Monday, July 16, 2012

Hollywood and 'The Disneyland News,' March 1956

One of the pleasures of having parents who were big Disney fans (and who never threw out anything) is to continually find treasures boxed among the family albums and memorabilia of my childhood. Today's gem is an original copy of The Disneyland News from March 10, 1956. Mom and Dad made their first trip to Disneyland in May of that year, when the park was barely ten months old. I'm not sure why the issue predates their visit by two months--perhaps they ordered it to get a sneak preview--but it's a great snapshot of what was going on in the park at the time and how it had already worked its way into the public conscience.

The paper has yellowed considerably over time. I've scanned these images in grayscale to make them easier to view.

Comedian Red Skelton takes control of the Casey Jr. Circus Train at Disneyland, March 1956

On the front page, Disneyland took great pride in the number of celebrities that had graced the park since its opening in July 1955. Comedian Red Skelton was pictured taking over as engineer of the Casey Jr. Circus Train.

On page 7, a photo essay spotlighted a host of famous Hollywood visitors.
"When Hollywood's famous relax, they are apt to do it much the way any of us will: a quick ride out the Santa Ana Freeway to Anaheim and Walt Disney's Magic Kingdom. Here they will often stroll unnoticed among the day's visitors, waiting their turn in a line or stopping for a snack at one of the refreshment stands, completely relaxed and off-guard."
I'm not sure how "relaxed and off-guard" they were. They seemed more than ready to pose for the official Disneyland photographers.

Child superstar Shirley Temple (Black), all grown up with kids of her own, took flight on Dumbo.

Shirley Temple and her children ride Dumbo at Disneyland, March 1956

Comedians Milton Berle (l.) and Jerry Lewis hopped aboard the Disneyland Stagecoach (and ended up on the crease of the paper).

Milton Berle and Jerry Lewis aboard the Disneyland Stagecoach, March 1956

At the Main Street Print Shop, for 50 cents, you could get your name printed on the front page of a souvenir version of The Disneyland News. Here, actor Pat O'Brien (c.), himself a star of the 1931 film The Front Page, gets his name above the fold and shares it with Golden Horseshoe star Wally Boag (l.) and print shop "proprietor" Joe Amendt.

Wally Boag, Pat O'Brien and Joe Amendt at Disneyland, March 1956

Meanwhile, ventriloquist Edgar Bergen poses in front of the TWA Moonliner in Tomorrowland with his wife, Frances, and his nine-year old daughter, Candice. She had somewhat of a successful career herself.

Edgar Bergen and his family in front of the TWA Moonliner at Disneyland, March 1956

Not pictured, but among the list of celebrities to visit the Magic Kingdom in its early days were Sid Caesar, Abbott and Costello, June Allyson, Dick Powell, Esther Williams, Alan Ladd, Vice President Richard Nixon (who would return in 1959 to dedicate the Monorail), Lana Turner, Rita Hayworth, Groucho Marx, Eddie Fisher and Peggy Lee.

Odds and Ends

On The Disneyland News masthead, Jack Lindquist is listed as the Advertising Manager. Jack joined the company in 1955, shortly after Disneyland opened. For 38 years, he worked for Disney mostly in a marketing and advertising capacity at Disneyland and Walt Disney World. In 1990, he was named Disneyland's first president. His memoir, In Service to the Mouse, is must-reading for any Disney fan.

On page 2 of The Disneyland News is a preview of attractions scheduled to open during the summer, "$1 million in new rides and amusements at the magic kingdom."  In Frontierland, Tom Sawyer Island is set to open to the public for the first time. Full of caves to explore, bridges to cross and rocks to climb, it'll make its debut on June 16. Crossing the Rivers of America from the island, you'll find "Rainbow Mountain," the planned home of the "Rainbow Mine and Exploration Company gold mine." On July 2, it will open as the Rainbow Caverns Mine Train, taking passengers on a mysterious journey through a cavern full of stalactites, stalagmites and colorful waterfalls and pools. The ride will be expanded in 1960 to become the Mine Train Through Nature's Wonderland.

In Fantasyland, Storybook Land, "an area dedicated to the recreation of the great stories of folklore in miniature," is scheduled to open on June 16. Nearby, in Tomorrowland, the "Super Jet" (later known as the Astro-Jets, Astrojets or Astro Jets, depending on which source you go by) will open on March 24. Another classic Tomorrowland attraction, dubbed the "Sky Ride" in the preview article, "will carry passengers high in the air in an aluminum basket--from Tomorrowland to Fantasyland and return." You may know this ride by its more familiar name, the Skyway.

Historian Paul Anderson recently wrote a terrific piece about the Astro Jets on his Disney History Institute website.

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