BACKSTORY: The west side of Disneyland's Main Street U.S.A. has some of the most popular shops and restaurants in the block, including the Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlour, The Penny Arcade, and the Carnation Café. Use the index below to find photos of your favorite, or possibly one you haven't discovered yet. In addition, you can find a link to a diagram of Main Street that shows you the tenants that have come and gone over the years.
The Horse-Drawn Streetcars
…are composite reproductions of 19th Century streetcars and were built at the Studio Coach Shop. “Imagineers” at WDI built the four streetcars by working from photographs of earlier authentic vehicles. There is no other place in the world where time is deliberately pushed back more than 100 years to make it possible for a guest to experience the sensations of feeling, seeing, hearing, and even smelling everything associated with a turn-of-the-century “hay-burning Oatsmobile.”
The Horseless Carriages
…are sometimes called the “1903’s,” but you could pick any year – 1904, ’05, or ’06, and be just as accurate. These little cars are of WDI “composite” design. On the basis of extensive research, Studio designers created a horseless carriage which was a composite of the design and size of many gas-driven cars of that early period in automobile history. The Horseless Carriages are a little bit of everything. The two-cylinder engines are actually not auto engines, but have the horsepower, the sound – and even a slight case of the shakes – as did the originals. WDI designers selected today’s most efficient two-cylinder water pump engines. Some of the external parts, such as lights, are authentic.
…is a very nearly authentic reproduction of Fifth Avenue busses which were the main mode of transportation in turn-of-the-century New York. Some are still in operation there. Only one authentic part, an old electric klaxon horn, is used. The drop frame chassis is from a modern-day truck, and the bus has both power steering and power brakes. Certain adaptations in height and seating to provide greater comfort, safety, and convenience for our guests were made by Studio designers, but the busses are as nearly authentic as possible. The motor takes advantage of modern improvements which provide for better operation—and no smog.
The Motorized Fire Engine
…is similarly a composite design based on a 1916 hose-carrying fire engine. The primary change we made was to place seats where the hose was carried. The Studio men designed a chassis, then pored through standard catalogues for unlikely, but practical equipment – a jeep rear axel, a three-speed truck transmission, the power plant of a small pick-up truck and standard drive-line parts. The bell and siren are authentic, purchased after considerable search. At the turn of the century, gas-driven cars were considered a novelty—and a hazard—lacking the reliability of a horse. Motorized fire equipment was merely supplementary to the more respected stead. It debuted on August 16, 1958. Walt Disney loved to drive it around Disneyland in the mornings before the park opened. According to Daveland reader Cox Pilot: "They used to park it out under the cover for the busses near the locker rooms when the rains came. I understand that the timing on the engine was greatly retarded to give it that putt-putt sound."
This Bob Gurr quote came from the Disneyland Compendium: One day in the spring of 1958, Walt comes into my office as he usually does and he just sort of sits there and I looked at him and I said, "Walt, you know there's one thing we haven't got in Disneyland! We don't have a fire engine on Main Street!" And he said, "Yeah, we don't have a fire engine." Privately, I wanted a fire engine and I knew that everybody else told me that the only thing that ever goes into Disneyland…those ideas come from Walt, they don't come from anybody else. But I wanted a fire engine. Anyway, he goes away and a little while later Accounting phones up and says, "The charge number for the Fire Engine is…" so I knew that Walt had gone to Accounting and had decided we're going to have a fire engine. That's the only attraction in Disneyland that's my attraction.
The Touring Car
…is the Grand Marshall vehicle with a uniquely Disney touch—Mickey Mouse tread designs on all four tires and the spare tire attached to the rear. The car carries guests of honor down the park’s daily parade route in grand style. To fit the theme of Main Street, U.S.A., the Grand Marshall vehicle was designed after a 1912 touring car and can fit up to 11 guests. The design also allows guests in wheelchairs to board easily and ride in the main seating area. A wheelchair lift is built into the undercarriage that remains hidden until needed.
The Horse-Drawn Fire Wagon/Chemical Wagon
…in the Fire Station at Town Square's City Hall is authentically reproduced from pictures. The hats, axes, and other props inside of the Fire Station are authentic. The Fire Wagon is part of the show, but is no longer used on Main Street, U.S.A. at Disneyland to carry guests; instead, it makes a great place for younger guests to explore and to have their photo taken. You can see more photos of the station and wagon here.
