Wednesday, September 08, 2021

Frontierland, March 1981

"Slides from 1981? Those aren't vintage! Why, 1981 was just yesterday! Major Pepperidge must have hit the bottle again". Au contraire, mon frère. 1981 was 40 years ago, though it is hard to believe - for me, anyway. 

Still, these photo are very pleasant to look at. We don't see the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad on GDB very often, and I do like the red sandstone "hoodoos" looming near the banks of the Rivers of America. And we can see that the south end of Tom Sawyer Island is still unsullied by the "Fantasmic!" stage.


Big Thunder was only about two years old at this point, and even though I will always regret the loss of the Mine Train Through Nature's Wonderland, you have to admit that the impressive Bryce Canyon rockwork is pretty dazzling and completely believable. This March day looks like it would have been an excellent time to visit, only a few people are waiting to board this coaster vehicle - you could ride it several times in a row in less than an hour.


Here's a better look at that southern point of Tom Sawyer Island, with the wonderful old mill. For some reason I've always liked that detail of the bent iron stovepipe sticking out of the stone chimney. And look at how lush and green the trees and shrubs of the island have become over the past 25 (ish) years.


Happy Rosh Hashanah to everyone!

23 comments:

Nanook said...

Major-
Make that Rosh Hashanah. But either way, enjoy a delicious festive meal. In fact... why not take a picnic 'festive meal' to Tom Sawyer Island (along with some [overly-sweet] Manischewitz wine, if'n that's your thing).

Thanks, Major.

JC Shannon said...

Let's all take a moment to morn the loss of the Mine Train. Okay, now lets all raise our glass of Manischewitz to the Old Mill. Heck, we'll be soused by the time we toast all the greatness that is gone forever. At least we still have the Mark Twain and most of the river. The 80s seem like only yesterday, big hair and new wave music. I have been on vacation for the last week in South Dakota and have missed a few posts. First, happy birthday Melissa. Second, looking good Lou! I saw a gal in Keystone wearing a Micky shirt and thought of you guys. Thanks Major.

Andrew said...

It looks like Big Thunder is being evacuated from one of the safety brakes. I'm pretty sure that this one is actually uphill so as not to detract from the ride's flow. In the rare occasion a train needs to stop here, I'm pretty sure that it has to be pulled over the hill's crest using a chain or winch to get going again.

Chuck said...

Despite the uncrowded walkways, if you look closely at the Twain In the first photo, it appears to be shoving off with a full load. I always forget what country the Twain is supposed to be in. If there were only some sort of obvious visual cue...

I think Andrew is right - according to this schematic (sorry about the search window link, but the best copy appears to be behind a membership wall), the train is stopped at Safety Brake 3, which isn’t a normal unload or storage location. It looks like the guests have all run away bravely and a post-evac safety check is in progress. Aside from the five costumed CMs (note the female CMs are wearing pink trousers), everyone else looks like management.

Andrew, after a safety stop at this location, they actually use animatronic oxen to get the train over the hill so as not to detract from the Old West theming.

TokyoMagic! said...

It looks like two of the cast members are on their hands and knees and looking underneath the train. Maybe they are checking for loose mechanical parts. I'm guessing years later, Eisner and Pressler told them to stop doing that.

That last picture is really beautiful. I wish the end of the island still looked like that!

"Lou and Sue" said...

Great pictures! Great year! Would gladly go back, and I’m sure most of you Jr. Gorillas would, too!

Thanks for all the kind words for my dad—will pass them on to him.

Thanks, Major!

Stu29573 said...

This was the year that I first went to WDW...also the year I graduated.
I've never ridden Big Thunder at Disneyland, but I've ridden it tons of times at The Magic Kingdom. Of course it's a mirror image there. Kind of like "Through the Looking Glass," with less actually passing through mirrors.
Although that might be cool...

JG said...

These are winners today, Major. The mill pic is wonderful!

JG

DrGoat said...

Right behind you Sue. The 80s were a pretty good decade for me. Got to bring my just married self and wife to Disneyland several times. It was the first time for my her and it was pretty exciting.
Good pics Major. It was just yesterday, 40 years ago. I remember riding Big Thunder lots of times. Can't remember if the BBQ was there. If it was, I'm sure we ate there.
Thanks M.

