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September 22, 2014

The Boy Who Cried Wolf

Jack Spence Masthead


On several occasions, I have written to tell you that I am leaving AllEars. And on each occasion I have returned after a short amount of time. I was the boy who cried wolf. Well, I'm afraid that I'm repeating that message today. Once again, I'm writing to tell you that I am leaving AllEars. However this time I suspect my departure will be permanent.

There are several reasons for this. First, burnout. Each of my blogs requires between 20-40 hours of work to create each week. This is a big responsibility that I'm finding more and more difficult to commit to.

I'm also finding it problematic to come up with new topics to write about. I've been doing this for eight years now and I've already covered most of the World in one way or another.

And finally, I have other commitments that require my time. Balancing AllEars with the rest of my life can be tricky.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you who have read my column faithfully over the years. I would also like to thank all of you who have taken the time to write me comments. Your kind words have been my weekly paycheck. I've never shared this with anyone, but I judged the success of my blogs by the number of comments I received. Whenever I received 20 or more, I considered it a homerun.

My old blogs aren't going anywhere. Although my spot on the Blog Page will eventually be eliminated, my articles will remain. The easiest way to find them is to use the SEARCH field found on every page in AllEars. Just type "Jack" followed by the topic you're interested in. If I've covered that topic, it will be listed.

Please, if you see me wandering the parks in the months to come, stop me and say hello. I would love to take a moment and chat with you for a few minutes. Also, remember to stop and smell the roses. Disney details are everywhere. There is so much more to the parks than Space Mountain, Soarin', and Expedition Everest. Walt Disney World is a giant present. Unwrap it slowly and savor every part of it.

All my best to you,

Jack


Jack, Mickey, & Minnie



March 4, 2013

My Disney Story (Repeat)

jack-spence%27s-masthead4.jpg


As I mentioned in my last article, I am taking a few weeks off to get moved into an apartment while my new home is being built. During this time, I will be posting some of my older blogs. The following article first ran on November 29, 2009.



Usually when I write a blog or newsletter article, I try to stay clear of my personal experiences. I like to focus on the facts and leave my encounters out of the mix. But today I'm going to depart from my usual formula and present you with a brief look at my life and how it was intertwined with Disney. Along the way I will try to sprinkle in some "facts" so you can still come away from this article with a few bits of Disney trivia. So here goes.

In order to plan and build Disneyland, Walt desperately needed capital. The two major television networks of the time, NBC and CBS, were interested in producing a Disney created TV show, but wanted nothing to do with his harebrained amusement park. However, fledgling network ABC saw potential and agreed to give Walt $500,000 and a number of guaranteed loans. In return, Walt would give ABC a weekly television show and one-third ownership in Disneyland.

The "Disneyland" TV show debuted on October 27, 1954. Walt hosted the show and each week he presented a story that highlighted a different "land" within the theme park he was building in Anaheim.


Disneyland TV Show


The early years of my life were spent in West Los Angeles. This is about an hour's drive north of Anaheim. I was only two when the "Disneyland" TV show debuted. I do have memories of watching this show, but they must be from reruns as I was much too young to remember the original series.

On July 17, 1955, Disneyland opened to the public. Alas, I wasn't there.


Disneyland Opening


On October 3, 1955, the Mickey Mouse Club debuted on ABC and I was one of the millions of kids that watched this show in the years that followed. For those of you not familiar with the program, it was a daily (M-F) variety show for children. Each day featured a different theme like "Fun with Music" or "Talent Roundup Day." The capable Mouseketeers sang, danced, and performed a number of skits. And of course, Disney cartoons were always available.


Mickey Mouse Club


The black mouse-ears (with your name embroidered on the back) debuted on this show and have been selling at Disney theme parks ever since.


Mickey Mouse Ears


My first trip to Disneyland occurred in 1957 when I was five years old. I have memories of this event, but unfortunately, they aren't particularly good. I was accompanied by my mother, older sister, and aunt and her rebellious teenage son.

One of my memories involves the Storybook Land Canal Boats. I remember being terrified as we approached the attraction and I saw boats sailing into Monstro's open mouth. I didn't want to be eaten! After my mother calmed me down, we got in line. When it came time for us to load, my rather large aunt boarded first. She was so bulky that the boat tipped precariously to one side, almost spilling the cast member into the water. After regaining her balance, the cast member politely seated the rest of us opposite my aunt to balance the load.


Monstro & Storybook Land Canal Boats


Here's an interesting side note, for many years, only women could be ride operators on the Storybook Land Canal Boats and only men could be skippers on the Jungle Cruise. The reason, theming. Everybody knew in the 1950's through the 1970's that only a big husky man could navigate a boat safely through the jungle and only a sweet young miss could play tour guide to the homes of Pinocchio, Cinderella, and Snow White.

My, how things have changed"

Later that day, my rebellious cousin ran off without permission. Since we didn't know where he had gone, it was decided we'd just wait for him at the spot where we had lost track of him, which was near Dumbo. (Remember, there were no cell phones in 1955 to keep track of one another.) So for the next hour we waited, and waited, and waited for him to return. This seemed like an eternity to me as I watched the nearby flying elephants but could not ride.

My final memory of my first visit to Disneyland involves the Rainbow Caverns Mine Train. For some reason, I got it into my head that this was a roller coaster and refused to board. Back home that evening, I was looking through the post cards we had purchased earlier in the day and I saw this beautiful picture of multicolored waterfalls cascading into luminous streams. I asked my mother why she hadn't taken me on this ride. She then informed me that I had had the opportunity but refused to go.


