Friday, May 11, 2018

Early Tom Sawyer Island!

I have two fun views of Tom Sawyer Island, from undated slides - though they are almost certainly from 1956. 

We are looking at the south end of the Island, with the Fishing Pier to our right (a single cane pole poking into the scene), and a large group of guests waiting to board a Huck Finn Raft for its trip back to the mainland. It's a hazy day, but I am always amazed when I see the far shore of Frontierland completely devoid of anything except for train tracks, a white picket fence, and a pathway leading to the Indian Village. Looking through the sluice the carried water to turn the mill wheel, you can see a single Keel Boat at rest on the far shore.

Some little boys are thrilled to be the first ones aboard the raft. It doesn't matter if they have enough energy to light up New York City, they are going to sit on those red barrels, because who wouldn't? Only a crazy person. 

This view from the Mark Twain is taken looking in a south-easterly direction. The plants on the island are so scraggly that we can clearly see the waterfall that cascaded from the top of the hill. Incidentally, it seems that Tom's Treehouse hasn't been built yet.

The Suspension Bridge is pure chaos, with guests trying to go both directions. It's the Clone Wars all over again! At some point somebody decided to make the bridge strictly one-way. I get a kick out of looking at the people, especially the kids who are so excited at the novelty of the bridge.

I believe that the pink building in the distance is Aunt Jemima's Pancake House.

I forgot to add that readers should tune in tomorrow for an extra-special post!


Nanook said...


These are some mighty-fine early images of TSI-! Gotta love the excitement of those young lads as they bulldoze their way onto the Huck Finn raft.

And, yes, that certainly is Aunt Jemima's Pancake House.

Thanks, Major.

Melissa said...

So lovely and atmospheric; the mill is like a little jewel in a setting perfectly designed to show it off.

Look at the little raft rider in the red tee and white sailor hat! Well hello, little sailor!

There is (or at least was, I haven't checked recently) a barrel bridge at WDW's TSI. It was so much fun to just go out and jump up and down on it when no other guests were around, waiting to cross.

Graffer said...

Apparently 2-way traffic was allowed on the suspension bridge back then.

TokyoMagic! said...

The ropes on either side of the suspension bridge don't look very substantial. I wonder if anyone ever fell off and landed in the water below. At some point, the ropes on the sides were replaced by rope "netting." I'm surprised that they haven't built a concrete wall on either side of the bridge and topped it off with two feet of metal railing.

Chuck said...

TM!, I think the suspension bridge has always had netting on the sides, but it's hard to see because the individual strands are so thin. Check out this 1958 photo of GDB's "First Family" for reference.

On the other hand, the barrel bridge didn't have netting in the early years.

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, ha ha, “bulldoze” is a good way to describe it. It’s OK, even the ladies can handle standing for the entire 1 minute trip back to the mainland.

Melissa, the sailor jumped ship in Long Beach. He’s AWOL! I’ve been on the barrel bridge in Disneyland, and there are plenty of people who jump up and down on them whether there are other guests there or not.

Graffer, yep, that’s just what I said in my text! ;-)

TokyoMagic!, I thought the exact same thing… even if people didn’t fall through the ropes, you know people would drop their hats, cameras, ticket books, and any other item in their hands. Remember when the suspension bridge was closed for what seemed like a couple of years? At that point I did not expect it to ever reopen.

Chuck, you could be right, I could see how the right lighting would make the netting invisible - today’s photo just isn’t sharp enough to be sure. It is possible that there was no netting in 1956, and that it had been added by ’58. In the post that your second link leads to, I write about how amazed I am at the open nature of the barrel bridge!

K. Martinez said...

Very nice pics today! Thanks, Major.

Graffer said...

Doh! Missed that line.


I kinda forget that the Tom Sawyer Island rafts are “ride vehicles” too. Interesting to see that raft’s shed variation. I only recall seeing the “2-sided tent” style shed in recent times. I wonder if then the rafts were all variant designs ( the way the storybook canal boats were or the Frontierland/Main Street horse drawn vehicles were. I think now the four rafts “Injin joe”, “Becky Thather” , “Huck Finn”, “Tom Sawyer” all have the same look now. Upon reflection I think those raft names now are of Pirates - not Mark Twain characters.

Man it’s cool to still have a Ton Sawyer island but what a odd re-theme they did - it’s one of those things John Hench said WED akwYs tried to avoid if it was too confusing to guests ...
And that’s exactly what “Tom Sawyer Island Pirates Lair Desperate marketing attempt to take advantage of current pirate popularity “ is .

So it’s the 19th Century and the characters from Twain’s stories sometimes played “river pirates” and now the island is just what they are imagining?? And they happen to imagine the exact characters from the 21st Century pirates of the Caribbean film. The cavalry fort is missing its turret roofs - but there’s a giant poorly sculpted 18th Century Pirate galleon wreck that sonewhow made its way up the Missouri River? the Mississippi River? The Potomac ? Oh yeah and the ship wreck looks like it was sculpted from ALPO DOG FOOD and looks in no-way like rotting wood.
The cave SFXs are cool though - but that could have been done without the rest of the islands deterioration.

JC Shannon said...

Wow, 1956, even before my time, and as you know I am way old. I am trying to remember if the bridge was one way or two. Disneyland was an almost blank canvas and Walt was just getting started. Love the kids charging on to the raft. The Old Mill standing tall in the background is great and I suddenly have a craving for pancakes. Great stuff Major, thanks!

Chuck said...

Mike Cozart,

Looking at Daveland photos, originally, the Becky Thatcher, Huck Finn, and Injun Joe all had nearly-identical little shed cabins, while the Tom Sawyer had an A-frame "tent-style" cabin.

I found a 2007 photo of the Huck Finn that supports your memories of A-frame cabins on all of the rafts more recently.

After the Pirate's Lair rehab in 2007, the attraction received larger rafts and reduced the number to three, named Blackbeard, Anne Bonny, and Captain Kidd. They originally had their names painted on the cabin in the same style as the previous rafts, but more recent imagery I found here and here show that the names have been removed from the cabins and moved to a small treasure chest near the stern.

Chuck said...

Sorry - my link supporting the text "they originally had their names painted on the cabin in the same style as the previous rafts" didn't work. Here it is:

JC Shannon said...

I hope I don't wake up one morning and find they have named the rafts Skywalker, Solo and Boba Fett.

Nanook said...

@ JC Shannon-

Just so long as it's not Jar Jar Binks-!!

Melissa said...

They should name one raft George.