Sunday, November 30, 2014

More Murk, January 1965

It's time for more dingy darkness and murkety murk.  We're almost done with these weird ones.

I've always wondered what it must have been like to ride the Mine Train Through Nature's Wonderland at night. This photo gives an approximation of that! Look, up above - there's a ferocious mountain lion, ready to pounce! Gramps doesn't seem too concerned, but then again, he's crazy. 

There's been an oil spill in Tomorrowland, and everything is covered with a thick coating of gooey crude. Just like the Exxon Valdez! Only this was much worse. The sub lagoon took years to clean.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Winchester Mystery House, 1953

When I was a kid, I read about the famous "Winchester Mystery House" in San Jose, California, and was fascinated by the place. I'm sure many of you know the basic story of how it came to be; Sarah Winchester was the widow of gun magnate William Winchester. She had inherited a boatload of money, and purchased an unfinished farmhouse in 1884. Then the fun began!

She used no architect or master plan; instead, she employed an army of carpenters and builders, and they continued to add to the place in a famously strange fashion almost continually until Sarah's death in 1922. Apparently she believed that she must provide a home for the ghosts of all of the people that had been killed with Winchester firearms. Makes sense to me.

If there was ever a house that needed to be haunted, this one would be it! Some of Walt Disney's Imagineers even visited the place to get ideas and see how crowds were moved through. I like the weed-filled fountain. The grounds were originally over 160 acres, but most of that has been sold, and now only 4.5 acres remain. As part of Sarah's beliefs, the number 13 took on great significance. A chandelier that was designed to hold 12 candles was changed to hold 13; sink drains have 13 holes; there are 13 coat hooks, and spider web patterned stained-glass windows have 13 colored stones set in them. 

The 1906 San Francisco earthquake did a lot of damage to the house, and a number of fires have further damaged portions. Some parts of the home used to be 7 stories tall, though now none are higher than 4 stories. If you go there to take a tour (which is a fun thing to do!), much of it is off-limits to the general public because it is deemed unsafe.

Most people hear about the crazy features that are found throughout the house; staircases to nowhere; doors that open to walls; windows in walls that are inside the house; and staircases with risers of only a few inches high. There are 160 rooms, including 2 ballrooms and 40 bedrooms. There are 2 basements and 3 elevators. And many of the stained glass windows were designed by Tiffany. In fact, the craftsmanship found in much of the house is really incredible.

This photo gives a good idea of the ramshackle quality of this grand old Queen Anne-style mansion. Wouldn't be amazing to be allowed to explore the whole property, alone (or with one friend)? At night with nothing but a malfunctioning flashlight? They do give occasional night tours (usually around Halloween, I believe), I would love to do that.

I hope you have enjoyed your visit to the Winchester Mystery House!

Friday, November 28, 2014

More Donruss Bubblegum Cards

It's time for more examples from the 1965 set of Donruss bubblegum cards!

Card #47: Startlingly lifelike in appearance and movement, these animals inhabit the Rivers of America at Disneyland.

Did these critters move?! Most river animals are static, though I suppose one or two could have some minimal animation.

Card #48: Old-fashioned stands and popcorn vendors can be found along Main Street and Town Square.

"Sir, please step back to the other side of the popcorn stand, or I will call the authorities".

Card #49: Viewed from Dutch canal boats, Storybook Land features miniature setting from Disney animated motion pictures.

Maybe this is where those miniature horses lived.

Card #50: The White Rabbit and Mrs. Rabbit surprise Alice in Wonderland with an Easter basket.

Just another typical day at Disneyland.

Card #51: Santa Fe and Disneyland trans depart from 1890  Main Street.

Hmmm, don't know if I recall seeing that specific date before.

Card #52: Storybookland* miniatures are viewed from the gaily colored Casey Jr. Circus Train at Disneyland.

* All one word - what fools!