Rainbow Caverns


In the years that followed, I made numerous trips to Disneyland - with much better results.

For my tenth birthday, I asked my father for a share of Disney stock and he complied. I'm sure he was more interested in teaching me the value of investing than he was about Disney. But I didn't care what his reasons were, I got what I wanted. Each year after that, I received the Annual Stock Report sometime in January. I would pour over it like it was gold, reading about all the new and upcoming attractions and movies Disney was planning. You have to remember, this was long before the internet and long before we knew every move the company was making. By the way, I still have these stock reports. They must be worth something on EBay.


Disney Stock Report


Something that many people don't know is that Disneyland was closed on Mondays and Tuesdays until sometime in the 1980's. It was only open seven days a week during the summer, Easter and Christmas weeks, and a few other holidays. Attendance simply did not demand everyday operation and this allowed maintenance to do a lot of refurbishing out of sight of the guests on these days. However, the Disneyland Hotel, which was owned and operated by the Jack Wrather Corporation, advertised that the monorail was open everyday. So on Mondays and Tuesdays, guests could still board the monorail at the hotel station and take a round-trip ride through a deserted Disneyland. This would cost the equivalent price of an "E" ticket.


Monorail and Disneyland Hotel


During the winter months, attendance dropped off dramatically at Disneyland. In order to boost revenue, Disney created "Party" nights. This involved renting the park to a private group or company for the evening. Disneyland would close to regular guests at 6pm or 7pm then reopen to the private organization from 8pm to 1am. My stepfather was in the military and each year we attended "Navy Night." When you combine the fact that the crowds were relatively light and ticket books weren't required for these events, it allowed a boy of 11 and 12 to ride the Autopia over and over again.

Here's a killer for you. In the '50's and '60's, Disney considered the cels used to create their animated movies as useless rubbish. They sold them at the Art Corner in Tomorrowland for two to three dollars each. Today, these same cels sell for hundreds to thousands of dollars. But did I buy one? Nope. My parents told me they were worthless junk.


Art of Animation


Construction began on the Haunted Mansion in 1962 and the exterior was completed in 1963. For years, every time I visited Disneyland I would walk by this building with grand expectations that it might be open, only to be disappointed. It seems that Walt had become involved with the New York World's Fair and the Mansion was put on a back burner. Bummer. However, I did return on August 9, 1969, the day the Mansion opened to the public, and waited two hours in line to ride.


Haunted Mansion


I lived in Japan for two years (1966 to 1967). This was long before Tokyo Disneyland. During this time I was desperate for a Disney fix but had limited options. All I had were my stock reports, some unused tickets, and a large map of Disneyland. I would scour this map frequently and relive memories.

When I returned to the states, I was 15 and we moved to Anaheim. High on my agenda was a return trip to Disneyland. A few weeks after getting home, my cousin (a different cousin) and I were allowed to go - alone - no parents - no chaperones. How cool was this?

During my time in Japan, the new Tomorrowland had been completed and New Orleans Square and Pirates of the Caribbean had opened. There was so much new since my last visit that it seemed like a completely different park. My cousin and I were in heaven. And to top it off, we found an unused ticket book on the Mission to Mars attraction. Obviously, someone had dropped it. This new found treasure meant we could go on even more rides. It was a grand day.


Ticket Book


When we got home that evening, our mothers told us that we should have returned the ticket book to City Hall so Disney could find the rightful owner. My cousin and I just looked at each other. Yeah, right. Like 14 and 15 year old boys are going to do something so noble.

At this time, I lived in an apartment building on Katella Avenue about three miles from Disneyland. Also living in the same building was Roy Williams, the big guy from the original Mickey Mouse Club. One day his wife invited me in to meet him. I was thrilled. The aging Roy was very kind to me and even drew me one of his famous caricatures. But do I have that drawing today? Nope. I have no idea what happened to it.


Roy Willians


Shortly after I turned 18 I applied for a job at Disneyland. Like everyone who interviews for a position at a Disney theme park, I had dreams of driving the monorail or working on the Matterhorn.

When I arrived at the Casting building, I was handed some sort of a test and told to sit in a school-type chair/desk and complete it. I guess I got enough of the questions right because I was then told to sit someplace else until called to meet with an interviewer.

I was horribly shy when I was 18. My personality certainly did not exude the makings of an outgoing monorail driver. After a few questions and answers, the gentleman conducting the interview offered me a job as a Miscellaneous Kitchen Helper at the Blue Bayou Restaurant. I thought to myself, "What's a restaurant got to do with a monorail?" But I soon came to my senses and although disappointed, accepted the job. I was told to report back a week later to attend a two-day orientation class.

New Orleans Square at Disneyland was actually a testing ground for bigger plans Walt had for a project in Florida. You see, under New Orleans Square is a large basement. In this basement is a huge industrial kitchen. Here, food is prepared for five restaurants, the Creole Café (now Café Orleans), the French Market, the Blue Bayou, Club 33, and an employee cafeteria. The Imagineers wanted to see if a large "central" kitchen could support multiple restaurants. This idea was later expanded to become Central Foods behind the Magic Kingdom in Florida and used the Utilidors to transport the food around the park.


WDW Central Foods


The above picture of Central Foods was taken at Walt Disney World in January, 1972. This building is located behind the Magic Kingdom and is now used to house holiday decorations.

