Friday, September 11, 2020

Beautiful Main Street, 1956

I don't think I am alone in admitting that when I was a kid, I did not appreciate Main Street USA for the wonderful creation that it is. I dreamed about the wonders of Tomorrowland, the fun and color of Fantasyland, the beauty and vastness of Frontierland, and so on. Main Street was a nice place to walk through as you headed toward the fun stuff. What a fool I was!

The more I've learned about Disneyland and its relation to a Hollywood view of America as our grandparents knew it, the more I've come to admire what Walt and his Imagineers accomplished. It really does feel like an especially lovely backlot environment. As I have mentioned (ad nauseum?), just look at the variety of building shapes, colors, materials (including faux brick), along with different shingles, moldings, awnings, window styles...  even the signs are wonderful.

Zooming in a bit, I always get a kick out the giant key outside the Yale & Towne shop. 

Here's a second shot - at first I thought it might have been taken before the first photo, but I see a young man to the extreme right about to cross the street, while in the first image he's loitering outside the Jewelry shop. I love the vehicles - a Surrey, two Horse Drawn Streetcars, and a Horseless Carriage.

You could go see Rudolph Valentino and Vilma Banky at the Main Street Cinema. When Valentino flared his nostrils, women fainted! The tobacco shop Wooden Indian greets us like an old friend.

I hope you have enjoyed these vintage Main Street pix!


Nanook said...

Yes, that giant Yale & Towne key is quite the thing. And depending on how one 'reads' it, the bitting is somewhere between eight and 10 pins-! That's quite the lock that key would open.

I also notice in the 3rd image a "Town Square N". street sign. I can't remember seeing that sign before.

Thanks, Major, for sharing these images of the jewel box that was Main Street, U.S.A.

TokyoMagic! said...

While I'm at Disneyland, I need to stop at the Main Street Butcher Shop and pick up a couple pounds of ground round.

Melissa said...

Summer, 1956: The Day The Cotton Print Dresses Invaded Disneyland.

It’s always a good picture when you can see multiple modes of transportation running. It’s a world on the move, go, go, go!

Omnispace said...

Although I perhaps didn't dwell as much over Main Street as I did the other lands and attractions, it was always there to greet us like a familiar friend. These photos do an excellent job of conveying the feel of it, right down to the distant castle in the Anaheim haze. Yes, it's very much like a movie back lot, but those are often left incomplete: painted faux details, streetlamps on stands, movable hydrants... You really need to give Walt's creators due credit for bringing that Hollywood illusion into full reality - so much so that the guests keep to the sidewalks like on a true street.

Chuck said...

At the extreme left of the first photo, I think you can see the Skyway pylon that marks the future location of the Matterhorn.

Andrew said...

I wonder if those lines over the street were just for the Christmas decorations or if they served some other purpose.

Thanks, Major, for these gorgeous pictures!

Stu29573 said...

Main Street is a perfect anticipation builder. It looks like any small town...except perfect. Then you notice the castle in the distance and you realize that this is a verrrry good place to be! It's almost as if you're being physically transported deeper and deeper into the stories! It's a feeling that you can only get at Disneyland and WDW's Magic Kingdom...

JC Shannon said...

I admit, as a kid I didn't pay much attention to Main Street. As I grew into my teens, I liked strolling along Main Street and New Orleans Square as well, especially at night. Walt and the Imagineers really did a bang up job on both. As we all know, Major is a super fan of Disneyland, and is a VIP of some renown. I am hoping he will use his considerable influence to get the Peoplemover and the MTTNW back for us all. Thanks Major.

"Lou and Sue" said...

At first I was going to say, “Look at that brazen hussy in the last picture - with the blue capris!” - but then I remembered that I have pictures of my mom in Disneyland in 1956, wearing blue capris. And, yes, I zoomed in to see if that was my mom. Nope, it wasn’t. Wrong hair color.

Great pictures - thanks, Major!

DrGoat said...

You're certainly not alone Major. I came to the same realization concerning Main Street about 20 years ago. The Penny Arcade and all the other businesses and buildings on Main Street gave me warm, fuzzy feelings and seemed to hold the memory of my childhood visits with Mom and Dad a little more than the other lands. I guess you could call it Willoughby syndrome. As I get older and closer to the ultimate 'E' ticket ride, it gets stronger.
Couldn't be a better way to start Friday. "Jewel box that was Main Street" is a wonderful way of putting it Nanook.
Thanks Major.

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, I was thinking, “Boy, that is some kinda bitting on that key! Some kinda bitting. I’ve never SEEN such bitting!”. ;-) For some reason the vertical yellow “Jewelry” sign is not something I’ve really noticed before.

TokyoMagic!, your idea is a good one, you can pass around handfuls of hamburger while in line for friends and family to eat. No more wasted time sitting in a restaurant!

Melissa, “The Day The Cotton Print Dresses Invaded Disneyland” is one of WIlliam Castle’s most notorious horror movies! I wonder of the Main Street vehicles always used Goodyear tires?

