Thursday, December 10, 2015

"Backstage" Instamatic

What, all we get is one measly Instamatic today? Yes, it's true.

My pal "Mr. X" was a mere lad when he decided to take this unusual photo of a "backstage" area... mostly parking for employees, but also views of the Administration Building. And other stuff. I asked X if he had any recollections or info that he wanted to share, and I loved his reply:

This was my photo? I must have wandered backstage. The building on the right would have been the new (1966) Administration Building. The wardrobe department was on the ground floor all the way to the right, which would have been right behind the Opera House. Dick Nunis' office was on the top floor corner, just overlooking the Opera House. And of course the Primeval World is in the same building.

The green building to the left is where the cast member locker rooms were located (on the second floor). Cash control was on the first floor; this was where cash was turned in and at the end of the shift (in my case) it was from outdoor foods during the first summer. Tickets were also turned in here, I believe - - though I am having trouble recalling now. Of course the Grand Canyon Diorama is located in the same building.

The senior supervisors at the time could park their automobiles backstage. I suspect that the photo may have been shot around 1966 or 1967 - - notice the construction sheds behind the Administration Building. They may have been still completing the building on the right.

I found this postcard with an aerial shot of the southeast corner of Disneyland; if you look toward the center of the red rectangle you can see the same general area as is seen in the first photo. Mr. X says:

You cannot see it clearly, but behind where the large tree is located, there is a train trestle with a wooden covered bridge, under which is a driveway with a fairly deep decline, as I recall (I was barely able to drive the outdoor foods scooter, with a stick shift, down that hill and up the other side) for operations vehicles and small delivery trucks to access backstage from Harbor Boulevard.

Guess what? I have a nice aerial photo from March of 1969 that I haven't shared with you yet! But here is just a portion of it, again showing the same general area we have been discussing.

The Harbor Boulevard employee gate was just on the other side of the green building. In fact, when we reported for work, we came through the security gate just on the other side of the yellow building, walked down a ramp and back up again. The Disneyland Railroad (please keep your hands inside) made the transition on that covered bridge from the Grand Canyon Diorama into the Primeval World segment, as it does today. 

The new yellow building was where the Disneyland University was eventually located. I remember spending my orientation up on the second floor. Also, personnel was in the new building. Interviews would be conducted there, though my recollection is that they were in offices on the other side, facing Harbor Boulevard.

I suspect that this was taken from the cast member pedestrian gate located near the guest lockers, near the Market House.

I don't know about you, but I love hearing about that  kind of insider info! And it's neat to see a vintage backstage photo, as prosaic and utilitarian as it is.


Nanook said...


It's always a treat to see backstage images from Disneyland.

To help date the first image, the baby blue car on the left is a 1969 Ford. To its right is either a 1958 or 1959 Thunderbird. And on its right is a two-toned, brown, 1969 Dodge Charger, so we know the date of the photo must have been shot well after 1966 or '67 - perhaps as early as the Fall of 1968. Does that make sense, "Mr. X"-?

Again, thanks for sharing this image, "Mr. X".

K. Martinez said...

A telephone pole! Realityland exists inside the gates of Disneyland but out of view from the guests. Such an illusion Disneyland is. Thank you Mr. X for sharing your story and photos which are always enjoyed and appreciated.

Chuck said...

In this case, I think the picture may not have been worth as much as the thousand words that accompanied it. This is backstage gold from the Golden Era.

I remember being fascinated with the backstage view of this area featured on Sam McKim's Disneyland maps, and the covered bridge in particular. Not sure why; maybe it was because it was such a technological and architectural contrast to the buildings it connected.

Thanks for sharing, Major & Mr X!

Anonymous said...

The color aerial picture - Must have been a Monday or Tuesday, since the park is clearly empty. Hard to imagine that Disneyland was once closed two days a week for much of the year.

Nanook said...

@ Chuck-

I, too, was fascinated with those same back stage areas. But let's not forget one of Walt's many prescient quotes: "I just want it to look like nothing else in the world. And it should be surrounded by a train". Wow - talk about an understatement-!

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, I love the use of car models for dating photos! It’s like carbon dating for pictures. Mr. X tends to look at my blog every few weeks, so I don’t know if he’ll verify your guess, but it sounds like you have to be in the ballpark, for sure.

K. Martinez, it’s so funny, my brain in programed to not notice telephone poles!

Chuck, I remember looking at the Sam McKim maps (and the Collin Campbell maps, which were based on Sam’s) and seeing all of those large areas of trees. “Why don’t they put rides where all those stupid trees are?” I would ask the universe. I was not very bright.

