Friday, September 02, 2022

Bear Country, 1973

Today I have two more wonderful photos from Mr. X, circa 1973(ish)! Once again, the 3 C's (color, clarity, composition) make for some particularly vibrant views of the park as it looked nearly 50 years ago.

Bear Country had opened in March of 1972, the first new "land" to be added since New Orleans Square (in 1966). To accommodate this new area, the borders of the park were pushed out beyond the train tracks. So a trestle bridge was built, allowing guests to walk beneath the tracks, the only place they could do so besides the entrance at Main Street Station. 

Here we are looking from Bear Country out toward the rest of Frontierland, with the Ernest S. Marsh passing overhead. The Hungry Bear Restaurant would be to our left (beyond the trestle), and the sod-roofed Trading Post can just be seen in the distance to the right.

Here's a scan from a 1975 souvenir map for a little context.

I have very few photos from inside Bear Country, so this nice shot of the Mile Long Bar was quite the find. The sign above the windows says "1902 - John Colter Building", any idea what significance that might have? That tunnel to the right is the entrance to the Country Bear Jamboree. 

Many thanks to Mr. X!


Nanook said...

More lovely images from Mr, X. I notice in the last image, there is a plethora of guy-wires holding up those [what I presume to be] pine trees.

Thanks to Mr. X.

JB said...

Wow, colorful indeed! I love the train going over the trestle amongst the pine trees. You just know that Mr. X stood there for as long as it took to get the train going over the bridge. (Maybe he got lucky, and it only took a few seconds.) I kept this one.

Outside the Mile Long Bar, the Sideburns Bros, on the left, are doing their part to "waste paper". I count five trashcans here, but two of them are iffy. I think there's only the one in the trestle picture.

Thanks Mr. X and Major for these wonderful Bear Country photos. Major, you should tell Mr. X to make sure he gets good views of the trashcans in his photos, for us OCD types. ;-)


Major : I know who John Colter is …. But only because decades ago I looked into it. Colter was one of the members of the Lewis & Clark expedition. The Miners Union Hall /Assay/bath house building ( Bear County area restrooms) / torn down to make way for Splash Mountain featured a business sign for furs & hides by George Russel ; Davey Crockett’s sidekick. The other two Bear Country business we’re operated by actual bears ! Ursus H. Bear Wilderness Outpost and of course Teddi Barra’s Swinging Arcade. These images are most likely 1973: the Swinging Arcade sidewalk “lantern” post sign is the second version. A slightly different design - matching the colors and graphics of the building entry Arcade signs was used … but I learned the reason for the design change was because at night the white “glass” ( plexiglass ) and the blue colors of the lettering made it illuminate like giant black - unreadable worms . So the sign you see in these pictures replaced it - using a cream color plexiglas background and reds and rusts that illuminated well. If you have photos of the sign in later years you might think it’s a THIRD version …. But it’s actually just the faded red from the original versions than look like a tan color.

BEAR COUNTRY was the first greenlighted project after the opening of Walt Disney World . Because of the extreme popularity in Florida and that WED had all the tooling and designs already to go …. Bear Country evolved in a way to get the Country Bear Jamboree in. A LIBERTY SQUARE with the identical Hall of Presidents attraction ALMOST go the go - ahead , but Disneyland couldn’t decide exactly WHERE it would go — behind the haunted mansion and New Orleans square , a space between Main Street and Tomorrowland , and a space between Frontierland and Fantasyland was part of a master plan for a Frontierland expansion that would bring in Thunder Mesa Runnaway Railroad, and Thunder Mesa with the Western River Expedition as TWO separate attractions : this was a few years before that was proposed for WDW!!!

Between 1988 and 1993 a NEW version of LIBERTY SQUARE was planned behind Main Street with access for
plaza Street , East Center Street and Town Square and a Connection to Tomorrowland. This version threw out Hall of Presidents and included Epcot’s AMERICAN ADVENTURE attraction.

