Wednesday, August 05, 2020

Beautiful Town Square, February 1, 1959

Here are two lovely photos of Town Square as seen on February 1st, 1959. Whenever I have a specific date, I always enjoy looking at Jason's Disneyland Almanac to see what was going on. SO... it was a Sunday, and the park was open from 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM. The high temperature of the day was 68 degrees (in February!). Attendance was 14,120 - pretty light, especially by today's standards.

This shot is so bright and clear. Let's go drop off our jackets in a locker in the Bekins building (in case it gets chilly when the sun sets an hour and a half before the park closes (it would get down to 45ยบ eventually). 

These folks might have come directly from church. The little boy to the right is looking into the Firehouse with interest, perhaps the old Chemical Wagon was in there. Check out the posters for the Columbia, Jungle Cruise, and Grand Canyon Diorama!


Nanook said...

The 2nd image is very sweet, indeed. I can't help but wonder if the lad standing at the hitching post isn't wearing a Davy Crockett coonskin cap.

Thanks, Major.

TokyoMagic! said...

The giant key sign for the Yale Lock Shop (first pic), looks like it is sticking way out, over the street.

And now I am wondering how often that bell on top of the Firehouse was rung? Do you think the rope for it went down into Walt's apartment?


Two great images of Main Street today. I like the tree studded hill behind the firehouse - it makes it look like a real town with a hill and tree grove just beyond the town limits.

It’s interesting how when Disneyland opened Main Street was created to re-live America 50 years before. By the time Disneyland itself turned 50, Main Street itself holds its own American nostalgia - “wow! Main Street USA of 1958 has changed a little , but it’s the same Main Street USA our grandparents and parents went to! The same one WE went to as kids and can still go to ! ( minus the current virus shutdown)

It’s like what Charles Phoenix says about going to Disneyland ...... if Main Street USA is there , and the trains are pulling in and out of the and The Castle and Mark Twain is there ...... you know things are generally right in the world.

Chuck said...

It looks about noon in these photos. Plenty of time left to grab a park bench and watch the progress on Matterhorn construction, although since it's Sunday, there's probably not much going on there today.

Look at the height differential between the two fedora-wearing gentlemen crossing the street in front of the Emporium.

Movie camera alert in the second picture!

I wonder if Walt had spent the night with his grandkids in his firehouse apartment?

Fun set today, Major. Thanks!

Andrew said...

The tree in the second picture is so gargantuan now that it blocks the Fire House tower. Thanks for the fun pics today!

stu29573 said...

The really amazing thing us that the other side of that grove of midwestern trees behind the firehouse they magically become a wild jungle! I remember reading about how Diane Disney would hear the jungle noises all night when staying in Walt's apartment.

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, that kid has some sort of hat on, but I can’t tell exactly what it is. His brother (the one looking in the fire station) is wearing a beanie, I’m pretty sure!

TokyoMagic!, I wish I had that giant Yale key in my collection. How do we make this happen? I believe I have read at least one account of kids being able to ring that bell from inside the fire station, and that it drove Walt crazy; but I have learned to take stories like that with a grain of salt.

Mike Cozart, I think it’s interesting that the park has (or had) mini-berms to separate certain areas, particularly in Frontierland, and that little one behind the fire station. Have you ever heard the rumors that Main Street was going to be redesigned to be more of a 1950s street (malt shops and such)? I’ve never known if that was actually considered, or if it was just one of those things that popped up on forums that had no basis in reality. I love the quote from Charles Phoenix!

Chuck, gosh, I guess I assumed it was closer to opening (10:00 AM), but you probably have a better sense of where the sun would be at noon on a February day. I know people generally get excited by rare photos of the Viewliner, or some other rarely-seen detail, but I really enjoy both of these pictures - they evoke so much of what I love about vintage Disneyland. The fedoras are awesome. Look at the 3 boys to the right of those men, did they go to the park unaccompanied by adults? I didn’t notice the movie camera! It’s always fun to imagine Walt lurking in the apartment, one of my favorite photos is one in which the window is open a bit, possibly the only vintage image like that in my collection - I have convinced myself that Walt wanted a little fresh air.

Andrew, good grief, you aren’t kidding! That tree is huge. Maybe too huge?!

stu29573, yes, I love that a person could walk a few yards and find themselves in another world. I’ve heard that story from Diane Disney about hearing the jungle sounds all night - I wonder why they couldn’t just turn the noises off? Wouldn’t it just involve flipping a few switches? I dated a girl who worked at the park, she would sometimes be there at four in the morning decorating New Orleans Square for Christmas, and she confirmed that they left the area music loops on all night, as well as the jungle sound effects.