Omnispace, Main Street was the perfect way to introduce guests to a themed environment. It’s not too “in your face”, but it still envelops and surrounds you. Like the Force! The street looks so much like a movie lot that it isn’t that hard to imagine the photos as being stills from a TV show or movie. I also think Main Street was one of the first “lands” to be fully realized as a concept, so when it was time to build the park, they were ready to go.

Chuck, I definitely see a Skyway pylon! I guess it has to be the one where the Matterhorn would eventually go, since any others would have been too far to the east or west. Good eye!

Andrew, I think those lines were primarily used for Christmas decor, although they did hold signs for new attractions in 1959. Other than the one right in Town Square that was used to “Welcome Shriners” (or whoever), they were mostly just there, doing nothing.

Stu29573, I still remember driving through Minnesota years ago, so many small towns had Main Streets that had seen better days, but there was something that reminded me of Disneyland’s version. For one thing… lots of brick! Of course they were never as cute even 80 years ago, but it was interesting to see that “midwest town” vibe.

Jonathan, I know I used to go into the Emporium, and sometimes the Disneyana shop later on, and of course my family would go see Mr. Lincoln. But that was about it! I wish I’d visited every shop and really soaked it all in. (I WISH I was a VIP at Disneyland!)

Lou and Sue, that brazen hussy is the ONLY woman not wearing a skirt in both of the photos, I actually wonder if people looked at her funny. “What is she thinking!”. I wish I had a picture of a young Lou and your mom in Disneyland.

DrGoat, ah, now that you mention it, I did go into the Penny Arcade too, I was fascinated by those “old” games (some were new but just looked old), and the Mutoscopes and other interesting old machines were something that a kid wouldn’t see anywhere else. I assume that they were all sold off to interested collectors, or at least I hope they were. “Willoughby Syndrome” is apt. Have a nice weekend.

JG said...

I'm joining with the rest in saying that in the morning, Main Street was something to run through before the line to the bobsleds got any longer.

As a kid, I enjoyed it more on the way out, since it meant a visit to the bookstore and the penny arcade. I loved the penny arcade with the old games and the peep shows, and of course the Flower Mart was Mom's favorite. We rarely rode the Main Street vehicles. I may have been on the streetcar once. I don't recall going in any of the East side shops till I was grown up. I think Dad went in the Tobacco shop since we have a matchbook from there. He didn't smoke, but collected matchbooks.

I remember one visit to the Upjohn Pharmacy, where I was given the vitamin bottle. I guess it's gone since it wasn't found with the Knotts gold vial.

By the time I was old enough to really appreciate it, it was gone, morphed into the mess we have today.

These are excellent photos that match my memories exactly. It really did look like a real town, except cleaner and neater. Also demonstrates the excellent forced perspective of the Castle, which is perfectly in scale and draws you forward, while the muted colors make it seem even further away. Even now, I am amazed to watch this phenomenon, weakened as it is by bad color design, there is still a remnant.

People did not walk in the street, but kept to the sidewalks, which could be done because the crowds were kept in control. I hate what it has become today, especially in parade time, just a stew of people and giant strollers.

Andrew, the cables crossing the street were definitely for Holiday ornaments, but often had banners advertising new attractions or temporary shows etc. just like a real town.

Thank you, Major, for these restful images. Very welcome in a trying week.

Cheers everyone, hope you are well.


Steve DeGaetano said...

I was about 13 years old...right about the time my parents started letting me go off by myself to explore the Park for a couple hours before meeting back up with them and siblings at some pre-determined location. Oh, the freedom! For those two hours, I could do whatever I wanted at the Park! Go on the rides of MY choosing, as often as I liked! Linger in the shops as long as I wanted. Eat or drink what I wanted.

It was a late afternoon one summer day on one of these outings. I thought I'd grab a Coke at the Refreshment Corner. Sipping my ice-cold Coke, I sat at a small table next to a window overlooking Main Street. A horse drawn streetcar clip-clopped by. The buildings across the street, with their arched windows and Mansard roofs, were dappled in lengthening shadows as the sun lowered. The gas lamps glowed softly. The lacy curtains on the brass rod fluttered in the breeze. And then it hit me, a revelation like no other. All the elements came together, and all at once, I GOT it. I had been transported in time 80 years into the past.

Walt Disney—this GENIUS—had created a space that virtually swept me into another place and time, and for a few brief moments, I was sipping a Coke in the soda shop of some small Midwestern town at the turn of the century. I felt it viscerally. It was a moment I will never forget.

After that experience, Main Street became a focus of study for me. I learned about Victorian architecture and life at the turn of the century. I studied actual Main Streets (“Main Street Revisited” by Richard Francaviglia is an excellent place to start). I started closely examining the myriad details that abound on Disneyland’s Main Street that had meant nothing to me previously.

That one experience on Main Street U.S.A. is probably what turned me into the Disneyland fan I am today.

Anonymous said...

Like all of you Main Street was a thru-way to get to the attractions when I was younger. Then when I was a CM, I used the shops that were there...picked up a cards from Hallmark...used the Bank...always got a family supply of vitamins from Upjohn...and purchased special engraved glass for special occasions. It was a Land unto itself. Gosh I miss the diversity it once had. KS

Nanook said...