I always liked Bear Country - and I loved it when the trains of the Disneyland Railroad appeared and crossed the trestle - an effect that was to be repeated in the unbuilt Discovery Bay.

TokyoMagic! said...

These are great B.C. images! The kid in the second pic, is staring at the stream of water in the tree trunk themed drinking fountain. He is wasting water! Doesn't he know that he is in Southern California, and that we are almost always in a "drought" situation!

Major, that tunnel was actually the exit from Country Bear Jamboree. And now, it's the exit for the ride vehicles of the Pooh's "Blood and Honey" ride. ;-)

Thank you, Mr. X and Major!

Pegleg Pete said...

Bring back the bears! I know it's not going to happen, but a fellow can dream, right? There's a real crowd in the back right of that third photo. What could be going on? There's a real mix of shorts and jackets so I wonder what time of year the photos were taken. All this colourful 1970s goodness makes a great start to the weekend. Thanks, Major and Mr X.

Pegleg Pete said...

Correction – the curious crowd is in the first photo, not the third.

K. Martinez said...

The trestle bridge pic is a beauty! Always loved Bear country before it became Critter Country. It was a great place to relax a bit from the rest of the park. I always enjoyed visiting the Indian Trading Post. This was before Disney got heavily into plush and character merch and the shops actually had cool stuff to sell.

Thanks, Mr. X and Major.

Melissa said...

"This version threw out Hall of Presidents and included Epcot’s AMERICAN ADVENTURE attraction."

Good call; while I love the nostalgia of the HoP, Th American Adventure is a far superior show.

I don't think I've ever seen one of those cleverly-camouflaged water fountains before! And I love the elaborate updo in the lady in the center of the picture. I used to have a hairpiece that looked almost exactly like that but I loaned it to someone and never got it back.

JG said...

Bear Country is cool, a great piece of work, IMHO. it’s still nice as Critter Country, shady and cool, somewhat secluded. The train provides the 3D element usually supplied by the monorail.

Mike, thanks for the info on George Russell, I have a photo of my Dad taken at that storefront. He was tickled since that was his name. It was taken on my last trip to the Park with my parents. When I found it recently, I was confused, I remembered it taken in Disneyland but couldn’t find the place anymore. You have explained why!

JB thanks for the can count, I will check later and verify.

Thanks Major and Mr. X!


Nanook said...

@ TM!-
And now, it's the exit for the ride vehicles of the Pooh's "Blood and Honey" ride. ;-) That's probably not the kind of 'synergy' "the suits" at the WDC have in mind - although I like your thinking-!

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, I can only assume that those wires were eventually removed once the pines had established a sturdy root system.

JB, I love the trestle too, it’s a neat thing to walk under the train. I’m sure you are right about Mr. X waiting for a locomotive to pass, that’s the sort of thing he would do. I’m glad those guys are properly disposing of their waste; how many “trash can lengths” is it to the moon, anyway?

Mike Cozart, interesting that John Colter goes all the way back to the Lewis and Clark expedition, I wonder how they chose his name out of so many others? Also interesting about the George Russell store, I just scanned a photo of it not that long ago for one of our Junior Gorillas! I’m not sure I understand why the white plexi and blue lettering looked like unreadable worms, but I’ll take your word for it! Maybe it was that textured plexiglass? It’s fascinating to hear about the way Bear Country was developed for Disneyland - and I’m not sure if I wish there had been a Liberty Square, since the Hall of Presidents is such a loaded subject these days. Maybe leave politics out of the park as much as possible? Guests get to walk beneath the tracks into Toontown, but somehow the effect isn’t very impressive there.

TokyoMagic!, the reason we have a drought today is because of THAT KID! Get him! Are you saying that those “Exit Only” signs mean that the tunnel is the exit? I may need you to draw me a diagram!