DrGoat said...

Well, I'm with you fellows. Drop off our coats and make sure you are dressed properly. Plaid shirt, check. Slacks, check. Groovy Buster Brown's, check and all set. I agree, the second pic is sweet. Love it that people dressed up to go to the Park as opposed to what I've seen walking around in more recent years.
stu, I'd love to go to sleep to that sound just once. Probably keep me awake but..
Andrew and Major, according to the Plants of Disneyland site that's a Weeping Fig or Chinese Banyan. Impressive.
Lovely photos Major, Thanks.

Alonzo P Hawk said...

If it wasn't a Sunday I would say the 2 fedoras are truant officers about to nab the three boys for playing hooky from school. Instead they are probably just your average undercover g-men looking for commie spies.

I really want those attraction posters in the second photo.

Nice pics Major.

Just to keep it going. What was the most popular sitcom in Japan?

How I met your mothra.

DrGoat said...

OK, I've got to be honest. I wouldn't want to run around the Park in slacks and a dressy shirt, and uncomfortable Buster Brown's. Stylishly casual sounds good. A nice Aloha shirt and jeans.


MAJOR: I think that rumor was a mis understanding from a bit of reality. For the Disneyland BLAST TO THE PAST event and parade there was a proposal to temporarily “update” Main Street USA to the 1950’s. This wasn’t going to be a major overhaul , just some simple overlays that were very temporary - just for the duration of the event. But the budget to do this went to other things for the promotion. They did do SOME 1950’s change overs on Main Street like the Carnation Ice Cream parlor temporarily because the Main St. Malt Shop. And real 1950’s automobiles were parked around Main Street and Tomorrowland. I think some of the event concept ideas for the 50’s overlay were misconstrued as a permanent re-theming PLAN. Blast to the Past and the 50’s retro craze of the 1980’s did result in the Permanent 1950’s theming of The Monorail Cafe at the Disneyland Hotel.

MAJOR, ANDREW : I don’t believe any of the trees along any of the guest areas of Main Street USA are original to the park’s opening or the 1950’s. Most of the trees facing buildings and in the hub were first replaced in 1984/1985. And many of those were replaced in preparation of Disneyland’s 50th.

Melissa said...

Matching kids looking in the Emporium window!

These pictures put me in a great mood. I can feel the sunshine and smell those Main Street smells.

Anonymous said...

Regarding leaving the Jungle Cruise and area background music on all night: I worked at the park for five years (’75-’80) and my experience with regard to those tales is as follows.

Part 1!

Sweepers (and janitorial busboys) working closing shifts usually didn’t call it a night until the park had been closed for an hour or so. In all of my time at the park, audio was typically off by the time the second Jack Wagner Get-Out-Now! message had been played.

That went for the Go Go Goodyear music on the Peoplemover speedramps, Frontierland entrance blockhouse’s banjo track, Jungle Cruise audio, Jungle Cruise bullpen audio (drumming), all of the Small World sound, bullpen spiels for the Motor Boat Cruise, Autopia(s), Matterhorn, train station(s), Monorail, Submarine Voyage, Adventure Thru Inner Space, Jiminy’s crooning at the castle drawbridge, the Main Street loop, the Main Gate loop, Haunted Mansion foyer music, Pirates inner bullpen audio, Bear Band lobby music, Mile Long Bar loop, Columbia/Mark Twain dock music, Swisskapolka (!), Enchanted Tiki Room preshow audio, etc. (Whew!)

If somebody forgot to turn something off, we’d usually do it ourselves or another employee would do it as they walked to their locker on their way home. The Peoplemover speedramp music, for example, was generated from a cart machine tucked into a Space Bar custodial closet. You’d grab a mop bucket and power down the cart machine at the same time! Woo-hoo!

We used to play cards (Hearts) on our breaks in the Jungle Cruise maintenance room (pretty much UNDER the sacred elephant bathing pool waterfall area) where most of that ride’s carts were located. The actual old-timer maintenance guys didn’t care as they were happy to see ANYBODY while they sat around all night waiting for the ride to go 101 or to kill the audio when their shift ended. The interesting thing about that place was the lights would automatically turn off whenever a boat tripped a switch entering the bathing pool area. (You could see out to the ride through a disguised opening. It was low but it would be super noticeable to riders if the lights were left on at night.) When the lights went out, everybody would cheat and move cards around! Boo! Bad show!