Clearly as a youngster, Main Street was 'the thing you passed-by on the way to all the action'. On the other hand, I have very clear memories of spending time at the Emporium, Market House, Penny Arcade, Upjohn Pharmacy, Kodak, (Coca-Cola, Candy Palace and Carnation - which had other 'perks' to grab the attention of a youngin). So something told me to spend at least a little time there.

DrGoat said...

JG, I found my 2 little Upjohn vitamin bottles about 2 years or so ago, hiding in with some other paraphernalia I had in box. Missing the label but unmistakable. Did a happy dance.

Major Pepperidge said...

JG, I feel like I always wanted to spend more time on Main Street as we were exiting the park, but of course by then stores were closing, and we were tired and had an hour-plus drive home. So we just walked out the exit! I wish I’d gone into places like the Upjohn Pharmacy, Swift’s Market House, the Sunkist Citrus House, and so many others… but alas, I never did. I’m trying to imagine these same photos with the pink and ultramarine-blue castle, and the new colors are not an improvement. Some people think they are, but they’re wrong! I suppose that, like some of our National Parks, Disneyland can be over-loved; too many people want to be there at once. It’s not their fault, they do love it. I just find it hard to accept what it’s become versus what it was, which I guess makes me officially an old fart.

Steve DeGaetano, thank you for the wonderful recollection! Very nicely written, I think we can all picture ourselves in your shoes. I don’t know if I ever had that moment of epiphany that you did, but I do know that of the four kids in my family, I was the only one to connect with Disneyland in a way that the other three didn’t. They like it of course, but I was kind of obsessed from the age of seven or eight. I know it’s pointless to play “What would Walt have done?”, but I still can’t help wondering how different things could be if by some miracle he had lived decades longer, in good healthy mentally and physically. I will check out “Main Street Revisited”! Thanks again.

KS, I’ve said it before, but I sure envy all of your experiences as a cast member during those golden years; it sounds truly special. And I’ve read plenty of other accounts from people who worked there in the ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s, and even into the ‘80s that make it sound like their time there was one of the best times of their lives.

Nanook, I wish I’d seen those leeches in the Upjohn Pharmacy! Having had more than a few of those slimy buggers stuck to me in Minnesota lakes, I would have pointed at them and laughed! But I’m not crazy! My friend Mr. X was just the right age to go there a little earlier than I did, and he worked there too, it clearly impressed him ever since.

Major Pepperidge said...

DrGoat, isn't it funny how a couple of tiny bottles can make us so happy?? I'm including my little vials with a few microscopic specks of gold from Knott's Berry Farm!

Melissa said...

Steve, your experience at The Refreshment Corner is eerily similar to my own, at the East Coast version. Magic! (I can still taste that hot dog if I think hard enough.)

Anonymous said...

@DrGoat, that is so cool you found the vitamin bottle!
It's really fun to find old things that make you happy. I'm keeping my Knotts gold on my bedside table now that I have found it again.

@SteveDeGaetano, thanks for your memory story, I enjoyed reading that very much. That was one of the best things about the Park, the immersive experience that makes another world.

Major, not only did the Pharmacy dispense vitamins and leeches, in the glass case, they had a somewhat scandalous ivory sculpture (Chinese, I think) of a reclining woman. The display notes said it was used by physicians to interview female patients who were too shy to disrobe, and so they could point at the figure to show where it hurt. Part of the history of pharmacopia. Very exotic thing, and you would never find this in today's Main Street unless it were on a keyring for sale.


"Lou and Sue" said...

I LOVE reading everyone's Main Street experiences!

Steve D., thank you for your memories! I felt like I was starting to read a best-selling novel, and I didn't want it to end.

KS, being a CM and "shopping" on Main Street is sooo cool! It's like living a part of your "real life" IN Disneyland. That's even better than just passing through as a tourist.

Thanks, all, for today's wonderful commentary and pictures!

Major Pepperidge said...

Melissa, maybe somebody will have a similar experience at Starbucks on Main Street?? Hey, it could happen.

JG, you need to wear your Knott’s gold around your neck, and take up rapping. Thanks for the info about the ivory sculpture, I’ve never heard that detail before. Seems pretty saucy for Disneyland! A friend of mine showed me a Walter Foster book (“Figures From Life”) that has a Disneyland Art Corner sticker on it, and the cover is a tasteful nude woman (waist up). Did they have it behind the counter, or in a plain paper sleeve? I can’t imagine they had that thing out where children could see it. It would destroy their minds!

Lou and Sue, I can think of all kinds of things that I would have loved to do as a Disneyland CM in those glory days. A woman that I met said she used to work in the Hills Bros. Coffee House and that Walt came in for a morning coffee and danish fairly regularly. She said he “didn’t tip”… did ANYBODY tip at places like that in Disneyland?? Imagine being a guest, in line behind Walt.

Melissa said...

“Hey, don’t you have a tip for me?”

“Oh, yes! Always keep the copyright on your intellectual property, and never try to put pants on a duck.”