Pegleg Pete, I know I have mentioned that I have always been lukewarm on the CBJ, which is heresy. But I think I was just at the age where a show with singing robot bears didn’t do it for me. Now if it had been singing Wookies…! But Chewbacca wouldn’t be hatched for a few more years. In the photo with the crowd, notice the people standing on that raised area. Are they guests? Or performers? It’s hard to tell. I’m not sure Mr. X recalls what time of year these pix were taken, but I can ask him!

Pegleg Pete, gotcha.

K. Martinez, I didn’t see much of Bear Country before it became Critter Country, since we moved out of state at about the time today’s photos were shot. Now I wish I’d soaked it all in, and of course I wish I’d taken nice photos like Mr. X did. It’s such a shame that plush took over the shops, the park used to have so much fun merchandise!

Melissa, is “The American Adventure” the one with Ben Franklin and Mark Twain? And (hopefully) Pamela Anderson? Thanks to your comment, I have learned to never loan my hairpieces to anybody! ;-)

JG, you’re right about the train providing a 3D element, those guys really thought it through. However, there was a lot of open, slurry-covered walkway, as if they were expecting Bear Country to be insanely crowded. Not sure if it ever got that busy, except for the peak summer days perhaps.

Nanook, maybe they could just redress the Pooh ride for Halloween?!

DrGoat said...

Thanks Mr. X. Bear Country back then was a great place to hang out and decompress for a while. Even in the 90s, the restroom area and tables was a place to chill and replenish your energy. And eat some cold Tail Wager Specials bought in Toon Town.
Thanks Major and Mr. X. Good memories.

Anonymous said...

JB, I think there are 6 cans in photo 3, there is one hiding behind a pole at the right edge of the photo.

Major, I like your innovation of using a map snippet to establish context, it's very useful here since the Park has changed dramatically in this area with the construction of Splash Mountain, and now, WookieWorld. I notice the old map isn't quite right, I don't think the Trading Post was ever on the river side of the walk. The building was re-purposed from the Indian Village and was in the same location as it was originally. Maybe this is some license by the map artist. There was also a cave on the hillside west of the walkway with a snoring bear sound effect, this has been removed also by SM.

Nanook, it's not widely known that in some circumstances, such as theme parks, pine trees can produce supporting "prop" roots similar to banyan trees. These are absorbed as the trees grow.

ALso, I think a Halloween overlay of WTP is a great idea. We can have Piglet with fangs and Tigger with slasher claws etc. No, sorry, Halloween overlays of any kind are a stupid idea, especially when they last 5 months. There, I said it.


JB said...

Major, "how many “trash can lengths” is it to the moon, anyway?" That's easy: First you take the length of a Disneyland hotdog (7.4 inches), divide it into the distance to the moon (240,000 miles), then divide that by how high a Disneyland trashcan is in Disneyland hotdogs (12.7). I'd do the math but the Moon continuously varies its distance from the Earth. So, by the time I came up with an answer, the number would already be different.

JG, yeah, that might be another trashcan. It's got the same rounded angle and color.


JG: the Bear Country configuration on the souvenir wall map is correct. There was once a walkway tunnel that led guests from New Orleans Square into The Indian Village. The tunnel was demolished and “Bear pass” was created. The partial inner tunnel lining became the basis for the new rockwork with the new cave and Rufus snoring Bear effect. I’ve mentioned this before her on GDB, but the recording used for Rufus’ snoring was the same recording once used for “HOTEL -SLEEPING MINER” from Frontierland’s Rainbow Ridge. The recording goes back to 1937/38 and was recorded for a sleeping Dwarf in film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs . When the entire Bear Country entrance way was diverted for the expected larger crowds for Splash Mountain , the Rufus snoring Bear Cave was demolished. For the first several years after Splash opened a cave to the right just before the log vehicles first drop had the same Snoring recording and a sign reading “quiet!! Rufus is sleeping!!” In front of it - a salute to the “evicted” Bear Country Bear. Rufus was also heard but never seen in The Country Bear Vacation Hoedown show. Today, Rufus is mostly forgotten.