Of course, they’ve long since centralized all park audio so they don’t need cart/CD machines or people to manually turn things off.

Anonymous said...

Part 2!

I worked plenty of Monday/Tuesday shifts when the park was closed (we’d walk the Mine Train tracks grabbing popcorn boxes, etc., help slurry coat an area or go through Inner Space wiping all the spit off of the mirrors—gross!) and the ONLY audio that played was Main Gate music with the sad Jack Wagner Didn’t-You-Know-We-Were-Closed?!? spiel repeating over and over for the poor slobs who figured they’d visit the park that day. (Usually, they’d parked at the hotel and walked over).

Lillian would occasionally want to stay at the park when it was closed (don’t ask; pretty danged sour gal) so we’d drag vacuum cleaners up to the apartment (those old industrial strength metal Electrolux machines were HEAVY! No fun carrying them up the back stairs!) and give the place a once-over. No jungle noises, honest.

In 1995, I boomed The Making of Disneyland's Indiana Jones Adventure for a week or so long before the ride was ready to open. We shot dialog with John Rhys-Davies and Karen Allen at the exterior bullpen area and every day an hour before the park was supposed to open, someone would fire up the Jungle Cruise audio. A Disneyland locations rep would get on a radio and it would get turned back off within five minutes. When we moved inside to shoot other stuff, they’d turn it back on.

So, in my personal experience, in 1975, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980 and 1995 park audio was NOT left on all night.

I’m getting dizzy standing up here on this soapbox for so long… think I’d better step down!

Now, a longtime buddy of mine currently works at the park doing sound for entertainment, parades, live shows, etc. although he has been working his way through the areas replacing and upgrading attraction speakers, amps and wiring that his department could never get to when the place is open and packed (which is ALWAYS anymore, right?).

He says it is beyond odd being there in daytime with virtually no one around. He reports there are only about 60 people total anywhere on the property on any given day. He also says even the ducks have left as there’s no popcorn or anything else to nibble on like the good ‘ol days!

He told me that the place being dead quiet was getting to everybody so they programed audio central to play (special event approved!) ’70s and ’80s music on the park-wide system. So, I say head on down to Anaheim and listen to Peter Frampton echoing through the Matterhorn while you can!

Oh, nice pictures, by the way! ;)


Major Pepperidge said...

DrGoat, all of these people are dressed better than I ever was at the park! I’m sure that 98% of Disneyland visitors are unremarkable in their attire, but it’s rest who get attention because they look so weird/inappropriate. I wonder if grownups looked at some of these kids and thought, “Disgraceful!”? I didn’t know there was a “Plants of Disneyland” site!

Alonzo, it’s Sgt. Joe Friday and his partner, Bill Gannon. I hope they round up some punks! How about “My Mothra The Car”?

DrGoat, I’m sure I’ve been to the park in an aloha shirt and jeans!

Mike Cozart, you might be right, it makes sense. I remember the “Blast to the Past” event, though I never saw it with my own eyes. One of the people who repeated the rumor about a ‘50s Main Street is somebody you probably know, though I won’t mention his name here. He had some inside connections! That doesn’t mean he was right, of course. I was wondering if that could actually be the same tree in both photos - the one in the pic that Andrew linked to sure is big, but I suppose even a replanted tree from 35 years ago would be large now.

Melissa, ever since I learned about the candy aromas piped out into the street from the Candy Palace, I would always slow down to enjoy the sensation.

Major Pepperidge said...

Huck, wow, thank you for your fun and detailed account of your experiences as a sweeper. Ha ha, I’d love to hear a recording of Jack Wagner saying, “Get out NOW!”. It makes me picture embarrassed and puzzled guests hurrying to the exits. It makes much more sense to me that they would turn the sound effects and music off, especially from the days where they used actual magnetic tape. Why wear it out more during the many hours that guests weren’t there? I would think that there would be a protocol for each land, but I suppose that, like anyplace else, things could be forgotten.

Wonder why the lights would go off in that maintenance area when a boat entered the Elephant Bathing Pool? Sounds like an electrical short or something! I used to hear about employees who could watch riders on the Haunted Mansion and Pirates, of course the guests were unaware. Weird to think that we were being watched the whole time!

