Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Special Guest Post - Telephone Sign!

(This one posted a little late, folks... I accidentally set it to publish at 12:01 PM instead of AM).

Today I have another post, courtesy of GDB reader Huck Caton, who has contributed lots of stuff to this blog in the past. It's kind of a "quickie post", but I'm sure you will find it interesting!

While going through some boxes, Huck found this old-fashioned telephone sign from New Orleans Square, which he had acquired back in 1976. Here's the story!

"The boys in the sign shop gave me this one back in '76 when I worked at the park. Something about it wasn't 'perfect' so they smuggled it out to my car in the employee parking lot. I'm guessing things like that don't happen much anymore!"

"I made friends with a lot of  the old-timers at the mill (and the sign department) by being genuinely interested in their involvement in the history of the park (most of them were getting ready to retire in '76), so they were always offering me things they thought I'd like as a local who'd sort of 'grown up' there (we used to ride our bikes there to spend an afternoon)".

What a cool thing to have!

I wrote back to Huck saying that it was too bad we didn't have a picture of New Orleans Square in which the sign could be seen. He sent back a link to one of my own photos, circa 1970! There it is, plain as day (is that the "One of a Kind" shop right next to it?). 

Huck finished by saying, "I sure wish I'd taken them up on their offer of EVERY 54" by 36" attraction poster they had (literally every one ever created)... I just figured I'd have another chance (and wasn't sure how I'd get them past security!). Oh well...."  

Oh boy, that is painful to hear! The value of  those posters would be enormous these days. But it makes for a great story, if that's any consolation to him (which it probably isn't).

Thanks to Huck for sharing the photo and the great story!


Chuck said...

Thanks for sharing, Huck!

Wow - every attraction poster through 1976! I think many of us are salivating at the thought. But you're right - how the heck would you get that through Security? "Yep, just bringing my empty cardboard tube to and from work...every day...for weeks." I can see that going over real well.

I remember that particular pay phone well. Back in early Oct of '94, I'd just gotten back from a three-week work trip to Honolulu (it was rough - contract quarters were a hotel in Waikiki a half block from the beach with full kitchen facilities) and had missed my first anniversary. To make it up to my wife, I planned a two-day surprise trip to Disneyland on my two compensatory down days on my return.

The night before we were supposed to go to the Park (a Sunday), I got a call from my supervisor informing me that the unit's director of operations (DO) was putting me on standby alert for deployment to Haiti to replace another guy who was being brought home. The alert pager (remember pagers?) only had a 40-mile range, and since Disneyland was more than 40 miles from the transmitter on top of Box Springs Mountain, I was going to have to cancel my trip. I still had my two days off, but it was probably a good idea if I stopped in for a few hours the next day to pick up some gear, get briefed, and start the deployment processing ball rolling. My boss flat-out told me he was frustrated with the way this was being handled, especially since they didn't expect me to actually deploy until Friday, but he had lost the argument.

I came in on my first day off as requested, then woke up early on the second day, wondering just how far Disneyland really was from Box Springs Mountain. I pulled out a map and a ruler and discovered it was 39 miles. I called my boss and begged to be allowed to take my wife to the Park. The DO finally relented, but I had to test the pager before entering the Park, call the unit with the results of the test, and then call in every two hours "just in case."

This was the first pay phone we found inside the Park, and since the free guides of the era only showed one pay phone to the left of the Main Entrance, we made our way back to New Orleans Square every two hours. When I made the two o'clock call, the Assistant DO, a chief master sergeant (E-9), answered and told me he thought it was ridiculous for me to have to keep taking time from my day off to call in every couple of hours when I had a pager. He told me to stop calling in and he'd take the hit if there were any issues. We enjoyed the rest of our day (in fact, we bought annual passes) and had dinner at Knott's. I didn't deploy until that Friday.

I wonder - is that pay phone even still there?

Major Pepperidge said...

Chuck, I am very disappointed that you left such a short comment! ;-) But seriously, I wouldn't have guessed that anyone would have a good story relating to this sign (which I am sure most people never even noticed), and you have a GREAT story! It's so funny that th e Air Force couldn't allow you one free weekend to enjoy Disneyland with your wife, instead insisting on your having to check in every 2 hours. What a pain, and totally unnecessary. Even if you were replacing a guy who was coming home, would the world have ended without Chuck Hansen being in Haiti within the space of a day or so? At least the chief master sergeant had the smarts to let you just enjoy yourself. WAIT, why would you buy annual passes if you were going to be stationed in Haiti?!? Meanwhile, I saw a photo recently showing a bank of pay phones that are still at Disneyland - not sure where they were, exactly. And MAN, if we assume that Huck would have received the 40 (or more) attraction posters, that would have been easily worth over $100K today. OUCH.

Nanook said...

Major, Huck & Chuck-

Add one more "groan" vote for the 'possible' missed opportunity of acquiring so many AP's, but if nothing else, makes for a great story. And Chuck - what a story-! All from a simple, metal sign. Many years ago when visiting WDW, I'd often call a friend from one of the pay phones near the 'border' between Fantasyland and Liberty Square. Not exactly a page-turner of a story - but there you have it.

