As a Cast Member in the early 80s, I found one of the most magical parts of the magic of Disneyland was the sense of being part of something rare and important in the world.
Sure, that sense was sometimes elusive. On a midsummer day with attendance around 88,000 or so and temperatures above 90, for example, it wasn’t necessarily fun to push a dolly fully loaded with frozen bananas from Outdoor Vending's Tomorrowland freezers over to Bear County. Sometimes it wasn’t easy to leave personal problems outside the berm. And the paycheck deposited in the old Disneyland Employees Federal Credit Union every couple of weeks never seemed like quite enough.
At other times, though, the feeling that came from working to create happiness for others was palpable. That’s what made working at Disneyland the best possible job.
I felt it most often on shifts that ended after closing. When you started in the morning and then changed over your work location to another vendor, the Park kept going without you. Although I admit there were times when I was happy to see the next shift, there were also times when it felt like walking out of a fabulous party.
When you were there for the end of Disneyland’s normal operating day, though, it felt as if you’d hosted the entire affair. The sense that this really was your Disneyland was there when one last couple asked you to take a picture for them and then ran off toward Main Street. An hour or so later, after you'd cleaned the location, counted the drawer, and dropped off the money bags at Cash Control, it stayed with you, all the way up to Harbor House.
Even surrounded by the business realities of Disneyland—rolls of coins, bundles of bills, working hours, paychecks, and all the rest—life as a Disneylander was something special.
Whatever made it special didn’t leave when you walked off the property. You’d clock out and slip your timecard into a slot whose location you hoped you’d remember when you came in for your next shift, but you could carry with you as you headed out into the parking lot the sense of playing a part in the lives of those who’d passed through the main gate turnstiles earlier that day. If Arthur was there, he never failed to help by seeing you off with the amazing pride at being a Cast Member that he instilled.
I miss being part of that magic, but I’m glad to know that it was—and is still—part of me.