I still don’t get why people would spit in rides, such as Inner Space or the Haunted Mansion - except that teenage boys are generally destructive and gross. I know, I used to be one! I think Don DaFore’s sons claimed that that the jungle sounds played all night too, I suppose it’s possible that they did do that at some point. Interesting that you handled some of the sound duties for that Indy film, was that the first experience you had with that job?

The fact that they still play music now that the park is deserted reminds me of news footage of ghost towns near Chernobyl, they play music over loudspeakers so that the guards don’t get too spooked! Thanks for your mega-comment!

Nanook said...

@ Dr. Goat, Andrew, Major-

Undoubtedly, the tree identified in The Plants of Disneyland, and seen in the link provided by Andrew is a Chinese Banyan; but obviously that image capture is far newer than 1959 - and as Mike has stated - was re-planted. If the info in Disneyland World of Flowers, 1965, is to be believed, that tree in front of the Fire Station is likely a Brazilian pepper tree - and obviously an evergreen - as it still has its leaves, where the Siberian elm trees lining Main Street have shed most of their leaves.

Anonymous said...

The lights in that Jungle Cruise maintenance room turned off on purpose so riders wouldn’t see into the room while motoring by. There was a opening (no glass; open to the elements) about four feet long by a foot high so the room would get air and so the maintenance guy scheduled to hang out most of the day could look out and verify that boats were still going by in case his radio had stopped working and operations were trying to call him. The room was practically underground and very popular with spiders! When the lights clicked off during the day, the opening let in enough light you could still sort of see… but we pretty much only played cards at night when things got slow and we could round up four sweepers for the game after talking one guy into covering most of the west side!

Good times!


Nanook said...

@ Huck-
Interesting the Peoplemover speedramp music was provided from a 'local' cart machine tucked into that closet, rather than from the area "audio equipment room", located under Mission to Mars-?, I believe.

And thanks for this very interesting recollection-!

Omnispace said...

I especially like these photos today. For some reason they really show off the nice details on the buildings - something you don't usually pay attention to when visiting the park. What I appreciate is that it's all very tastefully done and not attempting to be anything other than a slightly idealized interpretation of the real thing, (otherwise, not attempting to be over the top "magical"). I love everything about the fire station with the ornate terra cota and even the hose tower in the back. It's definitely top-rate architectural design.

Huck, thanks for sharing all that fascinating information about the audio tracks. I would have loved to had walked through Adventure Thru Inner Space, spitwads and all. The idea of Peter Frampton rockin' out in the Matterhorn sounds really cool. (How about Tommy Roe singing Dizzy at the Teacups?) Sometimes the effect is the opposite though. I've had jobs at several empty buildings where they played music to keep the trespassers away and it was very spooky, (like Chernobyl).

Anonymous said...

Nanook, yes, the main Tomorrowland sound room was under Mars… fairly large, too, with super late ‘60s florescent lighting. My eyes still hurt! The sound guys were interesting to talk with so I’d often find a lame excuse to wander down there (“Hey, look, there’s a single piece of paper in that trash can. I’d better empty it right away!”) That room handled most of the complicated Tomorrowland sound like America Sings, Mars and Space Mountain but not ATIS.

The cart machines for the Monorail ramp and the Submarine Voyage’s bullpen spiels were in the Sub’s foreman’s office. The Matterhorn bullpen music/loading instructions machine was inside the mountain in the Matterhorn break area. The Rocket Jets elevator/gantry spiel came from a machine up by the ride controls. The Autopia machines were up near the loading areas. Everything was pretty localized for each simple ride or food stand (both Fan 1 and Fan two had cart machines in our mop closets).

Now back to our Gorilla show already in progress!

Anonymous said...

These photos are the very definition of nostalgia, they make me happy and sad all at once, and happy that I am sad. But not sad that I am happy.

Now I'm just confused.

Also a great demonstration of how trees grow, even if that isn't the same tree.

I never noticed that steeple tower at the back of the fire station before, it's always screened by the huge tree.

Thanks everyone.


Nanook said...

@ Huck-
Interesting - I toured that sound room back in 1980, and most-assuredly saw several cart machines from ATIS. (Perhaps those were located in another room, and I just conjoined them in my brain). I believe I mentioned before in these pages, seeing those plastic, black/white engraved labels, one appended to each ITC cart machine, referencing a word describing the audio. Most-memorable [obviously] was the one simply labelled MAGNIFICATION.

Thanks, again.

Anonymous said...

Nanook, I worded that last message poorly.

