Here we experience the story of our country’s past—the colorful drama of frontier America in the exciting days of the covered wagon and the stage coach…the advent of the railroad…and the romantic riverboat. Frontierland is a tribute to the faith, courage, and ingenuity of the pioneers who blazed the trails across America.” –Walt Disney
(1955—Present) BACKSTORY: Frontierland did not originally contain many attractions, but centered around wide open wilderness which could be seen by guests via Stagecoach, Pack mules, and walking trails. Early Frontierland included a Miniature Horse Corral from July 1955- July 1957. The Rivers of America, Indian Village, and Tom Sawyer’s Island/Pirate’s Lair are all popular Frontierland areas. The Mine Train Thru Nature’s Wonderland opened in 1956, consisting of a sedate train ride around various western landscape dioramas. Besides Mine Train, you could see Frontierland via the Mark Twain or the Columbia. Frontierland also contained a section of buildings known as New Orleans Street (featuring Don DeFore’s Silver Banjo Barbecue Restaurant and Aunt Jemima’s Pancake House) with a Dixieland Band Stand nearby on the edge of the Rivers of America. The Strawhatters, a Dixieland Jazz Combo, would play there often. The Chicken Plantation Restaurant (sponsored by Swift) was located across the river on opening day as well, but was closed January 8, 1962 to make way for the construction of New Orleans Square. The Band Stand was also removed at this time. Aunt Jemima’s Pancake House also closed in January, but got a new life as Aunt Jemima’s Kitchen, reopening July 17, 1962. For entertainment, The Gonzalez Trio used to sing in a little gazebo in the middle of Frontierland.
Be sure to check out BOTH pages of Frontierland photos; page two contains contemporary shots of this area.
New Frontiers at Disneyland
It's nice to live in Los Angeles. You get to go to Disneyland! I've been there quite a few times insce the Park opened last summer. Lately, the people at hte studio in Burbank have been talking abou how a lot of new rides have been put into Disneyland because it's the first birthday for the Park, and it's the first time it will be open for a whole summer. This I had to see! I got hold of a couple fellows I know and we went down there early one Saturday morning.
First, we headed straight for Frontierland. I wanted to ride the new mine train. So we stopped at the Rainbow Mining & Exploration Company, in a little mining town built right against a mountain called Rainbow Mountain. There's an old-fashioned, scale-size steam locomotive that pulls a string of regular little mine cars. We rode the mine cars through a tunnel and out across Rainbow Desert. We could see all kinds of crazy rock formations in the desert, like Coyote Rock and Inscription Rock and the Balancing Rocks. When we went by the Balancing Rocks the engineer of the locomotive blew his whistle and the rocks jiggled around from the sound.And then the train went into a pitch-black tunnel right in the side of the Rainbow Mountain, and there we were in the Rainbow Caverns. At first we couldn't see a thing, it was so dark. We came to a place where it was half-light, and you could see the walls of the cave with a lot of creepy looking rocks there. Then we got to the waterfalls which were many different colors. And they glowed in the dark. There was Bridal Veil Falls that looked just like a bride's veil, only golden. And Red Devil Falls was red, natch, and like a devil. The scariest was something called the Witch's Cauldron. This had red water falling down over the rocks in the form of an old witch. The water dropped into a big pot-type ting and then bubbled out. There was a falls called Dance of the Seven Sisters. It looked like seven women and when you watched them, they seemed to dance.
There were lots more falls, and some geysers, too. All of a sudden the train went round a bend in the cave, and we were back out in the sunshine, at the mining town.The fellows I was with got the Stage Coach then. They wanted a second look at that Rainbow Desert. And I took the Mule Pack Ride to see the 20,000 year old dinosaur tracks near the trail.We all met over near the Chicken Plantation, where we could get a Huck Finn Raft to Tom Sawyer Island. Every other time I've been to Disneyland no one could get on the Island, but now you can cross over on the rafts. Matter of fact, the river is pretty busy, what with the Mark Twain making its regular trip, the Indian War Canoes, the Mike Fink Keelboats, and the rafts.
On the Island, we went through Fort Wilderness first. That's a real log fort with a sort of catwalk on top of the inside walls. You can look out from it and see an Indian camp. And there are elk and deer and moose and cougar in the brush. At one end of the Island there's a settler's cabin that's burning like crazy. A guide told us it was the settler's cabin that's burning like crazy. A guide told us it was the settler's own fault. He had double-crossed the Indians, so they bured his cabin.Down near Lookout Mountain, across a suspension bridge that sways when you walk on it, is Injun Joe's Cave. It looks just as you'd imagine it from reading Tom Sawyer—with stalactites (those are the things that hang down from the roofs of caves) and stalagmites (they grow up from the floors of caves) and a bottomless pit. When you come near the bottomless pit, you feel cold air blowing you from out of the pit.