Only 14 cards to go!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Yet Even More Instamatics

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody! I don't have anything turkey-related to share today, so I might as well  share some more vintage Instamatics. There aren't very many left...

We'll start with this underwater tableau from the Submarine Voyage - one of the sillier scenarios, if you ask me (and that's from a ride with a cross-eyed sea serpent). We all know how aggressive and bloodthirsty the horrible octopus can be; that poor shark was minding his own business when SHLOOP! He found himself wrapped in those suckered tentacles. Just be grateful that he will be lunch, and not you.

I'm stifling a yawn as I look at the wonky picture of the you-know-what. 

Meanwhile, aboard the Columbia, we are looking past the large stern lantern (it often gives very serious advice) toward the burning settler's cabin. Settler Sam made a big mistake wearing his red shirt that day - hasn't he ever watched "Star Trek"?? He was just asking for it.

And finally, I really like this unusual angle, taken from aboard the Case Jr. Circus Train as we pass over that arched stone bridge. We can just see the miniature snow-capped peaks from Geppetto's village, while one of the Storybook Land canal boats passes below.

I am thankful for all of the awesome GDB readers!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

More WDW Snapshots, December 1971

Here are the last four vintage snapshots (from a lot of seven), dating from the park's opening year. 

Walking through the tunnels beneath the railroad tracks brings you into Town Square; there's the train station, looking huge even from this oddball angle. Pluto has stopped to pose with some kids while a mom and her brood wait their turn. Do characters in either park just stroll around anymore? Or is it there always a line? 

Heading up Main Street U.S.A., we can admire the architectural details, and the 1971 fashions (like those yellow bell bottoms to our right)!

Looks like dad is considering stopping for a breakfast (check out those long morning shadows, they must have just dropped the rope), but his little girl wants to keep on heading to Cinderella Castle. 

This is a very pretty shot, with all the flowers and striped umbrellas. I have NO idea what restaurant that could be, though I'll bet some of you do. I sure wish I could have seen the Florida park in its early days… just like Disneyland, it has undergone many changes over the years.

Never fear, I have more vintage Magic Kingdom photos to come!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Two Twains, 1956

Ay-yi-yi, sometimes I am not sure I can bear writing about another Mark Twain slide. What's left to say? At least these are nice, early views, so they've got that going for them. I was wondering what that thing was in the foreground (the wooden thing with the white trim), it looks like some sort of ramp, although boarding the Twain normally doesn't require a ramp, so I have no idea. 

Oh, who am I kidding, I still love the old riverboat!

Monday, November 24, 2014

New Orleans Square, September 1976

I can never get enough of New Orleans Square; it is one of the least-represented lands in my collection (though I have even fewer from Critter Country, and none from Toon Town!).

I'm sure many of you recall the woman who ran for mayor of New Orleans back in 2006 who used a photo of Disneyland's New Orleans Square on her campaign web page. Was it on purpose (because it looked so clean), or did somebody not know the difference? Anyway, I'll bet that if you told the general public that this was a photo of the real Crescent City, they'd buy it. The curved wrought iron balconies feel so genuine! By the way, I am going to be running for Mayor of New Orleans in the next election; Sure, I'll have to wait four years, but it'll be worth it. Vote early, vote often.

Anyway (!), the line for Cafe Orleans (sponsored by Sara Lee) is short, let's go there for our Monte Cristo sandwich and mint julep.

Here's another view of Cafe Orleans, looking shady and lovely. It looks like there's a waitress to the left, do they still have a wait staff to take your order and bring you your food? Or has it switched over to a window service eatery? (For some reason I labeled this slide "Creole Cafe", which is just dumb).

Sunday, November 23, 2014

In Fantasyland, August 1969

Here are two sort of oddball photos from Fantasyland, circa 1969. The 70's were almost here!

While I like this shot of the crowds milling about on a summer day (in between the Carrousel and the Snow White attraction), the photographer seemed to be mighty interested in those cloth banners that provided a tiny bit of shade in that mostly-treeless part of Fantasyland. I'm sure that a typical summer day could easily be in the high 80's or 90's. Or maybe the photographer was interested in the various flags and pennants. Who knows.

