Friday, January 03, 2014

Frontierland, December 1970

1970 used to seem (to me) like the awkward "middle years" of Disneyland, but when you think about it, the place had only been open for 15 years, and Walt had only been gone for about 4 years. 

Walking over a bridge into a "land" seems like such a small thing, but it is kind of ingenious. Subliminally, guests know that they are leaving one fantasy and entering another. That's my theory and I'm sticking to it. This is a pretty picture, with most of Frontierland looking enticing in the hazy distance. What's around that bend?

Well, shoot. The river is dry! What the heck? I'll bet those smelly Yippies are to blame! I have never personally seen the Rivers of America drained… it's interesting. You can see the track that the Twain and the Columbia use, as well as the little spur line that the boats can use to berth at Fowler's Harbor.

Zooming in a bit, you'll notice that the Columbia has been covered in Saran Wrap to help lock in freshness and flavor. It really does look like the river is no more than 4 or 5 feet deep at the most when filled. I've been told that the Columbia literally has wheels on its underside, and seeing it here, I can believe it.

Note: I'll be out of town starting today, but I'll be back Sunday night. I'll try to check in whenever I can!


Nanook said...

Well, for those who are afraid of water, this just might be the best time to approach Tom Sawyer Island.

Nancy said...

Interesting to see that this view was not shielded from park guests. Sorta like riding Haunted Mansion with the lights on :-(

The images today are making me warm, which I am very grateful for since the Weather Channel just informed me that the current temp here in Pittsburgh after yesterday's snow storm is only 8 degrees!!!

MRaymond said...

Is TSI open when the river is drained? Can they still call it an island with no water around it.

Anonymous said...

No, TSI (Rafts) was closed as well as the Canoes and Keel Boats. River rehab extended into those attractions as well.

A former Adventure/Frontierland CM of that era.

Tom said...

Ack! The curtain has been peeled back! The secrets are revealed!

The river is a lot shallower than I had thought. I'm sure there's a heck of a lot more technology than just a few tracks buried beneath the deep teal waves these days.

JG said...

One visit, when I was very young, the River was closed. Might even have been this same event.

I was unhappy because TSI was closed, but fascinated by all the hidden goodies. The river bottom looks like ordinary soil in these pictures.

I thought I had heard that there was some waterproofing treatment performed to keep the water from leaking away? The submarine is all concrete, like a pool, but there, clear water is a must. Here, having murky water is both correct theming and hides the technology.

I was expecting a concrete bottom, at least in the center of the channel.

I have heard also that there are a number of cameras, phones, keys and similar debris to rake out. That must be fun.


Melissa said...

Hey, it’s that lady with the fancy blouse and her manly-posing husband from that earlier post with the Columbia and Casey, Jr! The crack in the sign makes it look like “Frontierland” has been crossed out. Yes, the lands with a bridge absolutely feel like much more of a journey than the ones that bleed into each other, even when they’re the same distance. There’s so much psychology going on in park design that we never even think about when we’re there.

It’s a Twain twack!

Talk about psychology – it always makes me feel a little weird when someone in a picture is facing out with a camera, like they’re taking a picture of me. Now there’s a Twilight Zone episode: a person in 1970 looks at their vacation pictures, and it’s all shots of people in 2013 looking at their computer screens.

Happy trails, Major! Too cold and snowy to travel where I am; I even got a snow day off work.

JG, I always wondered about all the stuff that gets dropped off the boats at Disney parks. I made a retro Mouseketeer Barbie doll to put in my WDW pictures so they wouldn’t look like everyone else’s, and my sister was annoyed when I wouldn’t let her set it on the railing of the riverboat because it might fall in the water and get lost. That got me to wondering if it would be the weirdest thing they found on the river bottom if they ever drained and cleaned it.

K. Martinez said...

Nice classic shot of Frontierland entrance with the Pendleton store in background.

That's quite a drought going on in the Rivers of America. I wonder if somewhere there's a photo of the drained river taken from the Hungry Bear deck. That would be interesting to see. Nice set today. Thanks, Major.

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, someday they'll be able to use holograms to simulate a full river!

Nancy, in a way a big construction wall would be uglier than an empty river… stay warm in Pittsburgh!

MRaymond, well, Anonymous (next comment) answered your question before I could.