BACKSTORY: Eddie Adamek sold trick ropes out of the Blacksmith shop; he is visible sitting behind the counter in the detail shot (#2) from the 1956 photo at left (#1). On the countertop (to the left), you can see a slim white line. These are the tops of the trick ropes on display in their white wrapper. The authentic antique working cash register is to the left. On the right is an ad for the trick ropes that he created and sold. Actor/comedian/writer Steve Martin learned to trick rope from Eddie when he worked at the park back in the 1950’s; this came in handy 30 years later for his 1986 movie, “The Three Amigos.” The cover of the package for the trick ropes had a dark photo at its center of the cowboy Eddie Adamek twirling the rope. A very young Steve Martin can be seen from the back in this photo; he pretty much knew all the songs sung by the Trio Gonzalez by heart.
BACKSTORY: The original Sheriff Lucky was Lucky Fauntz (there were a total of 3 men that played that role). Fauntz had been a Los Angeles police officer and San Bernardino sheriff deputy. Frontierland had four gunfights a day. Black Bart is not named, but was possibly a gentleman by the name of Noah “Dick” Morrison. Later “bad guys” in the gunfights included Bill Hazel (started in 1961), George Brent, and Ray Lanier. The gunfights ended about 1963.
Daveland note: starting in 1961, Disneyland began the tradition of Grad Nite, an evening of fun for local High School Seniors. I was contacted by Barry who sent me the photo below, and he graciously shared his story of his 1965 Grad Nite when he was a student at Costa Mesa High School:
“I met Stephanie Shumate, the girl in the photo, after I was dumped by a girl who was too young to go to Grad Nite. I had wanted to talk to Stephanie all year long but never worked up the courage until I was left with no date and Grad Nite was a scant week away. We talked on the phone regularly until the time to go on graduation day.“I always thought that Grad Nite was one of the most important dates for a senior in Southern California, if your high school happened to do this of course. Not all of them did as it was a bit expensive but I always felt sure it was worth it. The Prom may be as important to some, but I preferred Grad Nite. Grad Nite was from 10 PM until the next morning the, day you graduate or very soon after. Only about ten to fifteen high schools went each night so it was not crowded at all and the lines for rides were very short. I picked up Stephanie in my old 1956 Blue Pontiac Convertible (the best Drive-In Movie car ever built) and then went to get my mom and grandmother so they could have the car overnight. The school didn’t want a lot full of cars! Then we all packed onto a school bus. My buddy Rick and his date (and future first wife Janis Minke) were also there and sat in the seat in front of us.“Stephanie was wearing a black knee length sheath dress and a light sweater. I had some suit of mine on since Grad Nite required ties and jackets for the boys. We did a few rides and talked all night, danced quite a few slow dances. For me it was the perfect night! We eventually went to get the photo taken of us as a couple in Frontierland. I was so pleased just to be with her but as the photographer told us to smile, she reached down and took my hand, which explains the deliriously insane grin I am wearing at the time. I am pretty sure we were not allowed on Tom Sawyer's Island at Grad Nite. Too many of us would have found our way into Injun Joe’s cave!“By the time the skies were getting light, we were heading back to the bus but we had really gotten along just great and we did have a lot of fun there and ate a bit too early in the night. I fell for her totally but I had to leave soon after graduation for basic training at Fort Ord. I was sad that I would not get a chance to see her for over 6 months. But that night was magic and I still think it was the sweetest date I ever had for a myriad of reasons. When we returned from Grad Nite, mom was waiting in the parking lot and I drove her home so I could take the car to take Stephanie home in a little privacy. We drove up to her home and then I pulled into the driveway just as she asked, and she sat with me in the car as we talked about a few trivial things. She would look up at me on occasion smile and gently close her eyes and listen to me talk. I must have been boring her to tears! After a while she dreamily looked up, smiled, and asked if I wanted to kiss her (I think possibly as a way to get me to shut up!) Wow! I didn’t have to be asked more than once! It is still to this day one of the best kisses I have ever experienced in my life by far. It is emblazoned into my brain cells forever. I think a full half of my brain has been taken up with that memory. After that was over and my heart was beating somewhat normally she invited me in for breakfast.“Not too much longer after this—3 weeks maybe—I left for basic training, but she had agreed to write to me while I was there. Letters were always nice in basic training since it was extremely lonely at times.”
Grad Nite Ticket courtesy of Tim at Vintage Disneyland Tickets.As a follow-up, many readers wanted to know what happened to Stephanie & Barry. As Barry replied:The rest of the story isn’t what I was hoping for. We wrote for a time but then I bet that having a boy friend in the army in the turbulent sixties wasn’t all that attractive and we just stopped writing. She of course never left my thoughts. When I got out in a couple years I looked for her and couldn’t find her (no internet then!). I married, had children, and then the marriage ended in 1983. So then I began a search for Stephanie again. It was years and years of letter writing and then in 2005 I managed to locate her two sisters living in their original hometown of Danville, CA. It was pure luck that they were found; one of them wrote to me to let me know that Stef had been killed in a hiking accident in the Trinity Alps of Northern California. She had slipped and fallen a great distance. She was hiking with friends so she had help as fast as it was possible but she had died at the scene. She will always be part of me.