Thursday, July 19, 2018

Polynesian Resort, Walt Disney World, November 1971

Here are more fantastic photos from the earliest days of Walt Disney World, as captured by my friend Mr. X. Today we'll be hanging around the Polynesian Resort, so I don't care how early it is, please drink a Mai Tai or zombie while viewing this post. 

I guess I will need to rely on the smart (and good-looking) GDB readers who actually know something about the Polynesian, because I know bupkis. 

What I do know is that there are flaming tiki torches, and a lovely waterslide that plunges into a pool that is below our line of sight. I'm sure that pool was a welcome respite from the busy park, even in November.

Mr. X took some neat (and unusual) photos of various shops and... other stuff. Like this. What is it? Perhaps this is where guests could catch the Monorail to the Magic Kingdom? A "Century 21" agent (in his classic gold sport coat) is looking forward to checking out the Haunted Mansion!

Here's one more, at no additional cost to you. Does anybody know where this pretty little waterfall was located?


Nanook said...


I know the real WDW-philes will know the answers to images 1 & 3; but the second one is indeed the walkway from the Monorail platform into the Polynesian Resort. The two pairs of swinging doors seen here were later replaced with two sets of automatic siding doors. I do love all the Polynesian goodness that's in abundance at this resort.

Thanks, Major (& Mr. X).

Nanook said...

Make that "Sliding", not siding-!

Melissa said...

Looking back at my 2011 trip pictures for reference, the third picture looks like it might be part of the huge waterfall fountain the accused to Grace the main lobby before it was turn out to make room for the recently-added Trader Sam's. It was lovely to stand up in the balcony surrounding the lobby, waiting for your reservation at the Kona Cafe, watching the waterfall. Now I'm seriously craving banana-stuffed Tonga Toast and fresh French-pressed Kona coffee.

TokyoMagic! said...

Those two hanging "boats" of flowers in the second pic, remind me of the ones that lower in the Enchanted Tiki Room, when the singing flowers get to have their moment in the spotlight.

Scott Lane said...

That third picture could be part of the central lobby waterfall but I think it looks more like one outside by the main entryway from the parking lot. (one floor underneath picture #2 which is, as Nanook said, the walkway to the monorail platform)

TokyoMagic: Agreed. And I'm sure that wasn't a coincidence.

stu29573 said...

The Century 21 guy better just forget about the Haunted Mansion, that place never sells...

Stefano said...

I wonder that if in planning WDW's hotels, the designers followed the example set in Anaheim in the 50s and 60s, when Disneyland was encircled by motels like the Kona Kai, Akua, Bahia, Tropicana. I know Walt Disney resented them, but every kid I knew loved those themed motels, they were kitschy but also exotic and exciting, almost an extension of Disneyland.

I haven't been there in over 20 years, but I understand that at the behest of the Disney company, all those marvelous mom and pop inns had their signs and character removed, leaving bland uniformity to surround the "resort".

K. Martinez said...

Love the first shot of the swimming pool slide. I remember first seeing that scene in "The Magic of Walt Disney World" from 1972. That episode built my anticipation for visiting Walt Disney World which I did in 1978. Always love and appreciate 1970's WDW pics. Thanks, Major.

stu29573 said...

In all the times I've been to WDW, I've never actually been in the Poly. The closest I have come was this past trip when we rode the monorail around the loop that goes by all the MK resorts. I think I would love to stay there (who can hate on Tiki culture?) but my budget tells me the moderate resorts are...wiser. And Port Orleans French Quarter is very nice!

Melissa said...

POFQ is pretty darn awesome. It's smaller size means none of the facilities are inconveniently distant, and it has a really intimate, homey feeling. But if you want the extra amenities of a larger Resort, Port Orleans Riverside's facilities are open and easy to get to via boat or foot bath The launch to Disney Springs is also super convenient. If I could afford a Moderate Resort for every trip, it would be my first choice.

Melissa said...

Foot PATH, not foot BATH. Calgon may take you away, but not as far as that!

Chuck said...

Stefano, most of those motels and restaurants on the Katella side of the property (as well as many others elsewhere in the resort area) were bought by Disney over the years and then leased to outside operators until they needed the land for something else.

Everything on the north side of Katella between the Alpine Inn (715 W. Katella) and West Street (now "Disneyland Drive" for the segment north of Katella) and everything on West Street between the Disneyland Hotel and Katella was torn out for resort expansion (some of it for the Emerald Hotel, which later became the Pan-Pacific, then Disneyland Pacific, and finally Paradise Pier Hotel).

