this ride is a great favorite of the very small, and so it was for me. LONG lines... which I remember standing impatiently in to get a chance to ride. For some reason I fondly recall the fact that Dad or Mom rode this with me; their presence in the elephant car made it a better experience. A sensitive child, I was bothered by the mouse on the top who cracks a whip at Dumbo. Does he HAVE to do that?
Flying Saucers - I never rode this ride but since it was involved with space I always wanted to. I think the lines were always too long, and so my parents steered me away to something else. No big loss. From what I've read, the saucers were difficult to steer and get moving and the ride wasn't what one would call a total success.
Indian Village - We wound up here on one early trip; I recall seeing the Indian decor and maybe even some dancers, but it was fearfully hot. Mom made some comment to the effect that, "This is just like Knott's Berry Farm, let's go somewhere else," so we left and, probably, found some shaded attraction. Indeed, I do recall sitting around the big campfire round-up themed area at Knott's and watching the Indians dance when I was young.
Tahitian Terrace - I only recall a couple of times that Dad went to Disneyland with us; most of the time it was Mom and I. Dad wasn't a big one for walking around in a theme park - it hurt his knees. But I do remember that he was interested in this attraction, and no wonder. Girls in grass shirts doing the shimmy amidst tiki decor. It was right up Dad's alley. But we never went. I don't know why: the existence of long lines, perhaps, a necessity to plan ahead (never a strong point with my parents) or perhaps it was because Mom wanted to eat elsewhere. But I always felt like Dad was being cheated. When the Enchanted Tiki Room opened in 1963 it quickly became Dad's favorite attraction, but I think he only went once or twice. Poor Dad.
Davy Crockett's Explorer Canoes - I have ridden this only twice. The first time was in 1969 with a waitress friend of Mom's who had a loud, strident laugh which was in full evidence all though the ride. Being in the canoe with her was embarrassing for a thirteen year old. Not cool at all. The other time was a decade later with my fiancee and a pair of twentysomething friends; much cooler, much more fun.
This one isn't in yesterland.com because it's a current ride, but I felt I must mention it: The Casey Jr Train Ride - As you can see from the linked photographs, my family has a sentimental connection with this ride. That's Mom (she's sitting behind me) and I in 1958, taken by Dad, and me and my son Ethan, taken by my Mom, in the 1985 shot. Someday I hope to get a photo of me and a grandchild riding the monkey car to continue the photographic tradition! Perhaps needless to say, I don't recall riding this ride; I was too young. At any rate, it didn't make an impression on me.
It's funny how my early experiences at Disneyland has shaped my perceptions of my world. I often think in terms of theming, rides, theatricality and maintenance when I visit restaurants, ride the Metro or go to other places. "That patch of weeds wouldn't be there if Disney ran this place," I found myself thinking yesterday at the Metro bus pad, for instance. Or last night at the pool, I looked disapprovingly at a hidden, malfunctioning fluorescent light. It's ruining the show.
I suspect my first and best career would have been a Disney Imagineer. Too bad I went in other directions...
Well, here's something I didn't know: When Disneyland first opened there was a ladies underwear store on Main St., featuring the "Wizard of Bras." (We're off to see the Wizard/The Wonderful Wizard of Bras...) Story here, on yesterland.com. It didn't last long, just six months. Uncle Walt may have been desperate for space-filling sights and attractions when Disneyland first opened, but as time went by and it became obvious Disneyland would be a success, I suspect he became a lot more discerning about content. (It's a fact that to this day Victoria's Secret doesn't have a Disneyland presence.)
I was a bit confused by the word "torsolette." Never heard of it. What's that? A quick check with google images showed me. Oh, so THAT'S what those are called.
A RECURRING DREAM
When I was a boy I had a recurring dream about Disneyland. I haven't had it for decades, but I've had it about three times in my life. Details are sketchy and half-remembered, as you might appreciate in the case of a dream, but the main feature of it was that I could get in and out of the park by a remote, little-known and little-used route across the railroad tracks which surround the park. The crossing was in the neighborhood of a place with Old West style buildings, obviously, Frontierland. But there was some confusion between this locale and Knott's Berry Farm, which had a Old West theme. "Am I in Disneyland or Knott's Berry Farm?" was a part of the dream.
Everyone who has ever been to the park knows that there is only one footpath into and out of the park: the main gate, past an image of Mickey Mouse's head made of flowers, through two tunnels. This was completely intentional on Disney's part - he wanted to impress guests with the illusion that they were leaving their workaday world and entering into a place of creative fantasy. In other words, he wanted to control the transition to the "show" that the park represented. So why did I have a dream about an alternate entrance into Disneyland? Why was this significant enough to form a recurring dream?
I have read an encyclopedia about Disneyland which contains a description of every past and present ride and attraction. In it, I came across the entry for an old attraction called "Holidayland." It was a park area outside the berm, adjacent to the park. (It stood where the ride buildings for the Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion now stand, where the expansive parking lot used to be.) It featured a tent for performers (often, TV Mouseketeers), a playground for children and a refreshment stand. Disney's intended use for the area was as a spot for corporate parties, picnics, softball games and gatherings; it was opened in 1957 and closed in September 1961. A map is here. A feature of this place was that it had its own entrance into Disneyland, across the railroad tracks and into a section of Frontierland - see my arrows in red. (I had a major Ah-Ha moment when I learned this.)
Holidayland closed in September 1961, when I was five and a half. Mystery solved! I am guessing that my parents probably took me through Holidayland and into the park before this date, quite possibly around the same time we also visited Knott's Berry Farm in April 1960, when Mom took home movies. I dimly remembered this via a recurring dream I had as a child. It also explains my confusion between the two places, Knott's and Frontierland in Disneyland.
At any rate, I feel gratified: I dreamed about an alternative entrance into Disneyland because, once, there used to be one - and I must have gone through it!