…were also reproductions from pictures of surreys found in Standard Vehicle Catalogues. Necessary parts were located or made by Owen Pope. Owen and Dolly Pope operated the Pony Farm when the park opened in 1955, and did the original design and construction of the surreys. The Pony Farm is now the Circle D Ranch. To save wear and tear on the ponies, surreys have always been made as lightly and delicately as possible. Because of the great number of guests carried, the wheels were made sturdier than those on most catalogue models—another factor that was built into the attraction. Although the surreys were part of the show when the park opened, they are no longer used to carry guests. Today they can be found on display in Big Thunder Ranch.
The Carnation Delivery Truck
Except for Ford Model T wheels on a Model A chassis, this truck os of 1910 design. It formerly was parked on West Center Street outside of the Carnation Ice Cream Parlour. It was built, using Bob Gurr's drawings, by Carnation workmen at Carnation's Atwater Village plant (near Glendale.) Its original function was to be a working truck to bring products from backstage to Main St. each morning, then be parked as a sort of "billboard" for the rest of the day. As Gurr himself tells the story:
"An early sponsor at Disneyland was the Carnation Milk Company. They wanted to have an antique delivery truck parked on Main Street right in front of their Carnation Ice Cream parlor. Walt had me design an antique looking truck, which Carnation built right in their own truck maintenance shop in Glendale.
"I based the antique design on a “modern” 1931 Model A Ford chassis. A friend made a custom radiator emblem for it naming the truck.....Gurrmobile. I used to get a kick out of 'know-it-all' guests who would tell others how they remember the old Gurrmobiles that were built in Los Angeles long ago. For years it served as a photo-op prop in front of the ice cream parlor. When folks would take each other’s photo seated in the cab, behind them would appear the words 'Carnation Milk'…clever publicity."
It was removed during the 1970's when the Parlour expanded its seating area into West Center Street and moved to the back lot where it sat for a number of years. In the late 1990's, the manager of the Carnation Farms located in Carnation, Washington and home of the founder of the Carnation Company was given the truck for the museum at the farm. The truck was restored and repainted and is now on display at the farm. It even occasionally motors around the farm at special events.
From the Mickey Mouse Club Magazine of August 1957 comes this information:
Brand-New Old Automobiles: UNIQUE ANTIQUES
Those delightful, brightly-painted antique autos, trucks and buses one sees at Disneyland have a special charm for everyone. It is fun to see them, but even more fun to climb aboard and putt-putt down Main Street toward Sleeping Beauty Caslte. Building them was fun, too.
First, two autos of the period around 1904, with two-cylinder low speed engines, were constructed. All parts were similar to those used in the cars of those early years, but they actualy were brand-new stock parts*. The resulting vehicles were antiques but they were of no particular make of car, and being completely new they were unique. A Carnation delivery truck, in the style of 1910, was also built. Then came a double-decked omnibus patterned after Frnehc and ENglish buses of 1908. It was such a hit all who rode in it that a second one was built. All of these colorful vehicles, designed and constructed by Robert Gurr and a group of experts, are referred to as Gurrmobiles.
*Bob Gurr himself told me that he felt it was much more logical to use standard parts already available than to create something newfangled; his theory (which makes a lotta' sense) was that whenever something was broken or needed to be replaced, it would be much easier to repair.
The Book Store and Candle Shop were located in the north end of the southwest building on Main Street, with an entry into West Center Street across from the Carnation Ice Cream Parlor and the Flower Mart. Part of the original concept of Main Street was to mimic the businesses found in the typical turn-of-the-century America small town. In addition to the Emporium, there was a music shop, a tobacconist, a bank, City Hall, General Store, Pharmacy, etc. My Mom and Dad were Disneyland fans before my birth. We made trips at least annually, so Main Street was a familiar place in my youth. We usually saved Main Street for last and spent a leisurely walk going through our favorite parts.
