Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Rivers of America, 1957

I am kind surprised just how much of my collection consists of Disneyland photos from 1956 and 1957. Attendance must have boomed, and everybody who went brought a camera. Not that I'm complaining! Those pre-1959 views are some of my very favorites.

Look at this humble shot of Frontierland taken from the shore, next to the small bandstand that jutted out into the river. Let's be sure to catch the Strawhatters at 3:30! There's the Mark Twain of course, with a Keelboat next to it like an attentive puppy. 

Compared to later views, the distant shore is quite barren; it's kind of amazing. To our left is Tom Sawyer Island, with a few guests relaxing and taking in the scenery. I love the details of the iron fencing, the fancy light on that square column, and the lacy wrought-iron on the bandstand.

This next photo was taken from Fort Wilderness, looking over the pointed battlements toward the Indian Village and the load area for the Canoes. To the left you can see the birch bark-covered Native American longhouse, with crowds of people watching the Indian dancers (just out of frame). And the passenger train can also be seen, on its way to Fantasyland Station.


Nanook said...


More gems today. That's a rather unusual view of Indian Village. (And is that one of the original Keel Boats-?)

Thanks, Major.

Monkey Cage Kurt said...

Ironic that you would post Rivers of America after all our rants yesterday about it.

These are great Major! I LOVE the first one. I can almost feel the warm sunshine. It’s real cold in Oregon right now.

Chuck said...

Major, love that view of the Indian Village!

Nanook, based on the color scheme and the number of shutters along the side, this is the Mark II Bertha Mae.

Discovered a few more tidbits about the original keelboats this morning that didn't turn up in my research a few days ago. According to this photo from Daveland (, the original Bertha Mae only had one window on each side. But it doesn't seem to have been kept that way for long. Numerous pictures from Daveland going back as far as 1956 show the Bertha Mae with three windows. In fact, I haven't been able to find a single picture of the Bertha Mae with two windows on a side.

And after watching a segment from "Davy Crockett and the River Pirates" (, it seems that the keelboats swapped names when they came to Disneyland. In the TV program, the boat with one window on each side is Mike Fink's Gullywhumper, while the one with two windows in Davy Crockett's Bertha Mae.

Interestingly, the Gullywhumper is currently displayed tied up to TSI in a "restored" configuration similar to how it originally looked at Disneyland (, although Mike Fink's Gullywhumper actually had two windows.

Chuck said...

Moving faster than the speed of thought this morning. That whole last paragraph doesn't make any sense since I flipped the Disneyland hulls in my head as I was writing it. The Gullywhumper's current configuration is intended to look like the Gullywhumper of the TV program, with one window on each side, just like Mike Fink's.

Here's another thing that eventually stood out after looking through a bunch of photos this morning...the Disneyland Gullywhumper seems to have retained its two-window configuration well into the 1960's and doesn't appear to have added a third window until around 1967 ( And it would appear that JG came to this conclusuion long before I did ( :-).

And just because I'm link-happy, here's and August 1959 photo of Fowler's Harbor that's almost identical to the one I linked in my previous comment ( The only major difference (other than time of day) is that the Bertha Mae now has three windows.

K. Martinez said...

I'm still pissed the Mike Fink Keelboats are gone. I loved riding the keelboats on top or inside below. It was very different from the usual for Disneyland. Guess it wasn't 'E' ticket enough to survive or guests weren't familiar with all things Davy Crockett anymore. As TokyoMagic! would say "They ruin everything, don't they?"

Monkey Cage Curt, it's pretty cold down here in Santa Cruz too. It's been average highs in the 50s and lows in the mid 30s. It's too cold for me. Even in the sunshine it's cold. Brrrrrrr!

TokyoMagic! said...

Ha, ha, Ken! But it's TRUE!!!

I just transferred my video from the 1990's of the full Keelboat ride and I need to upload it to YouTube. I will post a link here when I get it uploaded, just in case anyone is interested. I didn't ride them that often and until watching my video, I had forgotten that they did a funny spiel similar to the Jungle Cruise narration. In fact, they used the exact same line at the end of the ride about "Now we come to the most dangerous part of our journey....the return to civilization!"

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, that IS an unusal view of the Indian Village. Maybe taken from Tom’s Treehouse… not sure. And I’m not sure about the Keelboat, either!

Monkey Cage Kurt, it was sheer coincidence, because I composed this post many weeks ago…

Chuck, you can also tell it is a Mark II because of its bubble dome! Wow, you did a lot of Keelboat research. More than I was willing to do, though that is the sort of thing that I always *want* to do. In theory. I’m kind of surprised that there is not some document that says when the boats were replaced with bigger, better versions. I do have an early photo of the Gullywhumper with only one window on the side… take a look at this photo.

K. Martinez, the removal of the Keelboats was one of those awful “budgetary” decisions. I know that they were theoretically removed because they were tippy, but that could have been easily addressed. Ballast, for instance. And I wish it was cold here… it’s only a tiny bit on the cool side.