Bu said...

The evac looks like it went swell. All of those backsides of people look very familiar. Pink pants sometimes wore skirts if I remember...did they get to choose? I remember BTRR going down ALOT...more than it was open it seems...but perhaps that was me. I was evacuated twice on it...but in not so harrowing positions. Some of my fellow DL'rs purposefully did not put down the safety bar so they could bounce around a lot...I don't know how that was possible, but there was some secret they were hiding from the ride operators to do it. I was a compliant young lad and didn't want to get fired for flying off a ride, so I kept my safety bar where it was supposed to be. Good God...40 years ago...wow...I guess I should be celebrating "40 Years of Adventure!" My adventure on Big Thunder included wrangling about 30 members of a famous rock band, their families, and various other groupies...try keeping all of that ADHD together on a slow day when there is no line...they were ALLLLLLL over the place, and insisted on riding ALLLLLL on the same train so they could giggle and squeak all together. "Security...can you help us out please :)"

"Lou and Sue" said...

Bu, how many hours would you have to babysit a group like that? Did you have assistance?

Nanook said...

Major-
I see the spell check fairies put down their glasses of Manischewitz and did their job-!

"Lou and Sue" said...

Nanook, * chuckle chuckle snort *

DrGoat said...

Bu, I hope that wasn't Keith Moon you had to try to contain.

Anonymous said...

Some pictures of the park are timeless indeed...so you have to pinch yourself to realize 40 years has passed. I always loved the River for the feeling of being away from suburbia. That old barrel in the water in front of the mill acted as a buoy for us canoe guys...always to stay to the left of it. KS

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, yep, a typo for sure. I changed it, thanks! I’ve never partaken at a Jewish holiday feast, but I wouldn’t say no!

Jonathan, I DO mourn the loss of the Mine Train… it was one of those kinds of rides that we’ll never see again. Just not enough thrills, I guess. Never mind how beautiful it was to look at, and how impressive it was from a design standpoint. If they ever got rid of the Mark Twain, then I would know for sure that the folks in charge had lost their way completely. Hope you had fun in South Dakota, I’d love to go there someday.

Andrew, interesting, I would have never glommed on to that. It’s great to have an expert with such a keen eye!

Chuck, you’re right, the “Twain” does look quite full. I think it has almost always been pretty full whenever I’ve been aboard, but then again, people probably heard rumors that Major Pepperidge was around. Thanks for the link to the schematic - I honestly just assumed that the little shack was the queue area, so… yeah. I wonder what happened? Won’t gravity move the train along? I know there are a few chain lifts, maybe that’s the issue.

TokyoMagic!, ha ha, those CMs were probably fined for being too nosy. “Everything is fine! We don’t need no stinking maintenance!”. As for Tom Sawyer Island, it’s always a bummer when the “improvements” are not improvements at all.

Lou and Sue, yes I certainly would go back to those days. I’m glad you will be passing all of our good wishes on to Lou!

Stu29573, why, you’re just a kid! (I graduated the year before). The Magic Kingdom version of Big Thunder looks cool, I like that it is different in theme (no Bryce Canyon “hoodoos”).

JG, thanks!

DrGoat, I’ll bet you had a great time with your wife, it’s always more fun to go with someone you love. It’s shocking how 40 years can seem “not that long ago”!

Bu, I wasn’t sure if the pink pants were actually just tan, and the film had turned a bit pinkish. Interesting, did female CMs get to choose whether they wanted pants or a skirt? Big Thunder went down when I was there years ago, but they got it back up and running while we were eating lunch nearby, and we saw them running test trains with no passengers. Eventually it opened back up with virtually no line. The idea of not putting the safety bar down sounds REALLY bad. OK you have to tell us, WHICH famous rock band?? Come on, it’s been 40 years!

Lou and Sue, that job sounds worse than wrangling high schoolers during Grad Nite!

Nanook, yes it’s true. I left them each a Pop Tart in gratitude.

Lou and Sue, it’s the *snort* that made it complete.

DrGoat, I was thinking of Van Halen, weren’t they legendary for trashing hotel rooms? Maybe I’m mixing up my bands.