After completing Orientation, I reported to the Blue Bayou Restaurant. It was then that I learned the true nature of my job. A Miscellaneous Kitchen Helper was to transport food from the basement kitchen up to a secondary kitchen in the Blue Bayou where final preparation could take place. So instead of driving a monorail, I would be pushing a cart full of pots and pans. Great. Just great. I was also expected to do a lot of nasty clean-up work.

I remember my first weekend on the job, standing in the rain out back of New Orleans Square at 1am, steam cleaning a trash can. This was definitely not driving a monorail. I hated my job! I wanted to quit! But I stuck it out. And as I got to know my fellow cast members, the job became tolerable, then better, and eventually fun - okay, maybe not fun, but certainly okay.

This next picture was taken the following year when I had been promoted to "Fry Cook."


Jack in the Blue Bayou Kitchen


So the next time you're visiting a Disney park, remember, for every on-stage cast member you encounter, there is someone backstage doing less pleasant tasks to make your stay enjoyable.

Walt Disney World opened on October 1, 1971. Soon afterwards, Disney offered a special trip to the cast members of Disneyland and the employees of the Studio in Burbank. For $200 they would fly you to Orlando where you would stay for five nights at the Contemporary Resort tower. Also included were side trips to Kennedy Space Center, Cypress Gardens, and backstage tours of the Utilidors and other facilities behind the Magic Kingdom.


Utilidors


Mind you, I was only making $1.71 an hour, but I still lived at home and I had saved enough money that I could afford the trip. I signed up immediately and in January 1972, I made my first trip to Walt Disney World.

I have to admit, I was underwhelmed. Yes, the Contemporary and Polynesian were cool hotels, and Cinderella Castle was impressive, but the Magic Kingdom only had a fraction of the attractions that Disneyland had. Remember, in the beginning, there were no Space, Thunder, or Splash Mountains. There was no PeopleMover. There was no Pirates of the Caribbean. It only took a half-day to see everything. And nighttime was even worse. There was absolutely nothing to do after the Magic Kingdom closed. But I guess it captivated my imagination enough as I kept returning every two to three years.

On summer nights in the 1970's, cast members at Disneyland were allowed to use their cast ID's for entrance into the park. However, you were required to bring a member of the opposite sex. You see, Disney didn't want a bunch of hormone-charged males cruising for chicks in their family oriented park. By creating a "Date Night" they avoided this problem.


Date Night at Disneyland


Other efforts to keep Disneyland clean-cut were also in place at this time. Plain-clothed security guards would stand at the entrance of the park and watch for clothing violations. If your attire showed too much skin or displayed any picture or writing that was even slightly offensive, you were denied entrance. Believe me, a significant number of Disney guests today would have never been allowed access to Disneyland in my days of employment there.

Also in the early 70's, only women could be servers in the restaurants. It took a cast member from the Club 33 to challenge this policy in court to bring equality to the wait staff.

I was employed at the Blue Bayou for six years and worked myself up to the position of Lead. This was the highest non-management position and I was in charge of the day-to-day operation of the restaurant. I also served a six-month term as a University Leader and conducted the 2-day Orientation classes given to new hires. (Today, this class is called Traditions.) And finally, I was asked to transfer to the Club 33 as Lead/Maître d' where I worked for another three years.

Here is a picture of me greeting guests as they step off of the lift into the upper lobby of the Club 33.


Jack at Club 33


For various reasons, I decided it was time to leave Disneyland in 1980. I hired on with Pacific Bell/ATT where I worked for another 19 years before I was offered an early retirement.

Working for the phone company was the best thing that could have happened to me, but it was just a job. I really don't have any memories of significance of my time there. But my memories of working at Disneyland are abundant and overall, most pleasant. I wouldn't trade my time there for anything.

After quitting Disneyland, I still continued to visit regularly until 1985 when I was transferred to the San Francisco Bay area. It was only then that I realized that I had taken my close proximity to Disneyland for granted. When it was no longer "just down the street," I missed it terribly. I would make yearly trips to Anaheim, but it just wasn't enough.

Then, a Disney Store (the third) opened in late '87 at the end of Pier 39 on San Francisco Bay. I was saved. I could get my Disney fix without driving eight hours to Anaheim. I made regular trips to this store and developed a rapport with a number of the cast members. It was also at this time that I started to collect Disney art and decorate my house with my purchases - tastefully, of course.


Pier 39 Disney Store


My first real collectable was an animation cel of Donald Duck. I spent $250 for something I could have bought for $3 in my youth. At first I restricted my Disney memorabilia to the family room. But as my collection continued to grow, items started to creep into adjoining rooms - first a bathroom and then a bedroom. But I steadfastly refused to let my living and dining rooms become Disneyfied.


Donald Duck Cel


It was during my time at the phone company that I gained the means to travel, and other Disney parks were high on my list of destinations. Thus far I have been to the Tokyo Disney Resort four times and the Disneyland Paris Resort and the Hong Kong Disneyland Resort twice each. And I'm currently saving my Frequent Flyer Miles for a trip to Shanghai.

When I took my early retirement from the phone company in 1999, I briefly thought about moving back to Southern California and Disneyland, but decided against this. A better choice would be Orlando and the flagship property, Walt Disney World. With this in mind, my next priority was to find a house no further than 30 minutes from the parks. Eventually I ended up in West Orlando next to the town of Windermere. I can now be in the parking lot of any of the parks within a half-hour. Cool.

When I was getting settled into my new house, it became obvious that I would need to relax my rule about no Disney artwork in the living and dining rooms. My collection had grown so great that I needed additional space. Now, every room in my house is designed with a Disney theme - tastefully, of course.

