Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Raft to Tom Sawyer Island, April 1977

I've always wondered if people tried to talk Walt out of the idea of guests having to raft over to Tom Sawyer Island? I love that it's the only way to get there - it makes it feel like something special. All of today's 40+ year-old pictures are related to the rafts to TSI.

The first one is from a nice sunny day, and there's a pretty long line for the rafts. Maybe I've just been lucky, but I've usually managed to hop on a raft with only a brief wait. 

I'd like to see the whole sign, but I still appreciate that the photographer took the time to take a picture of it. Doing a little research, I was a bit surprised that a "D" ticket was required for the rafts in 1977. It had good company - other D-ticket attractions at the time included "America Sings", the Peoplemover, the Disneyland Railroad, and the Skyway.

I've alwyas been impressed with the way the operators (pilots?) manage to pull the rafts out into the river and swing it around so that it faces the island when it gets to the dock. I'm probably doing a poor job of describing it, but most of you probably know what I mean!

At last! It's our turn to board Tom Sawyer's raft - he left the keys under the doormat for us. Proving that Tom Sawyer Island is not just for boys, this raft will consist mostly of women and girls. The lady with the white sweater is carrying a package of Mickey's Cookies - not something that I remember. 

That girl's yellow jumpsuit is pretty groovy - I'm guessing that her mom made it for her from the finest polyester. Rainbow stripes? A++! In the upper left, we can see Santa Claus on vacation - it's just nice to get away from those elves, frankly. 

Thanks as always to the Mysterious Benefactor for contributing these wonderful images. We'll have more Tom Sawyer Island raft stuff coming up.


Nanook said...


I know exactly what you mean about the gyrations needed of each Tom Sawyer Raft as it maneuvered into place at the opposite dock. It seemed a big part of the fun of the journey.

Whoa Nellie - that jumpsuit-!! That stripped 'placket' is one for the books - not to mention how it was carried-over to the arm openings. I think I'm gonna throw-out my entire wardrobe and start over-!

Thanks, Major.


MAJOR: it’s 1977: that girl’s yellow jumpsuit is FOXY ( groovy is long passed) neat unusual image views.

Graffer said...

I rode across with my nephew and his wife and I could not convince her that the rafts were not on a track.

K. Martinez said...

The young female in the yellow jumpsuit doesn't seem to be carrying that TSI Map with the utmost of care. I'm sure by the day's end it was wrinkled and folded.

Speaking of the condition of TSI maps, I remember as a kid, that if I had ephemera around the house and didn't put it away, my dad would use it for his bookkeeping. It was always a bummer to find that my dad had written numbers on one of my Disneyland or amusement park brochures.

The shores of the Rivers of America sure looked more natural back then. Thanks, Major.

TokyoMagic! said...

The lady with the Mickey Cookies is also holding a park guidebook, given to guests at the ticket booths. The back of it looks like it has the usual GAF advertisement on it, from that time period.

There is a girl in that same photo and another girl in the last photo, wearing blue and white tennis shoes. The darker blue part of those shoes was made of blue suede. I had a pair just like that. Did I wear girl's tennis shoes or were those girls wearing boy's tennis shoes? Well, I know that my shoes came from the men's shoe department at Sears, but maybe those shoes were unisex? I had another pair which was brown and beige. I also think I've brought up the subject of these shoes before, here on GDB.....

JC Shannon said...

I had a pair as well TM, I think they were pretty unisex in design. I love the questionable fashion choices of the era, I don't know what we were thinking. I like the raft idea, I imagine it helped to control the crowds on the island as well. Now I'm gonna put on my red bells and my Gatsby platforms, and step out to boogie the day away.

stu29573 said...

The rafts were another idea Six Fkags Over Texas borrowed from Uncle Walt. They took you to Skull Island (there was a large, rather unconvincing fiberglass skull in the middle of the island with a slide in it). Come to think of it, SFoT's island had a pirate theme years before DL....It opened in 1961, whereas Pirates Lair opened in 2016....Hmmmmm....

Steve DeGaetano said...

I, too, wore those blue-suede shoes with the white stripes. Mine were "Trax," and we'd get them from the K-Mart in Westlake/Thousand Oaks--I'm sure the Major knows whereof I speak.

JG said...

Thanks to the MB and Major. These slides continue the special "You-Are-There" feeling associated with the best of these anonymous pics.

Not only was there a crowd waiting to go over, look at the crowd waiting to come back. Yikes! I don't recall ever waiting long either way, except once, a long wait to come back, maybe in 2008. Maybe because there was plenty to look at, the wait didn't seem oppressive.

I admit that I was convinced the rafts were on a track, and did not give up this notion until reading otherwise in these blogs forty-some years later. It makes it easier to understand how the raft landings moved around from time to time. I wonder how long it takes to learn that slap-dash style of navigation.

I think that there is room in the Tom Sawyer story for the boys playing as pirates, there are passages in the books alluding to this, but I mourn the over-writing of so much of Tom Sawyer by the PoC allusions, which are already stale. I'm sure that today's youngsters are playing on the island with no idea what the pirate paraphernalia is referring to. Maybe that's ok.

I remember the first books my parents bought me were "kids versions" of both Tom Sawyer and Treasure Island, so those stories were bright in my mind on TSI. It was amazing to see Injun Joe's Cave and the candle-smoke names, etc. And how brilliant that the rafts had the little shanties like that described by Huck Finn. It was so much fun. Just that, pure fun with no real commercial tie-in. I don't recall TSI-themed goodies anywhere, no key-rings, plush toys, t-shirts or coffee cups, just food on the island and the free map. and tearing around through the tunnels.