KS, while I like most of the Frontierland attractions, I miss the “wilderness” atmosphere that parts of the river used to have. But I do understand that they need to make the most of Disneyland’s limited real estate. Thanks for the info about the barrel/buoy!

DrGoat said...

Major, I'm sure Van Halen they did their share, but The Who set the standard. Keith Moon perfected the art of rubbing Marzipan candy into every inch of carpet in their rooms. Or so I'm told. I think his behavior is well documented somewhere.

"Lou and Sue" said...

I think Keith Moon was “gone” before Bu started at DL...we’ll have to hope Bu tells us who it was—or gives us a good clue

Omnispace said...

I love today's photos and the very NATURAL looking Tom Sawyer Island. The early 80's were a good time at Disneyland.

I'd think that Mötley Crüe would be a handful to manage.

Chuck said...

It was the Mike Curb Congregation, wasn’t it, Bu?

MIKE COZART said...

I remember the early day’s of Big Thunder and how it was always breaking down. We’d go there first after rope drop and so many times it was closed and wouldn’t be operating till several hours later. We’d run to pirates .... then mansion then back to Big Thunder and wait. Me and my friends would often be the first guests if the day as a cast member walked the line down through the que all the way to the ticket taker. We usually had the wrist strung with the metal clamp and pass with unlimited rides that the Magic Kingdom Club offered until the A-E tickets were abandoned. The first time I rode Big Thunder was December 26, 1979 and I made that our first attraction and we waited FOREVER. And then while on the loading platform - maybe 2 trains away from boarding it all SHUTDOWN!! I had a knot in my stomach , one because I feared I wouldn’t get to ride Big Thunder and two , I felt guilty I made my family wait so long to try and get on it. We were giving priority re-ride Big Thunder Themed passes ( I wish I had one if those in my collection now!) To come back later in the day. I remember after we finally rode it a bird crapped on my dad’s jacket !!!! That bird had great aim for fast moving targets!!

MIKE COZART said...

Another thing about big thunder : I was obsessed with the attraction growing up after having seen a tiny model of it at Disneyland Showcase when I was 5 years old ( 1973) I found out later from Tony Baxter - who built that model I long remembered- that it was part of a Exhibit showing future expansion plans of the then newly opened Walt Disney World. I remember the models the most - in fact it was the those models that made me study architecture and eventually becoming a model maker at WDI. That exhibit had a BIG impact on my life. I can still see that big thunder model in my mind and others .... there was a clear plastic dome with a blue wire and a red wire inside ( Space Mountain )
The big thunder model was in a display case near the entryway into the Magic Shop. At one point the thunder model and the Discovery Bay/Dumbo Circus model we’re on display at the same time. I loved that place. At some point the big thunder model was removed and the case - lined with green velvet (?) has fake flowers in it and it remained that way till around the time the New Fantasyland displays went in.

One feature if that model I was struck with was the flash flooded town. I would draw pictures of it, make little clay and paper models of it ... so when Disneyland’s Big Thunder was announced in a 1978 Disney News .... I couldn’t see the flash flood town in the model shown in the magazine .... only Thunder Ridge . I figured the flood scene must be hidden behind the mountain. I had friends ride Big Thunder before my 12-26-79 ride and I’d grill them on all the details .... and nobody mentioned the flooded town !?? Did they lie to me ? Did they have their eyes closed ? ....... of course Disneyland’s version of the attraction was built without the flash flooded town scene !

Bu said...

That was a lonnngggg day 12+ hours. We ate fast food. It was too hard to do fancy. The band was awesome and so much fun. It wasn’t Keith Moon, but The Who did build the stairs in my Grandmothers house in a London suburb…my grandfather called them “awful hippees”. The guys were happy to receive payment in the form of food/pastry. It was another band from the UK. Funny that with security and the four handlers we STILL did not get exit clearance! It was a super slow day…we walked on everything…they thought they were getting to the front of the line…EVERYONE got to the front of the line. Bernie Taupins daughter was with us, so not hard to do that math. One of my aunts dated EJ but I never met him until DL, another aunt dated alllll of those Who guys. It was the swinging 60’s in London- everyone knew a Beatle or two. I remember an old Van and lots of long hair in the driveway. Grandfather was horrified by the Van and it’s mere presence on the property. Funny the details you remember…