On the Bear Country map you will notice the entry ramp to The Golden Bear Lodge/ Hungry Bear Restaurant is also in its original configuration …. First changed for the addition of Splash Mountain and the conversion from BEAR COUNTRY to CRITTER COUNTRY . The restaurant’s entry ramp has been altered several times since. The Indian Trading Post /Briar Patch structure remains in its original 1955 location however - only the world around it has been altered.

Anonymous said...

And I'll vouch for the location of the Trading Post as well. Watched BC develop when I worked Columbia and MT with great anticipation of the new land. With the tunnels in place and being a dead end, it was a wonderful palace to work despite the heat coming off the slurry coast and being tucked away from the cooling breezes. Shade was imperative. Being on the canoes, we'd splash each other sometimes while on the river...and take showers after the shift before putting on 'street clothes' and punching out at Harbor House. KS

Major Pepperidge said...

DrGoat, I wish I’d had those Bear Country experiences that you had! As usual, I am always in too much of a hurry to ever sit down and relax.

JG, I don’t know if the map thing is my innovation, but I have some good scans of some of the souvenir maps, so… why not use them! I love those maps so much. Yes, the maps were not necessarily super accurate, and there are some things that stayed on maps for years (Liberty Square, Edison Square), regardless of the fact that they would never be built. The post-1966 map is by artist Collin Campbell, but I think he traced Sam McKim’s earlier map - making some of the areas his own, of course. And the art style is obviously quite different. Even the Sam McKim maps have some odd areas over where the location of the original Haunted House was supposed to be. I agree with you about the Halloween overlays that last 5 months, I can’t even tell you the last time I went to the park when the Haunted Mansion was in its “normal” state.

JB, I feel like we could just take an average of the distance of the Earth to the Moon, just so that school kids have an important number to memorize. “Two billion trash can lengths” or some such number.

Mike Cozart, thank you for all of that info about the maps, and Rufus the snoring bear! I thought that he was still there for some reason, and have heard the recording of the bear - I did not know that it went all the way back to Snow White! I wish the park had had high-res aerial images taken every year so that we could morph between one year and the next, it would be fascinating to see!

KS, I’m kind of surprised that there were no a LOT more trees in Bear Country. Sure, at first you expect things to be sort of sparse, but for a park that is famed for its landscaping, why didn’t Bear Country feel more “woodsy”? I love your cast member memories!

Nanook said...

As per usual - I can't thank you enough for all these tidbits of info. That's 'so Hollywood' that a sound effect - optically-recorded - would still be used many decades later, in spite of big strides in audio recording techniques: "If it ain't broke - don't fix it"

How crazy to think that even with all the re-designs and changes, the Indian Trading Post would remain standing in its original 1955 location-! SEE... They don't always RE-!

Anonymous said...

Thanks everyone for the trading post confirmation, I'm not surprised that I was wrong, it's been a long time after all, and I only saw it a few times before it changed to Splash Mountain while I was away. I've just always remembered it to my left on entering BC.

Love the details about the snoring bear.

Major, if you kept that scan of my Dad, you should post it so folks can see the old George Russell building. I don't mind.



One thing that is not very accurate about that Bear Country map section is that the Indian Trading Post “cabin” is actually in a bent L shape - similar to the plan shape of the Wilderness Outpost. It’s actually impressive early Imagineers built it that way … it was way more expensive to do than a simple rectangle log structure. And it was more authentic to the way a structure was built to adapt to the timberline it was built on.

Another detail on the Bear Country map section is that it shows a taller more elaborate waterfall at the beginning of Grizzly Creek. I think the illustrator was using photos of the Bear Country model ….. that still showed the bigger and taller rockwork and falls - a detail that was greatly scaled back because of a budget cut. Another budget cut detail was a elaborate “Trappers” landing with a French named founder ( I cannot think of right now and don’t have access to the info now) for the TRAPPER CANOES and WILDERNESS KEELBOATS. But all the architectural drawings and signage designs were completed….. just never implemented.

