September 10, 2008

Summer of ’83

1983. My first summer as a vendor.

One of the most unique roles in the Disneyland show, we humble purveyors of popcorn, ice cream, and balloons had the best of all possible worlds, or, more accurately, lands. In a single week, you might be assigned to Popcorn 8 in Bear (not Critter) Country, the Train just up the walk from It’s a Small World, Popcorn 1 in Town Square, a balloon position under the Peoplemover (not Rocket Rods, not abandoned) track across from the Character Shop, and an ice cream wagon opposite Pirates looking over the Rivers of America.

As a vendor, you were in one of the most visible, accessible guest contact positions. Unlike my friends in Attractions, who move guests courteously and efficiently through the turnstiles, vendors served guests when and for however long the guests chose to be stand at your wagon. Even the smallest shop, something like the Mod Hatter, has the barrier of counter and cash register. Those of us in ODV were basically in guest relations, except we didn’t do tours or answer phones.

You had time to actually converse with those who came to Disneyland not to ride Space Mountain or share an adventure with their kids. I met a lot of folks who, like me, enjoyed just being there. You answered question and gave directions. Sure, it had its drawbacks. Not always fun to stand behind a hot popcorn wagon in July, or be at the end of a line of what seemed like 84,000 sweating guests looking for something cold.

But I loved it, and I know that I’m not just remembering it as better than it was. Canoe races before work. Signing back in most nights after, maybe to meet friends at Tomorrowland Terrace or sit and listen to Rod Miller at Coke Corner. Just being there.

I don’t think what became California Adventure was even on the drawing board. Pixar didn’t exist. C3PO and Indiana Jones were not Cast Members. If you wanted to find a Walt Disney character, perhaps Mickey, you could look in Town Square or catch Steamboat Willie at the Main St. Cinema.

It seems looking back now that Disneyland was a much simpler magic kingdom then.

But in 1983, I think it was practically perfect in every way.

1 comment:

Mike said...

Rod Miller and I spent plenty of shifts together when I worked on Main Street in Day Custodial. He always called me "Steve" (even though my name tag clearly said "MIKE"). He was quite the piano player. There are quite a few videos posted of Rod over on YouTube. I also remember the "other guy" who played the piano back then, his name was Johnny. He was pretty tall, had brown hair and, of course, played a mean ragtime piano. I'll have to post a picture of Johnny on my blog when I get around to it.

Keep the good stuff coming!