Hugh Hefner and Snow White have something in common: they both have grottos! Why can't I have one too? Hef has yet to invite me to one of his parties, so I am going to have to give the "win" to Snow White… but I can always be persuaded to change my mind.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Ringling Bros, Sarasota - March 17, 1956

Today I thought I'd share a few fun photos from Sarasota, Florida, where the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus had their winter headquarters (established in 1927). It makes sense, since so much of the USA gets hit with harsh winters; why not find a sunny, warm place to relax? The circus folk didn't just sit around eating bonbons and watching soap operas though - they still performed for crowds of fellow snowbirds.

This first photo is neat, I love the group of people on the back of that elephant - you can almost imagine the swaying, slightly bumpy ride that they are experiencing. The word "Gajasala" is Hindi, and means "elephant stable". 

In another area, folks gather around to watch all kinds of performers doing their thing. Before I zoom in for a closer look, I am noticing some horses out in that field, grazing happily; presumably these are the same horses that pull the wagons or prance in parades during shows.

Well, looks like just about everybody is here! The strong man, beautiful showgirls, clowns, the lion tamer, an acrobat, and (since there is a low tightrope), even an incognito tightrope walker or two. 

Go ahead, reach into the cage and pet the lions! What's the worst that could happen?

Considering that March 17th was a Saturday, crowds are pretty sparse - but then again, there are plenty of jackets, sweaters, and babushkas, so maybe it was chilly by Florida standards. The elephants don't seem to mind. I wish I had scanned the photo of the baby elephant who could fly (I think I can see a little mouse in his cap), but I forgot to.

I hope you have enjoyed your visit to the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey winter headquarters!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Beautiful Tomorrowland, 1956

Oh boy, more vintage Tomorrowland! My favorite. And the "Clock of the World" is also my favorite.  I can have lots of favorites! I love the way the Clock is trying so hard to look futuristic, and yet, to 2014 brains, it is about as retro as can be. The blue tiled base, the gold spiky sun (and moon, on the other side), even the font used for the numbers, it all screams "mid-century". Which is awesome. In the distance is a certain moon rocket...

…. and here's a closer look. I'm not sure if the camera's exposure was just set differently, but things look much lighter and brighter. The rocket is SO COOL! I never grow weary of it. In the background, the vertical sign still says "Space Bar" rather than "Skyway" - the Skyway would not open until June of '56. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Greatest Hits - Fantasyland

Here's another selection of "greatest hits" from the past - this time we'll concentrate on Fantasyland.

This first image is from a badly damaged slide (originally posted in 2007) - it took some considerable effort in Photoshop to get it back to a presentable state. And it was worth it, as it is one of my favorite images (reminding me of guide book pictures). The sense of motion is nice, and the lady's smile is really what sells it for me!

A family de-caterpillars from the Alice in Wonderland dark ride in this 1966 photo. I love those vehicles SO much - but would really like to know what other concepts (if any) were considered before they settled on the snooty larvae. Maybe a Cheshire Cat vehicle? That would have been pretty cool too.

This 1962 photo appeared in my 900th post at the end of 2008; it features the lovable li'l Midget Autopia. A single car winds its way through a beautiful flowered landscape that reminds me of some of Mary Blair's artwork for "Alice in Wonderland", for some reason. It really does feel as if we're in a dream.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Sleeping Beauty Castle, March 13 1958

I love these two photos of a mother and daughter posing in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle at different times of the day! 

What's with all the "suits"?! And where are all the other children? I think the castle looks wonderful with its soft shades of blue and gray (with only a hint of pink above the archway). The daughter is cute in her blue coat and babushka. All of those semi-circular seating areas were recently removed thanks to Cal OSHA and the Disney lawyers. I feel safer already!  

