BACKSTORY (JULY 17, 1955—PRESENT): At the end of Main Street, U.S.A., the Coca-Cola Refreshment Corner has been a guest favorite since day one. In the early days of the park, guests could also buy swimwear next door to the Coke Corner at the Cole of California Shop.
Besides tasty snacks, Coke Corner also features ragtime music for guests. Typically, there is a pianist in the outdoor seating area entertaining guests with their musical favorites; both Disney and non-Disney tunes. The talented Rod Miller was a long-time staple here, from 1969—2006.
Rod Miller brought joy to thousands 5 days a week at Disneyland for over 3 1/2 decades. Rod's distinctive renditions of ragtime favorites were one of the bright spots on Main Street U.S. A. at Coke Corner. Many guests dropped by the piano – the famous and non-famous all looking to have some fun. And fun they had when Rod performed.
Rod learned to play the piano by slowing down the player piano. Once he learned a song he then added his on special style. If someone requested a song he did not know, Rod would purchase a piano roll and begin to learn the song.
Rod began performing ragtime piano back in the 60’s at Shakey’s Pizza and Northwood’s Inn. A Disneyland talent scout watched Rod at the Maple Leaf Club and immediately knew who he wanted performing for the guests on Main Street.
Rod discovered an amazing young man who wanted to learn Rod's style of Ragtime music. Alan Thompson was a perfect student; he quickly learned the piano. One day while practicing together, they decided to try performing Ragtime on the same piano. This collaboration brought a unique show to the Disneyland guests. Four Hand Piano became a crowd pleaser at Coke Corner. Rod and Alan began arranging new material to perform with their Four Hand Piano shows.
From the Disney website:
Sit back on the shaded outdoor patio and enjoy a live ragtime piano player as you munch on crowd-pleasing eats like hot dogs, Mickey Mouse-shaped pretzels and hearty chili in bread bowls. Hosted by Coca-Cola.
Keith Palmer (high school buddy) got me the job at the Cox Thimble Drome at Disneyland just after my high school graduation in 1959. Being a lessee (working for Cox, not WED) our bunch would frequent Carnation Ice Cream Parlor a lot instead of the employee cafeteria. This was done in uniform, even though it was a no-no for WED people.
The Hamburger was really good. Another nice place to take a break was Coke Corner. Keith and I would try to get a window seat and have a coke and watch the people. There was a juke box and the girls at the Corner would put quarters in to keep the music going to promote people coming in and sales. We would play Ray Charles’ “Georgia” as many time a day as possible. “Doodles” Weaver would play the piano and sing quite a bit in Coke Corner around 1962 and it really was a lot of fun.