Anon, thanks for the info!

Tom, I've heard that at least one of the people who drowned in the river probably could have stood on the bottom of the river and would have been able to breathe.

JG, I've heard that they originally used some sort of clay to line the river because the water originally soaked into the soil. My guess is that they must do something else these days.

Melissa, 1), yep, it's the same lady! I like the crack in the sign, it's like the pioneers used two boards that they just happened to have. 2) It's a tewiffic Twain twack. 3) A snow day! I used to love those…. I remember being huddled by the radio hoping that the local station would announce the closure of our school. I'll bet they found at least one prosthetic limb in the river!

K. Martinez, I'm sure somebody took photos of the empty river from the Hungry Bear… I know that sometime (pre-50th anniversary) the river had been drained, and all the Disney websites and blogs had zillions of photos every week.

TokyoMagic! said...

Sorry I am a day late viewing this post. I think for every rehab following this, the River has had a construction wall around it. Also, during one of the rehabs, they did concrete in the bottom of the river. Unfortunately, you are now able to see the concrete up around the edges of the island in certain places. It no longer looks like a real river, but instead more like a concrete pond.

There was an article in the Spring 1971 issue of Disney News magazine about this particular river rehab. The article was titled, "Cry Me A River" and it states that, "For six weeks last winter, Disneyland's Rivers of America attraction was gone. The Park's Maintenance Division had opened the river's drainage valves and for two days, the river emptied into a nearby flood control system. The the unusual task of cleaning, inspecting, and repairing a river began."

It goes on to say, "......the Division spent six weeks inspecting and repairing the rails that guide the Mark Twain and the Columbia, replacing dock support beams, and cleaning the river of cameras, baby shoes, coins, eyeglasses and 4,400 cubic feet of silt."

The article also mentions the sealer on the river bottom......"To keep the riverbed from leaking, they sealed it with 25 truck loads of clay and then began the three-day job of refilling the river with 6,160,000 gallons of water. (The water is drawn from a well that runs beneath Disneyland.)"

Major Pepperidge said...

TokyoMagic!, thanks as always for the excellent info. I'm sure that adding concrete to the river bottom made life easier for maintenance, even though it doesn't look natural. Can't they dye concrete… make it brown or something? I'll bet I have that Disney News magazine (the year seems about right), I'll have to check next time I'm at my parent's house!

TokyoMagic! said...

Major, you are welcome! I just realized that I got the name of that Disney News article wrong. It was "DRY Me A River"...not "Cry"....HA!

And yes, I think the concrete around the shores of the river is kind of a beige color.

Anonymous said...

@Tokyo and Major. Thank you, great information. I always wondered what they did with the water drained out. Disneyland seems to have had a great relationship with the local authorities. I think getting permission to dump 6 million gallons of "polluted" (as in no longer straight from the well) water would be harder to do these days. Even street and parking runoff is subject to strict rules these days for most projects.

Due to the "clay" reference, I suspect that the waterproofing agent was a material called bentonite clay, which is often used in tunnels and deep excavations when pressed into a board or panel.

I think the basic clay material can be ground into the native soil with a augur mixer or pounded in with sheepsfoot. This would be a big job and not comprehensive. The steeper the slope, the harder to do and less effective.

Makes sense that they would replace with concrete at some point, which can accommodate integral waterproofing admixtures which are effective for the life of the structure. Civil domestic water storage uses these all the time.

Major, concrete can be colored with integral powdered colorants made of minerals, or it can be stained with various acid and inorganic compounds, or both, for very complex and almost infinite effects. Great stuff, concrete; waterproof, strong, formable, colored or tinted...

4400 cf of silt, maybe accounted for by runoff before the new landscaping attained maturity. Probably much less today.

@Melissa. People lose weird stuff. That might have made the top 50 anyway. One of the most interesting things is the lost luggage and / or lost mail departments. Things you never heard of, nor wanted to.


Major Pepperidge said...

JG, it didn't occur to me until after I wrote my comment that (presumably) the concrete on Big Thunder Mountain, Radiator Springs, etc, has all been colored in some way. Maybe just painted? Or was the color actually in the concrete? Or both? I agree, that sounded like a lot of silt to me as well, but when I see how dusty my windowsill gets, maybe a big area like the river catches tons of airborne dirt as well as runoff.