This next picture shows an upper wall in my family room. To the left are a number of animation cels. The main wall is covered with Haunted Mansion and Phantom Manor lithographs.


Art Collection


During my first years in Orlando, I visited Disney World five times a week. That didn't necessarily mean I went into a park everyday, but I was somewhere on property. Many times I'd drive to a resort just to have lunch or dinner. And of course, when you move to Orlando, all of your friends and relatives think this is cool because now they have a free place to stay while visiting Disney World - with a built-in expert tour guide.

In anticipation of my houseguests, I created the Mickey Mouse Suite. The bedroom and bath are all decorated in Mickey colors, black, red, yellow, and white.


Mickey Mouse Suite


One day, while surfing the internet, I came across this wonderful site called Allears. I was most impressed with what I saw and decided to attend a Meet-&-Greet that Deb Wills was holding with Bob Sehlinger, author of "The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World." After listening to them speak, I sought out Deb and introduced myself. She was most gracious and made me feel like a long lost friend.

A few months later, construction began on Saratoga Springs and I snapped a picture of the resort's signage. I sent it to Allears and to my amazement, Deb published it and thanked me for my efforts. As more time passed, I ran into Deb again and she suggested that I write a restaurant review. I was reluctant. I thought to myself, "Who would be interested in anything I had to say?" But after mulling it over, I sent her a review of the All Star Café located at Disney's Wide World of Sports - and to my amazement, she printed it in the weekly newsletter. Wow!

All Star Cafe


With one review under my belt, I decided to write another, then another. And Deb kept publishing them. Eventually, I became a full member of the team and joined the inner circle of Allears.

In an effort to keep the website as current as possible, Deb started the blog section. At first I was doubtful. I had read other blogs on other sites and was not impressed. Too many of them were negative and contained more myth than fact. But Deb assured me that this could work and persuaded me to give it a try. In the beginning, I was just a Guest blogger, but in no time at all I had my own column. Now I write a weekly column - and when Deb sends me on assignment, even more.


Business Card


I realize that I have a dream job. What could be better than visiting Disney World any day I like and writing about my experiences? Yes, my blogs require real work, they don't just happen. But I'll never complain. There's no other job I'd rather be doing.

I'm still not driving a monorail, but I doubt that piloting one of these trains could be nearly as fulfilling as the career I had with Disney and writing for Allears.



November 29, 2009

My Disney Story

Usually when I write a blog or newsletter article, I try to stay clear of my personal experiences. I like to focus on the facts and leave my encounters out of the mix. But today I'm going to depart from my usual formula and present you with a brief look at my life and how it was intertwined with Disney. Along the way I will try to sprinkle in some "facts" so you can still come away from this article with a few bits of Disney trivia. So here goes.

In order to plan and build Disneyland, Walt desperately needed capital. The two major television networks of the time, NBC and CBS, were interested in producing a Disney created TV show, but wanted nothing to do with his harebrained amusement park. However, fledgling network ABC saw potential and agreed to give Walt $500,000 and a number of guaranteed loans. In return, Walt would give ABC a weekly television show and one-third ownership in Disneyland.

The "Disneyland" TV show debuted on October 27, 1954. Walt hosted the show and each week he presented a story that highlighted a different "land" within the theme park he was building in Anaheim.


Disneyland TV Show


The early years of my life were spent in West Los Angeles. This is about an hour's drive north of Anaheim. I was only two when the "Disneyland" TV show debuted. I do have memories of watching this show, but they must be from reruns as I was much too young to remember the original series.

On July 17, 1955, Disneyland opened to the public. Alas, I wasn't there.


Disneyland Opening


On October 3, 1955, the Mickey Mouse Club debuted on ABC and I was one of the millions of kids that watched this show in the years that followed. For those of you not familiar with the program, it was a daily (M-F) variety show for children. Each day featured a different theme like "Fun with Music" or "Talent Roundup Day." The capable Mouseketeers sang, danced, and performed a number of skits. And of course, Disney cartoons were always available.


Mickey Mouse Club


The black mouse-ears (with your name embroidered on the back) debuted on this show and have been selling at Disney theme parks ever since.


Mickey Mouse Ears


My first trip to Disneyland occurred in 1957 when I was five years old. I have memories of this event, but unfortunately, they aren't particularly good. I was accompanied by my mother, older sister, and aunt and her rebellious teenage son.

One of my memories involves the Storybook Land Canal Boats. I remember being terrified as we approached the attraction and I saw boats sailing into Monstro's open mouth. I didn't want to be eaten! After my mother calmed me down, we got in line. When it came time for us to load, my rather large aunt boarded first. She was so bulky that the boat tipped precariously to one side, almost spilling the cast member into the water. After regaining her balance, the cast member politely seated the rest of us opposite my aunt to balance the load.


Monstro & Storybook Land Canal Boats


Here's an interesting side note, for many years, only women could be ride operators on the Storybook Land Canal Boats and only men could be skippers on the Jungle Cruise. The reason, theming. Everybody knew in the 1950's through the 1970's that only a big husky man could navigate a boat safely through the jungle and only a sweet young miss could play tour guide to the homes of Pinocchio, Cinderella, and Snow White.

My, how things have changed"

Later that day, my rebellious cousin ran off without permission. Since we didn't know where he had gone, it was decided we'd just wait for him at the spot where we had lost track of him, which was near Dumbo. (Remember, there were no cell phones in 1955 to keep track of one another.) So for the next hour we waited, and waited, and waited for him to return. This seemed like an eternity to me as I watched the nearby flying elephants but could not ride.

