Sunday, July 22, 2012

My favorite Disneyland story

Here's another excerpt from my book, THE ME GENERATION... BY ME (GROWING UP IN THE '60s).   Check out my website.  It's loaded with photos and videos, and here's the best part -- If you want to buy the book, you can!   Seriously!  It's for sale!  


But for now it's 1964.  We take a family trip to the Magic Kingdom.  

My other grandmother, Nana Pearl, surprised me later that summer by saying, “Fuck!” You don’t expect to hear your dear sweet old world, refined grandmother scream, “FUCK!!!” And at Disneyland no less.

The family made a sojourn to the Magic Kingdom and took Nana Pearl with us. At the time she was probably in her mid-60s. No one knew the ages of their Jewish grandparents back then. They all came over from Europe or Russia and no one arrived with accurate documentation. If Cher had entered the country via Ellis Island she’d claim to be 36 today.

But Nana Pearl was a kick. Always full of life. Your basic strudel-baking furniture-cleaning grandmother but game for anything…except…

Thrill rides.

So at Disneyland she was not interested in any roller coasters. We found ourselves at the Matterhorn bobsleds and of course Corey and I wanted to go. My father suggested Nana Pearl join us. He told her it was just a nice lazy boat ride. Dad has a mischievous streak in him. Either that or he was getting back at her for grounding him one weekend in 1939. Anyway, Nana Pearl agrees to go.

I’m in the back of the bobsled and Nana Pearl is in my lap. The sled slowly ascends up the center of the mountain. About halfway up she figures it out. That is when, for the first time ever, my grandmother dropped the F-bomb.

The bobsled begins hurtling down the mountain and all the while she is yelling, “I’m going to KILL him! If I ever get off of this damn thing I’m going to fucking KILL Clifford!” I didn’t help matters by laughing hysterically.

I think she chased him through three Lands.

My favorite Disneyland ride at the time wasn’t a ride at all. It was the Monsanto House of the Future. You just walked through this ultra modern house made entirely of plastic. A plastic house might sound ridiculous but when they finally closed the exhibit in 1967 and tried to demolish it, the wrecking ball just bounced right off of it. The one day demolition took two weeks.

Among the House of the Future’s visionary features – an oven that cooked food within seconds not hours, a TV that hung like a framed picture on the wall, telephones that allowed you to see the other party, and the most unbelievable wonder of all – a toothbrush that was electric! You would just push a button and the bristles rotated all by themselves! I’m sorry, this was beyond science fiction.

Like all kids, and probably adults too in 1964, we thought that by the year 2000 we’d all be living like the Jetsons. We’d all be flying around in space ships that folded into briefcases and even brushing our teeth without having to move our hands up and down.

24 comments:

katherine. said...

This evokes so many memories from my first visit to Disneyland...1966 I think.

I never heard either of my Grandmothers say the eph word. Or my Grandfathers for that matter. My own grandchildren won't be able to say that. smile.

MikeBo said...

1965 for me. My $5 "E ticket" pretty much got me a whole day at Disneyland. Plus you didn't stand in line for 6 hours for each attraction you wanted to visit. It was rumored that Walt Disney had a secret hideway in the Magic Kingdom and used to have the park all to himself after the tourists left. I'm also one of those who tend to believe that his earthly remains lie frozen somewhere in the basement of Sleeping Beauty's Castle.

Mark said...

I am grateful every day that the flying car thing didn't work out. There's no way that was ever going to end well. Maybe someday, when people master their turn signals, they can be granted access to a third dimension.

Anonymous said...

Love this story and the laughter it gave me this Sunday morning. You think they'll ever figure out that toothbrush invention? :-)

Reorge said...

There were similar exhibits of the future at the '62 Worlds Fair. I was enamored with the flying cars (of which there were none at the fair), and looked forward to the day when we'd all be flying everywhere, even if it made parallel parking even more difficult.

A couple of weeks ago, I saw a 'flying' car on YouTube - from Japan I think, and I thought, 'big deal, the Jetsons did that bit 50 years ago.' As Mark noted, it's a good thing that hasn't worked out!

Barefoot Billy Aloha said...

My first indication of your comedic brilliance was hearing the story of you buying a Mickey Mouse hat, having the vendor stitch a name on back...then ripping one ear off.

The name stitched on the back of the now-one-eared Mickey Mouse hat?

Vincent!

GRayR said...

