Dry ice, and lots of it, kept Outdoor Vending's ice cream bars, ice cream sandwiches, frozen juice bars, and frozen bananas cool back in the '80s. Although the stuff can inflict a sharp burn if you touch it without gloves, it created a refreshingly cold respite during the summer heat. Reaching into an ice cream wagon definitely beat dealing with hot popcorn oil in July and August!
But the "coolest" job an ODV host or hostess could have was working a relief shift. You'd be assigned about ten wagons, coordinating breaks, lunches, and restocking. Wagons were pushed in and out every day back then. None of the locations had telephones, so stocking involved keeping a rough running tally of each vendor's inventory. You'd finish a block of fifteen-minute breaks, then hustle back to the freezers behind America Sings to fill up the wagons before a block of half-hour lunches tied you down.
As a Relief, the responsibility of being one step below Lead was great—but the perk of being able spend some time in an ice box as heat shimmered off the Anaheim asphalt backstage was awesome.
The two walk-ins were each about as big as a small studio apartment. Dimly lit by incandescent overhead bulbs. Filled with stacks almost ceiling height of aluminum Carnation baskets and cardboard banana boxes. The smell of vanilla tinged with banana drifted around the metal rooms, helped by slow-moving propeller fans attached to the back walls.
Inside, you'd pull your little scrap of inventory notes out of your yellow polo shirt pocket, take out as much as you could carry, and load up a yellow dolly with ice cream crates. You could grab a red windbreaker, but most of us went in without one on really hot days. As you set the frozen novelties outside the big door, a wave of heat rolled over you and you ducked back inside quickly. You usually finished with a load of around eight crates. You might also have a tub or two of popcorn oil. All hoisted up and balanced—somewhat precariously—on the lip of a two-wheeled transport dolly. The pleasant chill dissipated quickly.
You moved this load by yourself though 65,000 to 85,000 guests, creeping through crowds, shouting "Excuse me!" as courteously as you could, and surging forward through any opening in the masses. If you were lucky, most of your wagons were in Tomorrowland and on the hub. If you were heading out to Bear Country, you faced a nearly impenetrable wall of folks looking anywhere but at the rolling, semi-unstable hulk that could take out a rented stroller with ease.
Nothing more than a few near misses ever happened to me, but those Park-wide treks made the temperature seem to climb even higher. There's nothing quite like looking out from near the entrance to Frontierland and seeing a surging river of humanity as wide as the Mark Twain's waterway— knowing that if you don't get to the wagon across from the Haunted Mansion's exit ASAP, you'll be delivering nothing but boxes of floating popsicle sticks.
That's one of my Disneyland memories that sure won't be melting anytime soon.