My final memory of my first visit to Disneyland involves the Rainbow Caverns Mine Train. For some reason, I got it into my head that this was a roller coaster and refused to board. Back home that evening, I was looking through the post cards we had purchased earlier in the day and I saw this beautiful picture of multicolored waterfalls cascading into luminous streams. I asked my mother why she hadn't taken me on this ride. She then informed me that I had had the opportunity but refused to go.


Rainbow Caverns


In the years that followed, I made numerous trips to Disneyland - with much better results.

For my tenth birthday, I asked my father for a share of Disney stock and he complied. I'm sure he was more interested in teaching me the value of investing than he was about Disney. But I didn't care what his reasons were, I got what I wanted. Each year after that, I received the Annual Stock Report sometime in January. I would pour over it like it was gold, reading about all the new and upcoming attractions and movies Disney was planning. You have to remember, this was long before the internet and long before we knew every move the company was making. By the way, I still have these stock reports. They must be worth something on EBay.


Disney Stock Report


Something that many people don't know is that Disneyland was closed on Mondays and Tuesdays until sometime in the 1980's. It was only open seven days a week during the summer, Easter and Christmas weeks, and a few other holidays. Attendance simply did not demand everyday operation and this allowed maintenance to do a lot of refurbishing out of sight of the guests on these days. However, the Disneyland Hotel, which was owned and operated by the Jack Wrather Corporation, advertised that the monorail was open everyday. So on Mondays and Tuesdays, guests could still board the monorail at the hotel station and take a round-trip ride through a deserted Disneyland. This would cost the equivalent price of an "E" ticket.


Monorail and Disneyland Hotel


During the winter months, attendance dropped off dramatically at Disneyland. In order to boost revenue, Disney created "Party" nights. This involved renting the park to a private group or company for the evening. Disneyland would close to regular guests at 6pm or 7pm then reopen to the private organization from 8pm to 1am. My stepfather was in the military and each year we attended "Navy Night." When you combine the fact that the crowds were relatively light and ticket books weren't required for these events, it allowed a boy of 11 and 12 to ride the Autopia over and over again.

Here's a killer for you. In the '50's and '60's, Disney considered the cels used to create their animated movies as useless rubbish. They sold them at the Art Corner in Tomorrowland for two to three dollars each. Today, these same cels sell for hundreds to thousands of dollars. But did I buy one? Nope. My parents told me they were worthless junk.


Art of Animation


Construction began on the Haunted Mansion in 1962 and the exterior was completed in 1963. For years, every time I visited Disneyland I would walk by this building with grand expectations that it might be open, only to be disappointed. It seems that Walt had become involved with the New York World's Fair and the Mansion was put on a back burner. Bummer. However, I did return on August 9, 1969, the day the Mansion opened to the public, and waited two hours in line to ride.


Haunted Mansion


I lived in Japan for two years (1966 to 1967). This was long before Tokyo Disneyland. During this time I was desperate for a Disney fix but had limited options. All I had were my stock reports, some unused tickets, and a large map of Disneyland. I would scour this map frequently and relive memories.

When I returned to the states, I was 15 and we moved to Anaheim. High on my agenda was a return trip to Disneyland. A few weeks after getting home, my cousin (a different cousin) and I were allowed to go - alone - no parents - no chaperones. How cool was this?

During my time in Japan, the new Tomorrowland had been completed and New Orleans Square and Pirates of the Caribbean had opened. There was so much new since my last visit that it seemed like a completely different park. My cousin and I were in heaven. And to top it off, we found an unused ticket book on the Mission to Mars attraction. Obviously, someone had dropped it. This new found treasure meant we could go on even more rides. It was a grand day.


Ticket Book


When we got home that evening, our mothers told us that we should have returned the ticket book to City Hall so Disney could find the rightful owner. My cousin and I just looked at each other. Yeah, right. Like 14 and 15 year old boys are going to do something so noble.

At this time, I lived in an apartment building on Katella Avenue about three miles from Disneyland. Also living in the same building was Roy Williams, the big guy from the original Mickey Mouse Club. One day his wife invited me in to meet him. I was thrilled. The aging Roy was very kind to me and even drew me one of his famous caricatures. But do I have that drawing today? Nope. I have no idea what happened to it.


Roy Willians


Shortly after I turned 18 I applied for a job at Disneyland. Like everyone who interviews for a position at a Disney theme park, I had dreams of driving the monorail or working on the Matterhorn.

When I arrived at the Casting building, I was handed some sort of a test and told to sit in a school-type chair/desk and complete it. I guess I got enough of the questions right because I was then told to sit someplace else until called to meet with an interviewer.

I was horribly shy when I was 18. My personality certainly did not exude the makings of an outgoing monorail driver. After a few questions and answers, the gentleman conducting the interview offered me a job as a Miscellaneous Kitchen Helper at the Blue Bayou Restaurant. I thought to myself, "What's a restaurant got to do with a monorail?" But I soon came to my senses and although disappointed, accepted the job. I was told to report back a week later to attend a two-day orientation class.

New Orleans Square at Disneyland was actually a testing ground for bigger plans Walt had for a project in Florida. You see, under New Orleans Square is a large basement. In this basement is a huge industrial kitchen. Here, food is prepared for five restaurants, the Creole Café (now Café Orleans), the French Market, the Blue Bayou, Club 33, and an employee cafeteria. The Imagineers wanted to see if a large "central" kitchen could support multiple restaurants. This idea was later expanded to become Central Foods behind the Magic Kingdom in Florida and used the Utilidors to transport the food around the park.


