Aunt Jemima / New Orleans St.
BACKSTORY (1955–Present): Before New Orleans Square was built, Frontierland had New Orleans Street. This area had the restaurant Casa de Fritos (1955-1957), which then became the Silver Banjo Barbeque (1957-1961). When the Banjo closed, it became part of the expansion to give extra space to the restaurant on the corner of Adventureland & Frontierland, Aunt Jemima’s Pancake House (1955-1962), which became Aunt Jemima’s Kitchen (1962-1970), then Magnolia Tree Terrace (1970-1971), and then River Belle Terrace (1971-Present). Quaker Oats sponsored Aunt Jemima’s (until 1970), and until the late 1960’s, Aunt J herself (portrayed by Aylene Lewis) would appear and sing to guests. The menu included Davy Crockett’s Delight (4 “brown-as-a-berry” pancakes), Mark Twain Special (4 buckwheat pancakes), Golden Horseshoe Special (4 buttermilk pancakes), and Slue Foot Sue’s Favorite (a waffle). River Belle Terrace has been sponsored by Oscar Meyer, Hormel, and Sunkist. At present, it has no sponsor.
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In the Summer of 1970, I turned 18 and got a job at Disneyland in Aunt Jemima's Restaurant. It was as a "utility worker," which was really a bus boy. It was a great place to work and the crew was a lot of fun. I was there for the whole name evolution and it was River Belle (RB) Terrace by the time I departed. I think for a very short time they also called it Magnolia Terrace (sans the tree). They had a contest or cast member suggestion request to come up with the new name. I submitted Frontier Palace, which turned out to be a "no." A very strong memoryof mine is hearing the Mark Twain whistle and bell (as they were gracing the air) while I worked. Love that sound even today, and the name, therefore, is a good fit.When I worked at the park there were very few licensees operating (I think Sunkist and Mad Hatter); the rest was taken over by The Disney Company.Aunt Jemima's (and ultimately River Belle Terrace) was a very good restaurant back in the day; tried breakfast there a couple of years ago and sadly, it pales in comparison to the quality of yesteryear.
My folks lived near Brookhurst and Katella while I was in high school (Garden Grove in the 9th and 10th Rancho Alamitos in the 11th and 12th). I remember summer vacation had just begun after my sophomore year and I was already bored so my father suggested, as the song goes... "Get a job"! Never before having a job and not knowing even where to begin that process, but knowing I loved Disneyland I figured that would be the place to start looking. I hitch-hiked east on Katella to the park and paid the general admission, I don't recall that price (June of 1959). While passing Hills Brother's Coffee House and Garden on Main Street I happen to notice what appeared to be several teenagers working there as buss boys. I went up the hostess and asked if they were hiring and she referred me to a guy named Julio who was the manager but, at that particular moment was at Aunt Jemima's Kitchen in Frontierland. I later learned a firm called "Food Services Inc.", run by two brothers (Raul and I forget the other’s first name) Grisanti, were contracted some how by Hills Brother's Coffee, Quaker Oats (Aunt Jemima's) and Welch's Grape Juice to run their concerns in the park. Julio was a manager for Food Services Inc. I think Food Services Inc. may have later managed the Red Wagon Inn and possibly even the Tahitian Terrace but I am not sure.I hustled over to Aunt Jemima's Kitchen and there met Julio. He asked me my age I answered 15, he asked when would I be 16 and I answered August. He looked at his watch, it was about 9:15 AM then he said to me "Well you look 16. There is a kid that was supposed to start work for me here today and he hasen't shown up yet". He reached under the counter and handed me a partial used book of ride tickets and said "...go on a couple of rides and come back at 10:00 AM, if that kid hasn't shown by then you can have his job". I took the tickets and just walked around wishing evil things upon that kid in question. At 9:55 AM I reported back to Julio and as the restaurant was extremely busy, he gave me an apron and I went to work right then and there as a buss boy. I didn't even know what my pay was and I truly didn't care because after all, I was working at Disneyland. I found out later it was $1.10 an hour and I was independently