BACKSTORY (July 17, 1955–Present):
"For those of us who remember the carefree time it recreates, Main Street will bring back happy memories. For younger visitors, it is an adventure in turning back the calendar to the days of their grandfather’s youth.” —Walt Disney
Inspired by Walt’s hometown of Marceline, Missouri & “Lady and the Tramp,” Main Street, U.S.A. is designed to resemble the center of a turn-of-the-century American town. According to Harper Goff (who worked on Main Street with Walt), Walt liked the photos of Goff’s childhood home of Fort Collins, CO., and many of the features of the town were incorporated. Walt’s personal apartment is above the firehouse; fully furnished but off-limits to the public. A lamp is kept burning in the front window as a tribute to his memory. Guest Relations is next door in the City Hall building. The buildings along Main Street, U.S.A. use forced perspective to appear taller than they really are. The false second stories of all the buildings are slightly smaller than the first stories, a few feet short of full size, and the third stories are even smaller than the second. If the original Disneyland architects had made the buildings a full two stories high, they would have looked incongruously tall compared to the castle in view at the end of the street. The shops are planned to take advantage of the fact that people tend to walk on the right side of the street: along the right of the street (as guests enter the park) are shops selling cameras and film, hats, and other items more likely to be purchased by someone starting their day at the park; along the other side of the street are shops selling toys and souvenirs and other items more likely to be purchased before departing.
The names painted in the windows are credits for some of the many people who contributed to the creation of Disneyland. Largely they appear as fictional businesses (gyms, realtors, dentists and the like), and they often refer to a hobby or interest that the person in question had.
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Tom E. contacted me and shared a number of fantastic vintage photos from his trips to Disneyland as a little tyke. Here’s Tom’s story:
I was born in Glendale, grew up in La Canada, and then Placentia in Orange County. My wife and I had 4 kids and had season passes for 16 years—I still love Disneyland. The wife and I go and sit on Main Street and just watch as the thousands of happy people stroll by on their way to different spots in the park. We sit there for hours and hours watching humanity pass by—everyone is so excited to be there. It’s pretty hard to have a bad day at the Magic Kingdom! We live in Valencia, so we still go as often as we can.
I still remember these early trips to Disneyland; I fell in love with the place instantly. I am the little dufus standing on the wall about to fall in the water (1961 photo, top row far right) by the Chicken of the Sea Pirate Ship Restaurant. Just seconds after the photo was taken, I DID fall in the water. I was yanked out quickly and taken backstage to a first aid station. They were all so nice to me, but my parents later confessed that the cast members were pissed at them. I guess I was one of the reasons they raised the walls and fences around the river!
I’m the smaller driver in the Midget Autopia photo (1959 photo, top row, #3). I was 4 and my brother Jerry in the car with me was 6.I remember thinking I was actually driving the car and that Jerry had the dummy wheel. I am including a shot of me with my LA Dodgers hat on taken with a KODAK Instamatic (polaroid ripoff attempt ) on Main Street in the Kodak Shop (1959 photo, top row, #4). The photo is still perfect 51 years later. The color pic is my family at the Magic Kingdom on June 28th 1999 for our oldest son Zane's 10th Birthday. He is now a 21 year old Marine Sniper with the Ist Battalion, 9th Marines Weapons Co.
Here is the text from the Live Narration of a Guided Tour, circa 1962 (previously started on this page):
Main Street is patterned after a typical, small American town at the turn of the century. All of the business establishments on Main Street were in business at the turn of the century or are of the same type as those found then. The gaslights are authentic and were brought from cities as Philadelphia, Baltirmore and some older sections of Los Angeles. There are many interesting and unusual shops along Main Street I'm sure you'll want to visit later. You might also like to stop by Carefree Corner, the official information and registration center here in the park. They have a registration book from each of the 50 states. They will be happy to present you with a souvenir copy of the Declaration of Independence. Incidentally, if you are just a bit worn out at the end of your tour, remember to stop by the Upjohn Pharmacy for your free vitamin pills. As we walk up Main Street I will point out the many shops to you so you may visit them after the tour if you like. A small sign above the east tunnel entrance states: Here you leave today and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow, and fantasy. Let's now go up Main Street U.S.A. for a look at the world of yesterday.