WDW Central Foods


The above picture of Central Foods was taken at Walt Disney World in January, 1972. This building is located behind the Magic Kingdom and is now used to house holiday decorations.

After completing Orientation, I reported to the Blue Bayou Restaurant. It was then that I learned the true nature of my job. A Miscellaneous Kitchen Helper was to transport food from the basement kitchen up to a secondary kitchen in the Blue Bayou where final preparation could take place. So instead of driving a monorail, I would be pushing a cart full of pots and pans. Great. Just great. I was also expected to do a lot of nasty clean-up work.

I remember my first weekend on the job, standing in the rain out back of New Orleans Square at 1am, steam cleaning a trash can. This was definitely not driving a monorail. I hated my job! I wanted to quit! But I stuck it out. And as I got to know my fellow cast members, the job became tolerable, then better, and eventually fun - okay, maybe not fun, but certainly okay.

This next picture was taken the following year when I had been promoted to "Fry Cook."


Jack in the Blue Bayou Kitchen


So the next time you're visiting a Disney park, remember, for every on-stage cast member you encounter, there is someone backstage doing less pleasant tasks to make your stay enjoyable.

Walt Disney World opened on October 1, 1971. Soon afterwards, Disney offered a special trip to the cast members of Disneyland and the employees of the Studio in Burbank. For $200 they would fly you to Orlando where you would stay for five nights at the Contemporary Resort tower. Also included were side trips to Kennedy Space Center, Cypress Gardens, and backstage tours of the Utilidors and other facilities behind the Magic Kingdom.


Utilidors


Mind you, I was only making $1.71 an hour, but I still lived at home and I had saved enough money that I could afford the trip. I signed up immediately and in January 1972, I made my first trip to Walt Disney World.

I have to admit, I was underwhelmed. Yes, the Contemporary and Polynesian were cool hotels, and Cinderella Castle was impressive, but the Magic Kingdom only had a fraction of the attractions that Disneyland had. Remember, in the beginning, there were no Space, Thunder, or Splash Mountains. There was no PeopleMover. There was no Pirates of the Caribbean. It only took a half-day to see everything. And nighttime was even worse. There was absolutely nothing to do after the Magic Kingdom closed. But I guess it captivated my imagination enough as I kept returning every two to three years.

On summer nights in the 1970's, cast members at Disneyland were allowed to use their cast ID's for entrance into the park. However, you were required to bring a member of the opposite sex. You see, Disney didn't want a bunch of hormone-charged males cruising for chicks in their family oriented park. By creating a "Date Night" they avoided this problem.


Date Night at Disneyland


Other efforts to keep Disneyland clean-cut were also in place at this time. Plain-clothed security guards would stand at the entrance of the park and watch for clothing violations. If your attire showed too much skin or displayed any picture or writing that was even slightly offensive, you were denied entrance. Believe me, a significant number of Disney guests today would have never been allowed access to Disneyland in my days of employment there.

Also in the early 70's, only women could be servers in the restaurants. It took a cast member from the Club 33 to challenge this policy in court to bring equality to the wait staff.

I was employed at the Blue Bayou for six years and worked myself up to the position of Lead. This was the highest non-management position and I was in charge of the day-to-day operation of the restaurant. I also served a six-month term as a University Leader and conducted the 2-day Orientation classes given to new hires. (Today, this class is called Traditions.) And finally, I was asked to transfer to the Club 33 as Lead/Maître d' where I worked for another three years.

Here is a picture of me greeting guests as they step off of the lift into the upper lobby of the Club 33.


Jack at Club 33


For various reasons, I decided it was time to leave Disneyland in 1980. I hired on with Pacific Bell/ATT where I worked for another 19 years before I was offered an early retirement.

Working for the phone company was the best thing that could have happened to me, but it was just a job. I really don't have any memories of significance of my time there. But my memories of working at Disneyland are abundant and overall, most pleasant. I wouldn't trade my time there for anything.

After quitting Disneyland, I still continued to visit regularly until 1985 when I was transferred to the San Francisco Bay area. It was only then that I realized that I had taken my close proximity to Disneyland for granted. When it was no longer "just down the street," I missed it terribly. I would make yearly trips to Anaheim, but it just wasn't enough.

Then, a Disney Store (the third) opened in late '87 at the end of Pier 39 on San Francisco Bay. I was saved. I could get my Disney fix without driving eight hours to Anaheim. I made regular trips to this store and developed a rapport with a number of the cast members. It was also at this time that I started to collect Disney art and decorate my house with my purchases - tastefully, of course.


Pier 39 Disney Store


My first real collectable was an animation cel of Donald Duck. I spent $250 for something I could have bought for $3 in my youth. At first I restricted my Disney memorabilia to the family room. But as my collection continued to grow, items started to creep into adjoining rooms - first a bathroom and then a bedroom. But I steadfastly refused to let my living and dining rooms become Disneyfied.


Donald Duck Cel


It was during my time at the phone company that I gained the means to travel, and other Disney parks were high on my list of destinations. Thus far I have been to the Tokyo Disney Resort three times, the Disneyland Paris Resort two times, and the Hong Kong Disneyland Resort one time. And I guess I better start saving for a trip to Shanghai.

When I took my early retirement from the phone company in 1999, I briefly thought about moving back to Southern California and Disneyland, but decided against this. A better choice would be Orlando and the flagship property, Walt Disney World. With this in mind, my next priority was to find a house no further than 30 minutes from the parks. Eventually I ended up in West Orlando next to the town of Windermere. I can now be in the parking lot of any of the parks within a half-hour. Cool.