wealthy.My most memorable moments occurred occasionally on Summer days while working the opening shift. Walt himself was frequently out and about in the park prior to opening and he would stop by Aunt Jemima's Kitchen for breakfast. After ordering he would sit at a table by himself in a small gazebo adjacent to the Rivers of America and "A.J.", as we called her, would deliver his order to him herself. (She was absolutely delighted to have that privilege and jealously guarded it). It was a quiet and peaceful few moments for him while he enjoyed his breakfast. During this same time of course the park's main gate opened and the day's guests began to stream onto Main Street. It wasn't long before guests trickled into Frontierland and shortly thereafter one or more would recognize Walt and approach him. Those first few guests were fortunate as he would greet and converse with them. Then as one might expect, the throng of guests rapidly began to grow and Walt would mosey toward Aventureland and to a graceful and grateful exit behind the scenes.It was fun to watch the reaction of folks when they first noticed the "Man" just hanging-out in that gazebo. There were whispers, shakes of the head and doubletakes, it was as if they couldn't believe it was really him. What a kick for them when they discovered it was truly him and for us working at Aunt Jemima's Kitchen 1959-1962 who were privileged to watch it happen.
Next door to Aunt Jemima’s was the Silver Banjo Barbeque. I was, as we all were, aware of Don DeFore because of his celebrity and saw him in person once. I remember we often exchanged food items with their crew as we tired of our menu items as they did of their's. We shared a common pedestrian passageway to the rear of the Burger Stand (UPT operated), the Silver Banjo, and A.J.'s. We met back there often during our work shifts while taking out the trash or heading to the break area etc. That passageway was narrow, paralleled the guest walkway to Adventureland and was separated from the guests by an 8' wooden screen/fence. I remember we even exchanged food items with the Casa de Frito's crew on occasion. Over the next 2 years while working for Food Services Inc. I worked as a busboy, dish washer, back grill cook, and front grill cook at Aunt Jemima's. At Hills Brother's I served as a relief busboy and relief kitchen worker. At Welch's Grape Juice Bar in Fantasyland I served as a relief counter service person.During my 3rd year with Food Services Inc., I ran their warehouse located back behind Tomorrowland, processing orders for supplies from all 3 locations and delivering said orders to the locations. I received and stored orders from our suppliers primarily S.E. Reykof & Co. I ran related erands outside the park in the company's Chevy Greebriar van. Other duties included maintaining/repairing every Bubble Globe fountained grape juice dispensing machine in the park. At that time United Paramount Theater (UPT Consessions) operated several fast food stands in the park, each having several of these grape juice dispensers and all of them, at one time or another, requiring maintenance service and that was my job. To this day, I don't like the smell of fermented grapes nor do I like the smell of wine.
The whole Disneyland work experience was great. I spent every weekend, holiday, and summer there for three years. Fond memories of my youth.
Aunt Jemima’s & The Silver Banjo: Keith Palmer (high school buddy) got me the job at the Cox Thimble Drome at Disneyland just after my high school graduation in 1959. The first thing, after getting a uniform from wardrobe, was to go to Aunt Jemima’s and have pancakes. The Park didn’t open until 9:30, but Auntie served employees starting at 7:30 am. What a treat! I remember going to the Silver Banjo quite a bit too, and the food was great. I would try to eat there at least every week. I always thought it was a shame that we lost it due to expansion. However, I did see Don DeFore there a bit, but park management didn't want us eating inside when celebs were around. I loved the old brick interior of Aunt Jemima’s before the renovation. It seemed too sterile after the 1962 changes. But, you could get your food a lot faster afterwards. Eating on the patio before the park opened was the best memory of all, and it was always crowded with big-wigs from the park (never saw Walt). I learned to like coffee from there, too.