In another thread here, I mention some marketing hype on an old Disneyland Hotel brochure that may not contain the "whole truth." This got me to thinking...How many of the legendary stories about Disneyland are true, highly embellished truths or just plain false?
Just one story comes to mind. I had the pleasure of having lunch one day with Disney Legend Bill Evens. Bill was the one Walt selected to head up the landscaping of Disneyland back in it's initial creation, and who continued in that same capacity many years afterwords for Disney theme parks all around the globe.
I just happened to mention the oft-told story of the bulldozer operator. The story goes that when land preparation started out on the Disneyland site, Bill went around and color coded the existing trees on the property into 3 groups...Destroy, Remove For Relocation, and Leave Right There. 3 different color ribbons were tied around the various trees. Story is the bulldozer operator just started plowing away at almost every tree with a ribbon on it. When stopped and questioned what the heck he was doing, it turned out he was color-blind!
This story was printed back in 1955 in all the pre-opening Disneyland "interest" Press Releases and appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Register, Orange County Register and countless other newspapers around the world at the time. It's still published in various Disneyland history books and publications.
When I mentioned this story, Bill squinted his eyes and shook his head from side to side. "You know...I've always wondered who started that story! I didn't hear it until many years after Disneyland opened. I never did know where that started up, 'cause that never happened to my recollection!"
Interesting. Well I happen to know that Imagineering President (at that time) Marty Sklar was just a humble copy writer for Disneyland back in the 1950s, and that he issued almost all of those interesting stories about the designing and building of Disneyland, to the Press.
So one day I had the opportunity to see Marty and I brought up what Bill had told me and that Bill never recalled any such incident. I mentioned to Marty that I knew he was in charge of that kinda stuff back then and inquired if he had any knowledge of that story or the Press Release. Marty smiled and kinda stirred uncomfortably for a few seconds and then sheepishly admitted he might have embellished that one...or maybe just made it up altogether. I think he said something along the lines of they were desperate for interesting stories and well...the place was all about Fantasy, wasn't it?
I asked if there were any others that were just made up, and he just said he'd better plead the 5th on that one.
Bill later told me that he was on some panel with Marty at a Disney Fan convention somewhere, and right there Marty confessed to that one and apologized to Bill right on stage! He said they all got a good laugh out of it.
One story is true Bill said. The only remaining Orange Tree from the old groves that used to exist on the property pre-Disneyland, was over at the Disneyland Hotel in the "Oriental Gardens" section of the old 2-story Garden Wings of the hotel. It was still there a few years ago. I haven't been over to that section of the Disneyland Hotel since Downtown Disney opened. I wonder if that's still there or if it's gone now? Anyone know?