June 14, 2009

Popcorn and circumstance

After seeing all the great Grad Nite posts by Vintage Disneyland Tickets and Disney on Parole, I had to add this 1984 button. I never attended Grad Nite, but I worked this one. Here's what I recall:

Even at Disneyland, it was cold in the wee hours of the morning. As a vendor, I was glad to be on a popcorn wagon with heat lamps that night.

The coffee in the Inn Between wasn't good, but it might have been that I'd never really had coffee until then. On the last fifteen-minute break with about two hours until Park closing, soda just wasn't strong enough.

I felt much older than the guests, even though I'd graduated high school just two years before. I was a permanent part-time Cast Member, and I thought that I'd never leave. It was an unusual time to be in the Magic Kingdom. There wasn't much to do for long periods between guests. Even though pulling the all-nighter was pretty exhausting, there was a kind of peacefulness about being there in the early morning that was indeed magical. Once you made it past being tired.

As Mickey's image on the button shows, '84 was the summer of the Games of the XXIIIrd Olympiad in Los Angeles. The Olympics would be a disaster for Disneyland attendance, as immense numbers of guests stayed away from what they feared would be even more immense numbers of guests. As a result, hardly anyone came to the Park. Revenues went down, hours were cut, and management changed. After the closing ceremonies and the season finally ended, prices went up and portions went down. The seeds of the Disney Decade were planted that summer, but we didn't know it at the time.

On that Grad Nite, there were only embraces of the opportunities ahead for those on the brink of tomorrows that were the rest of their lives as they looked back fondly and reflected on the achievements of those twelve long years. Were these youth savoring the challenge and promise of the future? I hoped so.

I was just enjoying the moments.


DIsney On Parole said...

You painted a great picture of what it was like working Grad Nite. and how true of the Summer of 84'...
I Loved It! You could drive anywhere in OC or LA in no time flat!
Everyone stayed away that summer and the people who lived here left town!
it really was nice. but as you said
"The seeds of the Disney Decade were planted that summer"... Thanks for the memory jog!

TokyoMagic! said...

I was working at Knott's that summer and they were laying off many of the seasonals that had just been hired for the summer. The reason was the same as DL....far lower attendance than they had anticipated.

Great glimpse at what it was like working at DL that year...thanks!

Vintage Disneyland Tickets said...

Super perspective that us non-cm's will never fully understand. Thanks for sharing your memories, sad that this was the start of some ugly times (decades) for Disneyland.