BACKSTORY (July 17, 1955–Present): The East Side of Main Street has a number of favorite shops and entertainment, including the Main Street Cinema, The Magic Shop, The Market House, as well as The Silhouette Shop, where guests can be immortalized in a hand-cut silhouette. The Indian statue that stands near the Cinema was placed there because The Tobacco Shop was originally located behind it. The statue remained even though the shop is long gone.
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The rare shot at left shows a very young Steve Martin working the typesetting machine in the Magic Shop on Main Street, U.S.A. It appears to be Christmas time; Martin was about 15 or 16 years of age. He was a typesetter, and would put guests' names on “Wanted” posters. HeI wore garden gloves, for which he was mocked by the resident pro. Martin didn’t want to get ink stains on his hands, as it would look grubby when he did card magic. The photo at right shows Jim Kurtz doing the same thing, most likely in the Frontierland location. You can read more about Kurtz at the amazing Gorillas Don't Blog.
MASTERING THE TRICKS OF THEIR TRADE
Among the hallmarks of our typical American small towns at the turn-of-the-century were the quaint, cozy specialty shops which dotted the city streets. The young-at-heart of all ages would spend endless hours browsing through the aisles of these old curiosity shops—and our Main Street U.S.A. Magic Shop proves that times really haven't changed much.
Shelf upon mysterious shelf filled with such oddities as joy buzzers, garlic taffy, dribble glasses and rubber masks attract the wandering eyes of visitors to the shop—and sometimes the wandering fingers of some of the more youthfully enthusiastic guests! "We get kids grabbing at the tricks they're not supposed to grab," says Allan Street, "and you have to ask them politely to back off.:
The large number of small kids so naturally enchanted by the merchandise (illusions which can range from the simple "under a dollar" kind to some of the more elaborate stage tricks) can often prove a challenging audience for those Hosts and Hostesses who demonstrate some of the items.
"I get a fan club every day," says Rick Dotson, who's been in the shop for a month and a-half. Some kids who have figured out the mechanics of the tricks are prone to blurting out the secret while the sleight-of-hand is in progress, says Mark Nenaber, who's found that the best way to handle them is to remind them that others watching don't know—and often don't want to know—how the trick works.
Mark is one of the shop's hosts capable of performing some of the more complex feats. An accomplished magician since age 5, he, as well as the shop's Jim Everett and Chuck Lucas, belongs to the Magic Castle, a prestigious magician's club in Hollywood.
Despite the fact that they often do the saem tricks over and over again each day, the Cast Members claim that it doesn't get boring. "The reaction of each group is different," says Mark, "and you can play off those different reactions." Irma Quintana finds small children have the best reaction and are the most fun to perform for. "It really astounds them," she says. Many of the shop's Hosts and Hostesses find themselves learning from the guests. "I've learned a lot of tricks from people that come in to the shop, watch me perform and then say 'Let me show you one,'"says Jim. "We can exchange them."
Every so often the secret to a particular ruse is given away not by kids but rather by the fumbling fingers of the performer. "You have to keep going and play like it never happened," says Allan. "If you don't have a sense of humor, you'd never survive in here."
Ken Neufeld, a Magic Shop member for eight years, finds that a sense of humor is helpful for both guests and employees alike, since some of the shop's jokes and tricks can be a little surprising to the unsuspecting "vicitm"—things like bogus "mustard" and "ketchup" bottles that squirt their contents (colored strings) and books and lighters that give a surprising jolt of electricity.
Ken once found out first hand just how alarming some of the tricks can be. The shop sells large rubber spiders, and several are rigged on strings that can be controlled by the Cast Members behind the counter. The spiders can be dropped down to surprise guests browsing at the display racks, and Ken once landed one on a woman's head without her realizing it. He began to raise it for another try at startling her, but was shocked himself when her hair—actually a "fall" wig—began rising with the spider! A quick jerk of the string freed the pseudo-insect from the hair, and the woman left none-the-wiser.
The Main Street Magic Shop, with its variety of magic paraphenalia, jokes and novelties, attracts a greatlly diverse clientele, some of whom are fascinated by the shops "illusions of grandeur," and some who are just looking for "tricks to treat."
150,000 AND STILL DRAWING
Betty Bell, a 15-year employee of the Merchandising division in the Art Festival, drew her 150,000 portrait recently.
Betty started her career with Disneyland, January 3, 1957, as an artist at the Art Corner (which is now the Tomorrowland Stage Area) under the supervision of Jack Olsen. Jack is now Vice President of Merchandising Disneyland/Walt Disney World.
During her 15 years as an artist in Merchandising, Betty has drawn portraits in pastel of such people as Alan Funt, Lucy Johnson Nugent, many foreign dignitaries, and many other celebrities which she can't recall.
Betty is also well known for her oil portraits and her works of sculpture, which she does in her spare time. Spare time? Betty's spare time also includes construction and set decoration of the Disneyland Drama Club plays (including the recent "Lil Abner"), and make-up for the casts (for which she received the Drama Workshop's "Stellar Award").