In the process, we have lost the Chalet Restaurant (721 W. Katella), the Musketeer Motel (733 W. Katella), the Heidi Motel (815 W. Katella), the Apollo Motel (1741 S. West St.) the Lamplighter Motel (1759 S. West), the Princess Motel (1769 S. West), plus the Wanderlust Motel and a Gulf station, also on S. West (although I haven't been able to locate the addresses).

It's funny - the area really does look nice now, with palm trees and understated signs, but it's lost a look that, while we might have decried it as "urban sprawl" at the time, really made an impact in our minds that we also associate with a fun trip to the Happiest Place on Earth, which, in turn, makes us nostalgic for the kitsch.

stu29573 said...

Lol, got it! I agree on POFQ. We may try PORS (bayou) next time, but my heart is in NOLA, lol!

Anonymous said...

Major, the more I see of WDW, the more I want to go there, and stay at the Polynesian resort after a few days at the Contemporary. I'm going to go mix another mai-tai now. You're right, these things are great first thing in the AM. Thank you!

@Stefano and Chuck, thank you for the great essay on the old motels. We should write a book.

Anaheim created the "Anaheim Resort" as a special district with sign requirements because of the "chaotic visual environment" (my terms). Most of the best of the old signs are gone, replaced with a boring and peculiar "identity sign" in the most florid 80's teal and peach, which are all alike except for the business names. Which is weird, because the only consistent thing anywhere now is this sign, which in turn, doesn't match any building or anything else. So, achieving nothing to resolve the visual environment other than making some architectural review committee member happy.

On the south side of Katella, the Jolly Roger has been replaced with a new Marriott something or other. Developments to the west of the JR to the Convention Center were demolished to make way for an extension of the convention center wing behind the Hilton.

The Magic Lamp and Magic Carpet (and possibly others, maybe also Kona Kai) were subsumed into the Anabella, which has in turn been demolished to make way for a giant multi-tower luxury development. I think the Eden Roc may also be incorporated into this new development. Both Anabella and ER still show in the aerial and on West St. in Google Street View but turn the corner onto Katella and it shows the Anabella is gone already. The convention center may have eaten the Kona Kai.

Only the east side of Harbor Blvd remains more or less as it was in the early years, but even here, some of the big chains have bought up smaller properties for consolidation, there is a big new Marriott across from the main gate. I'm not sure what was demolished to bring that in. The Howard Johnson is still there, and it is getting a make-over to emphasize it's classic Mid-Century Modern design, so the news isn't all bad.


JC Shannon said...

As I sit here sipping a fruity rum drink, (Major made me do it) I was thinking how much I like theme hotels. We have a bunch of them in Montana and alot of them go back to the 50s. As you might guess, Cowboys and Native Americans rule the roost. I love today's pics, a little slice of Pacific paradise! Thanks to the mysterious Mr X and Major for sharing them. Does anyone out there in GDB land have a paper umbrella I can borrow?

Stefano said...

Chuck, JG, thanks for that detailed info! After seeing the Matterhorn from the Garden Grove Freeway, the drive North on Harbor Blvd seemed the next essential part of the Disneyland experience, past the riot of themes and styles. My favorites were Stovall's Space Age masterpieces.

Melissa said...

All those old motel names are so evocative! Makes it sound like a low-budget version of the Las Vegas Strip and Fremont Street.

Melissa said...

I fell down some steps once and broke my foot at POFQ, and the staff were so wonderful and helpful. (Now, the ER at Celebrations Hospital was a zoo, but I'd like to see any ER that could cope with that kind of influx. Heatstruck children wall to wall.)

Stefano said...

Melissa, in Richard Schickel's THE DISNEY VERSION, it was recounted how Julian Halevy slammed both Disneyland and Las Vegas in a 1958 NATION article; Halevy thought they exemplified the worst of American culture. An indignant Ray Bradbury came to Disneyland's defense, though he didn't say anything nice about Vegas.

Anonymous said...

@Stefano, I loved the Stovall's futurama motels, but we never got to stay in one. They had the best theming, IMO.

My Dad liked the Jolly Roger, although as I recall, only the front desk and the restaurant were themed. As I recall the rooms, they were much like any other motel of the era, maybe a bit bigger.

It was kind of a wrench to see the JR go, even though the new Marriott is very nice, and much, much bigger. I've yet to stay there, but it's a good location between the Convention Center and the Park.


Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, I was kind of surprised that those doors were not automatic, but maybe that wasn’t a common thing in the early 70’s? There are a few more nice photos of shops and things that are very unusual, so stayed tuned!

Melissa, so the Trader Sam’s at WDW is in the space that was previously lobby space for the Polynesian?? I always love indoor waterfalls, I should have them added to all of my mansions.

TokyoMagic!, interesting, I would have never made a connection between those flower pots and the Tiki Room! I wonder if they really are basically the same?

Scott Lane, I admit that the lighting looks like it is outdoors (though not in direct sunlight) - and I think maybe the fountain inside the lobby was larger? I really don’t know!

stu29573, I don’t know, a little paint, some new drapes, a few throw pillows, and voila!

Stefano, I can understand why Walt was not crazy about those motels… in hindsight they were kind of wonderful in their kitschiness, but I’ve also seen photos in which Harbor Blvd. looks pretty ugly, with tons of cars, smog, etc. Individually, they were awesome!

K. Martinez, did you go down that very same water slide?? I wonder if it is still there today - probably not.

stu29573, if I could wing it financially, I would definitely want to stay at the Contemporary and the Polynesian. But those are big, BIG bucks. Everyone wants to travel by monorail! It’s kind of a bummer, because for most of my life, the Contemporary was advertised as THE place to stay, so I feel like anyplace less would be a step down. There are so many choices now, however….

Melissa, gosh, I know nothing about Port Orleans - I might have heard a music loop from there, otherwise it’s all a mystery to me. I do like the idea of taking a boat to get there! Sounds like even the “moderate” resorts are moderate in name only.

Melissa, darn it, I wanted a nice foot bath!

Chuck, thank you for all of that great information, I certainly couldn’t have added anything of value. You sure know your Disneyland motels! I agree, it’s all well and good to have the area look “classy”, but it also loses some of the pizazz that might have added some energy and excitement to any trip.

JG, I have a friend who is on a trip all the way up to almost the Canadian border, and she has been sending me photos of motel signage - my gosh, some of it is so wonderful! I’m glad she is making a record of it. Playful themes, flashing neon, exotic names - it makes me want to stay in a motel room with COLOR TELEVISION, maybe even CABLE! Air conditioning! Hopefully a nice kidney-shaped pool with a slide! And best of all, an ice machine. Meanwhile, holy smokes, you, Stefano, and Chuck really SHOULD write a book about the motels adjacent to Disneyland! I would read the heck out of that!

Jonathan, I DO like to make people drink alcohol! ;-) Montana, eh? A whole part of this big country that I’ve never seen, sadly. I want to do a “Travels With Charley”-style trip and see it all, but there’s the little matters of time and money. But it is a dream! Hopefully I wouldn’t wind up as disillusioned as John Steinbeck.

Stefano, ha ha, I love that you were so excited by the hotels and motels! Based on postcards and brochures, Stovall’s had several of the best motels around.

Melissa, Walt spoke disparagingly about Harbor looking like a “second-rate Las Vegas”, and YET… we all love vintage Vegas.

Melissa, yikes! Nothing like a broken foot on a vacation that requires miles and miles of walking. How did you cope??

Stefano, it is not difficult to find people, whether they are ordinary folks or “experts”, to slam Disney parks and films. They are welcome to their opinions. Somehow Ray Bradbury didn’t seem like a Vegas kind of guy!

JG, I had heard good things about the Jolly Roger, I’m sorry it’s gone. The Candy Cane Inn gets good reports. The one time I did a multi-day visit to the park, I stayed in a very regrettable motel (can’t even remember the name of it) that was really too far away from the park. It was a place to sleep, that’s all.

Melissa said...

"How did you cope??"

Rental scooter and lots of pills. it's a small world is a whole other small world when you're medicated.

Chuck said...

Remember me telling you a few days ago about a friend I freaked out by identifying the Market House in a photo he'd sent me from the phone in the background? After he got back, he was telling a group of us he'd stayed at this cool old motel right next to Disneyland that was straight out of the 1960's called the "Candy Cane Inn."

I said "oh, yeah - right at the corner of Katella and Harbor."

He looked at me in wonder - maybe awe - and asked "How do you know that??!!!"

I anticipate a shortage of tin foil in our area for some time.

dean finder said...

For kitchy mid-century design in a modern motel, you can't beat Unversal's Cabana Bay in Orlando. They even advertise Color TV and cold air on the sign