Friday, January 30, 2015

Main Street, July 1958

Here are two more images from a series of beautiful slides from 1958! The color and clarity are great.

Here's a nice portrait of the Main Street Cinema. I remember camping out for three days to see The Empire Strikes Back here. But when I got inside, it was a bunch of silent black-and-white movies. Hey, what gives?! Did I mention that I camped out in my parent's back yard? It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Suave Ronald Colman stars in "Lady Windermere's Fan"… I assume Lady Windermere played baseball, and had to deal with a lot of crazy fans. I love a good baseball movie! 

But for reals, "Lady Windermere's Fan" was released in 1925, and Ronald Colman played a character named "Lord Darlington", which is a silly name if I ever heard one. IMDB's plot summary sounds fairly dreary to me, but users give it 7.6 stars (out of 10), which isn't bad. 

Notice the light post sign for the Columbia.

A sidewalk sign advertises a 1914 movie called "The Plumber", starring Charlie Murray, who acted in 283 films (!!), including many silent comedies; his career continued as talkies took over. He passed away in 1941.

Next we get a nice look down East Center Street, with the Gibson Greeting Cards store on the corner. It's so empty! Folks could not be persuaded to stroll down that cul-de -sac.

Zooming in a bit gives us a better look at Swift's "red wagon". Down at the end of the street is the Pen Shop and Coin Shop.


Nanook said...


We love seeing both the Pen and Coin shops - East Center Street's best features. And what color-!

Thanks, Major

K. Martinez said...

What a gorgeous shot of the Main Street Cinema. It's postcard perfect. In the second zoom-in there's also a lamppost sign for the Grand Canyon diorama at the end of East Center Street. It also opened that same year as the Columbia. The images are incredibly colorful today. Thanks, Major.

Chuck said...

With no Flower Mart, lockers, or ice cream to entice them and a nasty reputation for muggings and anvil drops, who can blame crowds for avoiding East Center?

I am in awe of the effort Walt made to add a level of realism and authenticity to make guests feel as though they had stepped into another time and place, and the shots of the Main Street Cinema illustrate this perfectly. The tobacco shop next door, the vintage movie poster, Ronald Colman's name on the marquee, the second floor window advertising character meet-and-greets with Henry Cabot Lodge - all of these little things just scream "Turn of the Century" and add up to make a greater whole.

Looking at these, I'm struck by a thought (ouch!). At the time these photos were taken, Main Street was evoking an era still well within living memory. While scenes of Main Street stir a sense of nostalgia in me for both a "simpler" time I never witnessed as well as my own childhood memories Disneyland itself, many of the people in these photos were experiencing a genuine nostalgia for their own past. A movie poster for "The Plumber" might have evoked a memory for them in the same way a movie poster for "Hawmps!" would for me.

And I got to thinking further that some eras are more clearly-defined and easier to evoke than others, and that those farther in the past are probably easier to simulate convincingly, especially to people who weren't there. Main Street looks "real" to modern audiences because there are enough believable details to the casual viewer, even though there are clear anachronisms like films from the teens and '20's being shown in a cinema that's supposed to be on an 1890-1910 street and an obvious lack of the overhead electrical infrastructure visible in most photos of small-town business districts of the period.

I ruminated that the pace of change in modern life, our proximity to and clearer memories of more recent events, and the fact that so much architecture from earlier eras has survived would make it difficult to effectively replicate the world of my childhood - the late '60's to early '80's - in the same way that Main Street simulates 1890-1910 (with some filmic nods to the teens and '20's). And while that nostalgia resonates with me, a child of the original-sized Rock'Em Sock'Em Robots generation, it probably doesn't resonate across the culture in the same way that the turn of the 20th Century does.

That posed a further question - does that mean my generation is less valid, less significant than earlier ones? Have we contributed less and consumed more than those who came before? And if so, does that make ME less valid and less significant? Who am I? I mean, really - WHO AM I?

And then I heard a buzzer, realized that I needed to throw a load of sheets in the dryer and promptly forgot the whole thing. Who wants a lollipop?

Brad Abbott said...

I agree with Nanook, great shot of the Pen and Coin Shop, as well as the Gibson Card Shop.

For some reason, guests seem to have taken very few shots of East Center Street at the time. I guess the draw toward the Castle was just too great!

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, I sure wish ALL of my slides were as nice as this 1958 set!

K. Martinez, you're right, that one is "postcard worthy" for sure. I love those lamp post signs, wish I had a few in my collection.

Chuck, you make an interesting point about Main Street evoking a time within many people's memories in the 1950's and 60's. "Hawmps!", what the hell is that?? And your thoughtful comment (mini-essay!) reminded me of a rumor that I heard years ago… maybe in the mid-1990's. A well-connected fellow told me that Disney was considering re-doing Main Street to be more of a 1950's-style street. Arg! It wouldn't surprise me if that really WAS an idea that was being tossed around, and the interesting thing is that it would have made Main Street once again evoke an era within living people's memories. That being said, I am glad they didn't do it. As you suggested, it would have been difficult to make a street that evoked the 1950's in a way that wouldn't seem extremely kitschy ("Hey! A malt shop! A bowling alley!") or just too artificial. The early Main Street really felt surprisingly believable… all you have to do is go to a random little town in Minnesota and chances are, their Main Street will feel like a grittier version of the Disneyland example.

Brad Abbott, I think the reason folks didn't take photos of East Center Street is pretty clear; look at that dead-end! At least West Center Street had the Flower Mart.

Chuck said...

Major, "Hawmps!" is an entirely-forgettable, 1976 family comedy about the US Army's Camel Corps in 1850's Texas from the team that brought you the "Benji" films. It starred James Hampton, Slim Pickens, Denver Pyle, and Jack Elam. I remember it being fairly cringe-worthy when I saw it on HBO in the '80's, but it seemed like the funniest movie EVER to First Grade Chuck and his best friend Gary when we saw it in downtown Fairfield, California, on it's initial release. A great memory (if not a great film), and that's the stuff that nostalgia is made from (as well as computer hard drives).

Dean Finder said...

I read about the 1950's Main Street USA too. Though I think it was going to be for HK Disneyland, not a redo of the original.
Similarly, Imagineers proposed a 1920's Main Street for Disneyland Paris. It was obviously rejected.

Chuck said...

...although no developed Imagineering idea ever completely goes away (see entry on "Disney's California Adventure Service Pack 1").

Major Pepperidge said...

Chuck, well, if I ever knew about "Hawmps!" (what a terrible title!) I have forgotten all about it. But it had Slim Pickens and Jack Elam, so that's something.

Dean Finder, I am quite sure that I heard about the 1950's Main Street concept long before Hong Kong Disneyland was being considered.

Chuck, I thought the same thing... in a way, the Route 66 part of Carsland is a specific sort of 1950's/1960's idea!

Dave DeCaro said...

Fantastic! I love finding A-Frames in front of the Cinema for different movies. Don't remember ever seeing this one.