What I was trying to say, in my own feeble manner, was that the TL sound room handled ALL the sound for Mars, Sings and Space Mountain but not all of ATIS. The Inner Space pre-show audio ”Atommobiles approaching snowflake specimen… “ was generated by machines in the foreman’s office (which was actually just the small space between load and unload) when I worked at the park.

One Monday/Tuesday shift when the guys from MAPO were hanging around ATIS while we *really* went through all the sets clearing out popcorn spills, clothing (!) and whatever else had people had thrown at the snowflakes during the previous week, I asked them what they were doing. They said they were trying to figure out why the giant pre-show Miniaturization Control panel lighting/effects kept drifting from the audio. That’s when I noticed the cart machine and some sort of sync box in the foreman’s “office.” They told me that it been an issue since day one on the ride. I got the impression DL Sound would prefer to have pushed all Inner Space audio from the TL sound room but that MAPO liked to be able to *see* if their fix worked. I suppose that would pretty hard to accomplish without being able to see the display—even if they used walkies.

Sorry for the confusion! And, who knows, by the time you walked the sound room maybe they were pushing all the ATIS sound. After all, I quit in the fall of ’80.

Now, back to Main Street, U.S.A.!


Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, I’m surprised that they would use Brazilian pepper trees at the park, I generally think of those as mess, with those red berries (“peppercorns”) dropping everywhere. I’ve heard the name “Chinese Elm” for the trees lining Main Street, but as we all know, there is plenty of misinformation about Disneyland out there.

Huck, interesting! I thought the lights going out was unintended. Now I wish I could see a photo in which the opening is visible! I picture a bunch of pale, Gollum-like maintenance people in that darkened room, who hate having to go out into the sunlight!

Nanook, it is strange to me that they would have various sound carts in random places instead of a centralized location. Maybe they just didn’t have a room big enough for that old equipment at the time.

Omnispace, I think that clear winter sunlight helps delineate the architectural details. The designers of Main Street really did an impressive job - I’m sure decades of experience building sets for movies paid off for Walt. I did not know that the tower on the firehouse was a “hose tower”. Used for… I dunno, drying out wet canvas hoses? Spitting is gross in general, I would have never wanted to do anything so disgusting in Disneyland. I still remember watching some “older kids” (probably high school age) pounding on a snowflake as the Atomobile passed it (early in the ride), and thinking, “Those guys are jerks!”. I was probably around eight years old. The thought of hearing Peter Frampton’s voice and guitar echoing from the Matterhorn is kind of fun.

Anon (Huck?), I loved that greenish fluorescent lighting! It made everything look unpleasant. I envy your experiences getting to explore those areas that mere mortals never get to see. Food stands had their own carts??

JG, as long as I have made my readers sad, my work here is done! ;-) I am ashamed to admit that I never really thought about the function of that firehouse tower - I guess I assumed that it was ornamental and had no real purpose.

Nanook, if only you could have taken some photos (verboten, I’m sure)…

Huck, I almost hate to ask because I don’t want you to have to write an essay, but is there any way you could describe these cart machines? How big were they? Did they have those tape loops that filled a cloth bin? Or did they have something more like a reel-to-reel machine? And yes, synchronizing the sounds in a ride from a place where you can’t see what’s going on seems impossible!

Anonymous said...

Wow, thanks to Huck for the very interesting info about the music and sound.

Please write a GDB essay more often!

Any idea why the JC bunker was located in a visible place, or why it was open air?

Seems odd to locate a backstage item where it could be seen.

Thanks everyone!


Anonymous said...

Major: The Fidelipac (cartridge) playback machines weren’t very big. The cartridges, themselves, were the same size as eight-track tapes but had a hole in the bottom where the machine’s pinch roller would swing up into the cart to engage the capstan and drive the 1/4” tape. Most of the carts were simple endless full-track mono loops (with a maximum length of ten minutes) running at 7 1/2 ips although, for instance, the Inner Space pre-show cart had one channel of mono program audio and another (simultaneous) channel embedded with tones that drove the Miniaturization Control panel lighting/effects… which was why the MAPO guys couldn’t figure out why audio would drift from the display when they were forever in sync on the tape.

I got to know various sound guys and occasionally would get a tired cart from them whenever one had worn out and they needed to create a new one from master open reel tapes. They always said I was on my own getting them out of the park because they weren’t allowed to give them away or sign them out. (I, thankfully, never had any issues getting them through Harbor House.)