My Mom loved flowers; she had a big flower garden on the farm and she loved to walk through the Main Street Flower Market to admire the artificial bouquets. For some reason, in the early ‘60’s, plastic flowers did not have so much of the “cheap” cachet they have today. Artificial things were shiny, bright & new, we liked them. Back then, everyone had plastic flower arrangements in the home, nice restaurants had them on the table, and Disneyland had every shape and description in the Flower Market on West Center Street.At the far west end of the Flower Market, the door into the south building led into the Book and Candle shop, since in the era before electricity, or even gas, candles were a daily use necessity for most households, and every town had a book shop. This combination shop lay right in our path to the parking lot. You can see the location in the map at this link.As fashion would have it, candles became a feature of pop culture in the mid-1960’s with bright colors, exotic scents and all manner of accessories, holders, and candlesticks to match. The old style dipped tapers were retained only as props and the Flower Children’s vision took over the shelves. Mom loved this too, she bought several plastic flower and candle arrangements over the years. I don’t recall that any of this merchandise was explicitly “Disney” or had any kind of brand or movie tie-in at all; it was just the sort of fairly expensive, tasteful (for the era) gifts you would find at Macy’s or another specialty store.I was an early reader and I was fascinated with the book shop, it was very well designed to sell to children, there were free-standing tables with display panels for large-format books only inches off the floor, right at little kid height. There is a great picture at this link. When I look at that picture, I remember sitting on that checkerboard tile by that little table.For years, my souvenir of each trip was a book. When I was younger, there were books about the Disney movies; 20K Leagues, Bambi, Pinocchio, etc. As I got older, there were other titles, too, such as science-related books on physics, natural history, dinosaurs, etc. These had subtle connections to Nature’s Wonderland, Tomorrowland, Adventure Through Inner Space, the Grand Canyon and Primeval World, etc. but these were not Disney-branded or marked as a tie-in. There were books by Disney, of course; some even tied to the Disney TV Show like “One Day at Beetle Rock”, but not everything, or even most, were Disney titles. I still have many of these books, both cartoons and science books. I read them to my children as they grew. I can’t read them anymore; something keeps getting in my eye when I do, and so I put them away.Disneyland was a lot more fun when Main Street was a special experience, found only at Disneyland. Once upon a time, you could get a feel for life in the 1890’s by visiting Main Street. Now it’s just a big mall.The Disneyland book store became less interesting when the books all became “comic books” about the characters, Main Street became less interesting when all the shops changed from (simulated) real places into “Disney Stores”. I can go the Disneyland Emporium now by walking to the Disney Store here in my home town; it’s all the same stuff. There’s nothing wrong with hats, key chains and princess costumes, but there used to be so much more.Don’t mistake me; modern retail design owes a lot to the visionaries at Disney Studios. We are all so used to “themed shopping” now that we don’t realize how drab and dull regular shops were in the 50’s and 60’s. The concept of a single huge building expensively dressed to look like a lot of little ones is done everywhere now, mostly at shopping malls or casinos, but Disneyland did it first. Main Street is the grandaddy of the themed mall, combined with a museum.The little boy grew up and his parents grew old. They stopped going to Disneyland alone and he moved a long way off, so he couldn’t take them. Somewhere along the way, the Flower Market was taken out as tastes changed, the Candle Shop was remodeled into something else, the favorite haunts of childhood disappeared and Mom and Dad faded away into photographs. When I visit the Park now, my children are patient while I make sure to spend at least one evening retracing steps, remembering that little boy with Mom and Dad.
Whether you have a discriminate sweet tooth, or are a blatant candyaholic, chances are that during one of your forays into a candy store you've experienced a sugary confection whipped up by the Candy Palace's LEE HIGHT. Lee has spent almost three decades in the candy business, save for two years in the Army and a stint with Union Oil.
Starting at 19 as an apprentice at Currie's Candy - "home of the mile-high ice cream cone" - Lee, a native of Long Beach, developed his candy making expertise at Good Humor, McClendon's, Wheaton's and Knott's Berry Farm before arriving at the Magic Kingdom in 1963, when the Candy Palace was still a lessee of the Adams and Brooks Candy Company.
The six other members of the kitchen's crew - "an outstanding group," says Lee - have each been trained in the "art" of candy making by Lee himself, and several items initiated by Lee have become staples in the Candy Palace's line of treeats. He's also called on frequently to create special edible centerpieces and decorations for numerous Park events.
Lee, his wife Dorothy, and their four children spend leisure time traveling - a trip to Texas, Oklahoma and Coloardo is on the horizon - and Lee also enjoys baseball and growing vegetables in his garden, including "the biggest zucchini this side of the Mississippi."
Yes, he still lives in Long Beach, and no, he "never makes candy at home."