When I was getting settled into my new house, it became obvious that I would need to relax my rule about no Disney artwork in the living and dining rooms. My collection had grown so great that I needed additional space. Now, every room in my house is designed with a Disney theme - tastefully, of course.

This next picture shows an upper wall in my family room. To the left are a number of animation cels. The main wall is covered with Haunted Mansion and Phantom Manor lithographs.


Art Collection


During my first years in Orlando, I visited Disney World five times a week. That didn't necessarily mean I went into a park everyday, but I was somewhere on property. Many times I'd drive to a resort just to have lunch or dinner. And of course, when you move to Orlando, all of your friends and relatives think this is cool because now they have a free place to stay while visiting Disney World - with a built-in expert tour guide.

In anticipation of my houseguests, I created the Mickey Mouse Suite. The bedroom and bath are all decorated in Mickey colors, black, red, yellow, and white.


Mickey Mouse Suite


One day, while surfing the internet, I came across this wonderful site called Allears. I was most impressed with what I saw and decided to attend a Meet-&-Greet that Deb Wills was holding with Bob Sehlinger, author of "The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World." After listening to them speak, I sought out Deb and introduced myself. She was most gracious and made me feel like a long lost friend.

A few months later, construction began on Saratoga Springs and I snapped a picture of the resort's signage. I sent it to Allears and to my amazement, Deb published it and thanked me for my efforts. As more time passed, I ran into Deb again and she suggested that I write a restaurant review. I was reluctant. I thought to myself, "Who would be interested in anything I had to say?" But after mulling it over, I sent her a review of the All Star Café located at Disney's Wide World of Sports - and to my amazement, she printed it in the weekly newsletter. Wow!

All Star Cafe


With one review under my belt, I decided to write another, then another. And Deb kept publishing them. Eventually, I became a full member of the team and joined the inner circle of Allears.

In an effort to keep the website as current as possible, Deb started the blog section. At first I was doubtful. I had read other blogs on other sites and was not impressed. Too many of them were negative and contained more myth than fact. But Deb assured me that this could work and persuaded me to give it a try. In the beginning, I was just a Guest blogger, but in no time at all I had my own column. Now I write one to two blogs a week - and when Deb sends me on assignment, even more.


Business Card


I realize that I have a dream job. What could be better than visiting Disney World any day I like and writing about my experiences? Yes, my blogs require real work, they don't just happen. But I'll never complain. There's no other job I'd rather be doing.

I'm still not driving a monorail, but I doubt that piloting one of these trains could be nearly as fulfilling as the career I had with Disney and writing for Allears.


June 11, 2009

Disney Name Tags

When I worked at Disneyland and was conducting Orientation (Traditions) classes for new hires, I would start the training session by telling my pupils that everyone in the company goes by their first name. This rule applied to the lowly guy who picked up horse poop along the parade route all the way up to the CEO, which was Donn Tatum at the time. The only exceptions to this rule were Mr. Toad, Mr. Smee, and Mr. Lincoln.

When I worked at Club 33, I often came in contact with company executives - and I was expected to call them by their first name. Saying "Good morning Mr. Tatum" was a no no.

The reason for this policy is simple. Walt wanted his cast members to treat the "customers" (a banned word at Disney) like they were "guests" in their own home. He wanted a casual informality at Disneyland. Everybody is friends at a Disney theme park. He also wanted the cast members to know that all of their jobs were important when it comes to creating the "show." It doesn't matter if you wash dishes backstage or conduct VIP tours for heads of state; everyone's efforts are needed, important, and valued. Being on a first name basis with all was a leveling tool.

To promote this first-name policy, everyone in the company wears a name tag. It's considered part of your costume. Even backstage, where guests never go, everyone sports their name.

I always liked this policy. First, I'm horrible with names and it made it a lot simpler for me when I was getting to know a new cast member. Also, this informality made it easier for me to talk to my boss. Calling your supervisor by his or her first name helps break down barriers. And finally, from the guest's point of view, this casualness creates a relaxed atmosphere. When a guest sees your name tag, they're far more willing to strike up a conversation with you because you seem more approachable.

Here's what my name tag looked like in 1971. Pretty boring.


Disneyland Name Tag


At Club 33 my name tag was a little more elaborate. They still use this same design today.


Club 33 Name Tag


And here's what the Walt Disney World name tags looked like in 1971. Once again, pretty boring by today's standards.


Origianl WDW Name Tag


The first real change came to the name tags in 1976. In honor of the bicentennial, Disney was promoting a new pageant, America on Parade, and decided to use the name tags as a marketing tool. After that, it became common place to advertise the latest happening on these plastic wonders.


America on Parade Name Tag


Nowadays, name tags display a city (or college for those on the College Program). Each cast member is allowed to select a "home town" when they're hired and can change this location at any time. The city selected doesn't have to be where they were born or where they last lived, but simply a place that holds significance for them.

Here is the current name tag being used at Walt Disney World. Notice it promotes the "Where Dreams Come True" ad campaign.


WDW Current Name Tag


Something I wish had been around when I worked at Disneyland was the "Earning My Ears" ribbon.


Earning My Ears Ribbon


This wonderful piece of trimming attached to a name tag immediately tells the world that the cast member doesn't have all the answers, that he or she is still in a learning mode. And it's not just worn by new hires. When someone transfers from one job to another, they once again don this announcement. The amount of time this ribbon is worn varies depending on the complexity of the job.

