In today’s From The Mouth Of The Mouse, we continue our conversation with Rory, who worked at Disneyland in the late 1960s.
If you haven’t read the first part of his interview, you can do so by checking it out here.
Today, he shares some stories about how the Park was after Walt passed away, how he would help young couples, and also, about a magnificent tour he took before he worked for the Park
Let’s jump right back in!
JEFF: How was the atmosphere in the Park? You started working there a year after Walt passed, so was his presence still felt?
RORY: After the initial shock, the atmosphere following Walt’s death was very upbeat by the next summer. Everyone pushed on in the spirit of what the Park represented and did their best to maintain that in attitude and presentation. We all enjoyed our jobs a great deal and we were quite proud of being a cast member of what we truly believed was the happiest place on earth. I know for myself that I was ecstatic about being allowed to be part of the magic and I conveyed that as best as possible to the guests as well as to fellow employees. It’s hard to explain, but I always felt proud to be an extension of a great dream and, if I were to return and work there again after all of these years, I would probably even redouble my efforts to do the same. The vision did then, and does now, live on despite the loss of Walt. Even his brother Roy nixed his own retirement to bring WDW to fruition. Having said all this, I have to admit there was an occasion, since I worked in the Town Square, that there would be an occasional glance up at Walt’s apartment and an internal tear would come to one’s heart…
JEFF: Using that attitude that Walt would have wanted, can you think of any times you went out of your way to make a guest’s visit more magical?
RORY: My favorite memory of that has to do with when I wasn’t in the Park. When we were off shift in those days, they didn’t want you simply stay in the Park when your shift was over. We changed clothes and then went through a small time clock/guard house in the back area where Space Mountain is now. They actually had a guard who watched over things. We clocked out – yes, using one of those old time punch clocks! – and then we were required to exit. However, in the days of ticket books, we were allowed to come back around to the front gate where you and a date could then enter the Park for free after 5:00pm. My shift usually ended around 5:00, so I would go to front entrance, watch for a young couple who probably didn’t have much money, approach them and show my employee badge, and ask if they’d like me to get her in for free. Of course, they always said yes and then only he had to buy a ticket book. I would take her through the employee turnstile, hook them back up in front of Mickey, and then exit again to go home. Most of the time they were there for dancing or hanging out with other young folks and it worked out perfectly for them. As an aside I should confess that, as a young man, I always tried to pick the cutest girl I could find! Still brings a smile to my face when I remember doing this each day.
JEFF: Now, before the interview, you mentioned you had a very special run-in with an Imagineer years before you worked for the Park. Care to elaborate on that a bit more?
RORY: When I was young, like many others I used to pester poor Disney with ideas for Disneyland and things like that. As I reached my teen years, I began to write them asking if I could visit Imagineering. They would politely say “sorry” and that would be that—until the next time I got the urge to pester them. At one point they said “sorry” because they were working on things for the New York World’s Fair. I let time pass and then, when I was around 15-16 or so, to my great shock they responded with a “yes” if I could be there at such and such a time on such and such a date. I was in seventh heaven. I lived in Northern California at the time. I quickly, with the help of my mother, plotted out what would be my first flight on an airplane and how to access public transportation from LAX to Glendale—long before the days of the internet, GPS, and the like.
On the appointed day, my mother drove me to the Oakland airport. I was able to connect with public transportation and several transfers, had to walk perhaps a mile or so in very high heat (with the only sweater I owned, since we were quite poor at the time, in order to look like I was dressed up), and found my way to the building on Flower Street. I went into a small reception area where the nice lady at the front informed me that, unfortunately, I could not bring my little Brownie camera into the building. I waited a few minutes and a rather robust fellow came down the stairs, introduced himself, and took me through the magic doors. We walked past the shop area and onto the main floor of this very large hangar like building. He took me past a variety of things, including huge dinosaurs they were working on.
