Walt Disney World Vintage 1980

Written by Jeff Heimbuch. Posted in Disney, Disney History, Disney Parks, Features, From the Mouth of the Mouse, Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World

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Published on May 15, 2013 at 1:01 am with 10 Comments

In today’s From The Mouth Of The Mouse, we talk to Scott, who worked Custodial at Walt Disney World in the 1980s. He has some unique experiences with how third shift folks worked, and how different Disney Parks are run compared to other theme parks.

Let’s hear what he has to say!


 

JEFF: How did get into Disney to begin with? Any specific memory as a child that made you fall in love with it? 

SCOTT: Our family went to Disney World sometime around 1972. I would have been 7. The one thing I remember is that we had to have tickets to ride the rides. Different rides would have different tickets. As I grew up, I enjoyed watching Wide World of Disney on Sunday nights (I think) but I really did not become a “Disney Nerd” until I worked there. I became so fascinated with all the things that happened behind the scenes to make this such a magical place.

JEFF: You worked as Custodial during your college program, right? Did you choose to work that or was it assigned? 

SCOTT: I did not choose Custodial, and to be honest, if I could have chosen, I would not have chosen that. Boy would I have made a mistake! Since this was a college internship and my major was Environmental Health, Disney placed me in Custodial. I am not sure that I learned much about Environmental Health that year but still the experience was invaluable.

When I would talk with my co-workers, I thought working a ride (like Jungle Cruise) would have been a great job. But shortly after they started their jobs, they were bored with the same script, while I was able to constantly interact with the guests. I soon knew I had the best job at Disney.

JEFF: What was a typical day like for you?

SCOTT: I would normally work the closing shift. Our day consisted mainly of sweeping the streets. Popcorn was our arch nemesis. And although Disney did not sell chewing gum, we would still have to scrape gum on a regular basis. We would also polish water fountains and empty trash receptacles. I would always request to go on break after I did trash duty so that I could get a clean uniform after doing trash. The trash collection system is phenomenal. It is collected and then placed in a large hopper where it is vacuumed into large pipes in the Utilidor. From there it would travel to a central collection system. The six months that I worked there I can never remember the vac system being broken.

The biggest part of the day was the parades, especially the 3:00 parade. We would be standing by, and as soon as the parade went by, we would have to get the streets cleaned as quickly as possible. We would use push brooms and our Lead would have a large industrial vacuum cleaner with a chopper on it to clean the streets.

The worst part of the job is when we were asked to report to a ride with Voban. We knew then that a guest had thrown up and we were requested to clean it up. Once we had a young foreign girl use the restroom in the middle of the street in Frontierland, and yes, I was the lucky one to get to clean it up.

The best part of the job was being able to take the time to answer the guest’s questions and to talk to them. Disney was very particular on the Custodial staff knowing the answers to all questions or being able to find out the answers quickly. They also did not frown on us spending time to talk to the guest.

JEFF: Did you have a favorite area to clean while you worked there? 

SCOTT: My favorite area to clean was Frontierland (where I later became a lead) because of the location (I could watch the steam boat go by), getting to go to Tom Sawyer’s Island, and being sandwiched between Liberty Square and Adventure Land.

JEFF: Any times you can think of that you went out of your way to make a guest’s visit more magical?

SCOTT: The one thing that I remember is if we ever found a lost child, we were to take them to the train station on Main Street. To make the child feel better, we were able to get them any snack they wanted along the way (ice cream, popcorn, churro, anything). With so many childhood food allergies and dietary issues today, employees probably no longer do this.

I can remember getting to cut up with the guests on a regular basis. The Custodial staff also became very skillful with the broom and pan and we would sweep between the legs and around the back. Believe it or not I do not remember seeing any marriage proposals while I was there.

JEFF: Any other fun stories that you’d like to share, I’d love to hear them

SCOTT: I really enjoyed seeing Disney when it was closed. I had the opportunity to walk through rides such as the Haunted Mansion while the park was closed and appreciate all the work to get that ride to be as special as it is.

I worked as Custodial from January to May and then was promoted to Lead Custodial in Frontierland. In June I was told by my full supervisor to take off my watch because of its color and I refused (insubordinate and I was wrong). I was fired from Disney and I then went to SeaWorld where I worked for the rest of the summer. I know that I was wrong for refusing to take off my watch but I was a young punk who thought he knew everything. I was amazed in the difference in how the two parks were run. There is a reason why Disney is the best Theme Park.

JEFF: Can you expand a little more on the firing, and the difference you felt between working for WDW and SeaWorld? 

SCOTT: When I was hired, we were allowed to wear a watch.  I wore a blue and gray Swatch Watch.  I was promoted to lead in May, and in June, my full supervisor told me that I must take my watch off because WDW had changed the policy to only allow white, black, gold, or silver watches.  I refused to take my watch off because when I was hired this is the watch that I had worn since January.  When I refused, I was fired about a week later.

I learned while working at Sea World how much more effort was put into the Walt Disney World experience.  SeaWorld was a good theme park, but did not compare to the quality of services at WDW.  I am really appreciative to know how much work goes into the day to day running’s of WDW.

A big thank you to Scott for sharing his story with us! 

 


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By Jeff Heimbuch

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!

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About Jeff Heimbuch

Jeff has been in love with all things Disney since a very early age. He writes From The Mouth Of The Mouse and The 626 every week for MiceChat. He also collaborates on The Disney Review every weekend. Aside from that, he is one half of the devastatingly good looking duo of the weekly vid/podcast Communicore Weekly (the other half being fellow MiceChat columnist George Taylor), which you can find at www.communicoreweekly.com Jeff is also writing a book with former Imagineer and Disney Legend, Rolly Crump. You can find out more about the book at www.itskindofacutestory.com

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10 Comments

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  1. Anyone who was a kid in the Eighties will know how important those colored Swatches were to us!

    • Yes indeed. Those watches were a status symbol.

      It’s an interesting trend to hear custodial employees talk about how great their job is. Most folks wouldn’t expect that. But they seem to be the happiest cast members.

  2. 1980 and working in Fronteirland at Walt Disney World, had to be the “Best” place to be, with the new Big Thunder Mountain just opening. It really helped make Fronteirland and I’m glad they recently rehabbed it. I remember at 3pm every day, every one ran to see the canoes and the wet t shirt contests that happened with the 15 minute rains. Wonder if it’s still that way today. Big Thunder was the second new mountain in the park after 1975′s Space Mountain arrival. PD

    • I still have my “I skied Space Mountain” T shirt.

  3. I still have my “I skied Space mountain” T shirt from Walt Disney World. PD

  4. Looking at the picture from Main Street in the 80′s and a few things pop out, the vehicles are actually running, the trees in front of the Castle make the castle seem further away than it really is and look hard, because it is VERY VErY hard to see a stroller, wheelchair or ECV, and the people are actually dressed decently.

    • I agree with most of what you say but that looks like a staged publicity picture to me. It’s a little too perfect to be someone’s vacation photo.

  5. I know Scott! Glad that he finally got to tell some of his story. I always thought custodial would be a great job because it could change everyday. Now, I’m not so sure about protein spills.

  6. “To make the child feel better, we were able to get them any snack they wanted along the way (ice cream, popcorn, churro, anything).”

    Ha! That’s exactly what happened to me (see our Dueling Disney over Tom Sawyer’s Island). :p

    Thanks for another fun MotM, Jeff!

  7. I love reading the stories told by WDW and Disneyland cast members, and this was another enjoyable one. Keep ‘em coming Jeff!