To resume your vintage tour, please go to the Adventureland page.
Each visitor to Disneyland brings away with him a different set of cherished memories of the Magic Kingdom. Some recall the excitement of the Matterhorn Bobsleds, others rmember the fascination produced by the Enchanged Tiki Room, while others enjoy the nostalgia created by Main Street, USA.
But almost every Disneyland guest recalls fondly the musical mastery of the Disneyland Band—one of the most unique groups of musicmakers in the world.
One of the only band sin the nation employed on a permanent, year-round basis, the 16-man aggregation plays Dixieland, pops, marches, novelty tunes and almost any other kind of music requested by its legion of admirers. Noted for its versatility and polish, the group has memorized more than 250 pieces and has a repertory of hundreds more.
The band is under the direction of Vesey Walker, one of America's truly great bandmasters. When Vesey Walker led the newly formed Disneyland Band down Main Street USA for the first time in July, 1955, he must have expected favorable public response to the musical renditions of the colorful group. But no one, even longtime bandmaster Walker, could have anticipated the universal acceptance and popularity that greets the colorful band in Disneyland.
Nine years, and thousands of parades and concerts later, the Disneyland Band has performed from all 50 American states and more than 100 foreign nations. And, with Vesey holding the baton, it has greeted dignitaries ranging from King Mohammed V of Morocco to former Presidents Harry S. Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower.
The band and its selections are met with smiles and active participation in Disneyland, as oldsters listen with fond memories to the favorites of yesteryear, and youngsters march and prance in time with the music.
Frequently Vesey offers the baton to the very youngest member of the audience, as the band performs around the flagpole in Town Square, on Main Street—to the delight of both child and adult members of the listening audience.
Vesey Walker is a past master at band organizaiotn and direction, and has won more than 50 prizes, ranging from state to internatitonal comptetition, during his long and colorful years as a band leader.
Born in England, Walker came to the United States in 1912, and shortly after World War I became bandmaster of the Milwaukee American Legion Band. Under his direction, this band won four national championships for the American Legion and the international band contest in Geneva, Switzerland in 1934, as well as an Elks national competition and a Veterans of Foreign Wars contest.
Before organizing the Disneyland Band, Vesey was a bandmaster of the Los Angeles Elks 99 band for 21 yewars, leading the famous Elks "Toppers" marching band in the Rose Parade at Pasadena on New Year's Day for many years. He also organized and taught two boys bands in Los Angeles, including the Sheriff Biscailuz band and the Inglewood Boys Band.
In 1955 Vesey was asked to put a small band together at the opening of Disneyland for a two weeks engagement—and both the band and Vesey are still there.
Impressive as Vesey's talents are, a bandleader is only as good as his musicians—and Vesey has the best. From assistance conductor Jim Barnsgrove,r who has played with Jack Teagarden, Tommy Dorsey, and Jan Garber, to the classical background of Forrest Clark, who has performed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Ballet Russe, and was a soloist with Leopold Stokowski, the Disneyland Band is truly a group of professionals.
Other famous musicians with whom members of the group have played include: Stan Kenton, Woody Herman, Ray Anthony, Gene Krupa, Tex Beneke, and many many more.
Although they may have diversified musical backgrounds, the band performs in a manner which proves its close harmony and long experience together. In fact, in more than nine years of existence, there have only been 12 changes in the personnel of the band.
But it is not the past history that Disneyland visitors remember; rather it is the pulse-quickening and toe-tapping music the musicians produce today. Few indeed are those who can sit calmly by without reacting when the band plays the exciting "When the Saints Go Marching In," followed by "South Rampart Street Parade."