However, the thing that stood out and is ever present in my memory is how we ended up at this scale model set out on huge sheets of plywood and sawhorses of what I learned was to be Pirates of the Caribbean. We walked thru the entire mock up looking at each of the various pirates and scenes as he explained each one to me. I remember very well how he picked up the model of the pirate who has one foot on shore and one foot in a rowboat while carrying treasure and balancing numerous hats on his head. He said, “We’re still working with where we want to put each one of these.” It was as remarkable as it sounds. But let me say this: as a young intimidated and tongue tied teenager, I never queried him with all of the questions that today I, or any readers, would have died to ask—to my great regret now. We finished the tour by walking thru the areas where various birds, dolls, and the like were being outfitted and, eventually past his office. We looked in and there were numerous paintings on the wall, one of which I asked about. He replied that it was a “Blackbeard’s Island” idea he was working on. I later discovered that this was an idea for WDW. When we had finished, I once again navigated public transportation, made my way back to LAX from Glendale, and flew home.
You can believe me when I say that many sleepless nights followed. The entire affair, to this day and even after working at Disneyland, is like a fantasy dream. And, who was that masked man you say who spent precious time showing me around? None other than Mark Davis…
JEFF: I’m sure most people would love to have an experience like that these days. Consider yourself very lucky! Any other fun stories that you’d like to share?
RORY: One favorite was to watch the fellow who used to be in the Phantom of the Opera outfit.
He generally worked around our area and up to the theater there on Main Street that showed the old Mickey Cartoons. The mask he wore was a solid head piece and he was dressed in full regalia including a cape. He would walk about and such, but his favorite thing to do was to hold perfectly still or to lean against the wall and not move. People would walk by for a minute or so and some would come up close to see what they thought was a cigar store Indian sort of thing. Then he would suddenly move – not jump; simply move. It was scare the heck out of people. It would inevitably engender a scream (since he particularly liked doing this with women or girls) and then he would simply walk away. They would be left – or at least their friends would be left – laughing hysterically about how they had been duped.
It was great fun to watch because, of course, we knew what was going to happen each time. Don’t know whatever happened to him, but I haven’t seen him in the Park in many years.
And, speaking of the folks who dressed as characters: that was one of the hardest jobs one could do. The costumes have gotten somewhat better over the years with improved fabrics and the like, but on a typical summer day those folks would be drenched when they removed the head pieces of their costumes. My break area was the same as the characters who worked the Main Street area. Then, and now, they could only be out there for a short time before being required to take a break. Back then the poor folks would simply come out on stage by themselves. Today, each one has a person who accompanies them to watch out for people doing inappropriate things and to assist in establishing an organized line for pictures and autographs. I would watch some of the characters remove part of their costumes that would reveal black and blue shins from being pummeled by young children, some of whom would kick and pinch them. Once someone stabbed either Chip or Dale with a pen knife in the back! Some of the parents would, and still do, make outrageous demands and would be very rude or belligerent. Thank goodness those poor folks now have someone accompany them! It can be an exhausting job at times.
A big thank you to Rory for sharing his story with us!
A brand new book from a Disney Legend, as told to MiceChat’s own Jeff Heimbuch!
The Imagineers, those men and women who helped Walt Disney bring his creations to life, have achieved legendary status among theme park enthusiasts. It’s Kind Of A Cute Story is the life story of one of the most beloved Imagineers, Rolly Crump. Covering his long and varied career, including designing some of Disney’s most famous attractions and working directly with Walt himself, Rolly’s stories weave into a lighthearted yet riveting narrative of his life and accomplishments. Packed with over 200 photos, many of which have never been seen before, It’s Kind Of A Cute Story is a tribute to the life and work of a true original.
If you are, or know, a Cast Member who would like to share some of their stories and possibly be featured right here on MiceChat, please email me at [email protected]. I’d love to hear from you!
You can read older columns of From The Mouth Of The Mouse here!
Jeff can help you plan your perfect Disney vacation with Fairy Godmother Travel! Call him at 732-278-7404 or email him at [email protected] for a free, no-obligation quote for Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Disney Cruise Line, Aulani or Adventures By Disney.
Jeff also writes a MiceChat column titled The 626. We invite you to check it out!
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