Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Jungle Cruise - All Downhill From There?

Summer 1987.
I was a Jungle Skipper.
This was pre-Indiana Jones. The old dock and bullpen were in place. The West Side of Disneyland actually died down at night.
There was no
Fanstasmic clogging up New Orleans Square and the Rivers of America like a pyrotechnic embolism.
Eisner was just starting his destruction of the Park.
The Main Street Electrical Parade actually ran down Main Street (of all places!) on summer nights. The Adventure/Frontier ride operators would join in the pre-parade set up, crowd control and post-parade breakdown. A flashlight with a red or yellow cone on the end meant power. "Folks, I'm going to need all of these strollers folded down, and you will have to take a seat so that the people behind you can see, too."
The torches of the Tahitian Terrace glowed in the night, accompanied by the heady smell of pineapple and teriyaki.
Swisskapolka lilted endlessly in the background.
The jungle was alive with its soundtrack of drums, native chants, bird and animal calls, piped in from invisible speakers tucked amidst the foliage.
Mekong Maiden and her sister boats were decked out in colorful striped canopies and brightly cushioned seats.
Our Smith & Wesson .38 caliber guns were chained in place at the front of our boats and loaded with blank rounds. The "breakdown" rounds were larger loads that could deafen an African Bull Elephant---while simultaneously notifying your Lead back at the dock that your engine had stalled or---more likely---your boat had come off the track at the turn near the Hippo Pool. Thankfully, the guns are back after an utterly inexplicable politically-correct absence.
Just next door, the
Pirates of the Caribbean remained unblemished and true to its original state. The pirates still chased the wenches in apparent hopes of satisfying appetites other than hunger for food. Captain Jack did not exist.
Mark Twain's steam whistle called out in its haunting voice, and, at night, the sternwheeler's sparkling, lighted decks would brilliantly glide into view past the Riverbelle Terrace.
A fire still burned in the settler's cabin on
Tom Saywer's Island, though the old settler no longer had an arrow in him, he had taken up "moonshining" and a still mishap set fire to his cabin.
As the Park slowed down in the late evening, Snow White's voice would trickle over from the Wishing Well Grotto, echoes and all---sometimes, clear as a bell.
We would hungrily wait to get "bumped" from "Unload" so that we could grab a snack during break or lunch.
Women worked
Tiki Room, Pirates, Country Bear Jamboree, Haunted Mansion, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse, but not the Jungle Cruise.
Fantasy In The Sky lit up the sky over the Park.
Disneyland still had a parking lot out front.
Rocket Jets were still in Tomorrowland---not out front, on Main Street!
Skyway still lifted guests over Fantasyland, through the Matterhorn and over Tomorrowland.
You could still have a great moment or two with Mr. Lincoln over on
Main Street and take a peek at a perfect model of Walt's office.
Cobblestone could still be found on
Main Street, too.
Oh, there's a lot more to discuss. For me, it was a supremely happy time. I had an absolute ball every day I showed up for work.
We'll get into more of my view of the universe as this Blog continues.
To all my friends and fellow Cast Members from 1984 - 87 (both in Attractions and Day Custodial), I send along my heartfelt best wishes and thanks.