Besides her active work schedule and hobbies, Betty is also busy with her family. She has been married for 24 years and has 4 girls, the oldest being 22, enough to keep any gal on the go full time - without a job or hobbies! Congratulations to Betty on a job well done!
From the L.A. Times on July 24, 1963: “An authentically decorated Mexican street exhibit will be opened Monday at Disneyland to celebrate a ‘Salute to Mexico’ sponsored by People-to-People, Inc., in co-operation with the Mexican Tourist Council. “Mexico’s former president, Miguel Aleman, now president of the tourist council, will act as official representative at the 11 a.m. dedication ceremonies. “The three-month exhibit will be a showcase of Mexican crafts ranging from pottery and jeweltry to contemporary art and bull fighting.” From the Pasadena Star-News, July 31, 1963: “Mexico Invades Southland—A beachhead based on friendship and mutual understanding has been established at Disneyland with opening of the ‘Salute la Mexico’ under the sponsorship of People-to-People, Inc. Teresa Lucero, 8, of Los Angeles and Patrick Wade, 12, of Anaheim, pulled the ribbon to officially open the display. Watching were Edmondo Gonzales, Consul General of Mexico in Los Angeles; Walt Disney, executive committee member of sponsoring group; Carlos Arruz, of Mexico City, and Joyce C. Hall, chairman of People-to-People committee.” Below are photos from what I believe to be the closing ceremonies on September 14, 1963.
George Hushman was kind enough to share some of his memories from his 1955 employment at Disneyland. Visit his website to view his photography and more nostalgia.
“In 1955, if High School graduates could get a job at Disneyland, that was a big deal. I didn’t work directly for Disney at the time, because most all concessions were farmed out. I worked for The Royal Tone Photo Company, at the Eastman Kodak store. All I did was sell film and flash bulbs; no computers or digital cameras in those days! The job paid $2.50/hr.; for my half-hour lunch break I’d walk to the Pavilion. Sunday, July 17, 1955 arrived with great fanfare as Disneyland was introduce to the world. Thousands of people converged on the city to be the first to visit the “Happiest place on earth,” bringing with them vehicles which caused “the worst traffic mess we’ve ever seen,” as expressed by one Police official. Lines of cars more than two miles long stretched “bumper to bumper on all roads leading to Disneyland, creating major traffic jams and short tempers as people waited in 87-degree temperature.” Extra Anaheim policemen and Highway Patrolmen were placed on duty to control traffic and deal with the additional safety responsibilities associated with Disneyland. Cars lined Harbor Boulevard from the entrance to the park to Katella Avenue. Many parked overnight waiting admission to the park. When asked by the Anaheim Bulletin to comment of the police activity, Captain Tommy Taylor answered, “Don't ask me how many cars we had from Disneyland yesterday...don’t even lead up to it.” An older man who lives here in Texas bought the first ticket to get into Disneyland; my sister was the third to walk through the gate. Everyday that I worked there, Walt Disney paraded down Main Street and greeted all his friends that came out to see the park; it was a big site to see. My music vocal teacher from High School, Sheldon Disrud, ran the Disneyland Choirs for five years; if he’s still alive, he would be about 85–90 years old now.*”
*A reader recently wrote that Mr. Disrud is still alive and in his 80’s.
James (Tex) Pardue, Assistant Manager of the Camera Shop has been selected as "Disneyland's Citizen of the Month." Tex is well known to everyone in Disneyland for his long, tall frame and congenial approach toward life.
"Tex" was born on a ranch in West Texas near the city of Big Springs. As a West Texan would say, "Born in the saddle." Tex grew up and worked there during his early life. Although he highly regards Texas, he loves California and its weather a little better.
"Tex's" hobby is golf and he studies his game with the same diligence that he applies to his work. Also, his number one object in golf is to be able to beat Bud Taylor of Merlin's Magic. With his determination, I will make this prediction — Mr. Taylor will join the ranks of the defeated at the hands of Mr. Pardue.
"Tex" lives in Santa Ana, and is married to a lovely lady, Rae. "Tex" and Rae have three children, one girl, Karen, and two boys, Dick and Charles.
"Tex" has been a part of the Disneyland family since the opening of the Park. He is the type of person any firm would enjoy having in their employ and we feel very fortunate that he works here.
LLT (Lawson Turk)
The licence plate (see photo at right) was because of the California State Law regarding taxes. My father was with the State Board of Equalization (taxes) and said that Disneyland was taxed like a town of its own. Utilities, streets and roads, motor vehicles, food sales, etc. The plate was a device to place the tax stamp (we know it as the licence registration renewal), and that ALL motor vehicles in the state must be registered and have a plate (even if only used on private land) which included farms and such. The vehicle also was taxed as a commercial carrier. Later, Disney got a variance to delete the plate, but still had to pay.