TokyoMagic!, I have heard the audio from a later live recording of the Keelboat spiel, and the pilot laughs at his own jokes in this terrible high-pitched chuckle. It got on my nerves!

Unknown said...

As always, Major, terrific stuff. I'm eager to see your video, TM, and am hopeful you'll post a link. I remember the spiel given by the pilot. I'm not old enough (or I don't remember) the spiel ever being delivered live on Nature's Wonderland but I have a warm spot in my heart for the attractions where the spiel is delivered by the Cast Member: Indian War Canoes and Storybook Land Canal Boats. Were there others?

And the Gullywhumper had a swivel gun mounted on its bow. I hope my memory isn't going to hell (it is) but I think they used to fire a salute to Fort Wilderness. This could be some big-time memory fault here, but does anyone remember or know?

K. Martinez said...

Major, the posting of the keelboat is kind of fitting for the holidays. According to Chris Strodder's "The Disneyland Encyclopedia" the "Mike Fink Keel Boat" attraction began operation on Christmas Day in 1955 with the Gullywhumper. This Christmas Day, that will be exactly sixty years ago. The Bertha Mae followed a few months later.

TokyoMagic!, I'm really looking forward to your Mike Fink Keel Boat on-ride video. And yes, The Keelboats reminded me a lot of the Jungle Cruise in both spiel style and size of the boats.

Chuck said...

Major, the photo you linked changes my previously-posted assessment.

I had assumed the single-doored boat in the Daveland photo I linked was the Bertha Mae because there were two lines of text on the stern and there was another boat next to it with two doors, which I assumed was the Gullywhumper based on color scheme and all the two-door Gullywhumper photos I'd seen. Blowing up your photo shows the words "Gully" and "Pitts" painted on the stern to the port of the tiller, which I assume are half of "Gullywhumper" and "Pittsburgh."

Based on this, the Gullywhumper and Bertha Mae did not exchange names when they came to the Park, which makes more sense. When they were refurbished (or maybe when they were replaced), each appears to have gained a door on each side. And then the Gullywhumper was converted to a three-door configuration by 1967.

And I'm as surprised as you that there isn't a more definitive document that details the history of these now-vanished boats.

TokyoMagic! said...

Major, that is true and it was getting on my nerves as well. And in between the pilot delivering his jokes and laughing at them, he briefly shuts off the microphone and there is this banjo or fiddle muzak that makes it even more annoying. Still, I am glad to have video documentation of the attraction. I remembered riding the Keelboats in those last years, but I wasn't sure if I had video taped the ride or not.

Patrick Devlin, I only remember the pre-recorded spiel for Nature's Wonderland. Do you know when they stopped doing the live narration?

Chuck said...

TokyoMagic!, I could almost swear I remember hearing a live spiel in 1975 or 76, but I could be getting that mixed up with the SF&DLRR rounding the NW corner of the Park.

Major Pepperidge said...

Patrick Devlin, I’ll bet TokyoMagic! will do a whole blog post with a link to his video! I have only ever heard the familiar recorded spiel from the Mine Train… even when I’ve heard vintage recordings (like from my friend Mr. X) from portable tape recorders. I have seen photos with the small swivel gun, but I never knew that they ever fired it!

K. Martinez, I never knew that the Gullywhumper debuted on Christmas day! That’s pretty cool. The sixty year aniiversary would be sweeter if the boats were still around, of course.

Chuck, the Daveland photo is useful because you can see both Keelboats, of course. Surprisingly rare. The whole “Gully Pitts” thing was addressed on my blog, though I confess that I did not figure it out myself. The “Pittsburgh” thing threw me. Was Pittsburgh once considered the Frontier?! I suppose so.

TokyoMagic!, yeah, I remember the banjo/fiddle music too. I guess people have to have some kind of noise at all times, or they will start to have actual thoughts, which would be terrible. As for the live narration on the Mine Train, my guess is that only a few “Red Shirts” did that. Pressing the “Play” button was so much easier, and can you imagine reciting the same spiel 40 times a day? I don’t know how the Jungle Cruise skippers do it.

Chuck, I wouldn’t be surprised if you got a live spiel. I used to have a pretty impressive archive of old Disneyland recordings, but many of the rarest were lost due to bad DVDs. I’m never archiving anything on DVD again!

Chuck said...

Major, I guess I should have actually read the blog rather than just looking at the picture (bad Chuck, BAD!). Pittsburgh, the birthplace of Mike Fink, doesn't generally fit into the TV/movie image of the post-Civil War frontier, but it really was the frontier through the turn of the 19th Century. The real Mike Fink reputedly ran keelboats on the Ohio and Mississippi before heading west to join the fur trade in the 1820's.

I think the reason that so few people remember live spiels on the Mine Train is because the engineers didn't last long enough to memorize them. There seems to be something about wearing a red shirt that reduces life expectancy.

Unknown said...

Oh yeah. The Jungle Cruise. I think I may have forgotten one of the attractions that has a Cast Member delivered spiel...