Anonymous, yes, I think we discussed this postcard a few years ago on GDB (or maybe it was just a conversation I had with a pal?), but you are right, the park was certainly closed that day.

Nanook, that sounds like a REAL Walt quote, and not one of the many “Hallmark inspirational message” quotes that Marty Sklar cooked up!

Anonymous said...

Re: Dating photos. I see in the B&W aerial that the submarine lagoon is drained.

Since you have a specific date for that photo already (in the file name), this gives a date for the empty lagoon.

Doubtless it has been drained many times (empty on my last visit in 2013) but it's fun to consider that this aerial might be at the same date as some of the other dry lagoon pics you have posted which weren't dated.

This whole exercise makes me think the GDB team would be well-placed with NSA, CIA or MI6, as long as all that was studied was 1960's Disneyland.

The aerial postcard, which is familiar, seems to me a weird choice of angle. Why does the photo feature backstage so prominently? A view from the west would show so many more identifiable features for a keepsake.

I wonder if whoever commissioned the postcards just had that picture in the file and said, "heck let's use this, no need for a new photo".

Thank you Mr. X, and Major for the endless fun.


K. Martinez said...

I remember the coolest thing on the Disneyland maps from the late 1960's to early 1970's was the future attraction "Space Port and Rocket Flight" (Space Mountain). Compared to the everything else in the park on the map it was HUMONGOUS. It really was towering over Walt's magic kingdom. What happened?

Guess they figured out it wouldn't compliment the scale of the Matterhorn.

Patrick Devlin said...

Great post for just one Instamatic! It's always as treat to get some inside information like that. And I can't get enough of vintage aerial shots. So much information from a cherished time in my past.

I am, as ever, in awe of Nanook's ability to peg car IDs like that. I don't suppose you even have to look anything up like I I'd have to. It's just handy information to you. Impressive.

It looks like every single PeopleMover vehicle is parked backstage in the first aerial. Surely they didn't remove the vehicles every night at shutdown. Anyone know?

And the Submarine Lagoon isn't just drained in the second aerial: it looks like the whole attraction is undergoing a major refurb. The whole area is fenced off and there's an access bridge out to the Coral Reef area. I sure don't remember any big changes around that time, but it was, after all, forty...mumble mumble... years ago. Am I really that old? Yeah. But it's kind of cool.

Anonymous said...

Having been hired in March of 1969, I would say that Mr. "X"'s memories are spot on. That first picture really takes me back to the time I worked Hills Brothers, taking breaks looking out into the parking area. Personnel was on the ground floor of the Harbor side of the administration building. And the aerial picture shows the old 'time shack' before it was replaced by Harbor House. KS

Monkey Cage Kurt said...

……this isn’t disneyland

I once new a guy who told me that he LOVED Disneyland… until he got a job there. He said it spoiled everything. It just took away all the illusion for him, and he never looked at the place the same way ever again. After seeing this photo I can see why. It kind of ruins it for me as well :(

Great discussions here today, wish I had chimed in earlier. Lots of good info!
Thank you Mr. X

Major Pepperidge said...

JG, I agree that the angle of the postcard is odd, and yet I love that it provides such a great view of an area that is off limits to the average person. Maybe there was some rule about flying over Disneyland, because there are several other postcards that were taken from a similar angle, even 15 or 20 years later. This particular card is one of the “unofficial” examples that you can still find at postcard shows in large numbers.

K. Martinez, yes I totally agree, Collin Campbell’s Space Mountain rendering was amazing. It looked like it was 500 feet tall. And the track went outside the building, which in retrospect I’m glad it doesn’t actually do, even though it’s a cool idea.

Patrick Devlin, I have always wondered if the Peoplemover had not quite opened in that postcard view. You can’t see any of the cars on the track, and they are all lined up in tight groups. I noticed the drained Sub lagoon (and that bridge)… right around that time my family went to the park for “Navy Night”, and I tried to take a photo with my crummy Instamatic. To no one’s surprise, the little flash cube could not illuminate all of Tomorrowland!

KS, it sounds like you and Mr. X worked at the park at about the same time. I envy all of his fond memories… sounds like you have similar experiences.

Monkey Cage Kurt, sure it’s Disneyland! It’s just not the public part, which is why it is of interest (to me, anyway). I have known people who worked at the park, and many of them still loved it, though in a different way than before, which I can totally understand. I once went to the park three times in one year (which is NOTHING compared to the people who go several times a week) - and after my third time I felt like I was ready for a break. Some fan!