Thanks Major for the look back, awful clothes and all.


Melissa said...

Colorful vintage clothes, lush greenery, bright sunshine, attractive signage, and dappled water. What's not to love?

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, it always impresses me when the raft pilots swing those rafts around so precisely! I’m sure it helps that they do it 100 times a day. I wonder if any sewing aficianados would recognize the pattern upon which that jumpsuit is based?

Mike Cozart, you’re right, that is the more apt term for 1977 - though I (and lots of people I know) still use “groovy” on occasion! We're like the Brady Bunch.

Graffer, I suppose her skepticism is proof of what an impressive feat the raft steering is?

K. Martinez, yes, the girl gets 20 demerits that will go on her PERMANENT RECORD! Oh man, what a bummer that your dad wrote on your Disneyland brochures! Although perhaps now, seeing his writing is sort of nice. I saved some completely trivial notes from my dad after he died, and I’m glad to have them.

TokyoMagic!, I guess she is holding one of the GAF guides? I can’t quite ID it. I feel like in those days you could buy Adidas knock-offs at certain stores - I’m almost certain that I had some. I remember a blue pair that got wet and turned purple, which was fodder for my classmates for months! My mom never wanted to spend money on sneakers that we were going to destroy or outgrow. Brown and beige, I think I had some like that too! Sears sounds like a good guess for the source.

Jonathan, how can shoes be unisex? Girl’s feet are completely different from boy’s feet!! ;-) I’d love to know if anybody proposed alternate ways to get to Tom Sawyer Island, like a suspension bridge, or a tunnel beneath the river, or a trebuchet?

stu29573, I’ve seen photos of SFOT’s Skull Island, in fact I think I even have a crummy slide of it somewhere. It’s interesting to look at other amusement parks (and World’s Fairs), for instance there have been other parks with “Old New Orleans” areas, long before Disneyland had their version. I suppose there are just some ideas that are so good that everyone wants to do their iteration.

Steve DeGaetano, hm, “Trax” sound familiar, but I just couldn’t say for sure if that’s what we wore. Now that I think about it, we might have purchased shoes at the Navy Exchange. I know that K-Mart - it closed years ago and the whole complex has been sitting, waiting for somebody to come up with a use that doesn’t upset the neighboring community (so, no Home Depot for us).

JG, Yes, I really loved this batch, so much that I didn’t want to split them up into multiple posts, although they would certainly deserve it. The Mysterious Benefactor has bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us! I don’t know if I ever thought about the rafts being on a track, mostly because of the rather loopy course that they took. I agree with you, it’s not that the pirate theme is bad, but I miss the Tom Sawyer stuff. Dumbing it down for people who “don’t know who Tom Sawyer is” seems like setting a bad precedent. My grandmother had a large set of Mark Twain books (that belonged to HER father), and at some point I read quite a lot of them. We read “Huckleberry Finn” in grade school, and sometimes the teacher would read a chapter aloud - even then it was a shock to hear her say “that word”, even though the folks who now want to censor it entirely miss the point.

Melissa, I agree, these are good pix!

JC Shannon said...

Major, I love the trebuchet idea, that is without a doubt "E" Coupon thinking. You may in fact, be a genius!

steve2wdw said...

Park Ops certainly learned a lesson or two from Disneyland when designing the Magic Kingdom in Florida....not only is the TSI raft queue covered, there are also positions to load two rafts at a time! Add in the fact that there are two different departure locations on the island, both covered, and you've got the the ultimate in guest service! Always loved TSI at Disneyland, but so much of the fun has been "lawyered" away. I also wish the authorities would chase those pesky pirates off the island and leave it in the hands of Tom, Huck, and Becky, again. Surprised that Disney hasn't done a reboot, movie-wise, to Tom Sawyer. That would certainly get interest in the middle of the RoA once again, although the Florida island sees lots of guests every day.

stu29573 said...

I always spend a lot of quality time on TSI at WDW. My grandson loved it when we took him a couple of years ago!

Major Pepperidge said...

Joanathan, some people wanted to try catapults, but I mock them!

steve2wdw, there used to be at least two separate raft landings on the Mainland and on TSI, and possibly a third landing on the island at some point. I don’t know if the shaded queue is quite as necessary (thought it would be welcome) - from what I’ve heard, the Florida sun can be pretty brutal, while the weather is generally pretty mild in Anaheim (with exceptions of course). Maybe folks just don’t want a tale about the sort of adventures that Tom, Huck, and Becky experienced? They want transforming robots, superheroes, and spaceships.

stu29573, TSI is one of those places that is so nice to visit with a kid - adults just have a great time watching the kids have a great time.

Chuck said...

Traxx footwear, by Bata. Yep, I had a pair, too, bought from our local Army-Air Force Exchange...where all of my shoes came from. ALL of them...except the counterfeit Reeboks my dad brought back from Korea.

I didn't even know the Twain ran on a track until I was in high school. That big wheel in the wheelhouse had me fooled.

You've probably all read about this, but in the '90s there was an Imagineering proposal to run a tunnel over to TSI (see here and here; be sure to read the comments). It was part of an overall idea towards converting TSI to a pirate theme. Sooo glad nothing like that ever came to pass.

Andrew said...

I feel like I'm there, boarding the raft! That's quite a line; these are days when they had to let people sit on the railings as the raft went across.

I find it surprising that the Railroad was a 'D' ticket. I guess that makes sense, since a 'C' ticket sounds like not enough.

Melissa said...

I was just remembering a conversation we had about keel boat operators being called Howard Keel. I guess that means the raft operators are called George Raft.

Sunday Night said...

How about a Twain operator named Steamboat Willie?