Besides giving the cast member a little breathing room while they learn their new role, it's also an excellent conversation starter. I know whenever I see this ribbon, I take extra time with the cast member and ask them questions like, "How's it going?" "Are you overwhelmed?" Stuff like that.

Another pin you might see, although not on a name tag, is the Disney Trainer pin. The cast members who wear this badge are designated instructors in a certain discipline and have completed classes in a given field.


Disney Trainer Pin


After a cast member completes a year of employment, they are given a Service Award pin that they may place on the right side of their name tag. After that, they receive a new pin after completing segments of 5 years. Below are pictures of 1 through 40 years.

Service Anniversary Pins

Service Anniversary Pins

Service Anniversary Pins


Cast members are not required to wear their Service Anniversary pins. So just because you don't see one, don't assume that you're dealing with a newbie. They might have worked at Disney World for years.

There is one other embellishment that you might spot on the left side of some cast member's name tags. This is called the "Partners" pin and it designates that this individual has won the "Partners In Excellence" award.


Partners In Excellence Pin


The Partners In Excellence award celebrates those cast members, both onstage and off, who exemplify the Disney spirit. The recipients of this award must achieve and sustain excellent job performance as measured by three criteria: Guest Satisfaction, Cast Excellence, and Business Results.

To be eligible for this award a cast member must have worked for the company a minimum of three years. Then they must be recommended by a fellow cast member or their supervisor. Once a year, all of these recommendations are reviewed and a portion of these are actually accepted and the cast member is informed that he or she has been nominated to receive the award. The nominations are then reviewed again and a select few receive the Lifetime Achievement Award called Partners In Excellence.

In 2007, 3,816 people were recommended. Of that, 2,934 were nominated and 515 actually won. When you consider that Disney World employs over 60,000 people, it is an honor to receive this award.

The Disney name tag has a lot of tradition behind it. It indicates much more than just a person's moniker. It means that an individual understands what the "Disney-way" is all about and they will do their best to make sure you enjoy yourself while visiting.
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Addendum:

After this blog was posted, one of my readers, Ben, sent me the following link.

http://www.nametagmuseum.com/

Check it out. You'll find a wonderful history of Disney name tags.

Thanks Ben!

October 27, 2008

More Dolphins At Disney

In September I blogged about the Mythical Dolphins that can be found all around Walt Disney World. I asked you to let me know if you knew of others!

Two more mythological dolphins have been spotted at Disney World. The first can be found at Downtown Disney next to Disney's Wonderful World of Memories shop. This one was brought to my attention by Jeff. Thanks, Jeff!

Dolphins at Downtown Disney

Dolphins at Downtown Disney

Dolphins at Downtown Disney


By the way, this shop has been closed and a new shop, Disney's Design-a-Tee sponsored by Hanes, will be opening soon.


 Disney's Design-a-Tee sponsored by Hanes


The second spotting was pointed out to me by someone at the recent All Ears Haunted Mansion Meet & Greet. Someone casually told me of its location, but I don't remember who. So whoever you are, thank you.

This second set of dolphins can be found in a fountain at Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort, near the DVC information podium.


Dolphins at Saratoga Springs Resort

Dolphins at Saratoga Springs Resort

A number of my readers have written and told me that these dolphins are not the mammal, but rather the dolphin-fish (mahi-mahi). And I do agree that these creatures resemble a fish much more than they do Flipper. But nowhere in my research did I ever come across the word "fish" when reading about mythological dolphins.

Take a look at the Neptune Fountain in the Italy Pavilion.

Dolphin at Neptune Fountain in Italy

The proportions are correct for a dolphin-mammal, not a dolphin-fish.

And of all the creatures in the sea, why would the ancients pick the dolphin-fish to worship. There's nothing remotely special about it. On the other hand, the dolphin-mammal, is a noteworthy creature. It's intelligent, large, and playful.

I think the ancients had vivid imaginations. After all, it was these same people who looked up into the stars and formed all sorts of imaginative animals, objects, and people out of little specks of light.

October 22, 2008

China Pavilion Fun

There are three pairs of lions in the China Pavilion at Epcot. One pair stands guard in front of the House of Whispering Willows (the museum).


China%2001.jpg


The other two pairs can be found near the entrances to the Yong Feng Shangdian shop.


China%2002.jpg

China%2003.jpg


The lion is regarded as a special creature to the Chinese people as it was thought to be the king of all animals. The lion represented prestige and power and was often associated with an individual's rank. These lions are often placed in front of gates or doorways as they were believed to have mystic and protective powers.

Although the lions look like they're both male due to their bushy manes, but if fact, one is female. Look closely at their paws. The male has a ball underneath his right paw and the female has a lion cub under her left paw. The ball represents unity of the empire and the cub symbolizes prospering offspring.


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China%2005.jpg


On a different note"

To see the "Reflections of China" movie, guests walk through Disney's version of the Temple of Heaven.


China%2006.jpg


Most guests pause briefly and admire the magnificent ceiling before proceeding on to the waiting room.


China%2007.jpg


But in case you didn't already know, you can have a little fun in this room. Position yourself anywhere in the room EXCEPT the center stone.


China%2008.jpg


Now say something out loud. For example, you can say, "Allears.net is the best Disney web-site in the World."

Now, move to the center stone.


China%2009.jpg


Once again, say something out load. For instance, "And I read it faithfully everyday."

Your friends and family won't know what just happened, but you will.

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About The Little Things

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to The “World” According to Jack in the The Little Things category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Step Back in Time is the previous category.

Theme Park Trivia is the next category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.