BACKSTORY (August 29, 1955—1982): Built of wood in the middle of concrete with a small amount of water surrounding it. Tuna sandwiches, tuna salad (served in mini boats), tuna burgers, and hot tuna pies were served at the Pirate Ship Restaurant at the counter below the deck. The Pirate Ship Restaurant was also known as Captain Hook’s Pirate Ship and the Chicken of the Sea Restaurant.
SKULL ROCK BACKSTORY (1961—1982): The Skull Rock Lagoon was added in 1961 and served as a scenic backdrop and seating area for patrons of the restaurant. Based on Skull Rock from “Peter Pan,” you could enjoy your food while listening to music & the cascading waterfall. Kids were often chased by Captain Hook behind the waterfalls and through the small caves. At night, the eyes of the Skull glowed green. Skull Rock & the Pirate Ship were both demolished in 1982 to make way for the “new” Fantasyland. The original intent was to move the Pirate Ship near the Storybook Land entrance and recreate Skull Cove, however, the ship (which had either been replaced by a concrete version which was more stable or reinforced with concrete) could not be moved in one piece without damaging it. There was no money in the budget to rebuild her, so she was taken apart instead. The mermaid figurehead was to be removed and saved, but fell out of the sling and broke into many pieces from an Imagineer’s truck when it went over a speedbump. Some sources say that the rigging from the ship was re-used in the Tinkerbell Toy Shop. Rumors have also persisted that some pieces were salvaged and re-used in the Disneyland Peter Pan attraction, but based upon comparison photos, this seems doubtful, and there is no documentation for this, either.
In the 1965 shots you’ll notice that the sails are unfurled; perhaps for the Tencenniel? Not many people speak of the food at the Chicken of the Sea. I remember getting a HOT tuna burger w/chips and a root beer lunch, and sitting by the waterfall skull and enjoying the shade. It was one of the nicest places to eat in that area, unless you would go all the way down to Main Street. It was an easy walk from the Flight Circle in Tomorrowland, and was a good price. Employees were to eat away from guest areas, but we got away with it because we were lessees. And, skull rock was a great place at night with all the colored lights and running water.
The Chicken of the Sea boat had tables inside for a while, but they seemed to disappear after awhile. We all assumed that it was too small an area for eating, and it took more staff to clean up. The outside area was cleaned by WED people, not Chicken of the Sea people. That kind of thing seemed to go on all over the park. They also seemed to turn off the water flow at the bow of the ship after a while. Maybe replacing the pump became costly. Walt would have never let that stuff slide, but in the last few years of his life we did not see him at the park much.
My favorite place to have lunch is shown in the photo above (on the bench against the rocks). I can smell the steamed tuna on a bun now. Notice how the shadows seem to be stretching to the west, so I would say it was early morning before the park opened. About the guys in photo #2:The cast member on the right is waring a pea coat and deck shoes (my guess is he’s a Chick-o-the-Sea guy), and the older man on the left is dressed in the usual “sweeper/maintenance” duds. Both seem to be placing a table in just the right spot. My feeling is these photos are by the Disneyland records/history people. The park before opening is a magic time, even today.
PIRATE SHIP TO HAVE NEW AND EXOTIC SETTING
By the time you read this you'll be aware that the Chicken of the Sea Pirate Ship is closed for extensive rehab. It is scheduled to reopen about December 15th.
Isolated by craggy cliffs covered with lush tropical foliage willbe "Pirates' Cove," where the Park's well knwon Pirate ship rides at anchor. WED designers have included in their plans the familiar landmark of Skull Rock from the Peter Pan story with three waterfalls cascading from rocky heights.
A new outdoor eating area is being developed directly behing the ship. Visitors will see casks, chests and other items usually found among a sailing ship's stores along with pirate booty stacked on the shore as though just unloaded from longboats. Cocoanut palms will tower over sunshades made of gaily colored and tattered sails supported by splintered oars and spars. Nestled underneath, overlooking the water's edge, will be tables and chairs patterned after the reed furniture of the tropics.
An outdoor stage, disguised as a wharf, will jut into the cove and immediately in front of it will be a dancing area paved in beautifully polished stones and will be complete with sound equipment for possible use as a Date Nite area next summer.
Waves will wash the Ship's bow and the "sandy" beaches as though driven by gentle tropical breezes and half-buried in the "sand" will be pirate treasure.
This major face-lifting will not only add to the already exciting atmosphere of Fantasyland, but will also expand the guest capacity of the Chicken of the Sea Restaurant as well as imrpove the flow of guests through the Ship. The interior of the ship will undergo some minor changes and be refitted in the best of pirate and dining tradition.
“Love the pictures of the interior of the ship. I haven't seen it in 40 years. The picture of the two ladies serving....the one on the right with the red blouse is my grandmother. She managed the restaurant from the early 1960's to about 1974. I went through a LOT of sandwiches on that ship!! I don't know where you found those but Thank You!!!! She taught me how to make the tuna the same way she did there and I've made it the same way ever since. I could never get used to the sweet pickles, though.”
How about you? Can you handle the sweet pickles?
Daveland reader Don Fisher submitted a photo of a vintage trayliner that he has saved for many years (as well as one of himself at the wheel of the ship, above). He has very fond memories of this particular restaurant.
“I remember the tuna burgers they served there. As a matter of fact, I saved one of the tray liners that has the tuna burger recipe on it. I believe I acquired it about 1969-70; I was in the Navy at the time. It is too bad that the restaurant closed down.”
Don–I couldn't agree more! Obviously from the plethora of photos taken over the years, it was a guest favorite! Too bad it couldn’t have survived the 1983 move.