November 9, 2008

A honey of a place until ’89

Before the “critters” came, Bear Country was a great place to spend a lazy hour or two of a Disneyland afternoon.

Does anyone spend lazy times at Disneyland anymore? If you’ve never done anything but race from fast pass to fast pass, I wish you could have strolled through Bear Country. You’d have played nickel and dime games in Teddi Barra’s Swingin’ Arcade, maybe sat in Henry’s Vibratin’ Bear Chair (“It’ll shake you up — gently — and wind your watch”), and, if you were lucky, listened to the Big Thunder Breakdown Boys. There was nothing like their rendition of “Pluto Dog,” a Disney variation on “Salty Dog,” an old bluegrass composition:

Standing on the corner with the lowdown blues,
a great big hole in the bottom of my shoes.
Honey, let me be your Pluto dog.

Well, let me be your Pluto dog
or I won't be your man at all.
Honey, let me be your Pluto dog.

Few work locations were more pleasant in the 1980s than Popcorn (“PC”) 8, adjacent to the Country Bear Jamboree. The ice cream wagon next to Bear Country’s entrance sign was opposite the Haunted Mansion’s exit and felt as much part of New Orleans Square as it did of Bear Country. You can just see the edge of the red umbrella standing next to that wagon in this photo at Yesterland. Deeper inside Bear Country at PC 8, it sometimes felt like you weren’t even in Disneyland anymore. You couldn’t hear or see any other part of the Park.

The location was unusual for another reason. Guest traffic in Bear Country didn’t really pick up until about noon, and things thinned out around 1900 hours, or 7 PM. (Disneyland operates on military time). A PC 8 shift took up the whole day and was just about the only wagon that the same Cast Member both opened and closed. Once, on a break, I went wandering around backstage behind the Mile Long Bar to see the sign shop and various other fabrication facilities. Call me crazy, but it was great fun!

There was definitely something about Bear Country worth keeping. Even Magic Mountain tried to install some of the bluegrass flavor of Disneyland’s smallest land. Vintage Disneyland Tickets has this remembrance of Spillikin Corners, an unusual little section of a park famous more for fast rides than slow strolls.

I miss Bear Country’s simple pleasures. Critter Country just doesn’t evoke the same atmosphere. The home-spun musical revue of the Jamboree, the postcards with Marc Davis’s sketches of the Country Bears, even the snoring up in the caves near the entrance. It all came together to create a wonderful part of the Magic Kingdom.


OldDog said...

On my last trip to Disneyland I took it real easy. What a fun day it was. I did things I hadn’t done in years, like ride the carousel. I spent a lot of time on Main Street in the morning. It was practically deserted as people passed it up running for their favorite attractions.

I used to love the lower level of the eating area next to the snack bar (don’t remember the name) next to Country Bear. Especially at night. No one there. I could just sit back, have a hot coffee and watch the Mark Twain glide by.

Yellows said...

Old dog, young dog, Pluto dog...all welcome! Thanks for stopping by.

The eating area you're talking about was the Hungry Bear Restaurant. You could sit up next to the Rivers of America, listen to some faint bluegrass pickin', watch the ducks paddle by along with the Mark Twain. Good old times.

Vintage Disneyland Tickets said...

I still find my way down to that lower level (even when its closed on slow weekedays) it's great to sit and watch the ducks and Mark Twain go by, there is even a "cat sanctuary" right behind the rear stairs and you can often find kitty's relaxing on the short wall overlooking the river. Still a little bit of quiet, you just gotta look for it. Great post, thanks!