Later in the day dad took another photo, this time from an oblique angle that is very pretty in the late-afternoon sunlight. There's not another soul to be seen! I guess people wanted to be home in time for dinner. If you look carefully you can just see part of the Skyway tower on Holiday Hill over to our right.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Fantasyland & Carrousel, 1956

Here are two slides from Fantasyland - both from 1956, though from different days.

This first one looks very wintery (by SoCal standards), with overcast skies and guests bundled up in coats and sweaters. One lady is even prepared for rain! In spite of  the gloom, Fantasyland is bustling with a pretty good crowd. I would love to head over to the Mickey Mouse Theater to see the 3-D movie that played there, starring Jimmy Dodd and the Mouseketeers; I am very curious to know if this film survives. 

Next, it's a sunnier day, and we get a nice look at King Arthur's Carrousel back when there were horses of a different color. I think it was in 1983 when somebody had the theory that everyone wanted to ride a white horse; nobody consulted me!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Moody and Murky, 1965

Continuing a series of oddly dark and moody slides, I have to admit that I wish I had posted this first one closer to Halloween. We're aboard the Mark Twain, on the starboard side; note the stage on the shore of Tom Sawyer Island, presumably for "Dixieland at Disneyland" performances. Maybe Louis Armstrong would be playing later that evening! In the distance, we see the Haunted Mansion (still years from opening), looking like a ghostly apparition. It's just schmutz on the lens - OR IS IT??

This one looks much like an old, age-darkened landscape by George Innes - except that he never painted any burning settler's cabins. The spirit of the dead settler only had to cross the river to find a grand home for all eternity.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Mark Twain, March 1958

If you have to look at more photos of the Mark Twain, they might as well be pretty pictures. And these two qualify nicely. 

It's not hard to pretend that this photo was actually taken at a small landing along the Mississippi river. Just squinch up your eyes a little bit! The sternwheeler will stop to pick up passengers and goods. Bales of cotton add to the veracity of the scene. Note the name "Fred Peltzer" on that crate… I Googled the name, and checked IMDB, but had no luck; but he has to have been a real person of some significance, don't you think?

This one is as pretty as a postcard. All riverboat gamblers, be sure your aces are securely hidden in your sleeves before boarding.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Two Towns, Then and Now!

I always like comparing vintage photos of random towns with contemporary views (often gleaned from Google's "street view"). Today I have two examples for you.

At least this one didn't take much detective work, since that is the U.S. Capitol building way down there. I like the juxtaposition of the gleaming neoclassical structure against the other buildings on the street (which happens to be Pennsylvania Avenue NW, at about 13th Street). The clock tower to our right is part of the "Old Post Office Pavilion" (now called the Nancy Hanks Center), completed in 1899. 

Here's the closest I could get to replicating the view on Google. I think they must have moved the Capitol building an extra quarter of a mile away!! Trees make the other buildings hard to see, which is why I am proposing to outlaw all trees by 2016. Think of the children.

This one, from the late 1940's, was a "mystery town" for about two minutes. Looking up the "Placer Inn" (to our right) yielded instant results… this is Idaho Springs, Colorado (about 30 miles west of Denver), looking east down Miner Street. Idaho Springs was founded during the gold rush of 1859, and it looks it! I love the old cars in this photo.

Here's Google's view; the Placer Inn started out as a nice place to eat and sleep; it became a bowling alley at one point, abut has since been restored, and is now the Tommyknocker Brewery and Pub. It's remarkable how many of the buildings seem to have remained intact over the years. Even the hillside looks the same.

Just for yucks I thought I'd include this postcard view. It's undated, but I swear some of the cars in my photo also appear in this one!

And lastly, I found this neat image from 1889; everyone's looking at the camera, so this must have been some sort of big occasion. The Placer Inn's distinctive roof line can be seen to the right. Dirt roads, horse-drawn ore carts, this place really evokes the "old West". I love the detail of the little boys in their finest late-19th century duds!