I remember watching "Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color" back in the late 50's and through the 60's. But we did not have a color TV back then and it was the "Wonderful World of Black and White". When we got our first color TV in the 60's that show was one of the first we watched as a family. Great production, the color was the best of any show, and Fess Parker was my hero. He turned out to have a great business mind and started his own empire of hotel, winery, etc. in Santa Barbara.

My first time to visit Disneyland was about 61 or 62. We had our first vacation out of the state of New Mexico, and went to California. I had never seen the ocean and wanted to stay and play in the surf, but we had to go to Disneyland instead. Of course I loved it.

And as an aside, thank you Ken for being a damn good comedy writer. Thanks for bringing laughter into our lives. We need it.
Gary

Jeffrey Mark said...

It wasn't my grandma Helen that swore like a sailor, but her younger sister, My great Aunt Mary who did. Mary was a sparkplug...very crafty - lotta moxie that woman had. I remember one time when I was visiting LA sometime in the early '70s over at Aunt Mary's house. She was in her early '70s at that time, and she was talking about a cousin of hers who had recently come to LA from Russia. Mary was a very well-to-do woman who was the family member who would lend relatives money to help them out of a jam or something. So, I'm over at Aunt Mary's house and she's talking to either my parent's or someone, I cannot remember...and she says in her very direct to the point manner - in her very cool Yiddish accent - "You should pardon the expression...fuck the bastard!" No one sitting around the table flinched, but I was laughing my 14 year old ass off. Nice one, auntie!

Mike Barer said...

I have something to add when you write of Lloyd Thaxton.

MFlaherty said...

Okay, Ken, I am really going to resent the hell out of that seven bucks to Amazon if you are going to recycle every chapter. Thanks a lot. Plus, I recognized one of my favorite quips from the first four bucks I spent in the comments.

Rich said...

My late grandmother accidentally taught me a few good words when I was a baby. I wish I had DeLorean so I could go back and see the look on my mother's face when I, at the age of two, according to family legend, yelled out SON OF A BITZ at the supermarket.

RCP said...

Had a good (and much-needed) laugh with Nana Pearl - thanks!

My maternal grandmother would have been traumatized - not because of the trickery that got her onto the bobsled - but for what it would have done to her carefully coiffered hairdo (imagine yellow cotton candy swirled up into a crown of curls).

Ken Levine said...

MFlaherty,

The book is over 300 pages long. I've posted maybe 5%. Trust me, there are tons of fresh delights awaiting you.

YEKIMI said...

At the Amazon price of 14.93 that works out to .0496666666--- per printed page [even less if bought for Kindle]. Never been to Disneyland, closest I got was to Disney World but at the time it was nothing but dirt roads being carved out of the wilderness because they were just in the process of starting to build it as we drove by it on the move to Ohio. Did get to stop at the 64-65 World's Fair in NYC when we drove from Florida to our place in Maine. I do remember the Unisphere but most memorable for me was the fact that I actually found a quarter and a dime in the coin return slot of a pay phone (remember them?). What can I say, I was just a kid!

Lorimartian said...

I visited Disneyland soon after it opened. I must have been six or seven. I remember the Peter Pan ride. I was mesmerized looking down in the dark on the small city lit up below as the basket descended. When I later made that descent as an adult, I could see the fasteners that joined the interior walls together. Had they adjusted the lighting so it wasn't as dark, I wondered? Probably not...I was an adult now living in the real world and able to see more clearly in the dark, and those magical moments, now a childhood memory, could not be duplicated.

Paul Duca said...

I watched that clip of WHERE THE ACTION IS on the book website...I just thought you'd like to compare Paul Revere and the Raiders with these cavemen--Snooky Lanson and his pals on YOUR HIT PARADE in 1954:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LI5ef0LfCfo

(at 13:00)

DBenson said...

Vivid early childhood memory: Disneyland had a Bell Telephone thing featuring kid-sized phone booths with pictures of characters instead of numbers on the dial (remember dials?). Mom reached in and dialed Snow White -- I was torn between Goofy and Donald Duck. I was rewarded with a brief message from Snow that ended with something about a nice old lady at the door with apples. According to Mom, I was yelling at the phone when she said that.

D. McEwan said...

Great story. I just read one identical to it in a book last week. Love the photo of you and your brother and mom by the House of the Future. I'd still like to live in that house, especially if it was still located in Disneyland.

My first Disneyland visit was May 30, 1956, the day after my 6th birthday. My grandma went with us also but she, a Christian Science practitioner, never in all the years I knew her, ever used an unbroadcastable word where I could hear her, and believe me, she had a STRONG, domineerng personality. The highlight of our first visit was seeing Walt himself in Frontierland.