As far as having cart machines at the actual (basic) ride locations, it makes perfect sense if you think about it. The opening Rocket Jets gal would unlock the elevator, ride up, unlock the controls, hit play on the cart machine and start wiping the water off the jets’ seats (even if the night shift people had covered them up, they’d still be a little wet in the morning). If the ride was 101 that day, there’d be no voice suggesting customers get in that danged elevator to take a spin. Or if the Fantasyland Autopia closed mid-day because the crowds were so light there was no need to run two Autopias, the FA lead would simply swap out the bullpen spiel cart for the “Please visit the Tomorrowland Autopia… “ lock the panel and go on his or her way.

Things were changing right around the time I quit, though. I don’t know if most people remember it, but Pirates, for example, had always had five seconds of dead air at the end of every cart (including each permutations of Yo Ho—A Pirate's Life for Me) which left many pauses on most complicated attractions. The Pirates/HM sound room people explained to me that they’d finally figured out a way to lose the dead air and still keep everything in sync. Personally, I missed those big pauses, but it started a push to centralize ALL audio in the park. So, nobody had to wonder if the Mine Train lead had actually started the Rainbow Ridge in-series carts, they could simply LOOK and see if they were running.

Yes, Fan 1 and Fan 2 had music whenever anybody remembered to start the tapes. (Of course, many times the busboys would get tired of the same five songs over and over and just turn the cart machine off. It was pretty noisy being that close to Alice anyway.) Fan 2 was mostly Alice “international masters” without vocals and Fan 1 was international masters of songs from Cinderella, Dumbo and the like. For a brief period after Tony Baxter and the gang showed us the models and gave pitches (in the Fantasyland Theatre) for Dumbo’s Circus and the Island at the Top of the World additions, Fan 1 played the never-released score from Island. Once they blew up the Mine Train, all that nonsense stopped.

The Main Street and Main Gate loops were generated from full-tilt open reel machines that lived in the PBX offices above Lincoln. Each loop was on two different machines (four machines total). While one was playing, the other would rewind to the top and they had tones to tell each other when to play. Fancy!

That’s all I know!


Chuck said...

Huck, your comments bring back memories of working at a small radio station from 1989-90. We had a live AM country station and an automated FM pop station that ran off five reel-to-reel decks, three cart carousels full of ads, an analog computer, and a PC. There were inaudible tones at key points that signaled the system to switch over to the next track that worked great...except when it didn't.

You'd be alone in the station at night running the AM live and the FM master alarm would invariably go off right in the middle of you announcing the next commercial break. You'd have to run that break's ad carts manually (usually three of them), cue up the next record, and try to manage any incoming phone calls on the four incoming lines while that stupid alarm was going off in the next room and you couldn't do anything about it. Then you'd start the next song, sprint to the FM room (which, of course, had a window into but no connecting door to the AM studio), turn off the master alarm, and then try to figure out what was out of synch and fix it before the taped DJ announced an Aerosmith song and a Whitney Houston track started or your record in the next room ended and you were broadcasting dead air over the AM.

I still have nightmares about that sometimes, except that in the nightmares I also can't remember where any of the switches are and I can't read anything on the panels while the program manager is yelling at me and the coffee maker that the sales guys would never remember to turn off when they left at the end of the day has finally caught fire rather than just burning a coffee puck into the bottom of the pot and stinking up the station like it normally did.

Good times.

And yes - now that you mention it, I do remember the "Yo Ho" song fading out for a moment between the drops on a childhood ride in 1976.

"Lou and Sue" said...

Great commentary - full of interesting and funny stories! Thank you, Major, and everyone!

Huck -

I especially LOVE your story about playing cards in the back of the backside-of-water (of the elephant waterfall, that is)! The spider part, I don't like, though. Had you or any of your co-workers ever played a backside-of-water backstage-backspace Backgammon game? Though that probably would've been hard without that backroom being backlit when boats go by.


Major Pepperidge said...

JG, Huck mentioned that the maintenance guys wanted to be able to observe that the boats were still going, in case the radio communications conked out.

Huck, well, I made you write an essay! Sorry! Somehow an eight-track cartridge was something I kind of imagined (even though I didn’t mention it), since they are called “carts” after all. Ten minutes seems ample for attractions. I wonder how long an individual cartridge would last before it wore out. No need to answer! I would think that it wouldn’t be too hard to smuggle out a small item like one of those cartridges, but could you play it on anything available to you? I know you’re right about having various locations for the different attraction sounds, but I still like to imagine a big “mission control” with lots of men with crew cuts smoking cigarettes. You are a sound guy, so I’m sure you’ve considered many aspects of theme park audio that never occurs to most folks. I remember “on-board sound” on Space Mountain was a big deal, and I thought, “Really?”, figuring that they had solved that issue years before.