Major- The shop seen is the La Mascarade d’Orleans, which evidently these days features Pandora Jewelry. The La Mascarade d’Orleans sign is my favorite in the entire park. It's so unique and understated, yet so beautiful. The One-of-a-Kind Shop turned into Le Gourmet - which, too, is now gone.

Thanks Huck, Chuck... and Major.

TokyoMagic! said...

Yes, great stories today! Disneyland does still have payphones, but I never see anyone using them. Major, there is a row of phones between the Matterhorn, and the backside of Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blasters (near the exit to Pixie Hollow), that might be what you saw a photo of. When I go to Tokyo Disneyland, I use the payphones since I don't have an international plan, but I have never ever seen anyone else using them.

Huck said...

The telephone sign was hung outside the Hat Shop (down toward the pastel artists; *away* from One-of-a-Kind). The Hat Shop was a sort of mini sundries supplier for New Orleans Square. That was where we sent anyone who needed film, aspirin or cigarettes (!) back in the '70s when I worked at the park.

The attraction posters at the sign shop were all stored flat in individual cubbies. It used to break my heart to see the boys tear off the corner of a pristine, never-mounted 20K or Art Corner poster to make a cone to sweep sawdust or dirt into. They knew those particular posters were never going to displayed in the park again, so they figured they might as well get SOME use out of them. Sheesh!

Nanook said...

@ Huck-

Hindsight is always 20-20, as it turns out. Not to mention, at the time, there simply wasn't a "collectors' market" for, what essentially amounted to Disneyland 'do-dads', and plentiful at that, it would appear. (Although you would'a thought "the boys" might have shown a bit more reverence - or at least, respect, for them).

In the ensuing years, it became obvious to just about all who gazed upon the posters - they are far, far more than mere 'oversized theme park One Sheets' - and are not only a piece of history, but are just damn swell examples of some of the most stunning graphic art images of their day - or any day, for that matter.

The take-away, thankfully, is enough original AP's did survive to allow them to be shared with a much broader (or at least new) audience, many of whom, thankfully, embraced them, so we can all still enjoy them to this day. And I think I can speak confidently for those of us who own one or more of them, what a cherished piece of art each one is.

Chuck said...

Major, I wasn't being stationed in Haiti, just going to be deployed for what at the time was scheduled to be a six-month tour (it ended up being shortened to 39 days when they rotated the team out at the 60-day point). I had originally made non-refundable reservations at the Disneyland Hotel, and when I was told I couldn't go I called the reservation desk, explained the situation, and they very kindly cancelled the reservation with no penalties. I offered to fax over a set of orders or a letter from my supervisor, but they took me at my word and said it wasn't necessary. I really appreciate that to this day. So...we had money available by the time I managed to negotiate the "pager pass" with my unit.

You may recall that we'd nearly dropped the 82nd Airborne Division on Port-au-Prince a couple of weeks previously, and the leader of the '91 military coup and the de facto Haitian leader, General Raoul Cédras, was still in-country for the first half of October. There'd been a couple of small firefights about a week into the operation and things were still really tense.

I'd had a chance the day before to call the guy I was replacing, and the picture he painted was pretty bleak. The 20-odd-member Joint Combat Camera Team - comprised of all four military services - had just moved outside the wire to a sugar warehouse complex a road mile or two from the heavily-defended camps near the airport. The only security they had were some Haitian guards with shotguns and pink t-shirts that were guarding the gate to the warehouse complex. There were no bunkers or shelters, and the warehouse fronted the busiest road in the country, which made it a very tempting target for anyone who disliked us enough and had the means and the willpower to do something about it.

Team members were supposed to be armed at all times, and everybody was in full battle rattle and eyes-out from the vehicles when transiting from the complex to the airport camps. The team's borrowed Humvees were unarmored and had no radios, so there was no way to call for help if they were ambushed (they also had no windows and no doors, but that's a different story...).

Oh, and although my orders specified I was to deploy with a pistol, my unit was sending me with no weapon. "It's a real pain to ship weapons on commercial flights, Chuck. You can use Captain X's gun when you get there." Never mind that there was a four-day overlap planned between the two of us. I had this mental picture of us getting hit, and me yelling "Hey, Joe - throw me the pistol! I've got a bead on one of them!"

This was my first operational deployment, and I was under the stark realization that I might not come home standing up. I was 25 and had been married and on active duty for just over a year. My wife was 23, unemployed, and scared to death. Neither one of us was prepared for this. You understand at some level when you sign up and through training and home-station duties that you COULD find yourself in a combat situation, but it's different when that possibility suddenly leaves the realm of the theoretical. Things become very uncertain, and although I know now how the story ended - there were no further firefights in Haiti, General Cédras left the country peacefully, and I have yet to experience a shootout even after two deployments to Iraq and two years in San Bernardino - I had no idea what was coming at the time.