Although Vesey claims the band has no favorites, it is a rare day indeed that the band's 12:30 concert in Plaza Gardens does not end with John Philip Sousa's stirring "Stars and Stripes Forever."
In addition to playing as a full-sized band, the Disneyland musicians break up into three smaller groups, the Strawhatters, the Saxophone Quartet, and the Polka Band.
The Strawhatters play a rousing brand of Dixieland in the gazebo in Frontierland every afternoon, while the mellow sounds of the Saxophone Quartet fill Main Street daily. The Polka Band, whose tuneful renderings float over Fantasyland, usually can be found in the vicinity of the Matterhorn each afternoon.
From its first Town Square Concert at 10:15 in the morning to the Retreat Ceremony around the Disnyeland Flag Pole, the band brings an added measure to the pleasure that has become synonymous with the name of Disneyland.
Truly a talented and diversified group, there is one kind of music that Vesey Walker and his Disneyland Musicmakers play best—the music that Disneyland guests enjoy.
Howdy, vacationers. I'm the ol' Main Streeter. Been around Disneyland a long time now, spinnin' yarns and tellin' folks about Walt Disney's Magic Kingdom.
Most of the time you can find me sittin' 'round the pot-bellied stove in the Main Street Market Hosue, a swappin' stories with all our guests.
While fillin' my new pipe, I saw a short little man come on in to the Market House, and his wonderful brogue identified him as one of our many guests from Ireland. He walked over to a counter and hungrily eyed a delicious-lookin' piece of artificial cheese. He asked the storekeep how the cheese was sold. She replied, "It's wax, sir." He quizzically looked at her for a moment, then replied, "Well, I'll take a couple of whacks!"
Standin' next to two refined women watchin' Disneyland's impressive retreat ceremony at sndown, I saw one turn to the other, and in solemn tones say, "I'm so thankful Walt Disney was born."
Tour Guide Marilyn Hughes was watchin' a small boy named Steve, who was on her tour, leanin' over the water near the Mark Twain dock, watchin' the ducks swimmin' in the river. Fearful that he might fall in, she called to him, "Stevie, what are you doing?" A passin' man looked at her in surprise, shook his head and then approached her. "Do you know all the ducks by name?" he said.
Well folks, it's gettin' on to dinnertime…Think I'll stroll over to Aunt Jemima's for my favorite birthday treat: a Mickey Mouse pancake. It's been fun spinnin' these yarns for you, so drop in and say hello next time you visit Walt Disney's Magic Kingdom.
Most of the people who worked at Disneyland parked near the monorail next to Harbor Boulevard and had to walk past the guard gate and through a walkway under the Railroad. However, we discovered that if you had supplies to deliver (airplanes and fuel), you could drive in. We would park next to the Diorama/Cast locker room building. Wardrobe was downstairs and the lockers were upstairs. This was against the rules, but we got away with it a couple of times a week. Our show was every hour on the half-hour, starting at 9:30am. The last show was at 6:30pm. We worked a 10 hour day, 4 days a week.
The show lasted about half an hour, and if we didn’t crash anything, we could set up for the next one in 10 minutes. That gave us 20 minutes every hour to goof around, visit other lands, eat, and get into all kinds of mischief. If we had something special that we wanted to do, we could zip through the show in 15 or 20 minutes!
We would cross the park through the back roads. An example: If we wanted to eat at Aunt Jemima’s in Frontierland, we cut through the gate between the flying saucers and rest rooms, came out at the Plaza Inn (by the baby station), cut across Main Street, and over the Adventureland bridge. Then it was through the gate between the rest room and the Bazaar. That would bring us out a few steps from Auntie’s. We could make the run in about 5 minutes, eat, and be back for the next show.
We used to take naps in the parked Omnibus near the Diorama, eat lunch behind the 20K squid, explore under the moon ride (wood, wires, film strip projectors, and air pistons), and ride the train around the park for half an hour. Most employees didn’t have the freedom we had. I loved the place, and would even come out on my days off. Especially at night. Carnation Plaza was a big hang out for dancing.