Huck (continued), interesting that Fan 1 and Fan 2 had their own music, and I can only imagine how tired the employees would get. Whenever I’m near the teacups and I hear that tooting tea party music over and over, I wonder if the cast member has just managed to tune it out? Jeez, I saw “Island At The Top Of The World” when I was a kid, but sure don’t remember the score, wonder if it’s on YouTube? Thank you SO MUCH for all of that great information, truly!

Chuck, your description of your time at the radio station sounds like a scene from a movie. This was a case of technology sometimes being a hindrance more than a help - at least when things went wrong, which of course would inevitably happen. I have no concept of how many songs would be on those reel-to-reel tapes, but I’ll bet there were some sharp-eared listeners that realized that songs were playing in the same order over and over. While watching “The Mandalorian” I swear I recognized some of Baby Yoda’s coos from old commercials (I’d love to know if I am right, that they were taken from an old sound library). Thanks for your fun comment!

Lou and Sue, we went off on some tangents, but that’s half the fun!

Nanook said...


Both 4 & 8 track players are based on the 'A-Size', NAB (Fidelipac) and the attendant Cart Machine; but were built for consumer use, and as such displayed much poorer audio quality and reduced life of both the cartridges and the players. [NAB = National Association of Broadcasters] The Fidelipac cartridges came in three sizes: A Size - 4" wide - which had a maximum playing time of 10-½ minutes - what Disney would use for the typical audio cue; B Size - 6" wide; and the C Size - 8" wide.

Fairly certain the cart machines were all made by ITC - although I could be mis-remembering. ITC is considered by many to be the Cadillac of NAB cart machines. (The Spotmaster was another highly-regarded maker).

HERE'S an image of a "typical" single cart machine - with that metal "divider" only allowing an 'A-Size' cart into the player, just to give you an idea of size. In this format, the total unit is 19" wide. I don't believe Disney used these models, as there are more controls than are needed - such as the "SEC", "TER", & "REC" buttons - referring to 'RECORD', 'SECONDARY' & 'TERTIARY'. The secondary and tertiary buttons allow a secondary (or tertiary) tone to be placed on the cue track, which can trigger remote operations. [I presume in the case of the Disneyland attractions, it was a ride vehicle position that instead triggered a specific cue on the cart machine].

Anonymous said...

Major: Originally, I had a cart machine (also from the sound guys; they were upgrading) that I drove out to my car on a Monday/Tuesday shift. We had a million reasons to drive out of the park proper in a custodial truck (to dump the Main Gate trash, clean up the distant areas of the parking lot, wipe down the lockers and attraction poster cases… whatever ridiculous reasons we could think up) but a “friend” stole that so I just opened the carts and played the tapes on my open reel machine at home. Some of the long-time sweepers would put cigarette machines from the break areas into the janitorial truck beds, cover them with tarps or whatever, take them deep into the parking lot, pop them open, take out all the money, close them up, drive them back inside the berm and stack them back up where they’d come from. Monday/Tuesday shifts were a real eye-opener for this twelve-years-of-Catholic-school kid, I’ll tell you what! ;)

JG: We’d heard that the sacred elephant bathing pool was an expensive and technically complicated ’62 addition to the Jungle Cruise. So much so, in fact, that THAT maintenance room was created mostly to keep a close eye on all the various interacting devices. All the waterfall and elephant pumps and hoses originate and terminate from there and there were a fair amount of other pneumatic gadgets making various noises we tried not to let bother us during our important card-playing!

The “window” was covered with camo and “dirtied up” with Streaks 'N Tips sort of stuff until the plants and grass eventually did a better job of hiding it. You’d never see it during the day and ONLY ever see it at night if the room was illuminated (which is never is due to the trip switch every boat hits once they near the pool). I always saw it whenever I went on the ride but that was because I knew where it was. I think the maintenance guys liked to be able to look out and see that the boats were still coming through and hear that all the water business was purring away happily. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if it was planned as a temporary thing and then the guys learned to like being left alone. I’d imagine most of the newer operations people had no idea it was even there. They had a smaller shop (more like a closet) over behind Main Street near Sunkist where the JC boats not in service were lined up in a row. Sitting in a gently swaying launch was a nice place to eat lunch with a cute Bell girl or even, gasp, one of those outdoor foods gals. Hmmm… where was I?