That WDI tribute of the RUFUS snoring bear SFX stuck around even longer at Splash Mountain ….. after a few years the “quiet! Rufus is Hibernating!!” Sign was changed to “quiet!! BRER BEAR IS HIBERNATING!!” It’s possible it’s still there, but it’s been many years since I’ve been on Splash Mountain .

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, you’re right, it is fairly astonishing that (of all things) the Trading Post still stands. Maybe it was built from depleted uranium, and it would be too hard to destroy.

JG, I do still have that scan of your Dad, but I won’t be home until late tonight, otherwise I’d be happy to share it. Would it be alright if I add it to tomorrow’s post (or perhaps Monday’s)?

Mike Cozart, it must have been hard to find those “L” shaped logs! There’s probably only one in a hundred in any forest. ;-) You might be right about the artist working from a model for reference, or else it’s just a case of artistic license to make things look a little more grand and exciting. You know me, I am always in favor of more rockwork and waterfalls. Will Splash Mountain in Florida remain unchanged? Or will it also be changed to a “Princess and the Frog” theme? They should keep a reference to Rufus, just for the few die-hards to get it!


FLORIDA’s Splash Mountain is being re-themed to HARD FACTS OF LIFE MOUNTAIN. Guests will leave Peakskill and Jo, Blair, Natalie and Tootie and journey to Mardi Grais and meet up with Mrs Garrett who has opened a creole restaurant and nite club!! The girls help mrs Garret out and put on a grand musical celebration when the real entertainers are stuck in a flooded bayou.

Ok, ok….. both American Splash Mountains are currently scheduled to get the Frog Prince make over .

Melissa said...

The map helps us get our bearings. (Bear puns are one of my many weaknesses.)

Mike, I thought "Hard Facts of Life" was one of those movies they kept in the back room at the video store.

Bu said...

“Hard facts of life escape to witch mountain” I just can’t leave well enough alone. Have funny story about Bear Country and a private party for General Motors. We displayed GM cars all over the park, and Bear Country was home to the GMC trucks. There was sooooo much politics around the GM brands and what brand would be in what land. We “plugged” the “rustic and macho” nature of Bear Country over “during a Private Party NO ONE goes as far as Bear Country”. They kind of bought it, but had ringers in the crowd getting them over far west to make it look “populous”. When we took GMC brass over to Bear County suddenly all of their voices got really deep and “Yes! Now we are getting to where the REAL GM is!!! TRUCKS!!!” Whilst smoking cigars and swilling loads of whiskey at the Club. They continued to speak in deep raspy tones waxing poetic about the mucho macho selection of mucho machoness. We also had to refer to all of them by “Mr. XXX”. No first names at GM.

JG said...

Major, don’t sweat posting that pic, anytime or no time is fine.



Major Pepperidge said...

Mike Cozart, I am disappointed that it won’t be re-themed to a Moochie ride, but that’s life. I like your “Hard Facts of Life” idea, but it needs to be more grim. There needs to be more consumption, ragged clothing, and children working at the woolen mill. But hey, maybe that’s just me.

Melissa, I thought that back room was where they kept the candy! I always wondered why it had a little curtain.

Bu, your story is awesome, though somebody missed a trick, they could have handed out beef jerky and loaded guns. Two of the most manly things ever! So you said that the GM guys “kind of bought” the ruse (I guess it was a ruse?), but it sounds like they COMPLETELY bought it.

JG, THANK YOU! Just got home, I’m pooped, so maybe tomorrow I’ll get to it.

"Lou and Sue" said...

Great comments and photos, thank you Mr. X and Major! That first picture sure would be boring without the train rolling overhead. Mr. X knows how to get the best shots! Note: I spy a guy who's ahead of his time, in fashion. He's on the right, in short white shorts...more of an 80's style, right, Major?

JB and JG, there sure are some sneaky trash cans hiding in that last photo. Good job spotting them!