I have a photo I cherish of my grandparents and my great-aunt Erna standing outside the entrance to Disneyland in 1958. Erna, who had never been there before, is in heels. Grandma, who had been there with us, is wearing sensible, comfortable walking shoes. Only after you look at it for a moment will you spot what's odd about the photo. There is no one else anywhere else in sight. It's deserted.

In the 1950s, in the off-season, Disneyland was closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. When Grandma's brother, my great-uncle Herb, visited (Herb took the picture), Grandma decided to take them to Disneyland. But they didn't bother to look in the paper to see if the park was open. They drove out to Anaheim (from Torrence), found the place closed and empty, took this one photo, got back in the car and went home again.

D. McEwan said...

"MikeBo said...
1965 for me. My $5 "E ticket" pretty much got me a whole day at Disneyland. Plus you didn't stand in line for 6 hours for each attraction you wanted to visit. It was rumored that Walt Disney had a secret hideway in the Magic Kingdom and used to have the park all to himself after the tourists left. I'm also one of those who tend to believe that his earthly remains lie frozen somewhere in the basement of Sleeping Beauty's Castle."


Really? Because an "E" ticket, which was never more than a dollar, and usually about 75 cents, was not good for park admission (though admission in those days was only about $1), and would only get you onto one ride once. They didn't introduce "Passports" that were good for admission and all day on anything until the mid-1970s. Perhaps you got a "Magic Key" ticket book. If you belonged to the Magic kingdom Club (available where you worked) you could buy a Magic Key book, which was 15 or 20 "Magic Key" tickets and admission, for a fair price of maybe $5, maybe $10. The Magic Key tickets were essentially "E" tickets, in that they were good for any attraction.

Walt DID have a family apartment in the park. Most Disneyphiles are well aware that it was the second story of the Main Street Firehouse. They had to plug up the hole the firepole went down (To Walt's disappointment. He loved sliding down it to enter his park) after a couple kids shnnied up the pole into Walt's private family apartment. They were in the process of building Walt a larger apartment, directly above the entrance to the Pirates of the Carrabean ride when Walt died, so he never occupied that one. The Disney Gallery was installed in it for a few years, so I've been in that very nice apartment myself.

So yes, Walt would spend entire weekends living in the park. He did love to wander about when it was closed. He especially loved watching sunrises from Frontierland. Between when the park opened in 1955, and when Walt died in 1966, Walt never spent more than a week without visiting the park while he was in California. But he was never alone in the
park, because it is never empty. At all times when it is closed there are maintainence crews cleaning and repainting it. Always. 24 hours a day, there are always people working at Disneyland. Since the day it opened (actually since a few weeks before it opened) it has never been empty of people even for one second, not ever.

During the almost 30 years he worked at the park, Wally Boag, the great comedian at the Golden Horseshoe, also had an apartment in the park, directly above the Aunt Jemima Pancake house that borders Frontierland and Adventureland. His son Laurence Boag has great stories of being a kid (He was 6 when the park opened), and spending weekends and vacations with his dad living inside Disneyland. Laurence later had a career of many years piloting the Mark Twain. He's retired now. (And Wally passed away at age 90 just last year.)

Sorry to burst your bubble on the idiotic myth that Walt is frozen and kept in the castle (THE CASTLE????), but Walt Disney is buried in Forest Lawn in Glendale, California, just to the left of the "Freedom Masoleum". He is not frozen, and you'd have to be pretty gullible to believe he is.

Cap'n Bob said...

I was a teenager in upstate New York and all we had was a place called Playland. It was to Disneyland what Paris Hilton is to Meryl Streep.

Tim Dunleavy said...

Here's my favorite Disneyland story - as told by Drew Carey:
www.youtube.com/watch?v=-0FZBhSW_b4

Anonymous said...

I see Ken in your pictures that you look a lot like your grandmother. Is this that grandmother? According to my family I have Jewish ancestors and I HOPE it's true! :) It may be: I have an aversion to sports, carnival rides, picnics, sky lifts, dirt, dust, fingerprints, etc. I love Jewish people. Julie

Anonymous said...

Wow, that was a bit rude and needy. Is being nasty about perfectly innocuous comments your thing because, really, it adds nothing to the conversation.

MF said...

Hey, I was only kidding. I love the books; I laughed, but remembered a lot about what it was like to be there. Feel free to post 100%, or any fraction thereof.