DESIGN: Those Were The Times No.2 – Meet Roger Broggie Sr.

Written by Bob Gurr. Posted in Bob Gurr, Design: Those Were The Times

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Published on January 09, 2013 at 4:03 am with 38 Comments

Today’s Wheel of Years stopped at 1954, so here we go.

Shortly after I began making design sketches at home for Disneyland’s Autopia Car, I received an early Saturday morning call; “Gurr, do you draft?” – sleepily “yes” – “come over now”, click. Roger Broggie Sr., manager of the Walt Disney Productions machine shop in Burbank, California had seen my sketches and wanted to hire a draftsman. Thus began a 20 year association with Roger, Walt’s trusted mechanical production guru.

His first words were certainly short, and remained so those 20 years with few exceptions. He had very little in the way of personality, a very brief manner of speaking, and a somewhat cold formal manner, typically dressed in business attire. Almost like a Vermonter, Roger would leave folks a bit puzzled since most Studio people were very friendly.

 

 

I learned later that he was known as the Prince of Darkness at Disneyland. But everyone seemed to be quite used to his style, except for Studio visitors. Once time, a very outgoing automotive parts salesman greeted Roger with a cheery hello – roger stared back expressionless. “Something I said?” Nope, that’s just Roger. A few months into building equipment for the new Disneyland, Roger asked me to accompany him on some outside business calls. The moment we drove off the Studio lot, chatterbox! All day as we made the rounds, story after story, usually about Studio characters and the goofy stuff they got away with. Back on the lot, clammed up tight. I told the shop guys what a wonderful non-stop talker Roger was. “No way kid, no way, Roger never talks”.

 

Maybe not to them anyway, but all the rest of those 20 years, I loved every minute with him. We traveled to San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Germany, and many times to Florida. He taught me so much about Disney history, the special insights about Walt, and more railroad tales than I could ever understand. I learned to fully appreciate Walt’s unquestioning trust in anything Roger would do. The man had a knowledge and integrity of the highest standard – but oh that Vermonter manner!

 

The first airline trip we made together, he has me drive the rental car. “pull in here” – fabulous lobster lunch place. In the afternoon, “stop there” – vodka gimlet at a famous seaside saloon. Night falls and my ears are burned off by now. “Drive to Sausalito, we’re eating scallops for dinner”. Every trip featured the best restaurants. His vast knowledge of great food amazed me. When we started the Florida project (WDW), Roger would invite a few of his key guys to join him at the best steak houses in Tampa and Orlando. He slowly loosened up over the years to these fellow’s great delight.

 

 

But he still maintained that stiffness during the business hours on all company properties. Roger did have a couple of cute mannerisms however. Rather than return a hello, he’d raise his eyebrows about an 1/8th of an inch. You could tell when he was in a good mood; a slow twisting wave of the hand with the fingers opening and then closing. But you better be fast to catch it or you’ll miss. But he had a complete change around Walt – best described as a loyal pet honoring it’s master!

 

After Roger retired to Carmel, I paid him a visit. Totally shocked to find him smiling, wearing Levi jeans, and puttering in his vegetable garden, I couldn’t believe my eyes. “Mary’s cooking squid, you and I will drink a bottle of my best chardonnay”. Since I was in town for the Pebble Beach Concours ‘d D’elegance driving my 1955 Rolls~Royce, Roger had me chauffeur him slowly around Carmel so everyone could see him riding in a shiny black Rolls~Royce. He never looked so pleased.
If you enjoyed what you read here folks, let me know in the comments below. And before you know it, we’ll spin that wheel again!

About Bob Gurr

Bob Gurr is a true Disney legend who was hired on to design the Autopia for Disneyland. Over nearly four decades, Bob would become famous for developing the Monorails, Submarines, Flying Saucers, antique cars and double-decker buses of Main Street, Ford Motor Company's Magic Skyway (at the 1964-65 New York World's Fair), Omnimover ride system, Matterhorn and lots more. It has been said that if it moves, Bob probably played a part. Upon leaving Imagineering in 1981, Bob worked on a number of "leisure-time spectaculars" and "fantastical beasts" for parks and developments all over the world. Most notably, he created King Kong and Conan's Serpent for Universal Studios Hollywood, A UFO for the closing ceremonies of the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympics, and the memorable T-Rex figure featured in Steven Spielberg's motion picture "Jurassic Park." You can find Bob's column, Design: Those Were The Times, right here on MiceChat. Though don't pin Bob down to a schedule, he's busy being "retired."

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  • http://micechat.com Dusty Sage

    I really appreciate your honest and conversational style, Bob. Simply fantastic reading!

  • ttintagel

    What a great story! One of the things I enjoy most when I read about those days is how such different personalities working together got things done.

  • kat3010

    Love history. Thank you Bob.

  • JulieMouse

    What a great snapshot into those early days…it makes me feel like I was a fly on the wall, which is amazing!! Thank you for putting a smile on my face today! Looking forward to seeing where the wheel lands next!!!!!!

  • JiminyCricketFan

    What wonderful stories. I think that the Jekyll and Hyde nature of the person is so funny. I have met many engineers who just are bad at being social. I just figured it was a right brain vs left brain thing. This has opened my eyes to think that under the right circumstances, there is a hidden treasury.

    I also found the comments of how he was around Walt interesting. Walt seemed on the TV to be someone who was always interested in learning and growing. It is funny to think that Walt was like a puppy around him. I wonder what amazing things might have been created if Walt had lived another 10 years.

  • Disneymarvel

    I’m loving this, Bob! After devouring your book last year, I have been craving more! Short stories such as this one are just what I’m wanting! Thanks so much and I’ll be here each week looking for more!

  • 4Apples4Disney

    Awesome!!! I came home so quick from work just to read this article! Thank you Mr. Gurr!

  • HeeHee

    Fabulous read! And now I’m craving filet mignon and a Giblet with a side order of a ride in a Rolls! Lovely article, looking forward to the next spin!

  • Atomobile

    Wonderful Bob! I love reading this story, because there are lots of references to Roger Broggie Sr., but few actual first hand tales to read. This really gives him some character to attach to the name. I’d love to read more of what was said between stops and over meals!

  • oddball

    Loved the article. I love hearing stories like this about the people that made the magic and who they were.

  • Lord Carrefour

    Thank you for sharing! I’m anxious to hear more :)

  • peoplemover

    Bob, you are one of my favorites and I’m so delighted to be able to read some of the great stories that you are so generous to share! My husband gave me a lithograph for Christmas of the People Mover that you signed and it is one of my treasured possessions. Keep the great stories coming and thanks so much!

  • SomeoneYouDontKnow

    I never comment on articles but decided that I had to let you know that I absolutely loved your story, Bob. I can’t wait for more!

  • Puck2DaHead

    Thank you Bob! I absolutely enjoyed this article. It read very nicely and enjoyably.

  • DisWedWay

    Bob your mention of your Rolls Royce reminded me of when you recomended Dick to me as a great painter of Car’s or anything Dick really liked. If Dick didn’t like your car or the owner, he wouldn’t paint it. The scallops you mentioned would go great right now. Congradulations on the new column.