Chuck said...

So this was the frame of mind I found myself in when we headed to Disneyland that morning. It was a grey, cool Tuesday, and the crowds were light. I can remember wandering around Le Gourmet for probably 20 minutes and my wife, the cashier, and I were the only people in the shop. We walked on most of the rides. I know that any light-attendance day in the "modern" era normally feels like you've just won the lottery, but it left us with a very lonely feeling, more like you've just won Shirley Jackson's lottery.

We were determined to do our best to forget the looming deployment, and although the illusion was shattered every other hour with a phone call, we made a point of continuing to plan for the future. That's why we picked out kitchen accessories at Le Gourmet, that's why we bought our 1994 Disneyland Christmas ornament, and that's why we used the extra money that had been refunded when I cancelled our hotel reservation to buy annual passports.

It's funny - I can remember dozens of trips to Disneyland spanning a period from 1971 to 2009. I can remember attractions that are long-gone, and for those that remain I can remember noticing the changes - for better and for worse - along the way. I can remember being two and a half and being terrified of Captain Hook in Peter Pan's Flight. I can remember being in a Winnie-the-Pooh for President parade, listening to Randy Travis singing from the top of the Matterhorn on Disneyland's 40th birthday, and nearly stumbling backstage with an ice cream vendor who mistook me for a cast member. I can even remember the name of our waitress - Libbie - the first time I ate at the Blue Bayou 39 years ago.

But that day at Disneyland is the most precious memory of them all, because I knew - really KNEW - that it might be my last day at Disneyland...forever. That knowledge sharpens the senses, makes you savor every sight, sound, and smell, every little detail, every...last...moment. I also knew it might be the last happy memory my wife had of me - of US, together - and I wanted to make it last. And last. And last. And it has.

Monkey Cage Kurt said...

BOY! That was a lot of reading.

Major, I was a slave to the refresh button at midnight last night. I was wondering what was going on. Thanks for putting my mind at ease.

AWESOME stories Chuck. I love that you have such a vivid memory of this extinct attractions payphone.

Huck, thank you for the great contribution today, nice bit of history.

Nanook said...

@ Chuck-

Thanks for sharing such great memories. Is it any wonder why so many people feel a special connection with Disneyland or Walt Disney World, and why, perhaps without realizing it, Walt created a place(s) which are more personal to each Guest than even he could have imagined-? So ponder the difficulty faced by the designers, Imagineers, etc., when a change is in the works - even those most can agree are necessary. Those changes can make people feel they are losing a part of themselves.

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, I assume that the shop was not called “La Mascarade d’Orleans” back in 1970? I have no phone stories from Disneyland, not even a boring one.

TokyoMagic!, that must be the phones I saw, it was maybe six payphones in a row. When do you ever see that anymore? Man, how much does it cost to make a payphone call from Tokyo??

Huck, oh man, it hurts inside to hear about those posters being torn to pieces. I think I read a similar story elsewhere… maybe in “The E-Ticket” magazine? The thought of the just being casually destroyed is amazing.

Nanook, I remember when I first started looking at auction catalogs from Howard Lowery (early 1990’s I think), and almost every auction would have at least a few attraction posters. I immediately started thinking, “Man, I could actually OWN one of those amazing posters that I used to see at the park!”. At the time the photos were in black and white, so for some posters, such as the 20K example, it was startling to finally see the real thing, so different than I had imagined. Obviously I still love them.

Chuck, it’s nice to know that the management would give guests in the military a “pass” when it came to scheduling changes. THANKS for sharing your story here, it is a great one. I hope you share this (and others like it) with your kids! My dad hardly ever talked about his Navy days, especially his time in Vietnam. If I asked him about it, he would start picking at his fingernails and wouldn’t say much. Now that he is gone I sure wish I knew more about what he had experienced. Mostly what he would talk about was furlough in Hong Kong or Thailand with my mom.

Chuck again, I feel like I hardly remember ANYTHING about my trips to Disneyland compared to you! I wish I could chalk it up to something cool like substance abuse, but sadly, I can’t. I mostly have those kind of foggy (but great) memories from childhood… bits and pieces are vivid, but nothing like your recollections.

Monkey Cage Kurt, I know, isn’t it amazing? I sure wouldn’t have expected Huck’s sign to rekindle so many memories.

Nanook, I agree with you about how people have a special connection with Disneyland (or WDW), but I think that in some cases (like with me, and most of the people who read this blog), it goes deeper than it does with the general public. That's why we care when things seem to be mismanaged or neglected... it really matters to us.

TokyoMagic! said...

Major, a phone call from a payphone or the hotel phone in Tokyo is VERY expensive. But I always buy a prepaid phone card from Costco and use that for making calls. With the phone card, it ends up being about .36 a minute.

Anonymous said...

@Chuck, thank you very much for sharing your memories and thoughts. Very moving. Sorry for the late comments, but away from the desk.

Thanks, Major for posting these great photos.