There’s a maintenance shop in the Mansion that is accessed via the attic, there’s a shop in the Matterhorn, one on Pirate’s inner “island,”one near the castle’s Prince restroom that services Alice, Toad and Pan… but the absolutely least-visited and most out of the way is (was?) the one near the elephant pool. We used to use their grinders to grind down the lip on our metal pans so they’d lie perfectly flat. Now, of course, sweepers are dressed like clowns and use enormous plastic pans that don’t work any better than… well, let’s just say they don’t sweep behind their backs or between their legs like we did. ;)


Anonymous said...

@Major, I couldn't connect the dots, thanks for the help.

@Huck, thanks so much for the added stories. My experience is that more senior staff tend to find ways to settle in that don't always involve everyone else; rank and it's privileges etc. That story about the vending machines, though!!

@Chuck, my BIL was an on-air "personality" for a big radio station, but he got his start doing just what you describe, for the little local station. I went with him to the control rooms to watch the various procedures and meet the "celebrity" announcers and "columnists" (what do you call someone who has an on-air food-and-wine segment?). Sounds like fun.

@Nanook, thanks for the cart info. I've seen those machines in the radio station, but never ran any myself.


Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, thank you for all that great info! I sometimes like to watch a YouTube channel called “Techmoan”, he sometimes covers unusual and obsolete audio formats, including very small and very large tape formats, it can be interesting if that’s your kind of thing. 19” wide (the cart machine) seems big by today’s standards, but I guess it is actually fairly compact by 1970s standards. Thanks again!

Huck, ah, the classic friend who steals things from you! We’ve all had them. Man, that’s pretty ballsy of those sweepers who took the money from the cigarette machines, I would think that they could have gotten into some real trouble if they’d been caught. I wonder how much they could get from one machine? So many people smoked back then! I really was hoping I’d be able to find some sort of photo showing that viewing area of the bathing pool, but it sounds like I am out of luck. It makes me wonder how many other hidden surprises were at the park that I walked (or rode) past all the time without a clue. Outdoor foods gals? No man can handle them! Funny that you mentioned the sweepers who would “sweep behind their backs or between their legs”, I remember watching some of them do just that!

JG, there’s a lot to read and absorb in today’s comments, no doubt about it.

Chuck said...

JG, it really was a lot of fun. I was in the isolated, small Oklahoma town of 25,000 I'd graduated from high school in, so I knew a lot of people, and there was a certain status (if not commensurate pay) that went with the job. I could go anywhere and if people didn't know me, they knew my voice ("I know you from somewhere, but you don't look familiar").

That status, however, did not translate into a lot of dates - I can recall two that whole year (I would have counted three, but the girl - the younger sister of a friend of mine - told me as she got in the car "oh, yeah - Mom says I have to tell you this isn't a date"). I was, however, the crush of a bunch of girls at one of the junior highs, so there's that, I guess.

Finished my AA and transferred to a bigger university out of state, and working at the amateurish campus station just didn't appeal to me after working in "real" radio. But the skills I learned did come in handy later - maintaining that calm, cool, collected voice on the radio as everything went to feces around me.

Nanook said...

The 19" dimension may be a bit deceiving, as the standard EIA equipment rack is designed for 19" wide equipment. The cart machine, itself, didn't need to take up that much width, especially if it was used in a stand-alone operation, but if it needed to rack mount, a standard rack would easily accommodate it.

Melissa said...

Huck, you should write a book!

It took me way too long to figure out that “cart” referred to a cartridge and not a rack on wheels!

If you’re going to have the background music from work stuck in your head, I guess it would probably be better to have go to Disney music. 25 years ago I worked in a department store, and every once in a while I still get this calypso version of “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning” from Oklahoma! that was on our Muzak system stuck in my head.

Nanook said...

@ Melissa-
Ahhhh... the mind just reels at the thought-!

Dean Finder said...

@Major I follow Techmoan on youtube too. For every oddball piece of equipment I remember from the 1970s-1990s, he has dozens I've never heard of.

Regarding the 1950s Main Street, I've never heard of a permanent change in DL, but I did read that newer versions were pitched for some of the newer parks (1920s for DL Paris and 1950s for one one the parks in Asia-Hong Kong, I think) but these were rejected before it ever was more than a suggestion.